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Why aren't blocks graded?

Hi, I am a new member here. This is my first post.

Starting about 45 years ago, I started collecting primarily plate blocks and have some of significant value (even in Scott's). I bought my last stamps about 20 to 25 years ago and just sat on the collection.

I just decided to sell some stamps and have discovered the great premium for highly rated materials.

I guess that my question is primarily for Mike, but why are multiple stamps, blocks or plate blocks not graded?

If I have a plate block of valuable stamps which I think would be graded at either 85 or 90 (or higher), it almost seems that I would be better off splitting up the plate block so that I have six stamps (or 4) at a premium price.

For example, I have a full set of Famous American plate blocks. It almost seems that some of them should be taken apart to maximize value.

Obviously this makes no logical sense, but if buyers pay a huge premium for highly graded stamps, but blocks or plate blocks are not graded, don't I lose that premium?

Any help or comments would be appreciated.


  • I'm not sure what Mikes response would be but I think a complete well rounded NEW system would have to be developed to grade blocks. Also the cost/fee might be higher for a block since there is more examination time(i.e how many separated perfs if any, is there a gum bend/crease on one stamp but not the others, etc etc etc) I think it would be a good idea for very old or rare blocks, and I would say it would have to be limited to those which were in the correct format like a flat plate block being 6 stamps with the pl# in the correct position, etc. Of course when you have a very well centered stamp in,say, a block of 4, usually the other 3 stamps suffer centering wise unless it is an issue with a plate layout that has wide spacing between the designs allowing for ample margins on all the stamps in the block. So unless there is an incredibly large stamp it NOT might be worth breaking up a block. The Famous American issues have already almost all gone down in value in the current Stamp Market Quarterly. I predicted this sometime back on this board. I saw several of these(highly graded) pop up in what seemed like a few months. These to0 have ample spacing between the stamps allowing for possibly 1000's of high grade examples(just my opinion) I wouldn't break up any of those blocks unless your 110% sure they will grade 98 on the cheaper blocks and 98J or better on the higher values. The average MNH 98 of that issue is only valued at 135 dollars, 95's are only $35(the fee per stamp for this issue will be $18 per stamp). You will probably get alot more 95's than 98's unless you
    are very experienced and thorough in grading. Collectors pay a premium for graded stamps but are starting to be much more picky(common stamps in 95 do not usually garner "high premiums"). Common 1930's and 40's issues that are not condition rarities(like many rotary press issues) that only grade 95 or lower may eventually be almost unsaleable except at very low prices considering the cert fee.Lately it seems on even graded stamps that are even a decade or so older, collectors only want 98's and 100's. I would save your blocks and watch the prices to see if they hold hteir value as blocks compared to breaking them up and payng to submit each one. If you don't already have one you should go over PSE's "A Guide to Grading and Expertizing United States Postage Stamps." before you do anything. When Mike makes it back to this board you can request one or try to elsewhere on the site. I will say when I have requested material, other than through Mike himself, I've never received anything. You should try to post some scans of the blocks that have stamps you think might be worth breaking up to grade. Maybe we can give you some opinions. Hope this helps : )
  • edueku, thanks for the response. I will expand on this when I have a little more time, but I wanted to thank you now.
  • Edueku, while I hope for an answer from Mike, I thought I'd expand on my response to you

    I agree with you that it is crazy to have such high values on relatively recent stamps, even if they are graded at 98.

    There is just no way to know how may stamps are sitting in albums waiting to be discovered. As stated, I have been away from collecting for years and I just discovered this whole premium for top graded stamps. (Unfortunately, I can't find my plate block album, which is somewhere in the house and will show up eventually)

    I do have many stamps which were not in the album. In addition to some Famous Americans, etc, I have other far more valuable stamps in hand. For example, I have a plate block of 6 of the $2.60 Zepellin (C 15). I will scan it and post if for some thoughts about the grading of the stamps. I think that the centering is at least an 85. That is a plate block that I would not break up in any event.

    I also have the C13 and C14 plate blocks, but they are not as nice as the C15.

    I also have a bunch of "commons", like C25. Basically, I have a number of these blocks of four 6 cent stamps worth postage only. On the other hand, the new SMQ shows a value of $45 at a grade of 95 and $200 as a 98.

    I will take five or ten comparable situations, try to guess whether they are 95s or better and send them to Mike for grading. It will cost me a couple of hundred dollars, but I will find out whether I have some suddenly valuable stamps. If that works and I get the high enough grades, I probably have at least another fifty (common) stamps to send for grading.

    How does that sound as a plan to you?

