The hardest thing about centering is that it is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. The above examples are stamps that I am personally
grading and I believe I do a very fair job. Other collectors or dealers can look at the same stamps and grade the centering a little different.
When buying stamps, it is always a good idea
to see pictures of stamps that the dealer has graded. Even if you cannot see the actual stamp you are buying you can look and see how that dealer grades his stamps and you can then make a judgment on how well centered
the stamp you are buying is.
Also of note is when sellers try and claim their stamps are "XF for the issue", or "VF for the era" or some other similar statement to make their stamps sound
better than they actually are. It is true that stamps from some issues or some eras are much harder to find well centered but stamps are not graded on a curve. An issue known for poor centering may have very few VF
stamp in existance, and that boosts the price for the VF copies that are out there, but it should never boost a F stamp to VF status just because genuinely VF copies are rare. Stamp centering should be graded uniformly,
with a blind eye towards what era or issue the stamps are from.
There are quite a few different types of faults that can affect a stamp, all will reduce the value by varying degrees. How much the value is reduced is
dependent upon a lot of factors - severity and type of fault, rarity of stamp and the disposition of the buyer and seller.
Here is a list of the most common fault terms and what they mean.
SP - Short perf - Short Perforation. This is when one or more of the perforation tips
is not as long as it should be, but a portion of the tip is still present.
PP - Pulled perf - Pulled perforation. This is when a perforation tip is completely missing. A severely pulled perf can even mean some of the stamp has been taken
away with the perf tip.
SE - Straight edge
- This is when one one or more edges of the stamp do not have perforations. Some sheet stamps were made with straight edges on some sides of the sheets, other straight edges come from trimming the perforations off. Do not confuse a straight edged sheet stamp with a coil stamp that always has two edges without perforations, a booklet stamp that can have one, two or three edges without perforations, or an imperforate stamp that has no perforations.
RP - Re-perf - Re-perforated
- This is an alteration made to the stamp to add perforations to one or more edges. Just like re-gumming it is often done by a dishonest person to try and improve the value of a stamp buy making it appear like what it is not. Re-perforations often occur on stamps with straight edges to make them look like fully perforated stamps. It is also often done to imperforate stamps to try and change them into a more expensive coil or sheet stamps with the same design.
- A stamp with a thin has an area on the back where some of the paper has been removed. There will be a spot that is thinner than the remainder of the stamp. A thin can range from a very small speck, to as large as the entire stamp.
Gum bend - Gum crease - Gum wrinkle
- This is a natural occurrence in many flat plate printed stamps. When the stamps were made the paper had a tendency to shrink. The gum did not shrink at the same rate so the stamps would wrinkle up. Most often on the issues where these wrinkles are common, they do not lower the value of the stamp. If they are severe, or if there are a lot on one stamp, they can then lower the value.
- A face scrape is where a portion of the front side of the stamp has been scraped away, leaving a spot in the stamp design.
- An inclusion is a foreign piece of material that has been pressed into the paper when the paper was manufactured. It is normally a brown or black spot that can be on the front, back or in the middle of the stamp.
Tears - stains - creases - pinholes - holes - corner missing - missing pieces
- These are other faults that can affect a stamp, they are just as they sound I do not think further definition is needed.
Here are other terms that can be used in a stamps description.
CDS - Circular date stamp - This is a type of cancellation that is a circle, it often has the date and city name within the cancellation.
- This is a term that has no definite meaning, it does not matter what stamp I have I can call it a "gem" and there is no authoritative definition to prove me wrong. Generally it it used to describe an extra high quality stamp that often has features like XF or S centering, boardwalk margins, no faults and fresh appearance
Jumbo - Boardwalk Margins
- Today, when stamps are made they all turn out the same size. Many years ago, because of the way perforations were applied, stamps from the same sheet could come in different sizes. The actual design of the stamp was the same size, it was the border between the edge of the design and the perforations that could be larger or smaller. When this space is large it makes the stamp more attractive and desirable and then it is called a jumbo.
PFC - APES - APEX
- These are expertizing services and the use of these initials means the stamp has a certificate from one of these services. An expertizing service is a place where you can send your stamp and pay a fee, they have a panel of experts that will examine your stamps and they will render their opinion on all aspects of the stamp's genuiness and presence of any faults. Because of the proliferation of fakes and alterations on more expensive stamps this is a valuable asset when buying expensive items.
SON - Socked on the Nose
- This means that the stamp has a CDS and it is applied very close to dead center on the stamp.
- Scott catalogs are the most used reference guide for stamps used in the United States and possibly the world. Each time a new stamp goes on sale Scott issues it a reference number and this number is used by collectors to reference that particular stamp. Rather than saying something like "the one cent green, Benjamin Franklin stamp issued in 1908 with perf 12 and double line watermark", we can just say Scott number 331.
SCV - Scott catalog value
- In addition to identifying stamps by their Scott numbers, the Scott catalogs list values for stamps. These values should only be treated as guides, many stamps sell for well under Scott catalog value and many stamps sell for well over. The condition of the stamp, current supply and demand and attitudes of the buyer and seller all must be taken into account in order to set the price.
- A spacefiller is a heavily damaged stamp. If you are buying spacefillers, expect to receive stamps with multiple large faults. Many collectors buy spacefillers of the more expensive stamps as they sell for greatly reduced prices.