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United States/Covers & Postmarks : An Infuriating Pet Peeve

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Jake6
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09 Aug 2016
02:56:13pm
I'm sure this is something you've all come across: we stamp and cover collectors are usually a careful, deliberate and rational sort. We take care of our treasures, understand that visual display is very important, and want to protect and portray our covers in the very best light. Can anyone tell me, then, why it is that (IMO) between a quarter and a third of cover collectors, knowing that they own a valuable piece of postal history, simply degrade or ruin something that was quite fine by whipping out a pencil and inscribing right on the front of the cover - 10- or 4- or 15- so no one could possibly mistake what they are selling their postal cover for? It's infuriating! Honestly, I've seen these penciled-on prices on otherwise gorgeous advertising postal covers over 130 years old! No one in their right mind would mark up a cover like that; there are many other ways of pricing covers (white sticker on cellophane sleeve, hello?). Why do people do this? My biggest pet peeve . . .

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tomiseksj
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09 Aug 2016
03:51:38pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Quote:

"... Why do people do this? ..."



I was asking the same question yesterday while looking through some of my covers.

Image Not Found

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ikeyPikey
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09 Aug 2016
03:54:15pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

To be fair to us (the 'us' of bygone days), we have gone around the bend.

Things that our forebears thought little of have become obsessions ...

- stamps bearing MNHOG (Mint Never Hinged Original Gum) (best pronounced MIN-hog)

- FDCs bearing postal addresses

- postal stationery cut squares

Some of this is hegemony, eg, if I've got a pristine something, I want to declare as loudly as possible that only pristine will do.

If pencil markings are giving you fits, buy one of these ...

http://www.sakuraofamerica.com/electric-eraser

... and have at them.

Just remember that anything you write on the sleeve goes with the sleeve, not the cover ...

... and never use a "cellophane sleeve" when archival materials are so readily available.

Cheers,

/s/ ikeyPikey

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Jake6
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09 Aug 2016
04:13:36pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Thanks, Ike, I'll check that product out!

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Jake6
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09 Aug 2016
04:23:32pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

You are right, of course. I meant to say Clear Sleeve (of the acid-free sort).

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michael78651
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SOR Auctioneer
09 Aug 2016
05:11:55pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

I use a mechanical drafting eraser to remove pencil markings. Does a good job, except for the pencil markings that are heavily dug into a stamp. As with that smaller version of a mechanical eraser shown in the provided link above, it uses a soft, white plastic eraser.

However, these erasers will not remove pen ink or marker, like shown in the Canadian cover. The erasers that remove ink and such are too abrasive as they often contain very small pieces of glass or sand. Using such an eraser will no doubt often remove ink, but will also damage the paper.

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Anglophile
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09 Aug 2016
06:23:27pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

tomiseksj, the marking "Phosphor Lines" on your cover appears to be in the same hand as the address, rather than applied later by a dealer or collector. It marks the cover as philatelic, but the blame can't be laid on a knucklehead dealer or collector. The sender, probably a collector dispatching it to a pal, knew what he was doing.

On the pricing ... I agree. I use a Mars synthetic eraser to gently remove these. I think I've seen markings on almost all lower-priced covers that I've ever bought, so it seems to be a global annoyance.

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smauggie
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09 Aug 2016
07:04:56pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

MIN-hog . . . that's a new one for me. I like it.

You do have quite the skill for making up words and acronyms.

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Snick1946
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09 Aug 2016
08:20:11pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

I was at one time getting approvals from a specialist dealer, I asked if he had any covers so he sent some. All sharply folded to fit in the mailing envelope. Oh yes, and all marked with his prices as well. He and I parted company shortly thereafter.

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youpiao
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10 Aug 2016
02:09:47am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Quote:

" Why do people do this? My biggest pet peeve . . ."



I feel the same way about my books. Dealers love to use the front flyleaf as the price tag. While I have never gone to a dealer to sell any of my collectible books, I have no doubt I would be low-balled on it because of the "damage."

This isn't just baseless cynicism on my part, either. I once had a small collection of Franklin halves passed down to me. Knowing nothing about coins, I took them to a local dealer for information about them. When he saw them, he said, "Nice cameos," which started me on a (short-lived) foray into Franklin cameo collecting.

Some time later, I went back to the dealer to inquire about selling them to him. This time, the same set of coins drew the comment, "I can't offer much; the cameos aren't very good."

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ikeyPikey
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10 Aug 2016
07:49:44am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Quote:

"... the cameos aren't very good ..."



There's a niche comedy in which the couple is buying a studio apartment, which the real estate agent insists on calling a 'microloft'.

Circumstances change and, a short time later, they are back to that same agent to sell the 'microloft' and she now insists on calling it a 'studio'.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1655460/

We sell cup-half-empty what we bought cup-half-full.

Cheers,

/s/ ikeyPikey

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Jake6
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10 Aug 2016
09:33:26am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Youpiao, I couldn't agree more. Another problem I have (I collect books as well). Plus the problem with the high tech erasers sometimes is that they can leave a wear mark where the price used to be, making it all too clear what was done, anyway. Again, I will never understand this. Collecting and selling is supposed to be a profession. People should know what they're doing and take great care and pride in what they do.

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tomiseksj
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10 Aug 2016
10:12:46am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Quote:

"...the marking "Phosphor Lines" on your cover appears to be in the same hand as the address, rather than applied later by a dealer or collector. It marks the cover as philatelic, ..."


The marking was applied in a different color ink than the address, suggesting that it had been applied at a different time than the address.

From my perspective, a more appropriate manner of advising the recipient of the tagging would have been to include a note inside the cover.

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Bobstamp
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10 Aug 2016
12:24:43pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

I've learned to pretty much ignore extraneous marks on covers. I mainly collect "old" covers, a descriptor which I should change because many of them moved through the mail streams years or even decades after I was born (1943). If they are old, what does that make me?! Anyway, many of them have various notes and prices written on them by one or more dealers, and the older they are the more likely they are to have such markings on them. Here's a recently acquired example:

Image Not Found

It's a first flight cover, flown by the famous French pilot Jean Mermoz from Buenos Aires to Santiago de Chile in 1929. It was the first airmail flight over the Andes. That "marking" on the front — Mermoz' signature — only adds to the cover's value commercially and as a collectable. On the back there are several marks that I would prefer not to have. Here's a larger image:

Image Not Found

"Berkshire $12.50 / Page 93" refers, I assume, to a catalogue value. Does anyone know? The dealer told me that 41 covers were carried on the flight, which is reflected in what is probably a dealer's notation: "#123 / 41 carried". The "KERST" rubber stamp impression is, I assume, an expertization mark or possibly a collector's mark. Is anyone aware of a Kerst expertization service?

I generally accept such marks as part of the cover's provenance, although I do draw the line at certain "practices". I have been offered, but not purchased, covers in which the sender's and recipient's names have been marked out with pen or pencil, or even cut out. The most egregious examples: covers sent to and from a Canadian POW in Japan during the Second World War. Someone had used thick Witeout or some other white correction fluid to obliterate the names, turning a cover worth hundreds of dollars into paper waste, in my opinion. Vandalism!

Unfortunately, many cover dealers today mark prices directly on the inexpensive covers and postcards rather than on plastic sleeves. When I questioned a local dealer about why he did that, he said that it wasn't worth his time and trouble and expense of using plastic sleeves, and he's a dealer who has sold me some of the most expensive covers in my collection.

A caution about erasing pencil marks on covers: a few years ago, I invited a local paper conservator to speak to my stamp club. Among her comments: NEVER erase marks on any paper you wish to conserve. Erasing removes the marks because it removes paper fibres. An erased cover is a damaged cover. Obviously, the decision to erase or not to erase is entirely subjective. Entropy happens. One day the last Penny Black will crumble to dust. The question is whether we want to speed entropy along or let other people and nature take care of that for us!

Bob












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Stampme
10 Aug 2016
04:12:31pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

If one should decide to erase a price point, I understand that, and have thrown up my hands in disbelief at the marring of many covers either with pencil or pen.

However, as has been previously noted, one must use the eraser very carefully.

Oftentimes, along the bottom of WWII German censored covers, there are sequences of handwritten numbers and letters, in either ink or pencil, placed there by the Wehrmacht censor which resemble dealer markings or personal collector codings so obviously those should never be erased.

Bruce

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ernieinjax
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10 Aug 2016
04:44:38pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Is there ever a situation where these "extra" markings could actually ENHANCE the collectibility a cover?

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Bobstamp
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10 Aug 2016
11:26:17pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Erniejax asked,

Quote:

"Is there ever a situation where these "extra" markings could actually ENHANCE the collectibility a cover?"



I've speculated about that. Any such case would probably be subjective. I have wondered about a cover in my collection; here's the front:

Image Not Found

There's nothing remarkable on the front of the cover; the return address on the back is what makes it collectible for me: The sender is "Carl Isr. Kaufmann". The Nuremberg laws stipulated that German Jews who had German-sounding names had to take the middle name of "Israel" in the case of males or "Sara" in the case of females for use on international mail and official documents. Carl lived in Krefeld; a few thousand Jews lived in Krefeld before the Holocaust, and most if not all died in concentration camps. I assume that Don Federico Kaufmann, to who the cover is addressed, was a relative, perhaps one who had escaped the Holocaust by emigrating to Argentina.

