Canadian Stamp Auctions

Stamp market commentary

Commentary No. 30 - 17 February, 2002

Van Dam's new
"Canadian Revenue Stamp Catalogue"

Last November, we asked Erling van Dam to send us a copy of his new catalogue for review which he kindly provided together with his November 15, 2001 auction catalogue and prices realised. Since Mr. van Dam's name is practically synonymous with Canada's revenue stamps, we felt that a careful reading of the material would give us a good insight into this area of philately and we weren't disappointed

What are Revenue Stamps?
The catalogue has the following definition:

"Revenue stamps, unlike regular postage stamps, are used to show that some kind of tax has been paid. Revenue stamps have been used for years by federal, provincial and municipal governments as well as by various trade and other organisation. They have been used in virtually every country of the world and are still being used in most.

It is interesting to note that revenue stamps used in North America were introduced by the British in 1765 and were a major cause of the American War of Independence."

Mr. van Dam has advised us that his catalogues are issued about 4 times a year. In his experience, in comparison with postage stamps, most revenue stamps were not handled carefully over the years. As a result, most revenues are in Fine or worse condition, with many having faults. He also noted that one of the main reasons collectors turn to revenue stamps is that they find the price of collectible postage stamps too high and they look to revenues as an alternative.

General comments:
It is clearly stated at the front of the catalogue that the prices are for F/VF undamaged copies and are the current retail prices of E.S.J. van Dam Ltd. These comments are significant for a number of reasons. For one, our review of the Nov. 15 auction booklet shows that VF copies of revenue stamps are relatively rare, most are F/VF. Second, the prices in the catalogue are the prices the company will actually charge their customers, i.e., the prices are real, not theoretical.

Many of Canada's revenue stamps are valuable and beautiful. There are a far greater variety of shapes and sizes than for our postal stamps. We saw many lovely old steel engraved copies featuring Queen Victoria, Edward VII, George VI and VI. There are about twice as many provincial issues as federal. The prices range from a few dollars to many thousands of dollars. Make no mistake, many of the prices for the revenue stamps are in the same league as those for postage stamps and those prices are increasing at similar rates.

There are many varieties of revenue stamps and judging from the catalogue, new ones continue to be discovered regularly. Amongst the varieties, we found imperforates, inverted centres, watermarks, thick and thin papers, coils, over prints, pre-canceled, missing printing, paste-ups, rouletted, booklets, cello-packs, OHMS, bisects and double prints. This is clearly an interesting area of stamps to collect. But we wondered about the values, were they significant?

As mentioned above, there are many revenues with significant values. We illustrate a few examples below:




While generally mint copies have values in excess of used copies, we noticed many cases where the used copies were closer in value to the mint copies than for postage stamps. We also noted a few instances where the used values were either equal to or even greater than the mint values.

Pricing trends 1994 - 2001:
For us, the most significant factor in the pricing of stamps is the trend. Is it up or down or flat? Our detailed comparison of the 1994 and 2001 catalogues showed a decidedly positive trend. Almost all stamp prices advanced with a great number being up by 50% to 100%. Advances were found in the federal and almost all the provincial revenues. Only P.E.I. and B.C. were relatively unchanged. Here are some of the more significant increases:

1994 Value $550
2001 Value $850

1994 Value $300
2001 Value $650

1994 Value $1,250
2001 Value $2,750

A summary of the more notable increases in the prices of federal and provincial revenue stamps between 1994 and 2001 can be seen by clicking on pricing trends below:

Pricing trends

More details concerning the catalogue may be found on the van Dam website at

As always, we welcome your comments. Please drop us a note at

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©2002, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada