Learning the Three R's Part 2 - Regummed Stamps

Learning the Three R's
Part 2 - Regummed Stamps
By Peter Mosiondz, Jr.

Once upon a time it mattered little whether a stamp was hinged or not. Collectors also sought unused stamps without gum. Little premium was applied to a stamp devoid of a hinge mark.

My, how times have changed!

Today the prices of some unhinged stamps with full original gum can be many multiples of their hinged brethren. Thus it is important to be able to detect a Regummed stamp. Many regummed stamps are done so expertly that even some experienced collectors and dealers are occasionally fooled.

To learn how to detect regumming we first have to look at the characteristics of original gum as it appears on both the flat plate and rotary press issues.

Due to their age and having been exposed to longer periods of storage and differences in climate, the gum on flat plate printed stamps can vary quite a bit from one issue to another.

On flat plate printings the paper was first dampened before being fed into the press. The gum was applied while the paper was still damp. During the drying process the paper and gum tended to shrink somewhat. This resulted in what we know as gum creases, gum wrinkles or gum bends. All are a natural phenomena with the flat plate process and are not considered objectionable by collectors or dealers unless in extreme examples which may affect the paper’s fibers or be evident from the face of the stamp. These gum creases, wrinkles and bends run in a diagonal pattern.

A regummed flat plate stamp will not show creases wrinkles or bends, although this is not a fail-safe detection method. Many government issued flat plate stamps will not these effects either. Checking the texture of the gum on some of your common, low-priced flat plate printed stamps is a good method in which to familiarize oneself with flat plate gum.

Gum skips are also common on flat plate stamps. Oftentimes the faker will attempt to “sweat” the original gum of the stamp and spread it to cover the “skipped” areas. As with the gum creases, wrinkles and bends, natural gum skips are not considered objectionable.

The gumming of rotary press issues is consistently superior to that of the flat plate stamps. There are a couple of idiosyncrasies to discuss however.

The application of gum on rotary press stamps can often result in gum ridges which are usually the result of a stream of applied gum hardening before the stamps reach the drying machine. These ridges resemble a gum crease but in this instance they run in  a vertical pattern. Gum breakers are a common feature on rotary press stampissues. These are light parallel ridges that occur at regularly spaced intervals and run horizontally on the gum side. Their intent was to prevent the curling up of the paper.

Now that we are familiar with how the stamps were originally produced, let’s talk about regumming and how the fakers try to pull a fast one on us.

Stamps are regummed for three main reasons. They are;
     • To convert a hinged stamp into an unhinged example.
     • To hide a defect or repair
     • To add gum to a stamp that lost its original gum

Regummers have become more proficient over the years and distinguishing a regummed stamp today is more difficult that in the earlier years.

Still there are a few tell-tale warning signals.

First, keep in mind that all government issued stamps were gummed prior to the stamp being having been perforated. The regummer must apply his gum after the stamp has been perforated. Imperforate issues are another matter and some of these will be reperforated as well.

Secondly, the regummer does not have access to the gum formula used by the original printer. Thus the regummed stamp will have a noted difference in its color and texture. An exception would be where the regummer soaks off the gum from a common stamp of the issue and applies it to another of the same issue.

Keeping a reference file of stamps with known original gum can be a very important tool. The gum on a 1¢ Columbian will be the same as that of the higher denominations. So it goes with the other issues.

When considering a stamp for purchase, examine it with a 10x or higher lens. Inspect the perforation tips for any gum that may have adhered. The perforation holes themselves should be examined for any gum that may have spilled over during the regumming. These are two signs that the stamp has indeed been regummed.

You can also rub your finger very gently along the perforation tips. A regummed stamp will most often feel very sharp as opposed to the soft feel of a genuinely gummed stamp. Use extreme caution in this checking method so as not to damage a perforation tip.

These various testing methods along with your reference file are important tools in detecting a regummed stamp. Remember though that when in doubt have the stamp expertized.