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General Philatelic/Newcomer Cnr : Question re Certification Process

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StamperMA
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11 Feb 2018
04:04:59am
I'm curious as to the steps involved in PF and/or PSE certification. I'm sure the process and time required varies greatly between a common stamp and an extreme rarity, but take the following as an example.

A common pre-1930 U.S. MNH stamp with a CV of ~$400 and a market value of say half that. Does anyone have any idea of the steps involved, the technology employed, and the inspection time required for an expertization certificate?

For a stamp of this type does only one expert look at it or are there multiple inspectors?

If a grading certificate is sought does the answer to the above (steps, technology, time, # of inspectors, etc.) change much? Thanks,

Dennis
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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
11 Feb 2018
10:41:04am
re: Question re Certification Process

first, grading and certification are completely different.

grading really talks about the quality of the thing presented, especially centering. It doesn't so much identify the thing. I doubt that the amount of knowledge and equipment is required as with certification, which should establish what stamp it is and whether that stamp is genuine, and if it's been altered.

The amount of time on the latter is determined by lots of factors, including the universe of alternate possibilities among paper, watermark, perfs, tagging, etc., as well as the existence of fakes and similar stamps. Flag over white house should be significantly easier than a 2c Washington, for instance.

David

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michael78651
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SOR Auctioneer
11 Feb 2018
11:34:48am
re: Question re Certification Process

Here is a link to the APS site that contains information about stamp authentication and how to go about doing it. Non-APS members can submit stamps to the APS for authentication. The cost is a little higher.

https://stamps.org/Stamp-Authentication

Also, Linn's has a regular feature about stamp authentication.

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StamperMA
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11 Feb 2018
02:07:29pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Thank you gentlemen but you haven't got to the heart of my question. I understand the distinction between expertizing and grading and I understand how to request a certification. But here is what I don't understand.

Given my assumptions (you have a relatively expensive (say $400) U.S. stamp, it is a common stamp, there are no complexities as to variations, it is not something easily forged from another stamp, etc.), I would like to know:

1) On average (and skipping all the caveats) how long does it take an expert to "expertize" the stamp? Is it typically one minute? Is it typically 10 minutes?

2) Beyond their own inherent knowledge, what tools do they use? I assume they don't use a conventional "Sherlock Holmes" type magnifying glass, but rather a digital inspection camera... is that correct? If so, what magnification do they use (go too high and everything looks like a flaw)?

What other tools? Do they routinely shine a high-powered light through the stamp? Do they routinely inspect it under UV light? What else? How do they ensure it has not been re-gummed?

I'm really hoping that someone who has expertised stamps will read this and tell me exactly how they do it. Thanks,

Dennis



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Webpaper
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11 Feb 2018
02:37:21pm
re: Question re Certification Process

That is an impossible question to answer because "it depends". Every person who is paid to expertise stamps has their own level of comfort, their own tools, their own favorite chemicals, their own methodology and their own area of expertise.

My first thought is why would you want to obtain a certificate for a common US stamp which catalogs $400 and is not commonly forged (this eliminates coils, imperfs, color variations, etc)?

In this day and age a high resolution scan of both sides and a bit of creativity with filtering, along with a UV light can tell you a lot about a stamp as to condition and repairs.

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Anglophile
11 Feb 2018
02:54:05pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Quote:

"1) On average (and skipping all the caveats) how long does it take an expert to "expertize" the stamp? Is it typically one minute? Is it typically 10 minutes?"



A few minutes to a few hours. There are some issues that cannot be faked or have no known forgeries and they can be confirmed as genuine in less than 15 minutes. Others may require detailed study, comparison to reference items, and/or consultation with other experts.

Quote:

"2) Beyond their own inherent knowledge, what tools do they use? I assume they don't use a conventional "Sherlock Holmes" type magnifying glass, but rather a digital inspection camera... is that correct? If so, what magnification do they use (go too high and everything looks like a flaw)? What other tools? Do they routinely shine a high-powered light through the stamp? Do they routinely inspect it under UV light? What else? How do they ensure it has not been re-gummed?"



An ordinary magnifier may suffice for many issues. For others, yes, a digital microscope could be appropriate with 5X to 50X magnification. If the issue is supposed to be tagged or phosphored, then UV light would be used but not otherwise. Extremely tricky issues, such as whether cancels on cover are genuine and/or tie the stamp to the cover, may require use of the Foster-Freeman VSC 6000 video spectral comparator and/or the Bruker X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. Only the PF has those.

Regumming is detected based on comparing the visual appearance of the gum with known gum color, texture and reflectance, as well as using low-power magnification to look for gum adhesion on perf tips and other signature indicators.


