cddstamps on stamps

my thoughts on stamps, stamp collecting, philately in general and maybe a few other topics !

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Collectors Buying With Confidence – Ordinary paper, chalky paper, how do I know??




Collectors Buying With Confidence –     Ordinary paper, chalky paper, how do I know??   


Hello again, welcome back.  Is this something you have experienced?  Happened to me only yesterday.   Ordinary paper,  Chalky paper, especially on many British Commonwealth issues.   I still find it difficult at times and that is after reading plenty on the topic – which I might add has been written about many times in many philatelic forums over the years.


Once upon a time I learned that the silver test was the way to go.  That is you lightly touch say the corner of the stamp with a piece of silver and if there is a reaction, a mark that is, on the stamp the paper is chalky paper,  or chalk coated. If no reaction, then the paper is ordinary paper. Of course this assumes you have a nice clean piece of silver lying around.  I don’t like this idea as I guess it might be marking the stamp, and for Mint, not too a good idea, perhaps?


Another view is what might be called the pitted surface test. This test basically says if the surface of the face of the stamp has a pitted surface the stamp is the chalky paper.  If not pitted in character then the paper is ordinary paper.   You do need a very good magnifying glass of course, which I have to say you should have anyway to study for printing varieties.  Mine is a $5 job from eBay.  Works just fine.  Really quite amazing little guy but not suitable for more than the odd or occasional stamp study.   You would not want to use it for too long, ok for a few stamps at a time, and then you need to give the eye a rest I suggest.


Just a few more comments.  Chalk-surfaced paper produces a crisp finish due to the smoothness of the surface.  With ordinary paper, there are loose fibres on the surface and the ink is able to 'bleed' into it,  often producing some blurring.

I  have also read another test is to look at a stamp under a long wave UV lamp.  If the paper is very white it is chalky.   I guess different papers may have different results.  But at least these are a few ideas which might help.

Anyway, have a look and see if you can try the pitted surface test to tell chalky paper apart from ordinary paper. You might find some of your stamps are of a higher catalog value than you thought.   Then again,  …..  well  I wont go there……….


Different  British Commonwealth countries may also show differently but as a general rule of thumb I believe this pitted surface distinction is a reasonable guideline to go by.

Have a philatelic weekend, be careful out there  😊


Michael …. Please visit my online store    where I think you will see quality and appropriately described stamps.  


Collectors Buying With Confidence – are you serious, $100 for a $5 stamp?

 Part XII


Collectors Buying With Confidence –   are you serious,  $100 for a $5 stamp?   


Hello again, welcome back.  First let me start with a comment on the previous piece. A very kind and knowledgeable reader wrote to me to comment that with eBay – and I guess things may differ country to country - but not only is there a listing fee and commission  but they also charge you a fee on the shipping.  Another cost element for us collectors to consider when we are buying and looking at the “shipping” charged by the seller.  The sellers certainly do have a few costs to cover.


 Good feedback that and thanks.


Today let me comment a little  - yes I promise not too much – on  the subject of grading. It is a topic that is guaranteed to get even the  most tolerant collectors and so called connoisseurs, especially US sellers and collectors, arguing forever.  But it is really not that complex or worthy of argument.


If a stamp is of a higher condition quality it should – ceteris paribus - command a higher selling price. I have no argument with that principle. In fact I often buy a more expensive copy for my collection simply because of the condition.


BUT, and please, this is the arguable point, someone telling you the price is 400  or 100 or whatever times cat when the centering is really good – insert some % of your choosing -  when there were tens or more millions printed and there are hundreds for sale of equally or nearly equally good condition, good centering with large margins etc,  is just a con trick.   It is a con trick. End of Subject!



This is a lovely stamp (although I am not showing the front)   but see this reverse.  Would you pay 20 times cat for a mint never hinged stamp when it has a rust / toning, call it what you will, on the reverse?   And perhaps another spot on the gum? I hope not.


So while the topic is pricing for centering it is also look very carefully at the reverse of a stamp you are paying a higher price for.   I paid the price the other day. I received a stamp I had bought.  From a seller I trusted.  When the stamp arrived the reverse showed an unpleasant bend, and under careful study I realised what I thought was part of a cancel was in fact a tear when seen from the reverse.   Had I asked for a scan of the reverse I might have realised the condition as described was nowhere near what it actually was. I trusted the seller as I had bought from them before.  Lesson number 101, always check twice if the stamp is really that nice!


Have a philatelic week, be careful out there  😊


Michael …. Please visit my online store    where I think you will see quality and appropriately described stamps.  

Monday, September 25, 2023

Collectors Buying With Confidence – how much is the shipping?


Part XI


Collectors Buying With Confidence –   how much is the shipping?   


This can be a contentious topic at the easiest of times but one I think us collectors need to understand.  I am still a collector, for my aircraft on stamps collection mostly, and occasionally for my GB Downey Head collection, so I am very aware of the amazing range of prices being quoted for “shipping”


When I am looking to buy there is one data field I always look at and I recommend you do as well.  Pay attention to the detail.  


But let me put something into perspective.  The shipping field is not just the postage the seller pays to ship the stamp you bought. It might be for some very generous sellers but generally speaking sellers use this field to recover some of the costs they incur listing and selling the stamps you are buying.


These costs basically include, store fee, store commission,  Paypal commission (for the purpose of this commentary I will assume Paypal but use whatever payment system you are familiar with), sellers storage costs, packing costs including envelope, and postage cost and some would even argue the cost to drive to the Post Office to mail the order.


Right there you can see why a seller with a $1.30 (just for example) stamp postage cost on the envelope you receive might be charging shipping of say $4.  Or say a seller with a £2.20 postage stamp cost will be asking £3 shipping.  What you think is fair and reasonable is, I might suggest, likely to be fair and reasonable.


Many sellers cross subsidise some of these costs from the actual sale price of the stamp being sold.  Many do not. I am not going to quote numbers because there are too many variables across countries and postal administrations and probably even the fees Paypal and various internet marketplaces charge across countries.  I will just say pay attention to the details in the “shipping” cost field.


One feature you may see is an additional cost per each listing purchased.   Just one random example.   Buy 1 stamp pay $x shipping plus 90c  (or insert whatever number or variable you know of) for each extra stamp or listing purchased.     Before you know it the 11 stamps you added to your cart now has a shipping charge of whatever is quoted plus $9 – the ten additional stamps by 90c per each item.   Hmmmmmmmmm!!


Someone once told me that is perfectly justified because of the time it takes the seller to search and find and assemble and pack the additional stamps.  Only you can decide if that is fair and reasonable. You know my view don’t you.


I have, over time, eliminated so many sellers from my list of who I will buy from. If a seller wants to make money by shipping stamps that is their prerogative. I don’t believe it is the sign of an ethical seller.  It is just not me,  a collector buying with confidence, and I won’t be making  any of them rich.  


Have a philatelic week, be careful out there  😊


Michael …. Please visit my online store    where I think you will see quality and appropriately described stamps.  

Friday, September 22, 2023

Collectors Buying With Confidence – what does Unused really mean?

 Collectors Buying With Confidence –  what does Unused really mean?  

This is my tenth topic in this series - quite surprising really how the pieces add up but then there is so much to write about.  The question today is, What does Unused really mean? 

Now interestingly enough this actually is a follow up from the previous article because in it I made reference to Mint stamps being damaged in the rain and perhaps being saved as mint no gum.

And also, this topic comes to me because this past week I received some stamps I bought on a well known marketplace.  Sadly the stamps were not what I was expecting and then thinking more about it I put it down in some part to me being trusting, me not taking the time to  ask a question, although there was nothing to prompt me to ask a question because I had bought from this seller before and was ok with their stamps, and thirdly, because the seller was, it turns out, not completely honest in their listing description, perhaps I should say  not completely accurate in their description of the stamps.  I say that because in hindsight after emails I found out the seller really did know the true and correct condition of the stamps.  

 Anyway, let me explain.



Lovely stamps, although only showing one here, and described as Unused.  So I bought.   

When the stamps arrived I looked at them as you do and found they had no gum.  Unused?  I don’t think so.


They are no postmark no gum.    If you see sellers describe stamps as Unused do not assume they are Mint stamps,  hinged or never hinged.   Since I had bought from this seller before and was satisfied it never occurred to me  this would not be OK.  OK  yes, my bad I guess.

 So what  is this stamp, and its friend that I  bought.

 The stamps were either

a)   on an envelope and not postally cancelled,  how often do we all see that,  soaked off and then listed for sale.  No problem, provided listing description says no postal cancel no gum

 Or b)  they were originally  mint stamps with gum as from the Post Office but had the gum cleaned off for whatever reason. 

They are NOT Unused.  Unused is a Mint stamp with gum and no cancel.

Have a philatelic weekend, be careful out there  😊


Michael …. Please visit my online store    where I think you will see quality and appropriately described stamps.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Collectors Buying With Confidence – Buying Mint stamps

Mint stamps, whether mint with hinge or mint never hinged, how do you get them, how are they packed in the envelope you receive when you buy?

I will tell you.  Let’s say a set of 4. They come all together in a 102 card, all touching, gums touching. Right?   Well perhaps 95% of the time, no matter whether mint hinged or mint never hinged.  How many sellers put the stamps in a stock sheet and separate the stamps so the gums are not touching and the stamps are packed in a sealed plastic protective sleeve or envelope?  How many pack each stamp in a black mount?   Like I showed in Part III.  and as below

I have written this before so apology if it is a repeat to you. Years ago when I lived in Australia our post box for receiving mail was at the end of a long driveway and was not, I realised one day, not 100% secure from the weather element of rain. One day I picked up the mail and the envelope was a bit wet. Just a bit.  But a bit is enough to damage mint stamps isn’t it. The mint stamps I had purchased were ruined of course. At best mint no gum 😊  once separated.  Ok I know what you are saying, that was my fault.

Whatever, the message is the same. If the stamps had been packed  more securely because they were mint stamps,  they might well have survived.

Think about another scenario, stamps from perhaps Rhodesia, Malta, early Germany, Fiji, Papa New Guinea even some US issues during certain periods. The list goes on. Many countries used very soluble gums back in the day. All those types of stamps could have the gums stick to the stamps just because of the humidity, heat,  and rain of course.

Collectors Buying With Confidence know this and perhaps pay attention to the shipping / packing practices of a seller.  Perhaps even ask the seller to ensure a secure and safe packing because they live in a rainy climate?  Or, even if they don’t, they just want to make sure the stamps are appropriately packed given they are mint stamps.

If there is one thing in the field of selling stamps it is that a very large % of sellers are nowadays people who were once collectors  who are now getting rid of their collections.  That is a trend these days, yet these sellers, it seems to me, and this is from a sample of over 50 different sellers  I have bought from over the years I might add, they do not pack mint stamps, in particular, in a way that will protect the stamps.  Is that strange?

So as Collectors Buying with Confidence let’s do our little bit to ensure we get our stamps in good condition.  1)  buy from a seller we know does the right thing. 2) ask the seller to pack to protect the stamps.

One final comment – and I give no guarantee this will work – I have tried it with good results and  without. If you do get mint stamps stuck together, put them in a freezer for a while – very cold temperature  – for say a day or longer – obviously make sure no water / wetness will be present,  so it is best to have  the stamps in a sealed plastic bag. The stamps just may come apart without damage.   This is often referred to as the dry freezer method.   There are other “methods”, including using a special lifting fluid, I know nothing about this, or perhaps the steam apart over a boiling kettle  method – sounds tricky to me, or the warm dry iron.   Hhhhhmmmm,  again, doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. But hey read YouTube and see for yourself

Good luck.                    

Michael …. Please visit my online store    where I think you will see quality and appropriately described stamps.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Collectors Buying With Confidence – catalogs and then catalogs

Hello,   How is everyone?  Well I hope. Coping with the heat or the rains.  Or sadly the earthquakes.  Having been through all three in past12 months I feel for everyone affected and hope all are well.

But to stamps and now the topic of Collectors Buying With Confidence…….  because they are using their catalogs wisely.

Yes I know  that is a US spelling of catalog and my sincere apology but it allows me to start with this stamp.  What is it? Scott MH 61, or is it?



In  the Stanley Gibbons catalog there is a 1 centre phosphor band issue  (SG  X875 issued in 1977)  and a 2 phosphor band issue SG X874 issued in 1975).   I use this one stamp as an example. There are many others I could use of course, and not  just  GB stamps, but I hope this one makes the point.  Collectors Buying With Confidence know  1) what they are buying and 2) they know the seller knows what they are selling.

So Scott MH 61 is which stamp?    Well I do not think you know because the Scott catalog, as far as I know does not distinguish between the two issues. They just list MH61.   So from some sellers you could get either a 1 centre band issue or a 2 band issue.  More likely 1 band as that was the more common issue.

Is this, Collectors Buying With Confidence. I don’t think so.  So it also shows that it is good to have a  decent catalog as well.

In this example you can clearly see the 2 bands so if you are using SG you know this is SG X874.

