Friday, April 29, 2016

Hinged vs Never Hinged...frankly my dear I don't give a.....(Repost)

This is a repost of a blog entry from the first version of my blog made originally on 30 October 2015

A couple months ago in a previous post I talked about the debate over whether it is better to collect mint stamps in hinged or never hinged condition, and the legacy that the never hinged fetish has created for the current generation of collectors. 

As I said then, for me I tend to have a cutoff date of around 1960 for stamps in hinged or never hinged condition, which coincides with the first major hingeless stamp mount to gain wide popularity among American collectors, the (now infamous) Crystal Mounts from Harris. Pre-1960, I won't turn my nose up if offered a never hinged set if it is at a good price, but for me hinged is just as acceptable, provided there is no damage on the stamp from the legacy of being hinged at one point in its life.  Since I collect using Lighthouse Vario pages, the stamps will not of course be re-hinged, so that while they are in my personal custody no potential further harm from hinges will result.

(This last point is relevant today because hinges produced in the past twenty years or so are no where near as good as the ones produced back in the late pre-war and early post-war era. Just ask any collector who has been collecting for several decades and they will get a wistful look in their eyes remembering how good the quality of hinges were "back in the day")

The iconic first Queen Elizabeth II definitive issue from Singapore, 1955. A piece of my childhood memories of collecting with my late father now brought back into my life, at a price that did not break my collecting budget. 

Back last autumn I received an item I had ordered from well known Australian stamp dealer (and owner/operator of the forum) Glen Stephens.  I remember this set well as a kid, it was one of the first sets I ever helped my father mount onto album pages (with Crystal Mounts *shudder*) when I was a budding philatelist growing up in the St Lawrence Valley of New York State.

Mr. Stephens had offered this set on the forum sales subforum (which is a great place to get stamps, and offer stamps for sale - definitely worth checking out!).  Yes it was listed as hinged, but it looked beautiful and the price being asked, AU$60.00 or about US$50 at the time, was I thought a bargain for one of the iconic definitive issues of the 1950s British Commonwealth. I was away on vacation when he listed it, and feared that it would get snatched up by some wise collector before I returned home. But the fates were kind to me, and I claimed it within about an hour of returning to Columbus.

The scan probably does not do the stamps justice. They are gorgeous. The $5 coat of arms, in particular, is beautifully centered and very fresh, with just the lightest hint that at some point in its life it was hinged by a previous collector. A couple values have some light toning, but we are talking about stamps issued in a colony with a tropical climate. A little tan is not a bad thing in my opinion, though other collectors would probably vehemently disagree.

Of course many would argue that since it is a hinged set, it has lost a lot of its value.  Both Gibbons and Scott value the set in Never Hinged condition only (Scott CV in 2012 for NH was US$150, Gibbons has it at £130 (approx US$200) in the 4th edition (2013) of the Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore catalog.) This is probably why no one jumped on the set immediately when it was listed. It had the "scarlet letter" of hinge marks. My gain, the set is a beauty, and in the end how many people collect stamps to show them gum-side out to show that  they are in "virginal never hinged condition?"

I will never understand why the main catalog publishers do not provide guideline for hinged material in the period from the start of their "never hinged" pricing until around 1960.  Yes most collectors these days will pay premiums for never hinged material, but there are a lot of gorgeous sets whose only "sin" is that they were hinged, but otherwise may be superior in centering or other measures of stamp condition. Even just a rough percent discount that would be appropriate for hinged material would be more helpful that complete silence, since there is a LOT of this material in the marketplace. 

Personally, until such time as the catalog publishers finally realize that some guidance for hinged pricing for the early never-hinged price years is something that many collectors will find useful, I'll continue searching for these wonderful sets in hinged condition and snatch them up for a song.  Because in the end I think dealers and collectors are heavily undervaluing them all for the name of some sense of "purity" of gum on the small supply of these issues that, at the time of their issuing, were not hinged by collectors as was the usual practice for mounting stamps in an album at that time. 

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