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StamperMA
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11 Feb 2018
03:01:06pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Anglophile,

Thank you!! That is exactly what I wanted to know. Regards,

Dennis

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
11 Feb 2018
03:19:54pm
re: Question re Certification Process

I am also intrigued by the questions Dennis asks..

I am thinking that different places have different levels of respect based on their methods. For instance the one known for baseball cards, and oh by the way stamps too, is a bit different than APS or Philatelic Foundation.

For instance I own many different copies of the Covel private perforation on Scott 314. They are not Scott listed, but are not hard to come by and well known. I would certainly expect any "expert" in this era to instantly recognize them. In fact there is a Covel cover on eBay right now.

Image Not Found

Exhibit A - Certificate from PSE.. declares this as a fake. It is clearly a Covel perforated pair. Imagine how many people get "Fake" certificates and destroy the stamp? Upon buying this, I sent an inquiry to PSE and received no reply whatsoever. Not even a reply that said "Thank you for your email". I would expect that any agency would be apt to defend their certificates?

Image Not Found

And here's a Weiss certificate for the same stamp. Clearly identified as what it is. I know Bill is no longer around, but it shows he was knowledgeable.

I dunno folks, but my expectations are that for the cost of expertizing, I expect an agency to stand behind and either defend or reissue a certificate on an item when challenged. Otherwise what good is it?

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StamperMA
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11 Feb 2018
04:30:16pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Quote:

"Every person who is paid to expertise stamps has their own level of comfort, their own tools, their own favorite chemicals, their own methodology and their own area of expertise."



If that's true Webpaper then as a newcomer I'm somewhat appalled at what passes for certification in this hobby. I am an engineer and when we certify something we typically:

- Follow a highly prescribed, step-by-step procedure that has been approved by a professional standards organization

- Are required to use specific tools (often those tools have to be calibrated before use)

- Frequently the work must be done (or at least signed off on) by a certified professional engineer (Are stamp experts themselves certified? If so by whom?)

I certainly understand that experts will have their own areas of expertise but the notion that they will follow their own procedures, select their own inspection magnifications, use their favorite chemicals, not follow a detailed inspection checklist, and so on is disturbing to me. It sounds like "One Expert's Opinion" and not true "Certification."

Have PS, PSE, etc. ever done blind submittals of the same stamps to multiple experts to look for consistency?

Dennis
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Webpaper
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11 Feb 2018
06:02:32pm
re: Question re Certification Process

I understand from an engineering standpoint that everything is based on science and known facts. My husband ran an engineering department for a large corporation doing business all over the world back in the 70's and 80's and taught college in the 90's so I have some exposure to the field, even though vicarious.

Stamp expertization is as much art as science. Please note that ALL certificates use the word "opinion". I have seen obvious fakes with good certificates and genuine stamps with bad certificates. That is why most people insist on a new certificate when buying expensive stamps. The person or persons doing the expertization certify their "opinion" - not something that you have the luxury of doing in your field.

Perhaps things have changed in the way of equipment. The people I knew involved in expertization back in the 80's and 90's used differing methods and technologies based on personal preference and what stamps they specialized in. They all trusted their knowledge and eyes as much as, if not more than, the specific items they used in their determination.

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sheepshanks
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11 Feb 2018
06:11:43pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Interesting ideas from all but unlike engineers who can test to destruction, the experts in the philatelic field have to use more subtle means, although I wonder how many have in fact destroyed or damaged items in the inspection.

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michael78651
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SOR Auctioneer
11 Feb 2018
10:07:37pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Regarding how long it takes to expertize a stamp, it depends on how much the submitter wants checked on the stamp, and how much information (and how clearly it is written) the submitter provides.

If you say, "I want the stamp expertized", well, what exactly do you want to know? Is it regummed, reperfed, is it a forgery. The more you provide on the form, the quicker the expertizing group can zero in on where your concerns are. If you take your car in to a mechanic, and drop it off with a note saying, "it rattles". The mechanic won't have a clue of where to start looking for the problem. It'll take longer to find the problem.

If you don't provide enough information of exactly what you're concerns are with the stamp, you could get an opinion that you're not looking for. As in the car example, you could return later to pick up your car, pay $250.00, and the receipt says, "Fixed rattle on door handle." If the door handle wasn't the "rattle" you wanted checked, then you'll have to start all over again.

Make sure it is a stamp that really needs to be "expertized". Most do not, according to stamp experitzers. They suggest that posting an image on a stamp forum often provides enough information for a collector to decide whether it would be worth it to submit for a certificate, or those responding on the forum provided enough information so that the collector is satisfied and doesn't have to spend the money for a certificate.

