Displaying items by tag: Stamp Collecting

Wednesday, 03 June 2020 13:10

Color: Varieties, Changelings and Manipulations

Color is important in stamp collecting. Catalogs some­times place premiums on specific color shades of a design, causing them to be listed separately as major numbers or minor numbers with letter suffixes, often with decidedly different values. Even when the values are not dif­ferent, many collectors may wish to acquire as many of the issued shades as they can.

An extreme example is the common 5-neugroschen Coat of Arms stamp issued by the Old German State of Saxony in 1863 (Saxony 20). Scott lists it in a basic shade of dull violet (20), but also in gray violet (20a), gray blue (20b) and slate (20c). Germany's Michel Deutschland-Spezial catalog lists the stamp as "Sachsen 19" in nine different shades. All but one of these are fairly common unused, a shade called "reingrau" (pure gray), that runs from light to middle gray (Michel 19f).


Figure 1. Four 1863 stamps from the German State of Saxony from the APS Reference Collection show that common stamps exist in a baffling array of shades. On the left is Scott 20 in dull violet, followed by a slate stamp (Scott 20c), followed by a significantly darker gray stamp, with a color listed only in a German catalog as "mittelgriinlich-blau" (medium greenish blue), Michel 19aa.
Figure 1 shows four examples of this stamp from the APS Reference Collection. On the left is Scott 20 in full violet, fol­lowed by a slate stamp (Scott 20c), followed by a significantly darker gray stamp, ending on the right with a color listed only in the German catalog as "mittelgri.inlich-blau" (me­dium greenish blue), Michel 19aa. No one tried or wanted to create all these shades, but in the mid to late 19th century, creating stamp inks that would not vary from one batch to the next was almost as much alchemy as it was science.

Even today, there are some colors that are more suscepti­ble to naturally chang­ing shades over time than others. Examples are the 1861 3¢ Wash­ington designs Scott refers to as A25, the famous rose, rose pink, pigeon blood pink, and pink Washingtons. Also worthy of men­tion are the yellow and orange colors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that tended to sulfurize into brown. These include the 1869 10¢ Eagle and Shield Pictorial (Scott 118), 1890 90¢ Perry defini­tive (Scott 229), 1894 50¢ Jefferson definitive (Scott 260) and 1896 4¢ Indian Hunting Buffalo Trans-Mississippi commemora­tive (Scott 287). We use the term "sulfurized" because that is the chemical change that happens to the ink with exposure to a sulfur-rich atmosphere, whereas the term used by most collectors, "oxidized;' is in fact the chemical reaction that re­stores the original color.

Figure 2 shows two examples of the 1918 6¢ Jenny airmail stamp, Scott Cl. The first is unused, revealing the vivid orange color of the stamp. The second has been enlarged from an oversized Zeppelin cover, and clearly displays the process of sulfurization in action, in the blackening of the spandrels on either side at the top of the canceled stamp, and elsewhere in the design. Like tarnish or rust, sulfurization is a gradual pro­cess. Unchecked, it can continue until the affected stamp almost appears to be black.


Figure 2. Two 1918 6¢ Jenny airmail stamps, Scott C1. The vivid orange of the mint stamp contrasts sharply with a used copy enlarged from an oversized Zeppelin cover, which shows sulfurization in action, blackening the spandrels on either side at the top of the design and elsewhere.
Many modern stamp collects are mystified that sul­fur has discolored their old stamps, but it's no mystery. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, today only about 0.1% of Americans burn coal to heat their homes, but as recently as 1940 it was used in 55% of American homes, as it had been for a cen­tury or more. Sulfur can make up as much as 10% of coal by weight, though it is more typically 3% to 4%. Still, in cities, the amount of sulfur in the urban atmosphere when most of these stamps first were issued must have been formidable.

A number of the APEX experts are experienced at identi­fying differences in color shades. They have reference pieces showing the differences and the progression of changes in those shades over time.

