Unused US Stamps (19th Century)

How to Collect Mint US Stamps

Like any collectors, philatelists are drawn to both rarity and condition. Stamps are great collectibles because they are small, easily portable, and attractive. You can not only collect them, but you can also display them for others to enjoy their beauty, and that's without taking into account the historical significance of many issues. Stamps from between 1901 and 1940 can be particularly collectible as they cover both the period of World War One and the Great Depression. They were as much a part of FDR's presidency as fireside chats; he used new stamp issues as a way to send hopeful messages to the American people. 

Stamp Quality is Key

When deciding to collect mint stamps it's important to understand just what that means in the philately hobby. Naturally, the older any item the harder it can be to find examples in top condition. Luckily for stamp collectors, the hobby is old enough that even many pre-WWII stamps were saved for collecting purposes. In the simplest terms, a mint stamp is one that has never been canceled or been through the postal system. Having said that there are at least four different grades of mint US stamps alone: ● Mint Never Hinged: This is the top possible grade, and refers to stamps that have never been stuck into stamp albums. The stamp should be in perfect condition with undisturbed original gum. ● Mint Hinged: This next grade refers to stamps which have been displayed in albums, attached to the page with folded rectangles known as hinges. While this does not damage the stamp, it does leave a small mark on the gum. ● Mint Disturbed Gum: Similar to mint hinged, these stamps show some marks on the gummed back. The difference is that it is more noticeable than on stamps that have only been hinged.  ● Mint No Gum: In this condition, the gum is completely absent. In some cases this means that the stamp was issued without gum, but it more commonly refers to stamps where the gum has been removed. 

How Do You Know What Stamps You Have?

While the basics such as whether you have a mint or canceled stamp can be easy to determine, that may not always be enough, particularly with older stamps. One way to be sure of the authenticity of your unused US stamps is to have them certified. While certification can mean different things to different collectors, there are two things you can count on with certified collectibles like PSE US postage stamps: ● Grade: Certified stamps give you the comfort of knowing that your stamp has a standardized grade rather than being graded by the whim of a previous collector. ● Identification: Authentication services don't simply grade your stamps; they also ensure that your stamp is correctly identified so that you can be sure you have a genuine example on your hands. 

Stamps and Sheets

While many people who aren't philatelists may only think of stamps in terms of singles, there is also a strong demand for US stamp sheets. Looking at the printing technology available between 1901 and 1940, there was no real way to produce individual stamps. The Post Office would deliver them to postmasters in the form of large sheets, which would then be cut up into smaller panes along clearly delineated gutters. The thing to look for here is that the gutter contains the identifying numbers to show both the plate block and print run of the sheet. Sheets are also a great option for anyone looking to display stamps due to their size.