Question: My mother bought a sheet of Dag Hammarskjold stamps when they were issued. Later it was discovered that the stamps had an error. The Post Office then printed more of the stamp. Could you advise me how she could sell the stamps, and what she might expect to get for them?--U.H.
Answer: In October of 1962 the Hammarskjold commemorative was issued to honor the former Secretary General of the United Nations. Some stamps were found to be printed with the yellow background inverted, so the Post Office Department ordered 40 million copies of the "error" made to reduce any speculative value of this printing mistake.
Stamp collectors at that time were generally angry with the government for flooding the market with a contrived error, and this practice was never done again by U.S. postal authorities.
Unfortunately, both the error and normal version are quite common today, and your mother's stamps are worth close to face value.
Q: How many people are being taken in on their purchases of the U.S. AMERIPEX 22-cent commemorative stamp? I was twice, before I realized by count that there are 48 of these stamps per sheet that was sold to me by a postal clerk as a sheet of 50.--M.L.M.
A: Postal clerks are human. They make mistakes, are sometimes careless or overworked, and very rarely deliberately short-change a window customer. Stamps do vary in the number per pane (sheet), and you should count your change before you leave the counter--just in case the clerk makes a mistake.
I may be lucky, but in 25 years of buying stamps at American post offices, I've never been mistreated once. That includes courtesy, knowledge of postal regulations by the clerk and making correct change.
Q: I'm interested in collecting the stamps of Portugal. Is there an organization for this specialty?--R.J.
A: The International Society of Portuguese Philately was formed in 1961 to encourage the collecting and study of the stamps of Portugal and her colonies. Membership includes a subscription to a quarterly journal, the right to buy or sell in the society auction and access to other collectors who specialize in Portuguese stamps. Dues are $7 per year, plus a $2 initiation fee. For information, write to the ISPP secretary, Michael A. Byrne, Box 279, Nome, Alaska 99762.
Q: What is a U.S. registry stamp worth? It shows an eagle, 10-cent denomination and is pale blue in color.--T.B.
A: About $50 mint, $2 canceled, but condition varies tremendously in this stamp, which affects market price. Issued late in 1911, the stamp was discontinued during the summer of 1913 and remains the only registry stamp ever issued by the United States.
Q: Tell me about the Abraham Lincoln 4-cent postal cards with no date printed. Since the mailing rate increased to 5 cents, the 1-cent Andrew Jackson stamps have been added to each card. All are in good condition.--S.K.
A: Face value for these. The Lincoln card was sold in enormous quantities in the 1960s, as was the Jackson definitive stamp.
Q: I find it amazing that stamps 30 or 40 years old have not gone up in value. What's the use of saving them if they're a poor investment?--R.S.
A: A collector collects for reasons besides profits. It is always nice to make money, but it is also good to learn history and geography, to make new friends, to win ribbons and medals with your collection at exhibitions and to find a stamp that you've been looking for after many years.
Clothes and furniture usually don't increase in value, but we still buy them. A stamp is a miniature work of art, a thing of graphic beauty, a representative of one of the world's governments (past or present). Stamps tell stories as surely as antique cars do, and a stamp can often be bought at a fraction of the price of another object manufactured in the same time period.
Anyway, some stamps have gone up in value recently. For example, the first Israeli stamps issued after World War II are worth a small fortune in complete sets with original marginal inscriptions.
Q: I am planning a vacation to Europe and want to know what countries to buy stamps from. I'm thinking of a long-term investment. Do you suggest high values or the issues of small nations? Full sheets or complete sets? Commemoratives or regular issues?--J.H.
A: I don't give investment advice. The future is unpredictable because nobody knows what will happen.
But if we look at past price performance of European stamps, we find that the high values and limited-edition commemoratives of countries like Switzerland, France, Great Britain, and West Germany have traditionally been good stamp investments when held for a number of years.
I recommend that you buy well-designed stamps that appeal to you, and collect them for fun and knowledge. If you happen to make a profit when you sell them, great. If the stamps don't go up in value over the years, at least you enjoyed collecting and studying them.