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General Philatelic/Newcomer Cnr : Newbie with questions

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cshahar
28 Nov 2016
04:55:34pm
Hi Everyone:

Well, actually, I started collecting Canadian stamps (pre-1955) and quit abruptly because I didn't know what I was doing. The only thing I did know was that I like quality. But I did not have enough knowledge to ensure that it was what I was getting in my purchases. I still have the Canadian stamps, but realized it is not where my passion lies. I am now interested in American stamps mid-1800s to 1915.

Fast forward to today, and I got a few alerts from HipStamp and saw some stamps I would like to bid on, but took a step back to check with this forum first. Here are my questions:

(1) HipStamp does not offer a view of the back of the stamp. How can I know what condition it is in?

(2) What if there are other faults that might not be readily visible in the image, such as subtle creases? Will they be mentioned or not?

(3) Some entries on HipStamp don't have designations of their grade. Are we supposed to guess on the basis of their image?

(4) In this designation: United States, 30A, 5c Jefferson Fine Single, Used
I would assume that it is not hinged and that its condition is "fine".
If I go here, I can find stamps of equivalent grade:

http://www.usphila.com/us/stamp/price/scott-30a-page-1
http://grandoldstamps.com/?page_id=256

Are there other sites where I can check prices and determine how much I would be willing to bid?

What else would you suggest for a relative newbie such as myself?

Thanks,

-Charles



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Philatarium
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APS #187980
28 Nov 2016
06:11:44pm
re: Newbie with questions

Hi, Charles!

Welcome! And these are good questions!

I'll just pick up on a couple of them.

I am a casual seller on HipStamps, but not in your collecting area. A seller on there can choose to show scans of the back of the images, so it's not a policy of HS, nor a system limitation, that would prevent this. (Indeed, I think they allow up to about 20 images per listing, in fact -- higher than eBay's 12 image limit.)

I do go to the trouble of showing scans of the back, even on the least expensive stamps, but I think I'm unusual in doing that, and it's a lot of extra work. (I may, at some point, decide not to show back scans of items under a particular $ threshold, in order to speed up the time it takes to list.)

So, if you're not seeing back images of the stamps you're interested in, you can always ask the sellers if they can provide those images to you. Some may very well do so, and some may balk or refuse. It may also well depend on the selling price of the stamp.

That said, be sure to double-check the seller's return policy. A lot of the sellers I know on there may not show the back of the stamp, but do offer a good return policy. If it's not already mentioned in the "details" description of the stamp, look under the "shipping" tab.


I'll leave it to others to add to this and address some of your other questions.

-- Dave

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Ningpo
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28 Nov 2016
06:25:20pm
re: Newbie with questions

Firstly, welcome to Stamporama Charles. To answer your first and second question: Hipstamp is a selling platform, not a retailer. It hosts many sellers, just like eBay, Delcampe, eBid and numerous others.

If you have queries relating to condition of any items, you are at liberty to contact the actual seller. If you want a scan of the back, or a better image, ask for one.

Like anywhere else, some sellers will mention all known faults, others will (conveniently) omit specific details and may instead use the phrase "supplied scan forms part of the description".

The expression 'caveat emptor', or 'buyer beware' should always be borne in mind when buying anything over the internet.

Do not assume that sellers comply with some code of conduct. Many are most trustworthy and honest but some are not.

Grading I would suggest is something you should judge yourself. To many, grading systems are total nonsense.

Hingeing is really only relevant to mint stamps with gum. The fact that a used stamp has a hinge, should have no bearing on the value of a stamp, unless it has been used to hide a defect. However, there are those that get hung up on the presence of hinges on used stamps.

One has to bear in mind that early issued stamps were almost always hinged. That was the only way they could be displayed on a page. So, even if there is no hinge on a used stamp, there will usually be a hinge remnant, unless the stamp has been soaked.

Looking at that first link you posted, I do wonder if you are running before you can walk. Paying out large sums for material that you are not yet in a position to properly judge (which is the impression you give), will lead to costly mistakes.

You ask for suggestions for a relative newbie. There are so many:

Read articles and books on your chosen subject. Even read the accompanying notes in catalogues, which usually give guidance about condition (centering, colour, perforations etc.). Study old auction catalogues, join a stamp club, post images here with questions if you want opinions. Loiter on auction sites like eBay and just observe how others are bidding.

It really is all about knowledge.

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28 Nov 2016
07:31:30pm
re: Newbie with questions

Welcome to SOR and back to stamp collecting.

