Perforations May Change the Value

Question: Explain to me how a perforation gauge works. I bought one with a beginner's kit and am not sure how to use it.--R.D.

Answer: A perforation gauge is a metal, plastic or cardboard rectangle, usually about 2 by 5 inches, that is used to measure the number of perforations (or holes) along the side of a stamp. The gauge consists of a number of different scales showing dots spaced at equal distances along two centimeters of distance.

Briefly, the number of perforations in two centimeters of length of a stamp's side is the "gauge" of that stamp. Remember, some stamps may be of the same design but have different perforation gauges, resulting in different and sometimes rarer varieties. Also, the vertical and horizontal perforation gauges may be different on the same stamp.

You can buy a perforation gauge for a dollar or two, and any stamp dealer or established collector will demonstrate one for you.

Q: My set of plate-number blocks includes four varieties of Franklin Roosevelt commemoratives, in 1-cent, 2-cent, 3-cent and 5-cent values. I understand these were issued shortly after his death. What are they worth?--P.K.

A: Only about $1 for the group. Issued in 1945 and 1948, this set was widely saved by collectors and dealers, thus remaining relatively inexpensive even after all these years.

Q: You must tire of so many questions asking, "What is it worth?" instead of more basic philatelic inquiries. It is sad that so many people just think of money rather than the beauty and information to be obtained from stamp collecting.--R.B.S.

A: You have to start somewhere. Maybe the best way to get a person interested in stamps is to show him or her a few that are worth $100 each, then mix them in with other stamps that are worth 1 cent each, then ask the person to separate the valuable kinds from the cheap ones and explain why there is such a price difference.

To a true collector, money is always secondary. Rarity, knowledge, the thrill of the hunt and the friends made by collecting are the real rewards in the collecting of anything.

The fact that Hawaiian missionary stamps typically sell for $50,000 each means that they have an important appeal to advanced collectors who recognize their extreme rarity and historical importance. Don't criticize too harshly. If a person wants to know the price, that's the beginning of an interest in stamps.

Of course, we should encourage the acquisition of all benefits of philately, not merely the financial aspect. This reminds me of the constant controversy about stamp investors versus stamp collectors. Many collectors don't like investors because they push up the price of rare stamps so collectors can't afford to buy. On the other hand, any stamps already in your collection are worth more if many investors suddenly take an interest in those issues and start buying them.

Q: What do I have? It looks like a coil pair of stamps, but there is no country's name or denomination. Instead, these words appear in the center of the stamp's design: "For Testing Purposes Only." Are these American stamps? And what is their value?--E.D.

A: This is a coil testing pair, manufactured by postal authorities for use in testing stamp-vending machines. They are quite collectible but are worth only about $10 each, depending on the variety.

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