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Noob Asks: Stamp Grading Services?

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Posted 01/12/2021   10:02 am  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add STTScott to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I ended up gravitating to thos hobby via coin collecting, and I was attracted to this hobby by the incredible (usually) artistry of turn of the dentury stamps. Much of it is incredible and sometimes -- OK, usually -- breathtaking. Plus, there's so cery much to learn, same as coin collecting.

So here's my question: What are the most-reliable grading services to have items in my collection graded if that's where I'd like to do? The coin universe has several with varying grades/levels of reliability and/or respect, so I'm assuming the same goes with the stamp universe, too.

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Posted 01/12/2021   10:20 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
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Posted 01/12/2021   11:53 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Rhett to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Scott gives recommendations for general expertizing services for U. S. stamps in their U. S. Specialized Catalog. In all their U. S. Specialized Catalogs that I have from 2012 to 2020, they list 4 expertizing agencies; of these 4 the 3 that offer grading services in addition to certification are Professional Stamp experts (PSE), Philatelic Stamp Authentication and Grading Inc. (PSAG), and the Philatelic Foundation (PF). I do not yet have a 2021 U. S. Specialized catalog so do not know if the information is different there. I have utilized all 3 services over the past 10 years, with stamp grading/expertizing submissions for over 300 individual stamps (70% PSE, 20% PF, 10% PSAG), and have been very satisfied. All 3 of these agencies have expert boards that they utilize for difficult "patients", very qualified in-house experts for the easier ones, and great reference collections. All 3 can and will make an occasional mistake but are very open to looking into such situations. All 3 use very similar grading methodologies and measuring techniques. I prefer PSE for grading and the PF for non-graded expertizing but that is merely a matter of personal preference. You will find many OPINIONS here on this board and elsewhere about these agencies but this has been my EXPERIENCE.
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Posted 01/12/2021   12:05 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Grading and "difficult patients" are two different animals. "Difficult patients" refers to actual expertizing which is another huge topic of discussion and your choice of agencies to perform that task depends a great deal upon the nature of the particular "patient(s). Lots of folks on this forum including myself have had many hundreds of certification EXPERIENCES. Even though I have a lot of EXPERIENCE my OPINION is still just that.
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Posted 01/12/2021   12:08 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Welcome.
Informal grading (i.e. collectors selecting stamps which appeal to their eye) has been going since the hobby began and continues today. Formal grading, where you pay someone else for their opinion of your stamp, is a bit more of a recent practice. And it is a practice that has strong opinions on both sides.

The reason that there are many who do not favor grading is that the practice has significant unintended negative impact. Large multiples of classic era stamps are sometimes cut up to form highly graded single stamps; this practice is viewed by some as destroying or altering material that can never be recovered. Additionally, there is no standard for grading criteria so grading opinions can vary from person to person, catalog to catalog, and organization to organization. Grading criteriums have also changed or evolved over time, so a stamp that graded XX a decade ago may grade YY now with the same organization. Lastly, I find that many folks who support grading have a vested interest in the practice (i.e. they own or purchase graded stamps or are otherwise involved in stamp grading).

On the 'upside' for grading, it does help less experience hobbyists feel comfortable in making purchasing decisions. Until a hobbyist has a significant amount of experience, it can be daunting to drop a large amount of money on a stamp. Often you may not know how uncommon a well centered, good condition stamp is for that issue.
Don
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Posted 01/15/2021   5:33 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Pickastory to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Experience;
What you get when,
You don't get what,
You wanted?
(in my ever so humble opinion)

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Posted 01/16/2021   2:43 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Climber Steve to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The original poster did not provide the nationality of the stamps he thinks should be considered for grading.

My thought is that the three listed grading services grade primarily the US, and a couple of them do Canada & British North America. Beyond that, I don't know as I don't pay much attention to grading services.
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Posted 01/16/2021   4:19 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add GeoffHa to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
If it isn't the US, it's certainly not worth the candle, as no-one else uses numerical grading.
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Posted 01/16/2021   5:22 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add STTScott to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks everyone so far for your inmput. My experience has basically been with coins, where much of the same sort of issues have been debated, but not nearly the extent (it seems, anyway) with paper items. I ended up looking into paper items by virtue of a project involving Chicago's 1892-3 Columbian Exposition and 1932-3 Century of Progress world's fairs. So long story short, I ended up making purchases (not impulse buys, but buys for the project) and when I received them, I went "Whoa, nice and crisp, no folds, etcetc ... and think they're keepers possibly worth having graded. As it happens, I also ended up with 2 graded "Indian" entry ticket specimens, one from Progessional Currency Grading and one from Legacy. Their grades seem to be pretty accurate (CU63:and AN50), so it's not a matter of me disputing their opinions. It's more a matter of choosing a grading house whose opinion is most respected for similar paper objects from that fair, as I have other things I'm keeping for myself instead since they're dine exampkes, IMO. If the two houses I mentioned are just fine, then fine. But if you think there are houses that are extremely exemplary in their examinations and carry more "weight" in the minds of collectors, I'd like to know about them.

Again, this comes from a noob, so excuse the ig'nince if there was any here.
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Posted 01/17/2021   11:18 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add STTScott to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
@Geoffha said >> If it isn't the US, it's certainly not worth the candle, as no-one else uses numerical grading.<<

What do they use, metric? #129322;
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Posted 01/17/2021   11:32 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add littleriverphil to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Old school, Ave. Fine, Fine-very, Fine, Very Fine, Ex Fine.
Grading seems to be a North American trend.
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Posted 01/17/2021   11:36 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Petert4522 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I think Geoff is referring to expressions like MNH ( Mint Never Hinged ) etc.


Peter
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Edited by Petert4522 - 01/17/2021 11:36 am
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Posted 01/17/2021   11:43 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Casey Magoo to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Instead of 'grading' think in terms of 'centering'. A well centered stamp that has equal margins all around is more pleasing to the eye than one that is shifted strongly any direction. Anyone can see just by looking if a stamp is off center. These stamps with the best centering are worth more as you would expect. People only tend to get a stamp graded by a pro if they feel that it is much better than the average example of a given stamp. Great centering and condition, so they want to have paperwork that backs a higher than normal value. With coins, grading has more to do with the current condition, which can be worsened.

For Canadian stamps, the catalogues list best centering as VF for very fine. As you drop, F for fine, VG for very good (which is being polite, it's bad). For VF, this can be perfect of near perfect. Some go further with XF, extra fine, etc. but that is more of a US thing. The 'yellow pages' of the Scotts catalogue call VF just middle of the road centering.

This explanation can go on for days. Most collectors don't even consider sending stamps away to be graded. What they see, everyone else can see. The only stamps I have in my collection that I would consider grading are a few airmails that already have a high catalogue value to start with.
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Edited by Casey Magoo - 01/17/2021 11:55 am
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Posted 01/17/2021   11:59 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I have seen more than a few collectors shoot themselves in the foot by getting a stamp graded that has really nice centering but for various reasons such as a short perf get a lower than expected numerical grade which actually drops the value due to the SMQ system. Of course some of them "lose" the certificate. LOL
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Posted 01/17/2021   12:03 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Killamikep to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Should I grade type pics here or where?
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Posted 01/17/2021   12:07 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Casey Magoo to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
http://psestamp.com/centering.chtml This link does not show any badly centered stamps, just good ones. Not the best tool for learning.

You can show us your pictures here, but grading/centering is easy once you compare a bunch of stamps.
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Edited by Casey Magoo - 01/17/2021 12:10 pm
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