Image Not Found

Now about those mathematical notations: Do they detract from the commercial value of the cover? I suppose so. But I've wondered if they are evidence of wartime paper shortages. That's impossible to prove, but Argentina and other Latin American countries relied largely on newsprint imports from the U.S. and Great Britain, both of which suffered from paper shortages. It's not hard to imagine Argentinians saving covers for their value as "scratchpads". The notations were certainly added after the cover was censored and likely after it was opened.

Someone mentioned recently in another thread something along the lines that they avoid collecting covers because they so often lead to unanswered and possibly unanswerable questions. No kidding!

Bob

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HungaryForStamps
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11 Aug 2016
12:45:56am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

I have quite a few modern envelopes with scrawl of random notes I or my children have made. One such note listed the heavy metal songs I liked when listening to Liquid Metal on Sirius XM on the drive home one day. The only thing available to write on was an envelope. For example, I recall I wrote "Mars Needs Women" by Rob Zombie so I could tell my brother this would be a good song to cover in his local rock band. Imagine if covers were worth saving today and some collector, maybe my son, forty years hence, sells that cover.

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ernieinjax
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11 Aug 2016
05:00:49am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Great cover Bob, the graffiti calculations definitely make you wonder.

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Jake6
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11 Aug 2016
09:40:09am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Bob, very interesting post that gives one food for thought. I do know that the added marks of modern selling prices are really the only thing that drives me up a wall (10-, 15- etc.). Anything else I let go; I just don't see how it is much extra work to sleeve a letter and price mark there if you have a passion for what you do. By the way, the impetus for following through on a mystery and possibly solving it is, to me, one of the main draws of cover collecting. That's why I do it!

Matt

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ikeyPikey
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11 Aug 2016
11:42:49pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Quote:

"... I just don't see how it is much extra work to sleeve a letter and price mark ..."



You are focusing on your point, and not How Things Work.

Customers sitting at a dealer's table will unsleeve multiple covers, and not put the correct cover back in the correct sleeve ... and will then argue about the price.

Covers will acquire additional corner dings & bumps & creases each time they are re-sleeved.

Stamps (which are often barely hanging on) will get pulled off of the cover.

Not every marking on every cover is in ink; markings in pencil & crayon will smear as the cover passes out of and back into the sleeve, again & again.

Perhaps you need to attend a few shows? Or talk to a few dealers?

Cheers,

/s/ ikeyPikey
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Jake6
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12 Aug 2016
08:16:14am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Well, of that there's no doubt, as I've only been collecting for about 3 years. By the way, I didn't mean to offend. I merely approach from the viewpoint of would an art dealer or gallery owner write even in pencil 10,000- on a 130 yr. old Impressionist painting? However, your point is taken. I work in an IP and patent library, and as with all inventions perhaps this is a problem looking for a solution - how to price covers without creating the problems you rightly point out, and without marking up the work itself. I am inspired!

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
12 Aug 2016
08:41:49am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

and Jake, when you discover, and patent, the answer, I want to know.

each approach has its cost and benefit. I generally insert a card in the cover describing stamp, rate, markings, etc. I can be as long winded as some say i am. Cheap (free), relatively permanent, but increases width by 1/2 and is not visible until withdrawn.

I only do this with covers where some explanation is important.

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
12 Aug 2016
09:26:31am

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re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Quote:

"each approach has its cost and benefit. I generally insert a card in the cover describing stamp, rate, markings, etc. I can be as long winded as some say i am. Cheap (free), relatively permanent, but increases width by 1/2 and is not visible until withdrawn."



It may be prudent to put an acid free filler card inside every cover of value. One of the curses of collecting covers is as they age, the glue from the envelope assembly on the back side browns and leaches through the front of the cover, leaving brown diagonal stains on it. We used to say that was only from cheap envelopes, but I'm seeing this on older Artcraft first day covers lately.

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
12 Aug 2016
09:49:41am

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re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

and to share in the topic of misc unwanted markings on covers and stamps. I had a collection where the owner wrote the Scott number IN PEN on the back of every stamp. Recently I bought a discount postage lot and the previous owner had done the same IN PEN in the selvage of each plate block, on the front so it would always be visible.. into the postage bin! I also have covers where someone wrote the Scott number under each stamp. Argh! So here's a few examples where extra markings prove interesting:

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Here's an interesting cover that Smaugie sent me for my New Jersey postmark collection. It's only a front, but a nice appearing piece with a clear postmark.