Another study is that of missing colors on a stamp, mean­ing that the correct ink was not applied during the printing process. To be a true error, there cannot be even one speck of the missing color anywhere on the stamp. If there is one speck, the stamp is considered a freak, because during the process, ink was still applied, even though not in the quantity needed to print a perfect stamp. It's an error if a step in the printing process was completely omitted, but it is a freak if a step in the printing process simply was not done properly or completely. Our experts have the equipment and exper­tise to detect color variances and understand printing well enough to know how something could have gone wrong during the process.

Now we turn to another tricky area, the alteration of col­or on stamps. With this column there are images of the original stamps and the color change­lings of the original stamps. In these examples, the colors yel­low, blue and red have been chemically eliminated from the original stamp. Please keep in mind that the colors may have been intentionally altered to cre­ate the appearance of an error or they might have been changed by accident, possibly through exposure to a cleaning fluid or an acci­dental solvent spill. Pho­tochemical changes also can occur through pro­longed exposure to ultra violet or infrared light, as when a stamp or cover are repeatedly exposed to sunlight in a shop window, but the examples shown here were changed through deliberate chemical exposure.

As in Figure 2, these stamps are best seen side-by-side with normal copies of the same issue, which makes the dis­tinctive appearance of the changeling easy to recognize.


Figure 3. An 1898 1¢ Trans-Mississippi commemorative next to a copy in which yellow has been chemically removed, producing a blue color changeling.
Figure 3 shows an 1898 1¢ dark yellow green Trans­Mississippi Scott 285, next to a used copy in which the yel­low has been largely removed from the original ink and as a result is now blue. It may have been cleaned in a vain hope of improving its grubby appearance.


Figure 4. A 1923 3¢ violet Lincoln and a used stamp that has had the blue removed, producing a red color changeling.
Figure 4 shows an unaltered 1923 3¢ violet Lincoln definitive, Scott 555, alongside a copy that has had the blue component of the ink removed, now appearing to be a shade of red. Under magnification, though, the area at the bottom of the stamp retains some of the original, darker pigment, al­most appearing to be the lake shade seen on the stamps of the early 1900s. The remains of the darker ink are especially vis­ible in the large inked portions of the two numerals of value, which shows that color removal is many times inconsistent.


Figure 5. A mint 1975 10¢ Haym Salomon commemorative next to a changeling that has had red removed, leaving little but green and greenish yellow.
Figure 5 shows an unused 1975 10¢ Haym Salomon U.S. Bicentennial stamp, Scott 1561, next to a copy which has had the red color removed from the design. The changeling we are left with is a stamp having various shades of green and greenish yellow. We will not comment on what may have been used to eliminate these single colors from these three stamps, as that is what we need to ask experts. We do know that yellow and red are more easily changed or eliminated than other, darker colors on most stamps.


Figure 6. An unused 1979 $1 Rush Lamp definitive, Scott 1610, is shown with two very different changelings: one where light application of solvent removed orange, lightened yellow, and turned the engraved brown lettering and iron lamp black; and a heavily canceled stamp where solvent has left only faded brown and yellow, and even the tan background has been faded to dull gray.
Finally, an unused 1979 $1 Rush Lamp stamp from the Americana definitives, Scott 1610, is shown in Figure 6 with two used copies that show how diverse change­lings can be. In the first, slight application of some solvent has removed the orange and lightened the yellow, but also had the effect of turning the engraved brown portion of the design to black, including the lettering and the iron base of the lamp. In the second, a heavily canceled copy has been exposed to some cleaning product for far too long. Faded brown and yellow are all that remain, and the tan background of the stamp has been faded to dull gray.

Color changelings are damaged stamps, pure and simple. Their differences in appearance from ordinary stamps didn't come from the security printer by way of the U.S. Post Office. These stamps are far from the collectible varieties and elusive errors and freaks they might at first appear to be. They only have value as reference pieces or curios.

This column should spark you to inspect your collec­tion for color changelings. Study what may have happened to them, which colors have changed and make a mental note to inspect stamp errors, freaks and oddities carefully before you buy them.