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michael78651
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SOR Auctioneer
11 Feb 2018
10:13:29pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Sheepshanks, during the expertization process, it does happen, the degree of which depends on one's point of view.

If one is looking for expertization of a stamp on a cover, often it is necessary to view the backside of the stamp. The only way to do that is to remove the stamp from the cover. They do try to place the stamp in the exact spot where it was, but the stamp was removed. Sometimes they need to remove the tiniest speck of ink of cancellation to test for time period in the ink dies. Sometimes they need a piece of paper from the stamp to test it. Before the most recent sale of the British Guiana Scott #13, they did just that to confirm its authenticity. Is that considered damage? I guess everyone has to decide that for themselves, but it is part of the authentication process for many stamps and covers.

I'm sure that sometimes bad things happen where a stamp or cover gets torn, creased, etc., or even gets lost in the mail going between different expertizers (most do their work from their home). It's all the risks that are taken.

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StamperMA
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11 Feb 2018
11:01:18pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Quote:

"Most do not, according to stamp experitzers. They suggest that posting an image on a stamp forum often provides enough information for a collector to decide whether it would be worth it to submit for a certificate, or those responding on the forum provided enough information so that the collector is satisfied and doesn't have to spend the money for a certificate."



This us an excellent comment Micheal and suggests to me there should be one designated place on the forum where folks can post stamp photos for comments. Perhaps under General Philatelic there could be a topic titled something like "Stamp Authenticity Concerns." The posting guidelines would not allow open-ended questions such as, "Is this stamp authentic?" Instead the poster would ask specific questions, such as, "The seller says this stamp is mint but do you think the mark in the upper right margin is the remnant of a cancellation"

Would something like this be useful?

Dennis
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michael78651
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SOR Auctioneer
12 Feb 2018
02:38:28am
re: Question re Certification Process

People post images of stamps that they have questions on all the time. Use the Can you help identify this? topic to do so. They ask questions just like you suggest.

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Anglophile
12 Feb 2018
07:46:39pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Quote:

"Upon buying this, I sent an inquiry to PSE and received no reply whatsoever. Not even a reply that said "Thank you for your email". I would expect that any agency would be apt to defend their certificates? ... I dunno folks, but my expectations are that for the cost of expertizing, I expect an agency to stand behind and either defend or reissue a certificate on an item when challenged. Otherwise what good is it?"



This is how expertization works: You submit a stamp with request form; you pay the fee; the service produces an opinion; the opinion is memorialized in a certificate which is sent to you.

That's it, end of service. You received what you paid for, an opinion in a certificate. There are no follow-up emails, negotiations, discussions or debates. If you disagree with the opinion and have added facts you want considered, this is how re-expertization works: You submit a stamp with request form; you pay the fee; the service produces an opinion; the opinion is memorialized in a certificate which is sent to you. That's it, end of service. You received what you paid for, an opinion in a certificate ...

I don't mean to be flippant, but expertization has for years been a tightly defined service: a fee for an opinion and nothing more. There's no use in complaining about it, it is what it is.

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Webpaper
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12 Feb 2018
08:28:36pm
re: Question re Certification Process

It is what it is indeed. Back in the late 80's, early 90's some dealers and auction houses had a lot more luck than others in obtaining good certs from certain expertization services and we quickly learned to shy away from purchasing high dollar sets and singles from those auction houses - especially with a fresh cert.

You can learn a lot more about a stamp by providing a high quality scan and posting it here or walking it around a show and asking dealers who specialize in that type of material. Many dealers are happy to share their knowledge, some are not.

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51Studebaker
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13 Feb 2018
05:09:26am
re: Question re Certification Process

I concur with Chris, there are a lot of misconceptions about certification documents. In my opinion the certification industry needs significant improvement in several areas.

Fees and Rates
The typical practice is to charge using catalog value; I think an improvement would be that they move to time and materials. Some stamps and covers may take days to authenticate or use of special, costly equipment while others may only take much less time. Additionally as we all know, catalog value often does not come anywhere close to true market value. For example, a highly sought after US stamp with a catalog value of $1000 does not have the same market value as a $1000 catalog value Peruvian stamp; but a hobbyists would pay the same for a certification.
Conversely, a low value stamp might take many hours to properly authenticate but they would only be able to charge the minimum? Does not this situation incentivize them to 'cheat' and not spend the correct amount of time?

Verification Database/Process
All existing certifications should be able to be verified. Ideally this would be an online database lookup; allowing others to lookup an existing document to verify its legitimacy. Without this it is just as easy to fake/forge a cert document as it is a stamp or cover. Previous mistakes and errors should be noted and/or corrected in the database. (I have emails from one certification company where they admit one of their certs is wrong and commit to correcting it…twice. Yet the incorrect cert is still sitting their out there and the stamp has been sold several times since it was first issued.)

