Question: Please explain what expertizing is. A stamp dealer suggested that I get an early British issue expertized before he would buy it from me.--L.L.
Answer: Expertizing is the obtaining of a certificate of authenticity for a stamp or cover. This certificate is sold by various organizations who have philatelic experts available to inspect and pass judgment on specialized areas in stamp collecting.
Many stamps have been counterfeited, using such techniques as overprints, colors and forged gum on the back. A rare stamp that is genuine will bring a market price relative to its condition, while a counterfeit stamp is more or less worthless, except for historical study.
The American Philatelic Society has long operated a respected expertizing service for both its members and the public. Expertizing is not guaranteed but is an authoritative opinion that carries heavy weight when a stamp is offered for sale. Fees range from $10 to $15 for cheaper items, higher for stamps cataloguing more than $1,000 each.
For more information and a sample application form, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (business size) to the A.P.S. Expertizing Service, P.O. Box 8000, State College, Pa. 16803.
Q: How many stamps have been issued by Communist China?--W.B.
A: The People's Republic (as it prefers to be called) has issued about 2,100 major varieties since 1949.
Q: In the late 1940s I purchased a set of French air mails in Paris. These stamps show mythological figures and airplanes. The denominations are 40 francs to 500 francs. What is their value?--T.D.
A: About $25 retail. This is the 1946-47 set (Scott Numbers C18-C21) and the Universal Postal Union 500-franc issue of 1947 (C22).
Q: Why does the set of "Columbus Arriving in America" stamps from Spain, issued in 1930, catalogue more in used condition than mint? Can't a cancel be faked to increase the value of a cheaper mint stamp?--R.P.
A: Many stamps are worth more canceled than unused. This is because genuine cancels are rare compared to the number of mint examples still circulating in collections.
It is true that a cancel can be faked, but there are a number of tests that an expert can do to help verify the genuineness of a postmark on a stamp.
First is to compare it with a known genuine cancel. Then careful measurements must be made, maybe dipping the canceled stamp in watermark fluid or putting it under ultraviolet light to see if it is comparable in appearance to real cancels of the period.
Of course, if the stamp is canceled on a cover (envelope), it is more likely to have genuine postmarks than if the stamp is loose (off-cover). Part of the fun of being a specialist in a country's stamps is being able to distinguish real from fake items. I've stared at some cancels for days and still don't know if they're real.