But sometime the phosphor band(s) do not show so clearly.  This is the 1 centre band issue and as you can see, the phosphor band is not very clear at all.



So to my second point, the seller knows what they are selling. To me this is pretty important. After all, when I am looking to add to my collection I do not want the hassle of getting a stamp only to find it is not what was listed for sale.  Sure accidents can happen and hopefully be corrected politely but for very cheap stamps the cost of correction is just not worth the hassle and I tend to let those get put down to life experiences.   I am still clearing up from house and property flooding so that sort of puts stamp matters into perspective. 


One final point, and which Collectors Buying With Confidence will know,  these 25c stamps  are just that. They are not $3.45 stamps or any other silly price you might see them listed for at times, and, we should not be deluded into thinking otherwise just because someone who doesn’t know what they are really listing is asking a high price. A high price, as we know in all walks of life, does not always mean value for money!

 I had another topic in my head yesterday but have already forgotten what it was 😊  If you have one you would like me to write about please do not hesitate to drop me a line  I am on

Michael …. Please visit my online store    where I think you will see quality and appropriately described stamps.  

Friday, September 08, 2023

Collectors Buying With Confidence – colours, and corroboration

Hello,  back again after a few days doing other things.  But on the subject of colours and shades, two points.   A reader wrote to me telling me they never priced a stamp by colour unless they were 100% certain, especially for much higher priced copies and shades. A very wise practice and one that we as collectors should remember.   More on this later. Second, I thought I would just show a few GB Downey Heads.

One of my areas of collecting interest is Great Britain George V Downey Heads. GB stamps issued between 1911 and 1912; basically a green one, the ½d value and a red one, the 1d. I am being flippant of course because while there were only the two basic colours there were many shades, a few perforation varieties, and die varieties and a few watermark varieties, not the least which included inverted and sideways watermarks.  Downey Heads make for a fascinating and challenging study and collecting area.  And, one where the advice of, don’t sell as a colour shade unless very sure, is very relevant.

I sometimes look to see if I can fill a gap or two even though those missing stamps are rather expensive. What I often find are copies for sale which I have to look at twice in the listing because the colour is just not right.  Bright Green is very bright green, but not that bright.   Carmine is carmine but not that deep.

Let me start at the beginning, of my album,  and show a few stamps.  I hope this displays well enough to get the general impression of a few, and I mean just a few, of the various shades of this issue.


As a collector, one thing we could look for when buying stamps with various shades is to see if the seller mentions, sold with a certificate - especially for much higher priced stamps – or,  that the stamp has  have come from a control study or reference collection  That can mean the  collector or seller has spent time seriously studying the stamps and  referencing  copies against other copies to more correctly  establish the colour differences.As a collector  this  really is  collectors buying with confidence if we are seeing such  details, maybe even better to say provenance..

These two factors can at least add some degree of certainty to the correctness, of such detail is in fact provided, of the description and hopefully catalog reference of the stamp being sold.

Another picture.  This image shows a few of the 1d stamps with notes.  Probably does not reproduce well but this shows the Control Block detail that is also an interesting and useful collecting area of interest, not the least because the Control markings can help in determining the printer, in this case it was Somerset House.   Shame these are all singles because pairs are more desirable. A study area in its own right one might say.  Why the number 12? that was used to show the year, in this case 1912.


Anyway, colours and shades can be a rabbit hole to go down at times but can add interest and a challenge to our collecting, but need us as collectors to be weary when buying.

One last image. A stamp I had to buy, just to prove to myself it was not the colour in the scan. Of course it was not – or I would have discovered a new shade variety or perhaps even better.  See more below in closing remarks.        

Obviously ? colour adjusted? (the bottom stamp  is as it was shown for sale, the stamp above is exactly the colour of the stamp received).  Colour adjusted perhaps by the seller to improve presentation or what?  We as the collector have to decide.  Anyone knowing their Downey Heads would probably not see it like that.

So, Collectors Buying With Confidence – do look carefully and learn to understand what you are seeing. It is ok to buy a brightened stamp or a stamp that looks like the colour has been adjusted, or perhaps the scanner was really bad?  if it is the one you want, but do be prepared for it to be as you might  expect based on the catalog and not as the image shown in the listing. 

Of course, you just may get a rare colour shade!!!   I started by saying my gaps are hard and expensive to fill.   So I will close with what I am looking for, as you might be asking 😊   -  SG 337, (specialist N 10 – 4 c)  deep bright scarlet watermark reversed. Sadly I keep coming up with the Scarlet shade. Just imagine if the seller of the stamp above had really got it wrong!

 Michael …. Please visit my online store    where I think you will see quality and appropriately described stamps.  

Monday, September 04, 2023

Collectors Buying With Confidence – Is that really the colour of the stamp being sold?

In my previous article I briefly wrote about removing self-adhesives stamps from envelopes, at least at a high level, and I did not, deliberately, address every type of gum. I hope it was useful.

But just as a follow up one of my very knowledgeable and kind readers did write to add the point that some GB in particular no longer have the water-soluble layer between the stamp and the glue. Modern Great Britain self-adhesives have been like this since 2009 - not just Machins, but current definitives and self-adhesive special stamps and miniature sheets.   I will add that I do not know the gum (glue) type found in other county’s stamps but  I expect over the years those gums have  changed and  also are no longer water soluble or have a water soluble layer as was commented for GB stamps.  Collectors would perhaps be wise to learn the gum types before thinking or trying to remove a stamps from an envelope – if that is what they want to do.

Anyway, today; One thing I did mentioned in my last post was the scanning of the stamp so I thought that would be the topic here. And the Collector Buying With Confidence question is, is that really the colour of the stamp being sold?

My example in the previous article was perhaps useful but not specific for this topic and neither was the example I used on colour in the article showing the two Italian stamps.

This time I want to take the topic further and talk about the deliberate – because I contend it is unlikely to be anything other than deliberate  – changing or enhancing of the colour of the image of the stamp being listed.  

While I suggested the GB Machin had been colour adjusted for the purposes of the scan as it was a self-adhesive stamp that had been removed from the envelope or paper it was used on, I would like to take that aspect a stage further and talk about colour or scanner colour adjustments for a normal stamp.

As a starter I will also mention that many stamps were printed in different shades. These are well documented in the various catalogs like Scott, SG and Michel for example.  Colour identification can be rather tricky and depending on catalog pricing can mean a large difference in potential value between two stamps which are apparently the same.

I have never seen scanning colour enhancements for online marketplace listings done to a suggest or support a stamp being of a higher value than it is.  But, I have seen many examples of stamps that just were not issued in the colour shown. Why?  To better present the stamp I  would  think.

More commonly this is because the seller  -  it would seem from all the  evidence and examples one can quite easily see for oneself – has  brightened the  image.   Why?    The answer is either, by accident, by a poor setting on the scanner, or to make the image more attractive in its listing presentation.

Some people I know will argue with me that this does not happen. I argue it does and there is adequate proof if one cares to take the time to look.   Of course we don’t see it until we are looking for a stamp we want to buy and we see many copies of the one, all side by side, that we can obviously compare and then we notice one or more are, let’s just, say very bright, or very  dark or whatever has happened to “enhance” the colour presentation.   Some examples to show brightness:  A copy of the stamp in the colour / shade it was issued – it was not issued in a very bright shade -  Example 1, showing Front and Reverse and another copy, Example 2,  the stamp “brightened”.


 Example 1  from a direct scan of the stamp from my scanner.


  Example 2 as listed for sale, somewhere, once.



Example 3     the first example after brightening on the scanner.


There are two ways the second stamp  (Example 2) can come across as so bright.  One, the image was brightened when scanned.  Two, it was soaked in compound to clean it, to in fact bleach it. The bleaching is probably not the cause for the brightness as the cancel is still very strong in colour. And, the hinge mark has not been cleaned as one might expect from a “bleach” clean.


But let’s try it once more.  This time with even more complex colour adjustment.




My example are not  intended to be that close for comparison but for the purpose of showing how the scan can be brightened.  And why brighten?  As I said earlier, to better present the stamp. The brighter image looks far more attractive and collectible, doesn’t it.

One more example. And this time showing the stamp as it was received (left image) and then an image of the actual stamp  as listed for sale.



 A useful addition to any GB collection.  The actual listing was rather attractive.  The reality was what I expected. I suspect the sellers’ scanner was not working very well at the time it was scanned!!

So, Collectors Buying with Confidence – do look carefully and learn to understand what you are seeing. It is ok to buy a brightened stamp  if it is the one you want but do be prepared for it to be as you might  expect based on the catalog and not as the image shown in the listing. Of course, you just might get a rare colour shade!!!


Michael …. Please visit my online store    where I think you will see quality and appropriately described stamps.  

Click to zoom in on my visitor map!
Click to zoom in on my visitor map!