Publishing of Performance Metrics
How does a consumer understand a certification company/organization performance? Mistakes and errors are hidden from the public. I am not even sure that mistakes and errors are tracked internally; allowing them to understand the track record of the experts they use. Obviously some companies/organizations are better than others, especially for certain collecting areas. But how does a consumer determine this, how does a consumer make the best decision when seeking a certification for a particular stamp or cover?

Signing of the Certification by Expert(s)
If you are paying for an opinion, then you should know who’s opinion you are paying for; I see little value in having a person who never even saw the stamp or cover sign the opinion and hiding the name of the people who actually did the work.

Grading
Ideally there would be an industry-wide grading standard because having a dozen or more grading standards is a nightmare for the consumer. But in the absence of an industry-wide grading standard each company/organization should have a published, detailed standard. Frankly a detailed standard like this would be a very significant document since it would have to outline the criteria used for each stamp. For example, the centering of a US stamp greatly improved after the introduction of the electric eye process. The centering of a stamp also varies greatly depends upon the tolerances of the perforating process which also varied over time.
How much does a crease impact a grade? How much does an inclusion affect a grade? How percentage of a grade does centering account for?
Understanding how these things impact the grade also impact the purchasing decision. So dealers and others who often use the services now have 'special knowledge' on where to submit a stamp or cover, tilting the odds in getting a favorable grade.

Don

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13 Feb 2018
06:34:32pm
re: Question re Certification Process

I've often considered having my Heligoland collection expertised, but the cons outweigh the pros in terms of fees.

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
14 Feb 2018
07:51:26am
re: Question re Certification Process

well, Kelly,

you'll certainly have less coins but very little prose to show for it.

and, I'd never be one to go to Heligoland with myself

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larsdog
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14 Feb 2018
09:23:39pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Quote:

"you'll certainly have less coins but very little prose to show for it."



Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sorry, but David's "bad pun" filter seems to be broken (AGAIN!).

And to the person that "liked" that post, you know you're just encouraging that bad behaviour. Let me guess: You enjoy watching videos of staged train wrecks! (Who doesn't!)

Rolling On The Floor Laughing

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ikeyPikey
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14 Feb 2018
11:29:43pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Dennis, Greetings:

No one seems to have mentioned that the certification services recruit the experts that will examine your stamp(s).

Each stamp (etc) that comes in is referred to the expert in their stable with the relevant expertise.

So if you submit, say, a Schermack coil pair for certification, it may go to a World Class Universally-Recognized-As-The-Go-To-Guy expert in Schermacks, or it may go their the guy to whom they send all of their coils, period.

Moreover, nothing stops an expert from quitting one service in favor of another or, if they are strong in their field, from working for more than one service.

And its your dumb luck if their expert happens to be the dealer from whom you bought the pair, or the collector who sold the pair to the dealer, etc, etc, etc.

That's one reason why you will see Don (and others) campaigning for the expert(s) to sign the cert; they are not created equal and, worse, they can move around if they wish.

Cheers,

/s/ ikeyPikey

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angore
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Collector, Moderator
15 Feb 2018
06:59:12am
re: Question re Certification Process

Anything with opinions is always never going to be perfect. You have humans involved.

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Tom in Exton, PA
15 Feb 2018
08:46:00pm
re: Question re Certification Process

Quote:

"Each stamp (etc) that comes in is referred to the expert in their stable with the relevant expertise.

So if you submit, say, a Schermack coil pair for certification, it may go to a World Class Universally-Recognized-As-The-Go-To-Guy expert in Schermacks, or it may go their the guy to whom they send all of their coils, period."



Or the Kelly Temp they brought in on Monday, gave an hour's training and set them loose! Surprise

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cdj1122
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09 Mar 2018
12:08:01am
re: Question re Certification Process

I've long felt that if the expertizer's opinion that stamp is bogus, he, o she, should at least provide the reason.

I sent a series of stamps to an auction house in Europe and they sent one stamp to the expert in the field. It was snt back as false. I think that was the word used, it was forty years ago.
Along came a bill for $20.00. I sent a polite note asking what about it was false ?
Back came a note "I have no such example in my collection."

Hmmm, could it just be something genuine that he had never seen ?
After all, I do see in the philatelic press, now and then, someone finding something never seen before, or at least never identified ?

The dealers who handled the British Guiena magenta had never see an example before.

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Stampme
09 Mar 2018
07:02:50pm
re: Question re Certification Process

The item that was deemed false 40 years ago makes me curious. Was it false? Do you still have that stamp? Did you ever have it re-expertised?
Bruce

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