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This is the reverse side, and an example of when extra markings add to the interest of the piece. It was mailed from a bank in Asbury Park, NJ to a bank in Park River, Dakota. Note that this was "Dakota Territory" as North and South Dakota became states in 1889, two years after our cover was mailed. Paper may have been hard to come by out west in those days, so they weren't wasting anything. The envelope was carefully cut into two pieces of scrap paper (front and back) and used for bank notations. It seems that JR Wooley paid his 1849 balance of $3 plus $2.50 interest as indicated by the PAID stamp. The piece also has many tack marks as if this was tacked up on a board or wall. All in all a nice piece of history! And think about this, the cover probably wouldn't have survived, if not for it's second usage. So it's a keeper! Thanks Smaugie!

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Here's my favorite Ben Franklin private perforation cover. This is the uncataloged Covel private perforation that I've studied forever. I've had it since the 1970s, and other examples have sold in the $500 range in the past few years. Front side is clean, except for the opening damage at the top.

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And here's the reverse side... we've all taken a piece of junk mail and have written a note on the back of the envelope. This was done in 1916 "Have gone to the Paramont with Joe and Helen" in pencil, I guess they were going to the silent movies! This does take from the piece, but nobody has tried to erase it in over 100 years.

The second marking is "Guaranteed Genuine Schermack Private Perf on Cover" from Herman Herst Jr, expertising the cover. This is a good marking! And indeed, Schermack created these for Covel.

There is another marking in a circle, it's either "Bob" or more likely "1306". I have no idea what this would mean.



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ernieinjax
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12 Aug 2016
09:55:20am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Hey Tom,

Those are examples of writing on cover that would not bother me. The pencil note is on the back and I'd venture to say that it was written in very close proximity time wise to when that piece went through the mail. Looks like whoever wrote the note momentarily forgot how to write a cursive "J"!

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ikeyPikey
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13 Aug 2016
08:55:29am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Quote:

"... would an art dealer or gallery owner write even in pencil 10,000- on a 130 yr. old Impressionist painting? ..."



The reciprocal difference is the matter of repair, wherein cleaning & restoring that painting - or most any other antique, for that matter - adds to its value, whereas repairing a tear in a stamp/card/cover is as welcome as infanticide.

BTW: back when that Van Gogh was just one of a thousand crappy landscapes painted that year, the price might very well have been marked on the front.

Cheers,

/s/ ikeyPikey
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Tom in Exton, PA
13 Aug 2016
09:38:58am

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re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Quote:

"Is there ever a situation where these "extra" markings could actually ENHANCE the collectibility a cover?"


Quote:

"
Those are examples of writing on cover that would not bother me. "



Ernie, I actually posted those covers in response to your first question above... agreed, the markings on my covers help frame them into a time period. I consider them history and am pleased to have them!

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Bobstamp
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13 Aug 2016
11:02:35am
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

IkeyPikey said,

Quote:

"...cleaning & restoring that painting - or most any other antique, for that matter - adds to its value..."



My wife and I regularly watch both the American and British versions of Antiques Road Show, which endlessly confuses the issue, for us, of why it's suggested that some antiques would become more valuable if they were repaired/restored/cleaned and some have lost value because they were repaired/restored/cleaned. One time or another and old chair or clock wukk gave a "wonderful patina" and shouldn't be touched, and another time a similar antique would be worth thousands more if it were repaired and/or cleaned up. The owners of old maps and documents are almost always told to have tears repaired and stains removed. From the perspective of us stamp and cover collectors, that's crazy! There must be something I don't understand!

Bob
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ikeyPikey
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13 Aug 2016
01:36:31pm
re: An Infuriating Pet Peeve

Bobstamp:

AFAIK, patina is generally a good thing, and should be left alone. Dents & scratches & cracks are bad things, and should be repaired. You & I might not readily spot the difference between patina & dirt & corrosion but, hey, that's what the experts are for.

From discussions in other venues, I have come to accept that the issue is singularity.

There just ain't that many maps that were carried on the Mayflower so, if you've got one, repair & restoration are encouraged, and add value.

OTOH, there were a great many Penny Blacks printed so, if you've got a torn one, you should just bite the bullet and buy a nice one.

Covers are kinda in the middle. Repairing/restoring a cover from Abe Lincoln is more readily tolerated than patching an Artcraft FDC of the 5c Davy Crockett stamp.

I do not buy the argument that covers need to be kept with whatever dirt came with them, including old dealer prices. If you need to save that information, scan it.

In all cases, you can document the cleaning/repair/etc, so that you do not inadvertently mislead the next owner of the piece.

Cheers,

/s/ ikeyPikey

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