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Stamp market commentary


Commentary No. 54 - 17 December, 2003

Stamps Printed on the Gummed Side

One of the stranger varieties that has surfaced in recent years is a group of stamps printed on the back instead of the front of the stamp, otherwise known as stamps printed on the gummed side. This is a surprising development, as you would think that with our modern day computers, it would be relatively easy to spot such a mistake. Most of the stamps that were printed on the gummed side were issued between 1967 and 1987. A full list of the Canadian stamps printed on gum to this date is shown below at the end of this Commentary.

The Earliest Stamp

The earliest such stamp we are aware of is this 3¢ stamp (Scott 219c) issued in 1935:

R. Maresch & Son
25 October, 2000

Scott 219c

A review of the Scott prices for the stamp is shown below:

Scott
Year
Catalogue
Value
2001
$200
2002
$200
2003
$200
2004
$200

This stamp appears regularly at auction and is not rare. It is seldom well centered. The relatively low catalogue value appears to reflect the lack of demand that presently exists for this variety.

Subsequent Stamps

Eastern Auctions Ltd.
22 January, 2002

Lot 861
Scott 454f
Catalogue $700
Realised $1,450

It took another thirty-two years before the next stamp printed on gum appeared. It was the above 1¢ stamp from the Centennial set issued in 1967. This is an extremely rare stamp that seldom comes to market and is highly sought after.

This stamp has done exceptionally well at auction on the few occasions when it has appeared. There is one other stamp from the 1967 set that is printed on gum, the 6¢ black, but it is fairly common.


Scott Listings

None of the stamps printed on gum was listed in the Scott catalogue until the 2000 edition, when seven suddenly appeared. A year later, in the 2001 edition, all 18 we now know about were listed, plus 2 were listed in Unitrade, for a total of 20.

These varieties had been listed in the Unitrade and Darnell specialized catalogues well before Scott and it may have been their influence that persuaded Scott to take action. It could also have been the increasing number of these stamps appearing at auction in 1999 and subsequent years.

Range of Values

Not all of the stamps are expensive. As a result, it is still possible for the average collector to acquire a few. Here are some of the less-expensive ones:

Ron Leith Auctions
21 September, 2001

Lot 48
Scott 460i (block of 4)
Catalogue $48 (block of 4)
Realised $40


Stamp
2004 Scott Value
Scott 460i
$12
Scott 715a
$27
Scott 790a
$27
Scott 918c
$45

But for the collectors who can afford it, there are some very expensive stamps printed on gum to set their sights on. Here are a few:

Charles G. Firby Auctions
8 September, 1999

Lot 611
Scott 865a
Catalogue $600
Realised $595


Stamp
2004 Scott Value
Scott 647b
$1100
Scott 705ca
$700
Scott 865a
$600


U.S. and UK Experience

We had a look at the regular Scott listings for the U.S. and UK to see if they also issued stamps printed on gum. We found that neither country had stamps of this particular variety.

We also had a look for stamps printed on gum through the Google search engine and discovered that these stamps have appeared in the past in both Israel and Lebanon! We suspect therefore, that there are other countries that have this rarity, and it appears not to be a special Canadian invention.


The Interesting Time Lag

It is very interesting that many of the stamps appeared to auction only after a certain number of years after they were first issued. Here are some examples:

Stamp

Year of
issue

Year of appearance at auction
Scott 591a
1973
1992
Scott 714a
1977
1992
Scott 981a
1983
1992
Scott 454f
1967
1999
Scott 586d
1973
1999
Scott 865a
1980
1999
Scott 1165c
1987
1998

It is not hard to notice the pattern in the above. It seems to be this: stamps issued between 1967 and 1987 appeared for the most part at auction in either 1992 or 1998/1999. But is this a coincidence? One can speculate that one or more individuals may have been able to get their hands on the stamps and held them for a few years before putting them on the market.

Used Copies

Oddly enough, we have not yet seen any used copies.

Quantities

With few exceptions, only a small quantity of each of these stamps seems to have reached the market.


We have pricing records on 13 of the 20 stamps we have identified as being printed on gum. Of the 13, we can find no record of a sale at auction for 3. Of the remaining 10, we note in general that there have been less than six sales for each one.

R. Maresch & Son
25 October, 2000

Lot 1113
Scott 219c
Catalogue $200
Realised $180
Eastern Auctions
23 August, 2003

Lot 857
Scott 878i
Catalogue $2000
Realised $800

On the other hand, there have been greater quantities for the above two, but this is reflected in their prices. Scott 219c is valued at only $200. This price hasn't changed since it was first listed. Scott 878i is the only one, other than 907i, that is still not listed in Scott catalogue. It is listed at $2,000 in the Unitrade, but according to our records has never sold for as much is this at auction.

Valuations

The top value in the catalogue is for Scott 973b:

Unitrade Image

Scott 973b
Catalogue $10,000

This was the last of the stamps to be listed. The catalogue value is $10,000. According to Unitrade, there is only one copy in existence.

Of the 20 stamps printed on gum, 18 are listed in Scott. Of the 18, 8 (or 44%) saw price increases between Scott 2001 and 2004. This is quite a high percentage. The biggest percentage increase was for Scott 586d:

Vance Auctions
24 April, 2002

Scott 586d
2001 Catalogue value $250
2004 Catalogue value $500

As mentioned, we have included 13 of these stamps in our ten-year pricing records and have recorded prices for 10 of them (the other three have never sold). In 7 cases out of 10, the auction prices have pretty consistently exceeded the catalogue values.

It seems therefore that with low quantities, with relatively few of the stamps coming to auction and with the auction prices exceeding catalogue values, there is a bright future for these varieties.

Conclusion

If you had asked us twenty years ago if we would expect to see more than a few copies of these stamps in future, we probably would have said no. This shows you can never predict the future in philately. We are surprised at how many of these stamps there are. We can only think of two possible reasons for their sudden appearance in recent years. Either someone at the printers was able to run them off and store them at home or, there were mechanical faults in the printing equipment and the sheets got out by accident. Perhaps we shall never know unless, of course, someone from the printers can provide us with an explanation. If we hear from them or from anyone else who knows the story, we will let you know.

List of Canadian Stamps
Printed on Gum

Scott
Year of Issue
219c
1935
454f
1967
460i
1967
586d
1973
591a
1973
647b
1974
705a
1977
707a
1977
709a
1977
714a
1977
715a
1977
741b
1977
790a
1977
865a
1980
878i
1981
907i
1981
918c
1982
973b
1982
981a
1983
1165c
1987



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©2003, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada