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Cutting Out Stamps And "Centering" Issues

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Posted 11/23/2021   5:05 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add Letterpress to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Hi all So I've got some Harris and Scott books now, and I've learned about the centering of stamps. Question: When you cut a stamp from a sheet or pane, do you need to be super precise as far as margins and perforations? I mean if you want to cut a stamp out for sale and so forth.

If I understand correctly, centering is a printing artifact. That is, if you cut a stamp out straight down the middle of the perforation boundary, it shouldn't affect the centering of the stamp at all. Is that right? Centering is supposed to be about the margin between the design and the perforation, so if do a clean cut the centering shouldn't change either way.

How do you prefer to cut out stamps? Do you use a very precise paper cutter, like those Dahle and Rotatrim models the archival shops sell? Or an X-ACTO knife or what? How do you make sure you cut straight down the middle of the perforation? It seems like coils would be much cleaner here, so I'm surprised that they're not the default philatelic format.

Thanks
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Posted 11/23/2021   5:24 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add jamesg to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
We Do Not "Cut" stamps from sheets, panes, blocks, or even envelopes generally. We soak them off of envelopes with water leaving the stamp completely intact. If removing a stamp from a sheet, block, pair, etc, we'd fold at perforation and tear along perforation very carefully, however few of us would advise breaking up the larger block/pair. If imperforate, I would probably NEVER break them up.
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Posted 11/23/2021   5:25 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Letterpress _ I believe that you are talking about self adhesive stamps?
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Posted 11/23/2021   5:39 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Letterpress to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Rog, I'm talking about old stamps, collectibles, mostly through the 1980s. I don't have any self-adhesive ones yet, since they don't seem very popular.

James, why would you risk the vagaries of tearing by hand? I assumed philatelists would demand precision, so I thought I had to cut straight down the middle. What do you mean about not breaking up a pane? How do people buy and sell single stamps? Most of what I see at the dealers are single stamps.
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Posted 11/23/2021   5:45 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Letterpress - Perforated stamps are always "torn" by collectors. They were designed to be separated that way. You take more of a chance of damaging something by introducing a knife or scissors. A knife cut also looks artificial and might raise suspicion of reperforating on more valuable issues. As far as breaking up multiples that topic always gets hot. Practically speaking, as you said, singles come from multiples. The problem arises when folks start breaking up multiples of which there are few left or that are dwindling because they have been destroyed to feed collector demand and to be graded. A topic that brings out passionate responses on both sides.
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Posted 11/23/2021   5:46 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Letterpress, Is this post serious? Have you ever used a stamp on a letter?
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Posted 11/23/2021   6:16 pm  Show Profile Check GeoffHa's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add GeoffHa to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Centring, particularly on old perforated stamps, is an effect of the perforating device or its operator, not the printing. The perforations of Victorian stamps are often very inexact. Breaking up pairs or blocks of most stamps - most stamps not being scarce - isn't a problem.
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Posted 11/23/2021   8:23 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add redwoodrandy to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Put away the scissors and the scotch tape when it comes to stamps.
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Posted 11/23/2021   8:39 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I might add that centering is not always the end all be all depending upon the issue. The first two stamps from the left in the pic below are Russia Scott 261 and 262. The centering shown is actually on the better side for these very difficult to find stamps. Even examples with the perforations cutting into the design are desirable.

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Posted 11/23/2021   9:05 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Parcelpostguy to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Centering is supposed to be about the margin between the design and the perforation


That is 100% true. Stamps without perforations or rouletting, the so-called "imperforate stamps," it is based upon distance of the design from the edge of the paper. More space is better with equal space on all sides needed.

Perforations should be folded and split. The fuzzy paper fibers are desired over the non-fuzzy cut paper look. Roulettes always kept intact such that no tooth is cut or otherwise shortened. Imperforate stamps require some sort of a paper cutting device.

Here is what happens if scissor cut, all teeth damaged as shown top and sides:


This was not scissors cut:


Yes these are Finnish stamps not US, but the rouletting shows up easier in photos.

Here is an imperforated pair with almost all maximum margins. If enlarged or the original stamps are examined, you will find a hint of the next stamp over's design on the top and both sides. The bottom no so much:


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Edited by Parcelpostguy - 11/23/2021 9:11 pm
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Posted 11/23/2021   10:22 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Letterpress to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I think I see where some of my confusion is. I was assuming that all stamp sheets have the kind of perforation with voids in between adjacent stamps a bunch of air gaps, down which I assumed people would want to cleanly cut. See here:


And I probably envisioned larger voids/holes than in the Nimitz stamp. It looks messy and imperfect to me to be just tearing them by hand.

But I didn't consider stamps with fully interlocking or nested perforations, like the one Parcelpostguy posted above.

Does it matter which type we're talking about? I tried to find images of the fully interlocking type, but couldn't. It looks like most stamps have the voids, like the way the perforations are created is by punching those holes, rather than by a clean, squiggly die cut. Well now that I think of it, a clean die cut with no voids would just cut the stamps apart there'd be nothing attaching them, or holding a sheet together... I guess the voidless die cut method only works with self-adhesive stamps, with a backing sheet that isn't cut.

So now I'm back to square one. So collectors really don't demand the precision of clean cuts?

A point of clarification: I'm not talking about scissors or "Scotch tape" (I don't know where the Scotch tape idea came from, or what a person would do with tape...) I'm talking about precision cuts. There's a whole world out there of professional paper cutters used by print shops, librarians, and archivists. They typically cost a couple hundred bucks to a thousand or more. Some are guillotine, some are rotary, and the brands are Rotatrim, Dahle, CARL, and maybe some of the higher end Fiskars, Swingline, and X-ACTO models. These are precise enough that a millimeter of drift over a 12 inch cut might be considered unacceptable. There would certainly be no dangling chads or roughness in cutting stamp sheets with these cutters.

Scissors are generally not an option for that kind of precision work, though I've seen some high precision scissors tailored for, well, tailors and seamstresses. Paper is always braced in a desktop or table cutter, and I assumed that's what people would do with stamps.
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Posted 11/24/2021   12:38 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Parcelpostguy to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Here is an example of roulette US:


Roulette coil but stamps spaced (where to cut backing paper for mint):


Now to sheet stamps, singles:




Sheets of roulette:

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Posted 11/24/2021   01:49 am  Show Profile Check GeoffHa's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add GeoffHa to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
You aren't really back to square one. You now know that stamp collectors want a careful tear along the perforation, not a cut, with whatever device.
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Posted 11/24/2021   09:42 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add blcjr to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Letterpress,

Quote:
So now I'm back to square one. So collectors really don't demand the precision of clean cuts?

Well, I'm back to the question John asked:

Quote:
Letterpress, Is this post serious? Have you ever used a stamp on a letter?

Have you ever used a stamp on a letter? Assuming it was prior to the current form of adhesives, and purchased a sheet, booklet, or coil of stamps from the post office, how did you separate them? Did you use a paper cutter? How do you think typical users would separate the stamps? Would you expect them to purchase a precision paper cutter? Why do you think they are preforated in the first place? (Answer: to facilitate separating the stamps by hand.)

I realize you are new to philately, and no question is a "stupid question." You asked your question in the context of what collectors want to see in stamps that you might (apparently) be interested in separating from blocks to sell as singles. Collectors expect to see them as they would look as used on mail. Since your question was posed in the context of centering, you are not having any effect upon centering by separating the stamps along their preforations manually, so long as you are careful and do not tear the stamp outside the margins of the preforations. You certainly cannot improve the centering of a stamp using precision cutter, as you seemed to understand in your original post. So why would you think that collectors would obsess about precision cuts with a paper cutter or xacto knife?

Don't overthink this. Yes, collectors "really don't demand the precision of clean cuts," and might even be turned off by them as making the stamp look odd or unusual.

Basil
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Posted 11/24/2021   10:53 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add classic_paper to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Let's keep it simple:

1) no one, ever, wants a perforated stamp to be separated from its neighbors with scissors, knife, or any kind of blade
2) multiples (sheets, blocks, strips) are generally regarded as more valuable (both philatelic and economic) than singles. In 90% of cases, breaking up perforated multiples is frowned upon; the other 10% is reserved for common or modern issues.
3) separating multiple of imperforate stamps, by any means, is considered anathema to the hobby

When stamps are produced, the design is printed, then the sheet is perforated (one way or another). If there's an alignment error, the stamps will be off-center. That's just how it goes sometimes, there's no way of fixing it. In the case of imperforate stamps, the more paper on the margins the better, so cutting away an edge to better-center the stamp is a big no-no.

Perhaps you misunderstand the hobby in the first place. Before anything else, it is about discovery (learning about whatever in the field interests you), and preservation (keeping what you find/collect safe for posterity). Everything else: new or used, singles/blocks, errors, color variations, etc is secondary. And while these secondary things are always up to much debate, gnashing of teeth, and rending of garments among hobbyists, violations of discovery and preservation will lead to universal scorn.
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Posted 11/24/2021   11:14 am  Show Profile Check GeoffHa's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add GeoffHa to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I don't disagree with the thrust of your remarks, but

- by definition, most multiples are middle-period or modern, so in 90% of cases breaking them up won't be frowned on unless they have particular interest/financial value as multiples
- it's rather less that separating imperforated stamps is considered anathema, than that most SCF members consider destroying imperf blocks and individual stamps within the block to create one single with large margins is anathema
- the hobby's primarily about filling in your spare time
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