Looking for quality first

Looking for quality First
By Randy Neil

The buzz in United States stamp collecting over the past seven years has been the advent—and growing acceptance of the professional grading of postage stamps. As many
collectibles experts know, this form of grading fi rst gained popularity in the coin and sports card collecting hobbies before it was introduced in philately.

In 2001, Professional Stamp Experts presented to the philatelic community a grading system for United States Postage Stamps. It was both bold, and controversial. For the first time, all attributes of a stamp—centering, soundness and eye appeal were incorporated into a single grading model, and a method for arriving at a single net grade for a stamp was outlined.

No. 590 XF/Sup 95

The system is based on the elements of a stamp that can best be “quantified” by expert examination and, with trained experts conducting the grading, a specific number is assigned to an examined stamp.

No. 820 Superb 98

One of the results of this process is what philatelic exhibitors call “The Challenge Factor.” In other words, the higher the grade of a stamp, the higher the challenge to find another like like it (or better). Grading is lending great credence to rarity and is, oddly enough, proving that even many mid-20th century stamps (like the 1938 Presidentials or the 1943 Overrun Countries set) can be extremely rare (and quite valuable) in a highly-graded state.

No. 906 XF/Sup 95

All of this points out the importance of how the discriminating collector selects the stamps for his collection. As grading becomes more and more acceptable, philatelists with an eye toward making sure their collection has value will more readily pursue quality.