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Commentary No. 113 - 17 November, 2008

Modern Perforation Varieties

The information that follows shows that it pays to keep an eye on announcements by Canada Post whenever an existing stamp is reissued with a new and different perforation. This includes announcements about regular stamps, coils and booklets. These announcements are usually found in the “New stamp release” section of Canada Post’s “Details Magazine”

We have identified 11 stamps issued between 1982 and 1998 for which the perforation varieties have taken off in value, considerably outstripping that of the regular stamp. Here are a few examples:

44¢ Walrus
(Scott 1171)
45¢ Christmas
(Scott 1764)
14½ x 14 $1.30
13½ x13 $450.00
13 x13 $ 0.90
13x13½ $400.00

39¢ Legendary Creatures
(Scott 1292a)
71¢ American Chestnut
(Scott 1370)
12½ x 13½ $ 4.50
12½ x 12 $50.00
13 x 13 $ 1.40
14½ x 14 $50.00

Our review of the Scott catalogue to identify these perforation varieties reveals that, while there are some that have increased in value, there are lots of others that have not. So there is no general rule. Perhaps only 1 out of 10 have increased in value, but when this has happened, like the above, this can be spectacular. It is this possibility that captures our imagination.

But are these catalogue prices real? Do they really reflect the prices that are actually being realized at auction?

In general, our experience in looking at auction results is that the catalogue prices are well above the prices realized at auction. We looked at the auction catalogues for a number of auctions in 2008 with the following results:

Scott 1171c - We found 6 sales with prices ranging from $260-$475 . The average was $356 which was supportive of the $450 catalogue value.

Scott 1764b - We found 2 sales with prices ranging from $270-$450. The average was $360, which was also supportive of the $400 catalogue value.

Scott 1292d - There was only 1 sale. A plate block sold for $85, or $21 per stamp. This was clearly not supportive of the $50 catalogue value.

Scott 1370a - There were 2 sales. 4 corner blocks sold for $625, or $40 per stamp. As well, a perfect single sold for $125. These two results are all over the map and don’t really relate to the $50 catalogue value at all.

Our impression is that it will take some time for the prices paid for these stamp varieties to establish a real trend. The scarcer more valuable ones are most likely to have prices approximating the catalogue values, the less scarce ones will vary considerably and show little trend, at least for the next few years

We show below a list of 11 of these modern stamps which show the greatest divergence in price between the common perforation and the scarcer one:

 
Scott
Catalogue
Value
Perforation
1982 Definitive - 30
923
.60
13 x 13½
 
923a
15.00
12 x 12½
1987 Definitive - 39
1166
.80
13 x 13½
 
1166c
12.00
12½ x 13
1987 Definitive - 39
1167
.80
13 x 13½
 
1167b
10.00
13
1987 Definitive - 44
1171
1.60
14½ x 14
 
1171c
450.00
13½ x 13
1987 Definitive - 45
1172
.45
14½ x14
 
1172d
22.50
13
1987 Definitive - 61
1175
1.25
14½ x14
 
1175a
77.50
13
1987 Definitive - 76
1178
2.25
14½ x 14
 
1178c
37.50
13
Booklet stamps - 1
1184
.20
13½ x 14
 
1184a
12.00
12½ x 13
Booklet stamps - 39
1189
.90
12½ x 14
 
1189b
16.00
12½ x 13
Legendary Creatures - 39
1292a
4.50
12½ x 13½
 
1292d
50.00
12½ x 12
Legendary Creatures - 71
1370
1.40
13
 
1370a
50.00
14½ x 14


What we find particularly interesting about these varieties is the fact that any collector, new or old, beginner or advanced, has the same opportunity or ability to acquire them. Furthermore, they can be acquired at face value. For this purpose one has to be vigilant and one must acquire all the new varieties at the time they are issued because it will not always be apparent which ones will be scarce.

People who follow these rules need only wait a year or two to know if they have acquired a stamp which made later become a valuable variety. Generally it only takes that amount of time for the word to get around that a particular variety was only in use for a few months and was replaced by another stamp.

Take, for example, Scott 1171 – the 44¢ Atlantic Walrus:

The regular stamp was issued on January 18, 1989
The perforation variety was issued in November, 1989

According to Unitrade, only about 1000-1100 copies of the perforation variety have been reported to date. But this is only the beginning of the story. Consider the following:

January 18, 1989 - 14½ x 14 regular stamp, Harrison paper
June 09, 1989 - 14½ x 14 regular stamp, Slater paper

November, 1989 - 13½ x 13 new perforation, Slater paper

January 18, 1989 - 12½ x 13 booklet stamp

It was probably difficult to sort this out at the time. Now, as we look back and are guided by the catalogues, the details seem quite clear. How is it possible that a perforation variety of a regular modern stamp could be issued in such small numbers? It all sounds quite unbelievable.

On the other hand, the chances of obtaining a modern day perforation variety are far greater than obtaining a stamp that is:

· Missing a colour
· Printed on gum
· Printed upside down

These can usually only be obtained at auction or from a dealer.

But, in the case of perforation varieties, persistence counts. The trick is to buy the new ones as they appear and hold them a few years. If the stamps don’t turn out to be rare, you can simply use them for postage and you’ve lost nothing. Simple, and you don’t even need a perforation guide!

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©2008, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada