Excerpt from the Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies - 2010

Brian Kathenes, ISA CAPP writing his third article for the Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies looks at how to appraiser coins and stamps. Brain gives some excellent tips for the generalist as far as what to look for and how to look at both accumulations of coins and collections of coins. It is an excellent article for the generalist appraiser to be familiar with as it is not uncommon to come across stamp and coin collections.

Next week excerpt will be from fine art appraiser Judy Nelson who writes on Reading a Two-Dimensional Artwork: Suggestions for the Generalist Appraiser. This is an excellent article on how to look at and evaluate paintings.

Brian Kathenes writes:

The quantity of minted coins or printed stamps is not necessarily the
most important factor in establishing value. It is the supply of desirable stamps and coins that create those rare headlines: “Penny Worth Ten Thousand Dollars Found in Gumball Machine.” The most desirable and valuable stamps and coins are usually scarce and in excellent condition.

It is the rarest of coins and stamps in the best of condition that make these items valuable. Rarity and condition are the two major keys that create value in stamps and coins.

Most stamps and coins are not as rare, scarce, or as complex as you might first think.

Knowing just a little bit about them will put you way ahead of the general public and ahead of most appraisers. As in any specialty, a few basic concepts will provide you with a solid foundation in this field.

Early one-cent US coins known as “Indian-head” pennies are great examples of supply and demand. They were minted from 1869-1909 and display the profile of a Native American princess on the front (most folks think it is an Indian Chief). In 1876, approximately eight million of these coins were minted. About six million were minted in 1878. But in 1877 less than one million pennies were minted. The 1877 pennies are valued at approximately ten times more than coins in similar condition from 1876 or 1878. The rarity of this 1877 coin alone makes it desirable.

The condition of coins and stamps is also an important factor. An 1877 Indian-head” penny in “uncirculated condition” (really good shape)can be worth ten times more than an 1877 penny in “good” condition. Superb, uncirculated, 1877 “Indian-head” pennies can be found in coin shops selling for over $2,000.00 – (go get your own comps).

The same supply and demand rules apply to postage stamps. Generally, unused stamps are more valuable than the same stamp in used condition. Stamps in superb condition are usually more valuable than similar stamps in poor condition.

Stamp collectors look for stamps that are well-centered and have even, uniform margins. Stamps that are clean and free of tears are more valuable than their dirty, worn counterparts.

Just because a stamp or coin is old does not mean it is valuable. A coin from the Constantine Period of the Roman Empire, which is about 330-345 AD, is over 1,600 years old. It can be purchased from a reputable coin dealer for approximately $100.00. Although this Roman Empire coin is quite interesting, it is very common. They were sold by the barrel just a fewdecades ago.

A full sheet of commemorative stamps from the 1940s is worth little more than the value of the postage. Dealers are currently paying less than face-value for these common unused stamps. Theses sheets of stamps are available in great quantities and there is little demand for them as collectibles or as postage. You’ll need a huge envelope to hold forty-four cents worth of three-cent stamps.
Identifying the Pile Appraisers occasionally get blindsided by a client just as they are completing a long, challenging, on-site inspection. The client says: “Oh, I almost forgot – just two more items; a coin collection and a stamp collection.” As Charlie Brown of Peanuts fame says: “Arrrgh!”

The very first step in appraising a group of stamps or coins is to identify it as an “accumulation” or a “collection.” A collection is almost always more valuable than a comparable accumulation. There is a distinct difference between a collection and an accumulation. An accumulation is an unorganized batch of stamps or coins. There is no system for cataloging or a system to easily identify what is what.

A typical stamp accumulation is an assortment of big envelopes, folders, and loose items piled into a shoe box or tin. Unused and used stamps are mixed together in one box or folder.

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