Question: When I was a young boy my grandfather gave me a variety of stamps. After many miles and years of moving, I recently discovered them in a file in my garage. Enclosed are photocopies. Can you tell me what an "Internal Revenue" stamp was used for? And what is a "documentary"? Finally, do these have any monetary value?--P.N.H.
Answer: The stamps that you have are 19th-Century U.S. revenues, issued for a variety of revenue collecting purposes. For example, the block of four overprinted "I.R.," 2-cent Washington heads (Scott U.S. No. R155), was issued in 1898, used for several revenue purposes and has a catalogue value of 30 cents for the four stamps.
The $1 Power of Attorney issue (pictured) dates from 1862, has an 1866 pen-canceled date on it and lists for $1.25 in the catalogue.
You might wonder why such old and beautiful U.S. stamps are so inexpensive today. The reason is because revenues are not in great demand, and many were issued to collect taxes, so they are not as scarce as some other 19th-Century stamps.
"Internal Revenue"-designated stamps were used by the federal government for any tax-collecting purpose for which such stamps were authorized by Congress. "Documentary" stamps were affixed to documents that required taxation.
Q: What is the value of a set of three stamps from Jordan showing a mother and child, and denominations 10 fils to 30 fils? Also a French stamp (canceled) picturing Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, sowing grain?--P.R.
A: About 25 cents in U.S. money for the Jordan set, mint or used; it dates from 1972. I need more information on the French item. Many French stamps fit this description. What is the color and denomination? Any dates visible in the cancel?
Q: What does disturbed gum mean? I see advertisements selling stamps with disturbed gum.--D.W.
A: Gum is the glue part put on the backs of stamps to facilitate licking and affixing on envelopes. When the gum is found to be as issued, with no damage visible, it is called NHOG (never hinged, original gum).
Because collectors and investors pay so much more money for certain stamps with undisturbed gum, the state of the gum on a particular stamp becomes an important question.
Gum can be disturbed by a stamp hinge, licking, humidity from the atmosphere, or by being scratched. Gum may be glazed, spotted, partial, or totally lacking. Forgers with an eye to larceny sometimes put faked gum on the back of a stamp to make it appear mint and therefore more valuable.
My advice is to buy a stamp that is clean and undamaged as far as its paper and ink are concerned, and don't worry too much about the gum on the back. Pat Herst Jr., the famous New York stamp dealer now retired in Florida, says half or more of U.S. 19th-Century stamps that appear to be mint with original gum are in reality re-gummed fakes.
Q: Fiji Islands stamps in a set of four show a buffalo, power station, airplane and ship. The values are 8 cents, 25 cents, 40 cents and $1. What are their values in U.S. currency?--S.B.
A: Current catalogue value for this set of Fiji commemoratives issued in September, 1984, is $5.19 mint or used.
Q: What is the value of a collection of Canadian issues from the last 20 years, all canceled?--J.T.
A: Not much, maybe $5 or $10 if reasonably complete with one of each major Scott catalogue variety.
Q: In 1961, I bought a set of three stamps in Ireland in honor of the 1500th anniversary of St. Patrick's death. What are they worth now?--S.McD.
A: The 3-pence to 1-shilling, 3-pence values are worth about $9 for the set in mint condition.