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Listing Stamps With Color-Enhanced And Sharpened Images

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Posted 11/29/2020   7:36 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add widglo46 to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
It is irritating to me that it seems to be an ethically acceptable practice for dealers and auction houses to digitally enhance photos or scanned images of stamps that they are selling. I've come to expect that almost any image I see in a listing is considerably enhanced, and I don't put tremendous stock in it being an accurate representation of what the stamp will look like when I have it in my hands. I don't know what to do except to return stamps that I am unhappy with. The problem is more serious with auction houses, because they do not offer the right to return because a buyer feels they were misled by an image in regards the color or impression.

An example of this is demonstrated in the two stamps below being offered in Schuyler Rumsey Sale 95. Compare Rumsey's images with images of the identical stamps from previous auctions (the #9 is from Harmer-Schau sale 117 in 2018, and the #120 is from Kelleher sale 630 in 2012).

I see an increasing trend to this kind of marketing, even amongst the most reputable dealers and auction houses, and I don't like it.




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Posted 11/29/2020   8:06 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add revcollector to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
My experience over the years is that stamps often look better in person then they do in the images.
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Posted 11/29/2020   8:12 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rod222 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Not contesting your experience, however,
I do that with my stamps sometimes, and especially my shopping dockets.

In Picasa 3
one can "Auto contrast" = Fix exposure without affecting colour.
It is a simple 1 click.

A washed out docket barely readable, can magically change with 1 click.

For my digital collection, I find it acceptable on a few certain stamps.
I am not trying to sell them to anybody.
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Edited by rod222 - 11/29/2020 8:14 pm
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Posted 11/29/2020   9:03 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mootermutt987 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Your complaint is a valid one. I have bought stamps based on 'appearance' and been disappointed when they arrive - mostly thinking/hoping I was bidding on a hard-to-find shade of an 1847 or 1851 stamp. I have been aware of this for decades and have never gone completely overboard with my bidding - I HOPE it is a good shade, but won't go too far over the 'standard' shade's value - maybe one increment, or two if I really feel good about it.

In the 1980's, I worked for a few auction houses and we went out of our way to get proper coloration. We would layout each 'plate' (an auction catalog page of stamps to be photo'ed) and when all the plates were done, we took the pile of 'plates' to a ptofessional photographer. They had a 1980's era scanner - the plates were affixed inside (I think it was inside - it's been 35 years) a clear 'tube' and then the tube would spin at high speed while the scanner recorded line after line of the image. We had special color plates which were used every time to 'calibrate' the colors - similar to what is used by NASA to take color photos on Mars. I was often the guy that took the plates to the photographer, and there was very little for me to do except to watch the process. We got a set of full-sized 'transparencies' out of the deal. The transparencies showed any dust motes and edges of the Showgard mounts that we used to make up the plates. We would scrape away the color on the transparencies to eliminate the dust motes and the mount lines. Those were our only alterations.

I DID notice that other auction houses did more alterations than that. Some had (probably un-calibrated) photo set-ups in-house, along with their own printing facilities, so they could make their catalogs look the way they wanted. I was amazed at how their colors 'popped'. And that was in the 1980's. Some things never change.

I always have to laugh and roll my eyes when I see some of today's alterations. Many houses 'fill' (a Photoshop term) Their areas between stamps with Black. It DOES look nice to have the stamps sitting against a sea of jet-black. The way the 'fill' app works, though, is that it will turn every adjacent pixel that is within a certain shade of the original color being filled into the new 'fill color'. If you have a stamp with a black cancel along its edge, though, the 'fill' app sometimes fills the black cancel with the jet-black fill color. And it looks HORRIBLE!!! It looks incredibly fake. I cannot believe there's no one at the wheel saying 'We need to re-do this scan'. I see so many blatant alterations (and MISTAKES in applying those alterations) nowadays that I KNOW I am not looking at real-world appearance.

