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Wednesday 1 December 2010

Stop the Scribblers!

I was just sent an Italian auction catalogue. Very lavish. But I couldn't buy any of the stuff on offer. It's all been scribbled on. Experts who not only put their signatures on the cover but right next to the interesting bits. Dreadful. Who do they think they are? It's not even as if they don't make mistakes. They do. Sometimes big ones.

Worse, is often unclear what is being signed. The stamp? The overprint? The cancellation?

I have seen relatively common stamps which have ben signed by an expert as genuine. At a later date, some forger has added a rare overprint. It's easy to suppose that it's the overprint which has been signed for.

Colour photocopies are cheap and accurate. The thing to do is to attach one to a Certificate or Short Opinion (Kurzbefund) and then record what it is you are signing off as Genuine. Ambiguity is removed when you tick the various boxes: Stamp: OK Overprint: OK Cancellation: OK. You can leave a space for comments too, like "Repaired" or "Cleaned".

It's time to kill off signatures, whether on stamps or covers. They are unnecessary. They devalue an artefact, except in very unusual circumstances: Agathon Faberge's pencilled acquisition notes often provide valuable information as well as an indication of provenance.

At the same time, it's time for collectors to tell dealers they don't want to buy something with twenty five pencilled prices rubbed out and a twenty sixth one written in. All covers should be sold in a plastic protector and the place for the price is on the protector. That is, unless you are selling all your covers at one price, in which case you just need one placard to announce the fact. Full stop end of story.

Unmounted mint stamps command a premium over mounted mint, often a large one. Covers which have not been scribbled on ought also to command a premium.

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