Source: stamps.org

Published in News
Saturday, 18 January 2020 05:38

Why Not All Stamp Collections Are Valuable

One of the saddest things in the stamp collecting hobby is when a collector who has poured their heart into their collection goes to sell and is told by a dealer that the collection is virtually worthless.

How does this happen? Aren't all stamps valuable? And, aren't they worth more the older they are? No, not necessarily. Some stamp collectors can at times misinterpret signs in the stamp collecting market.

Your Stamps' Value
Many classic stamps, especially U.S. stamps, have similar designs. The difference may be a tiny printing variation or a grill. If you are a new collector and you see a stamp going for big bucks, you may look at your collection and believe that you have one of these stamps, though chances are you have a stamp of similar design, but much less value.

The condition of the stamp matters. You might find that the stamps in your collection of significant catalog value are worth much less than you believed. "Buy the best you can afford," isn't just a casually tossed-off phrase, but words to live by in stamp collecting. Inferior quality stamps are, in fact, nearly worthless. You may have purchased some nice stamps at bargain prices, but their resale value can easily be next to nothing–if you can resell them at all.

It is the rare collector who can jump into the stamp collecting game and knowledgeably buy the stamps that will hold their value. You can pay a buyer who knows the ropes to put together a stamp collection for you, but where is the fun in that?

If you are a collector and not an investor, and you want to add to your collection, then there is a vast supply of classic stamps available from dealers. Buying from them carries risk, and you may probably wind up with a few stamps that are unwittingly inferior.

In the old days of collecting–that is, when stamp collectors used to actually buy their stamps at stamp shops from stamp dealers–it was easy to get a quick education about stamps. An honest and above-board dealer would never try to sell poor quality stamps to an experienced collector–he wouldn't stay in business long. A reputable dealer would often give advice to new collectors, and that sage wisdom would stress that the condition of the stamp was of major importance.

Be Happy With Your Stamps
The hobby of stamp collecting should be a happy refuge. One of the benefits of stamp collecting is that there is an inherent market for stamps, the way there isn't in bottle cap or matchbook collecting, for example.

It can be fun to put together a unique collection that says something about your personality. But don't expect your quirky collection to have much resale value, unless you spend some serious money putting it together. It is less painful financially if you collect piece by piece. While you might not notice the amount you have spent (if you don't want to), you'll be happily surprised with the value of your collection as it nears completion.

Another worthless collection is one that contains valuable stamps that are mounted or otherwise put in albums or on display using do-it-yourself methods. Some collectors have used inexpensive photo albums for their stamps. Some of those contain pages that have an adhesive on the pages, which a photo will readily stick to. A stamp can get stuck to those pages and sometimes with disastrous effect. If you are lucky to eventually pull the stamp off one of those pages without ripping it, you will find that after time that adhesive has discolored the stamp and also may have ruined the glue.

Makers of stamp and cover mounts have tested their materials to assure that they are of archival quality and safe to use with paper and inks of the sort used to produced stamps. If you use a product that was not manufactured specifically for your treasured stamp collection, beware you are toying with philatelic tragedy.

Source: thesprucecrafts.com

Published in News

"These miniature works of art offer something for everyone interested in American history and culture,” said U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Acting Executive Director William Gicker. “From notable figures such as golf legend Arnold Palmer to esteemed journalist Gwen Ifill to the cultural phenomenon of hip hop and a celebration of the great outdoors, this program is wide-ranging and adds to the history of our great nation as recorded through the U.S. stamp program.” Read the full USPS press release here.

Lunar New Year: Year of the Rat

In 2020, the Postal Service is launching its third Lunar New Year series with the issuance of the Lunar New Year: Year of the Rat Forever stamp. The Year of the Rat stamp will be the first of 12 stamps in the series. The Year of the Rat observance begins Jan. 25, 2020, and ends Feb. 11, 2021. Calling to mind the elaborately decorated masks used in the dragon dance often performed in Lunar New Year parades, this three-dimensional mask depicting a rat is a contemporary take on the long tradition of paper-cut folk art crafts created during this time of year. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp with original artwork by Camille Chew.

