Question: I have an old playing card package stamp that says "U.S.I.R., Playing Cards, Class A." Can you comment on it?--W.N.
Answer: This is the U.S. Internal Revenue Playing Card tax stamp of the year 1922 (Scott catalogue No. RF17). It should be blue, and although no denomination appears in the design, it had a tax value of 8 cents. Current catalogue value is $9 mint, $1 used.
Longtime card players will remember breaking a blue revenue stamp of some kind on a new pack of cards. It was used to indicate federal tax paid. These stamps were issued in different designs over the years, starting in 1894. The playing card tax was repealed effective June 22, 1965.
Q: I have, I believe, a complete set of the 5-cent Space Twins commemorative issued by the U.S. Post Office on Oct. 2, 1967. I not only have the program for the ceremony but also 11 different cachets on envelopes. I am most interested in the fact that I have one perfect "bull's-eye" as well as a "Mr. Zip," which I believe were not issued with this stamp. Can you give me an indication of the rarity of this material and its approximate value?--C.L.R.
A: A few minor corrections: The stamp pair that you describe (Scott Nos. 1331 and 1332) was issued on Sept. 29, not Oct. 2, 1967. Also the "Mr. Zip" cartoon inscription was indeed printed on these panes (sheets) of stamps, so they are not rare today and, in fact, catalogue less than a plate-number block of four.
By "bull's-eye," I assume you mean a well-centered cancellation that has a town and date clearly readable on the stamp's surface (also known as "socked on the nose" in stamp-collecting slang). While these types of unusually well-centered cancels are collected enthusiastically by a small group of philatelists, they are not in sufficient demand to result in a large market value.
What you have are nice souvenirs: first-day covers, first-day ceremonial program and margin copies of the Space Twins (which picture a space-walking astronaut on one stamp and his Gemini capsule on the adjacent stamp), all interesting items but not of great value. Maybe $10 or $15 for everything? But remember that money is only one reason for collecting.
Q: Although I am not a collector, I happen to own some elegant Soviet stamps. They were brought back to me from the Soviet Union and carry the date 1982. Where could I take them to have them evaluated?--M.W.
A: It sounds as if these aren't rare or valuable. If they were made in 1982, they were inexpensive varieties. Most post-World War II Soviet stamps are worth a few cents each, and yours are not early enough to be of special value.
Q: What stamps are likely to go up the most this year, in your opinion? Mint or used? U.S. or foreign? Singles or blocks? Covers or off-cover stamps?--W.S.
A: If I knew I would buy them myself and get rich. The stamp market is quite low at the moment. Some observers say it is poised for a rapid rise over the next five years; others say we are in for a slow and gradual increase in the market values of popular investment-type stamps (Zeppelins, expensive U.S. and foreign commemoratives, certain classics like the first issues--the Scott No. "ones"--of each country).
My advice is to collect for fun, knowledge, entertainment, diversion from your normal job or schoolwork and for possible profit a long way into the future. A bank account guarantees its interest on your deposit. Stamps are unpredictable over the short term, but tend to go up in price over many years, for selected issues.