The dreary days of January, except for those fortunate enough to live in a better climate, are a great incentive to open our albums and stock books and enter a different world. For the most part, we have little difficulty in identifying what we have. However, every now and then, we encounter something which may require an expert opinion.
Experts are people, and people are fallible. But the APS maintains a very experienced group of experts who essentially are volunteers. Since last summer, APS has a new Director of Expertizing, Gary Loew, who has approximately 66 years of collecting experience and has strong interests in postal history, the West African area and colonial Gambia in particular. Gary heads up a committee of about 180 experts, who include experienced collectors, dealers, and scholars/writers in the hobby. Gary has also headed up an effort to bring more scientific equipment and technical expertise to help in the struggle against fraud and fakery in the hobby.
Why seek an expert certificate on an item? To avoid getting ripped off? Yes, especially on expensive items. It is possible, with most reputable dealers, to buy an item on condition that an expert certificate from a recognized authority be obtained to authenticate the item. Obviously, it does not make sense to get a certificate on cheap stamps, although there are still cheap stamps that are fraudulent in some way, especially surcharges and overprints. (For those, perhaps it is best to consult an experienced collector in the area.) You have to decide how much you want to risk; in other words, where you draw the line in purchase price and in certainty about the authenticity of an item before insisting upon getting a certificate, which may cost you $20 or more. You may also find, if you intend to re-sell an item, that a certificate on an item certified genuine may help obtain a higher price or make the difference in being able to sell an item at all.
This genuine cover was submitted for certification to APEX. Determined to be a first day cover for both U.S. Scott Q5, the first 5c Parcel Post stamp and Scott JQ1, a 1c Parcel Post Postage Due stamp. It is also a new Earliest Document Use (January 1, 1913) for Scott JQ1.
What do experts look at in certifying an item? First, whether it is properly identified, and whether it is genuine or not. Printings, watermarks, perforations or other forms of stamp separation, margins, color shades, gum, paper types, grilling or embossing on some issues, and other factors all enter into identification. Second, (whether or not the stamp is properly identified), are there problems with the stamp or its usage? Thins, tears, stains, creases, pinholes or other paper damage, repairs or rebacking, reperforations or damaged perforations, fake or altered or removed cancellations, facial scrapes, fake overprints, and other problems can be identified. Hinging or the alleged absence of a hinge (“post-office-fresh”) may present an issue. Covers may be even more difficult in some ways. Does the stamp really belong to a given cover? Is the rate correct? Are the markings on a cover consistent for the time period and route traveled? Is the ink and paper on a given cover consistent with the time period?
In other words, there may be a lot to examine on a given item. By and large, it is safer to get an expert opinion on a pricey item if you do not have the knowledge yourself to be reasonably certain. The APS Expertizing Service offers a great help toward more confidence in your acquisitions.
Learn more about the APS Expertizing service
Editor's Note: This article was published in the January 2020 issue of The American Philatelist. Read the full issue online at stamps.org/the-american-philatelist