Made of Hearts

Made of Hearts is a continuation of the Postal Service tradition of creating stamps that celebrate love. The stamp features horizontal lines of red and pink hearts on a white background. Toward the center, red hearts in varying sizes replace pink hearts in a formation that creates one large red heart, the focal point of this graphic design. This stamp is just right for thank-you notes, get-well cards or any occastion. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp.

Gwen Ifill

The 43rd stamp in the Black Heritage series honors Gwen Ifill (1955–2016), one of America’s most esteemed journalists. The stamp features a photo of Ifill taken in 2008 by photographer Robert Severi. Among the first African Americans to hold prominent positions in both broadcast and print journalism, Ifill was a trailblazer in the profession. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp.

Let’s Celebrate!

In 2020, the Postal Service issues Let’s Celebrate!, a new stamp that adds fun to celebratory greeting cards, invitations and gift-bearing envelopes and packages. No matter the occasion — birthday, anniversary, holiday, engagement, new job, retirement — Let's Celebrate! helps send cheer along with well wishes. The stamp features an array of colorful circles in varying sizes arranged in a random pattern.The letters in the word “celebrate,” cast in a dark green hue, appear inside several brightly colored circles on a white background. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp.

Wild Orchids

The Postal Service celebrates the exotic beauty of orchids with 10 new stamps in booklets of 20 and coils of 3,000 and 10,000. Each stamp features a photograph of one of nine species that grow wild in the United States: Cypripedium californicum, Hexalectris spicata, Cypripedium reginae, Spiranthes odorata, Triphora trianthophoros, Platanthera grandiflora, Cyrtopodium polyphyllum, Calopogon tuberosus and Platanthera leucophaea. Orchids also have common names, with some plants having several different names in popular use. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamps with existing photographs by Jim Fowler.

Arnold Palmer

This stamp honors champion golfer Arnold Palmer (1929–2016). With drive and charisma, he helped transform a game once seen as a pastime for the elite into a sport enjoyed by the masses. The stamp features James Drake’s action photograph of Palmer at the 1964 United States Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp.

Maine Statehood

This stamp celebrates the 200th anniversary of Maine statehood. Nicknamed the Pine Tree State, Maine became the 23rd state in the Union on Mar. 15,1820. American painter Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was among the many prominent artists who sought the tranquility of the state’s coastal towns during the summer. His painting “Sea at Ogunquit”
(1914) captures the rugged beauty characteristic of Maine. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp.

Contemporary Boutonniere

Contemporary Boutonniere is a new Forever stamp similar in design to the new 2-ounce Garden Corsage stamp. It can be used for wedding RSVP cards and is also perfect for party invitations, thank-you notes, announcements, birthday cards, Father's Day cards and other occasions when a beautiful stamp is fitting. The stamp features a photograph of an arrangement of a burgundy mini-cymbidium orchid bloom, a succulent and a touch of green hydrangea, accented with loops of variegated lily grass. These materials are on trend for today’s modern designs, as arranged by floral designer Carol Caggiano and photographed by Renée Comet. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp.

Garden Corsage

The Postal Service introduces Garden Corsage, a new 2-ounce stamp. This stamp can accommodate the weight of heavy invitations for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and other celebrations, oversize greeting cards for all occasions, and mailings such as small gifts that require extra postage. The stamp features a photograph of a corsage containing a spray of peach roses and a pink ranunculus, accented with deep-pink heather and seeded eucalyptus. A cream-colored lace ribbon entwines the flowers. Garden Corsage is similar in design to the Contemporary Boutonniere Forever stamp, and the two form a natural pair. The corsage was arranged by floral designer Carol Caggiano and photographed by Renée Comet. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp.

Earth Day

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Postal Service issues a stamp featuring a playful painting of the planet, with small green lines surrounding Earth and hand- lettered text. Art director Antonio Alcalá was the stamp artist and designer. Ricky Altizer was the typographer.