Also, if you've been on SCF for any length of time (I know you have, widglo), when we talk about color, we are always saying that scanned colors need to be taken with a grain of salt. All scanners are different. S/W packages are different. Settings are different. And, as we all know, our stamps look different if we are looking at them under fluorescent lights, LED lights, different temperature LED (or other) lights, direct sunlight, or indirect sunlight. Really, how often do we view our stamps in direct (NOT through a window) sunlight? And that's not advised.

I would fully expect that if you asked any of the makers of any of the photos that you questioned above, they would all say they are following their standard protocol, and that the other guy's photo is the one with the problem.

My advice would be to ASSUME the scan was altered. If it is different enough in person, return the stamp and let the seller know why ("The color in person doesn't 'pop' like it does in your scan"). If he gets enough similar complaints, then that is HIS pressure to change his ways. Until there are standards spelled out by the ASDA/APS/PF/anyone else that are accepted by everybody, this will continue to happen. In other words, this will continue for a LONG LONG time.
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Edited by mootermutt987 - 11/29/2020 9:09 pm
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Posted 11/29/2020   9:18 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The trouble with 'image enhancing' is that folks do what they thinks makes the image look good on their display device. Do they really think that this means it will make the image look good on other people's displays too? LOL

For images that I want to save I generate the highest optical resolution my scanner/camera can do, apply no 'enhancements' or other filters, I then save the image to my storage device in an uncompressed format.
If the stamp/cover is worth scanning, I want to save the best, unmodified baseline image I can. I can always make a copy and 'play' with it applying any kind of filters that might be needed.

I agree that most people play with the images either intentionally or unintentionally. In my opinion doing this in a sales environment is misrepresentation. To be honest, it frustrates me when folks do it in this forum, there are a few people who are altering images to influence opinions in the threads.

If I were the King of Technology, I would make it so that every image contained permanent metadata history of any kind of manipulation the image file had been saved with.

If anyone does not think that this is an issue I would direct you to eBays gem listings. Much like the images widglo46 posted above, the amount of over saturation filtering is overwhelming (and to be honest fairly easy to spot if you are looking for it). Years ago online gem sellers figured out that listing them was completely about being able to generate great looking images. Online selling should not be about who can do the best image manipulation.
Don
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Posted 11/29/2020   9:30 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Heck, there are no real standards for much of anything in this hobby let alone imaging. I agree completely with Lorry in regards to photos/scans. I have had more than a few stamps arrive with degrees of paper or gum toning that was manipulated out of the scans. I recently purchased a set of Russia zeppelin stamps that looked amazing in the scans. Once in hand it became apparent that a sealed tear had been "erased" from both front and back images and the paper whitened which of course changed the overall color. The gum side was whitened up as well.

For pricey stamps I try and work with sellers that are willing to send the stamps to me first before I commit. Those folks are few and far between as one can imagine.
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Posted 11/29/2020   10:07 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add gmot to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I've listed thousands of stamps for sale online (unaltered except for cropping/resizing), and certainly the colours I see in person under my desk lamp, or on my computer monitor, are not - and really cannot - be exactly the same as what the potential customer sees on whatever display device they happen to be using. I do recall one return due to the shade being not exactly what the customer was expecting - which was fine. Many sellers will accept returns.

Of course, even given the case that colours vary in the eye of the beholder , any "artifical" image enhancing such as filters, contrast, hue correction, etc. is misleading and unethical. Also of course, any significant non-visible flaw should be pointed out - thins, for example, which are very hard to discern from a scanned image.

