Expertization

This discussion is an attempt to familiarize a person with the process of submitting stamps or postal history to expertizing services in the United States and to also discuss the reasons to have a stamp or postal history item certified.

This discussion focuses solely on submitting United States stamps and/or United States postal history.

For this discussion the terms expertizing and certifying are synonymous.

Why Expertize?

Simple. To ensure the item purchased is genuine.

Due to the value of philatelic items, the potential for persons to make a quick profit by selling fake, forged or altered stamps is a never ending story in philately.

Historically, there have always been faked or forged stamps. Either to make profit from unsuspecting collectors, or, in earlier times, to defraud the Postal Services, in particular, the United States Government via the United States Postal Service, of revenue for postal services.

With the inception of the internet and online stamp auction venues like eBay or online net price sales, the market for fraudulent sellers has increased.

As it is difficult to determine from a scanned image the subtle differences of many stamps to properly identify the issue, it is important to obtain a return privilege extension for certification purposes before any transaction is completed. The return privilege being necessary due to the turnaround times for certification from any of the expertizing services discussed below.

Not only is it difficult from a scanned image to properly identify a stamp, it is also difficult to determine if the stamp has been altered or repaired.

Alterations and repairs can be:

  1. Reperforations - perforating "blind perforations, reperforating straight edges, odd perforations to make the stamp appear to be a rare "unofficial" perforated variety, reperforating less expensive proofs to give the appearance of the higher catalog value regular issue or reperforating a large margin to "improve" the centering of the stamp.
  2. Regumming - to make the stamp appear to have original gum or to hide thins or repaired tears.
  3. Trimmed coils - trimming perforated stamps to make them appear to be a usually more expensive coil stamp.
  4. Faking grills.
  5. Repaired tears.
  6. Repaired thins.
  7. "Tying" stamps with thins or tears to covers to hide the flaws.
  8. Tying unusual stamp combinations on covers to increase the catalog value.
  9. Faking unusual or rare postmarks.
  10. Faking dated postmarks to have the appearance of a contemporary postmark or have the appearance of an "earliest known use" (EKU).
  11. Removing pen cancels and applying another higher catalog value postmark.
  12. Removing cancels to give the appearance of an unused stamp
  13. Cleaning or bleaching a stamp to give the appearance of an unused issue.
  14. Failing to disclose a hinged stamp by stating "never hinged (NH)" without providing a scan of the back of the stamp.
  15. And any other means you could think of.

Due to the difficulty of properly identifying a stamp from a scanned image or identifying undisclosed or hidden faults, a return privilege, from the seller of the item, should be agreed upon before purchasing any stamp. As the value or difficulty in properly identifying a stamp increases, the necessity of asking for and receiving a return privilege for certification purposes becomes almost a necessity depending upon your expertise.

I would suggest asking for a return privilege on any commonly altered stamp or any stamp that you do not have the necessary expertise to make an educated identification.

Oftentimes your best practice in purchasing stamps or postal history is to acquaint yourself with the seller. Ask questions. Ask for their Terms. A sample of "buyer friendly" seller terms can be viewed by clicking this link.
Or typing in the following URL in your browser: http://www.srail.com/terms.htm.
Try to get a comfort level with the seller.

The Expertizing Services.

There are four expertizing services located in the United States.       

The American Philatelic Expertizing Service.
100 Match Factory Place
Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 16823
Phone: 814-933-3803
APEX Director, Mercer Bristow, extension 205
APEX Coordinator, Krystal Harter, extension 206

The website for the American Philatelic Society is located by clicking this link
Or by typing in the following URL in your browser: http://stamps.org/

And a discussion by the APS "About Expertizing" can be found by by clicking this link
Or by typing in the following URL in your browser: http://stamps.org/Stamp-Authentication

The Philatelic Foundation.
70 West 40th Street
15th Floor
New York, NY 10018
Phone: 1-212-221-6555
Fax: 1-212-221-6208

The Philatelic Foundation's website can be accessed by clicking this link
Or by typing in the following URL in your browser: http://www.philatelicfoundation.org

The Professional Stamps Experts.
P.O. Box 6170
Newport Beach, CA 92658
Phone : (877) 782-6788
Fax : (949) 567-1187
email :  pse@psestamp.com


The website for the Professional Stamp Experts can be found by by clicking this link
Or by typing the following URL in your browser: http://www.psestamp.com/

        Philatelic Stamp Authentication and Grading, Inc.
        P.O. Box 37-2460
        Satellite Beach, Florida 32937-2460
        Phone: 305-345-9864

The website for Philatelic Stamp Authentication and Grading, Inc. can be found by by clicking this link
Or by typing the following URL in your browser: http://www.stampauthentication.com/

Obtaining the Submission Forms.