American Gardens

With these stamps the Postal Service celebrates the beauty of American gardens. This pane of 20 stamps features 10 different photographs of botanic, country estate and municipal gardens taken between 1996 and 2014. The gardens include: Biltmore Estate Gardens (North Carolina); Brooklyn Botanic Garden (New York); Chicago Botanic Garden (Illinois); Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (Maine); Dumbarton Oaks Garden (District of Columbia); The Huntington Botanical Gardens (California); Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park (Florida); Norfolk Botanical Garden (Virginia); Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens (Ohio); and Winterthur Garden (Delaware). Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamps with existing photographs by Allen Rokach.

Voices of the Harlem Renaissance

These stamps celebrate one of the great artistic and literary movements in American history, the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, which firmly established African Americans as a vital force in literature and the arts. Twenty stamps showcase four stylized pastel portraits of these literary figures: writer, philosopher, educator and arts advocate Alain Locke; novelist Nella Larsen; bibliophile and historian Arturo Alfonso Schomburg; and poet Anne Spencer. African-inspired motifs are used as background elements of each portrait. The pane header shows a cityscape in silhouette with a sun in its midst and the title “Voices of the Harlem Renaissance.” The artist for these stamps was Gary Kelley. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

With the release of the Enjoy the Great Outdoors Forever stamps, the Postal Service celebrates the many ways individuals experience America’s abundance of natural beauty. These hand-sketched and painted designs depict five different scenes of outdoor activities — building a sand castle, hiking, cross-country skiing, canoeing and biking. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamps with original art by Gregory Manchess.

Hip Hop

The Postal Service celebrates hip hop with four new stamps in a pane of 20. Since its inception more than four decades ago, the electrifying music, dance and art movement has profoundly influenced American and global popular culture. The stamp art features photographs taken by Cade Martin that depict four elements of hip hop: MCing (rapping), b-boying (breakdancing), DJing and graffiti art. The bold, digitally tinted images are intended to appear in motion. The words “Forever” and “USA,” “Hip Hop,” and the name of the element featured appear across the top of each stamp. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamps, which are highlighted with a vivid yellow, green, red and black color scheme. The title of the stamps, printed in red and black, is centered on the top of the pane.

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

With this commemorative stamp, the Postal Service marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor. The stamp’s image is based on artwork of watercolor, acrylic and gouache, a method of painting that uses opaque pigments ground in water and thickened to a glue-like consistency. The painting was digitally refined to convey a scene of desolate beauty at the end of the Pilgrims’ long journey to an unfamiliar world. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp with original art by Greg Harlin.

Fruits and Vegetables

The Postal Service captures the classic beauty of still-life paintings in a booklet of 20 stamps featuring 10 different portraits of fruits and vegetables. Each stamp features a collection of one kind of fruit or vegetable: red and black plums, heirloom and cherry tomatoes, carrots, lemons, blueberries, red and green grapes, lettuces, strawberries, eggplants and figs. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamps with existing art by Robert Papp.

Thank You

The Postal Service issues four new stamps in a booklet of 20 available for notes, cards and letters of thanks sent to acknowledge a favor, an act of kindness, a job well done or gifts sent for any occasion. Highlighted in gold foil are the words “Thank you” in cursive script and an elegant floral design that swirls through and around the words. Each stamp features one of four background colors: blue gray, deep blue, muted green or soft maroon. Greg Breeding was the art director. Dana Tanamachi was the stamp designer and lettering artist.

19th Amendment: Women Vote

With this stamp, the Postal Service commemorates the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote. Inspired by historic photographs, the stamp features a stylized illustration of suffragists marching in a parade or other public demonstration. The clothes they wear and the banners they bear display the official colors of the National Woman’s Party — purple, white and gold. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp with original art by Nancy Stahl.

Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah

The Postal Service has yet to issue 2020 winter holiday stamps.

Source: stamps.org

Published in News