~Greg
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Posted 11/29/2020   10:52 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add revcollector to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Clearly there is a difference between major auction house images and eBay images. I'm sure there is far more manipulation on eBay.
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Posted 11/29/2020   11:17 pm  Show Profile Check eyeonwall's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add eyeonwall to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The difference between the two sets of images that started this are quite strong. If the top pair has been enhanced this is a real problem.
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Posted 11/29/2020   11:38 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add revcollector to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Comparing images created 8 years apart, or even 2 years, that were made on different equipment and under different conditions is really pretty useless. They could easily have been done with no intended enhancement and simply wound up this way because of the differences in equipment. It's impossible to say at this point. And the scanners are better today then they were in 2012 as well. There are too many variables to make any judgements about the differences.
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Posted 11/30/2020   12:45 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add PostmasterGS to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I see this all the time with several of the auctionhouses I buy from. The images tend to be abnormally bright. I often wonder if they are doing it intentionally because they think the brighter colored stamps will be more appealing to the buyer, or if they just don't know how to turn off the default "enhancements" in their scanner software.

For the reasons revcollector mentioned, I always scan on the same scanner with the same software and the same settings. That way, all the images of my stamps shown on my website are at least internally consistent.
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Posted 11/30/2020   10:03 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add usinbritain to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
"It is irritating to me that it seems to be an ethically acceptable practice for dealers and auction houses to digitally enhance photos or scanned images of stamps that they are selling."

Widglo46, I'm no scanning technical expert but have experience of scanning more than 10,000 US covers over the past 20 years, always with HP scanners, of course several different models over the years and with each model the technology and imaging accuracy improves.

Are you a previous owner of either of these stamps? Without having the stamp in front of me, how would I know which scan is the more accurate one? Maybe the Rumsey image is correct and the previous ones were scanned incorrectly or on old scanners? Or the previous owner has altered/improved the stamps in the interim? Or it's a website or browser compatibility issue? You could be right, but I think it's a leap to accuse an auction house of being unethical based on scans.

Full disclosure: I've known and dealt with Schuyler Rumsey for 25 years since he was at Feldman Switzerland and consider his one of the most ethical houses Stateside or in Europe. If anything happens to me, my wife has been instructed to entrust my inventory with Rumsey.

Steve Taylor
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Posted 11/30/2020   10:26 am  Show Profile Check revenuecollector's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add revenuecollector to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The differences, over- or under-saturation, etc. may not not be deliberate. It may be unintentional. Knowing the technical savvy (or lack thereof) of many people selling (including some VERY high profile and high volume sellers), they may just be using whatever the default settings are on their scanner software or whatever the profile is that the last person used.

Given that any attempt to target an "accurate" appearance is an exercise in futility outside of a fully calibrated workflow (including anyone viewing the images), I don't consider it a big deal.

You shouldn't be relying upon images for exact color anyway.
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Posted 11/30/2020   11:27 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add widglo46 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I hope that the example images that I posted are just an example of scanner defaults or some other technical reason, and that they are not due to intentional enhancements of the images. I don't think that I actually accused Rumsey of this, because I don't have proof.

I'm simply suggesting that for whatever reason, the images I am seeing in the listings of many dealers and auction houses are not accurate representations of the stamps. Technology has made image enhancement very easy to do, and for many applications, most people want their pictures sharper and brighter. I just don't think it is right to do that when selling stamps. If dealers or auction houses are enhancing images unintentionally, then I hope this serves to bring it to their attention because they are misleading buyers.
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Posted 11/30/2020   3:09 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rod222 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

I tend to side with Revenuecollector,
Best practice of course is to see the material first hand, but with the tyranny of distance and covid, we all know that is not possible.

No doubt some Hijinx is included in some material, and unless it is blatant ( contrasting a tear out of view etc) then I would tend to give, the dealer some slack.

Here is Auction evidence that I deal with, (and appreciate) knowing full well the stamps are not true examples, due to it being the glossiness of the paper, the reproduction from image to print etc.

Ace stamp auctions 2016


Now compare it with what we had to deal with in 2005 (Richard Juzwin)
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Posted 11/30/2020   11:49 pm  Show Profile Check eyeonwall's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add eyeonwall to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Revenuecollector - It is one thing for a small eBay seller to not know how to produce proper images and a whole other thing for a major auction house to be deficient.

ST - lets just look at the odds - the original images were produced by 2 different firms, the news one by a single firm. Not proof, but suspicious.
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