A person who has a desire to have items expertized should determine which service they would like to use.

If you would like to use the American Philatelic Expertizing Service (APEX), you should call them at 814-237-6128 and ask for the submission forms. Or, for a first time user, you may print an abbreviated form from the APEX website located here.
Or by typing the following URL in your browser: http://www.stamps.org/Services/ser_ExpertizingForm.htm

If you would like to use the Philatelic Foundation (PF), you should call them at 212-867-3699 and ask for the submission forms. Effective March 17, 2003, the Philatelic Foundation's new telephone number is 1-212-221-6555

If you would like to use the Profession Stamp Experts (PSE), you can visit The Professional Stamp Experts website
- Or by typing in the following URL in your browser:http://www.psestamp.com/order_submission_form.chtml and complete the form.

If you would like to use the Philatelic Stamp Authentication and Grading, Inc. (PSAG), you can visit The Philatelic Stamp Authentication and Grading, Inc. website
- Or by typing in the following URL in your browser:  http://www.stampauthentication.com/, click the link in the upper right and complete the form.

 

Once you have received the application form from the expertizing service you have chosen, you simply need to follow the directions on the application form.

The APEX Submission Form

The APEX explains how to submit an item to their expertizing service here.

The APEX form is a two sided application with the first side providing the actual application and the second side providing the fee structure and the Rules & Regulations for submitting items to APEX.

The Rules and Regulations of the form can be can be viewed here or by visiting the APEX website here

The Owner's Certificate and Application part of the form can be can be viewed here.

An example of a completed application can be viewed here.

The PSE Submission Form

The PSE form is a two page application with the first side providing the actual application and the second side providing the procedures and terms for submitting items to PSE.

The application can be can be viewed here.

The procedures and terms of the application can be can be viewed here.

The Philatelic Foundation Submission Form

The PF application can be can be viewed here.

The conditions, fee structure and mailing and handling costs of the application are included in the application form

The PSAG application is a two-page application. The first page providing the actual application and the second page providing the conditions, fee structure and mailing and handling costs.

The Philatelic Stamp Authentication and Grading, Inc. (PSAG) Submission Form

The PSAG application can be be found by by clicking this link  and clicking the submission form button in the upper right of the page.

PSAG also has TWO different certificate formats available for the submitter to choose from. One is a smaller 3X5 inch since and the other is an 8X5 inch format like standard size for the other services.

 

Completing the applications.

  1. Complete the application as directed.
  2. Make sure you have completed all the required information.
  3. The expertizing services base the fees they charge for expertization on the current catalog value of the item so be sure you use the latest catalog value available. If you do not have a copy of the latest catalog value at home, I would suggest searching the stamps category on eBay and searching for an identical item.
  4. Enclose payment. Some expertizing services accept credit card payments.
  5. Package your stamp(s) or postal history in the best packaging available to ensure your item is received without damage. I would strongly suggest you mail your item with a return receipt option or with a tracking feature to be sure your item has been delivered.
  6. And into the mails it goes!

Now What?

Upon receipt of your submitted item and processing by the expertizing service, the service will return a receipt to you informing you the item has been received.

Each expertising service has turnaround times that will vary and will sometimes depend on the item to be certified. The APEX states to allow 90 days before inquiring about the status of an item. The PSE has varying turnaround times based on types of service ranging from 15 days to 30+ days for specialized services. The PF, historically, takes over 90 days to complete their expertization.

Eventually, your item will arrive along with the opinion of the expertizing service (The Certificate).

Note:   the PSE, APS, and PSAG will identify the stamp by catalog number whereas the PF will identify the stamp by catalog number but also add the catalog number of the item as submitted. For example, if you submitted a stamp as Scott #8A, Type IIIa to all three services when it was determined to be a Scott #7, Type II, the PSE and APS will only disclose the identifying Scott #7, Type II. The PF will disclose as submitted Scott #8A, Type IIIa but with the opinion that the item is a Scott #7, Type II.

To view an APEX certificate click here.

To view a PSE certificate click here.

To view a PF certificate click here.

I hope this discussion has been assistance to anyone seeking information on how to submit a stamp(s) for expertization from one of the expertizing services in the United States.

Feel free to e-mail me with any suggestions or comments.