If you get scans of the back and front of a stamp, one suggestion I have is to download a free graphics program such as paint.net and create a black background layer and then place the stamp on the second layer with a transparent background and view the stamp on the black background - it will show you thins, repairs, etc. This is something that comes in handy if you are purchasing higher value stamps or really any stamp to see creases, etc that are not clear on a scan.

Magnifying a stamp - front or back on your computer or viewing device will not necessarily show you any faults.

I'd start with lower value stamps though until you're really comfortable with higher values - which personally I'd only purchase with a certificate of authenticity.

Grading is, as mentioned, often a personal viewpoint. Knowing the stamp you are looking at is important to assess grading. In older stamps what may be considered bad centering on a more modern stamp is often the norm and margins may differ (regardless if it is imperforate or perforate).

I don't know if this helps with your inquiry.

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cshahar
29 Nov 2016
06:09:43am
re: Newbie with questions

These are all fantastic responses! Thank you very much. I have a problem though. The problem is that I start slow but then accelerate rapidly. As one poster rightly points out, I often run before I walk. Call it impulsiveness or risk taking behavior. That gets me into trouble. For instance, when I quit stamp collecting a few years ago, I started collecting ancient Greek and Roman coins. I collected only extra fine coins of the highest caliber. That drove me into bankruptcy very quickly. My insistence on quality became an obsession. Although I did get to know the fine points (even wrote an article for the Celator). I don't want to repeat the same mistakes. So the advice regarding research and patience is a great one. I hope I take it.

-Charles

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amsd
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29 Nov 2016
08:18:56am

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re: Newbie with questions

Charles,

aiming for quality is an approach certain to make your collection all the more valuable, and enjoyable, in both short- and long run. But Clive's caution is worthwhile. I'll go so far as to sum up Clive's remarkably useful suggestions: knowledge, including the patience required to attain it, is probably the most important ingredient you can supply.

Good luck

David

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red-eric-1
29 Nov 2016
08:43:49am
re: Newbie with questions

Hi

There's definitely nothing wrong with developing passion for a hobby. However, if you have trouble limiting your purchases to what you can handle financially, I would suggest setting a hard budget for yourself. Just figure out what you can afford to put into the hobby in the next year and divide by 12. Then try really hard not to overspend your budget month by month.

I find this approach makes you much more selective in what you buy. It also gives you time to examine/appreciate/study/enjoy the material you do acquire rather than always worrying about the next buy.

After almost 50 years of collecting, one thing I've learned is I will never get everything I want - there's always a new "want" popping up - so I might as well spread out the enjoyment!

Take care and enjoy your collecting.

Eric


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Ningpo
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29 Nov 2016
09:53:28am
re: Newbie with questions

One failing on my part when I first got back into the hobby was over exuberance. I would pounce on early classic stamps, perhaps thinking that everything was special and scarce. Consequently, I ended up buying stuff that wasn't that good quality.

If I'd had more patience and spent more time looking and comparing dealer's stock and researching my area of interest, I would have realised that there was a lot more and better material to choose from.

Eventually, I learned that, for example, the unusual shade of a particular stamp I had bought, was in fact a copy printed in fugitive ink, which had faded badly from soaking.

The saying "learn from your mistakes" is never more true than in philately. I think I've learnt more from making blunders.

A very useful source of learning is of course the online stamp forum. Not just this one; there are others. Some of us here belong to others forums where the knowledge is quite staggering.

These are worth joining, even if you don't want to participate in the discussions. Members often post images of material they have, or indeed are thinking of buying, asking for opinions from more advanced collectors. The advice given is invaluable. I have seen numerous instances of members being advised to reject a potential purchase because there was evidence of forgery, re-perforating, re-gumming, re-backing, repairs, or faked postmarks etc. etc.

This kind of information will not be in your 'knowledge bank' until you have had a lot more experience. So take advantage of the knowledge that is now at your fingertips. I wish the internet had been around when I blundered into the hobby all those years ago.

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cshahar
29 Nov 2016
11:32:28am
re: Newbie with questions

Such fantastic advice from all of you. Great nuggets of wisdom! The budget idea is excellent. Thank you! So is the idea of joining multiple forums and getting feedback on my purchase considerations.

The internet is indeed a wondrous tool, but it can also hold misleading information and images. Learning how to navigate it by expanding my knowledge of the area of my philatelic interest is indeed critical.

Good Lord. I didn't know they use dyes to prop up stamps. There were certainly good fakes when I collected ancient coins, but I never figured that stamps (aside from fake gums) could also be subject to such fraudulent activity. i would imagine that buying from a reputable seller would mitigate such a possibility.

-Charles

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larsdog
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29 Nov 2016
09:56:34pm
re: Newbie with questions

Stamps are very easy to fake, especially trimming off perfs to fake a coil.

Knowing what fakes to look out for helps. For 1847 through the 3rd Bureau (the dates you mentioned), you really need a Scott Specialized Catalog of US Stamps. The good news is that you can make do with a 5 or even 10 year old copy. Those can often be had for the price of shipping. Pay close attention to the warnings about common fakes.

A budget not only helps to keep things under control, but for me it forces me to VERY carefully consider any major purchases.

I also have three lists that I work from at all times. (They are all on the same spreadsheet, but listed under separate headings).
List 1 - BUY with a price I'm willing to pay
List 2 - Keep an eye out for bargains (with a target price)
List 3 - Start watching auctions

Low cost items go straight to List 1 with a price based on catalog value (CV). Intermediate stuff starts on List 2 with a low-ball price that is refined with experience bidding and ultimately lands on List 1 if not purchased sooner
High dollar stuff spends a year or more on List 3 gathering information about condition and price of sales. For commonly faked stamps I also note if there is a Certificate of Authenticity. When you attack the 3rd Bureau, you will definitely want to learn how to identify the subtle differences with the lower priced items first!

Good luck!

Lars

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AntoniusRa
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30 Nov 2016
01:36:04am
re: Newbie with questions

Welcome to the SOR. I collect the whole world quite seriously but the Early U.S. is my favorite area. All of us appreciate quality but each of us has to figure out what that means to us and where we draw the line. Unless one is quite rich collecting VF MNH early U.S. will end up with a collection of few stamps.
There are practically no early U.S. forgeries to worry about but there are other problems that one has to beware of. Regumming, reperfing and repairing of faults are all things the collector must be very cautious of. Re gumming is probably the most troublesome as the difference between a NH stamp and one without gum is around 3X catalog value. If you are not hung up on gum then a just as beautiful collection can be made up of no gum stamps as NH with much less cost and the worry of regumming. 30 years ago gum was not much considered in the valuing of stamps. To me the freshness of a stamp is the most important aspect along with nice centering. 1915 is a very odd cut off date for U.S. stamps. The Washington/Franklin series started in 1909 and ended in 1922. Having a cut-off date right in the middle of them would make little sense to me. I would think a cut-off date of 1909 or 1925 would be more suitable for any collector.
You should definitely get a Scott U.S. Specialized catalog, I bought a 2012 edition a couple months ago for $10 off Ebay. Most all listings of U.S. stamps will use the Scott numbering system making other catalogs difficult to navigate and cross reference numbers. The same thing goes for albums, the Scott National album is by far the most popular album for the serious U.S. collector. There were a great number of these printed and are not hard to find in excellent condition in the $30-50 range. Scott also made a better U.S. album called the U.S. Platinum. The layout is basically the same but the pages are hingeless and have rounded corners. I have my 19th century U.S. on these pages but they are difficult to find.
I have looked at Hipstamps a couple times and although I do not recommend sellers or auction houses, I would look elsewhere for things I need.

My 19th century U.S. collection can be seen here: http://mitch.seymourfamily.com/mward/collection/us/us.html

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cshahar
30 Nov 2016
09:00:03pm
re: Newbie with questions

Thank you both! This is fantastic advice!

-Charles

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cdj1122
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02 Dec 2016
03:29:00am
re: Newbie with questions

Good advice, absolutely, and almost all gathered from accumulated years of experience.

Possibly the best worded, but not unique, comment is;
" .... I do wonder if you are running before you can walk. Paying out large sums for material that you are not yet in a position to properly judge (which is the impression you give), will lead to costly mistakes. ...."
I promise you, that often happens, or happened, to many other collectors who rushed in where angels feared to tread. To reast a phrase,

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cshahar
02 Dec 2016
08:57:33am
re: Newbie with questions

Thanks Everyone. I started getting my feet wet so to speak. Bought a 2013 Scott Catalogue. Looking to buy a hingeless album, likely "Mystic's Premium Hingeless American Heirloom Album Volume I 1847-1934". But right now I am just getting a feel for the auctions and what people are bidding aggressively on, particularly on EBay. Also looking at dealer's inventories and seeing the scope of their descriptions and assurances. Also looking at posts on this forum / site. I just got to keep my hands on the breaks. Can't fault me for lack of enthusiasm though.

-Charles

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