A guide to stamp condition and value: marginal items (part 3)

Penny red stamps

Marginal premium 

For modern stamps, an intact sheet margin should not add to the value, although one might expect to pay a small premium for a plate block or imprint block over the price for a plain block of four.  For most of the earlier twentieth century stamps, also, a plain margin will do little for a stamp’s value, but if that piece of margin includes a control number, plate number or printer’s imprint then the difference can be very significant indeed!

Great Britain control numbers were widely collected at the time they were current and are widely available to this day.  Reference to volume 2 of the Great Britain Specialised Catalogue demonstrates that, in spite of the fact that there was only one control single in a sheet of 240 stamps, apart from a few rare examples, they generally only merit a premium of between 50 and 100 per cent over the price of a normal mounted mint example.

Plate number singles of colonial stamps occurred once or twice a sheet but, judging from the infrequency with which one encounters them, they were not sought after at the time of issue and are still undervalued today – again a small premium over the price of a fine mint basic stamp is all one should expect.

However, perhaps the Australian market indicates that this may not always be the case. In Australia huge premiums are now being paid for imprint strips and singles at auction. At a recent sale in Australia a 5s. Kangaroo, third watermark, mounted mint ‘CA’ monogram single, catalogue price for a single stamp £225, sold for A$21,000 – getting on for £9000 pounds after tax and premium were added!

Australia strip

The first stamps of Great Britain bore an inscription in the sheet margins, advising the public as to the price of the stamps, where they should be placed on the letter and warning against the removal of ‘the cement’. The early surface-printed stamps also bore inscriptions in the sheet margins. The latter are not currently considered to impact significantly on the value of the stamp to which they are attached, but a partial marginal inscription can make a great difference to the price of a Penny Black or Penny Red, and a complete corner, with plate number attached, will be very desirable indeed.

This guide is part of a series of 5 guides: “A guide to stamp condition and value”. The entire series can be found here:

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