    As an example of stuff sitting around, last week I spoke to a friend and casually asked him if he had ever collected stamps. He has lot of other "stuff, so I thought that he might have stamps. He told me that he has not collected in years, but he has Columbians, Trans-Mississippi, and lots of stamps and plate blocks into the 1960s, when he stopped collecting. When we look at his collection, who know what we will find.

    Obviously, the classics are worth something. Beyond that, he could have a bunch of stuff from the 30's, 40's, and 50's that are worth nothing in Scott's, but might suddenly qualify as highly graded.
  • It's really not that easy to get 95's on a bunch of stuff. 95's are usually WAY above the normal quality(VF-80) for any given issue and many times can even be borderline 98's. I still think you should post some photos on this forum before you spend several hundred dollars. I have decent chunk of experience submitting stamps and can give you a good idea on centering. Mike of course would be better by far, but he hasn't been on here for a while. You do realize all the things that can lower grades in a hurry that you might not notice unless you thoroughly examine each stamp, right? Gum skips, gum bends, paper or gum wrinkles,gum fingerprints(however light),inclusions on the face in uncolored areas. short perfs, creased perfs, pulled perfs(A gem stamp can be damaged so easily by short/pulled perfs when separating a stamp from a block. I always score the perfs from the gum side VERY lightly with a CLEAN(wipe off excsss oil) X-acto blade. I then very slightly bend along the perfs back and forth a couple times and the separate. This prevents any weak perfs from "favoring" the other stamp and making a short perf on the stamp you are trying to retrieve. Of course just "going for it" and separating the old fold and pull method works well on the smaller perforations i.e perf 12. Perf 10's are REALLY tricky and you can easily end up with bad perfs that way.) Even if a stamp is perfectly sound the grade can be lowered simply by poor impression of the design itself. Pencil or pen on the gum of unused stamps or heavy pen or pencil on a used stamp will lower the grade. Short gumming which can happen especially on the edges of stamps in a block with selvedge. This will likely lower the grade at least on never-hinged stamps.
    I don't think all stamps that are from, say, the 30's are so common they aren't worth grading. I DO think that certain issues like the Famous Americans are much easier to find in high grades. Compare these to Scott #717 I happen tohave submitted an example that graded MNH 98-Jumbo(The one and only highest I think). I could probably find 10 to 20 98J's of any denomination of the Famous Americans before I could find another #717 in that grade. Well that's just my opinion.
  • How do I upload scans of stamps? Thanks

    In Help it says that attachments must be allowed, but I have no idea how to do that and can not find instructionss.
  • OK, lets try this These are some of the commons that I thought might have one or more stamps that were at least worth a 90

    The number are on the guards, not the stamps. I also have some understanding of the issues with the glue, though I am certainly not an expert.
  • Hey you're doing better than me, I have yet to be able to post photos or scans on here.
    Here is my opinion of the blocks you've shown.
    733 Top left stamp is not too bad, 90 or maybe higher.
    855 Bottom left stamp is probably a 95 or higher.
    907 None of these are worth getting graded. The perfs are too close at bottom on all four. It's interesting to note I broke up a very well centered block of this same # and still thought the stamp would only get a 95 so I still haven't submitted it. This is one of those really tough tight margined rotary press issues I've mentioned.
    932 Top left is nice. These are tricky for me since they have such wide spaces between the designs so I don't know if PSE is tougher on these since they are easier to find large margins on.
    C33 Another tough rotary press issue top middle maybe 90 or higher?
    E17 Nothing on this block worth the cost of submitting.
    863 Probably lower than a 90.

    Really I wouldn't waste my money submitting anything here unless it was going to get at least a 95J (jumbo) or higher. Your not going to get big returns from selling with the $18 fee plus the required Registered mail fee of at least $13 for return shipping not to mention the cost of sending them. You can buy 98's from this time period for less than or around $200, 95's for $35 to $50.
    I will say I am a little disturbed at the way PSE has been grading some examples of the tough tight margined rotary press issues, so now my previous experience with submitting these types of issues and the resulting grades I received seem a little shaky.
    Please check this out gradedstamps.com (Steve Crippes site) His auction for a #640 graded 100 illustrates an extremely tiny margined stamp for being that grade. As a comparison look at the #640 graded 98J he has on commission from me(you can search for certain scott #'s on his site). I'm sorry but my stamp is much more striking almost to the point of being ridiculous, unfortunately it has a very light hinge mark I missed when I submitted it.. So maybe PSE has eased up on these tough issues now. If that stamp is a 100 then I should have 2 or 3 98J and 100J instead of the 95's they were given. Hope you get a chance to look.
    I'm not an expert so my grading and opinions are just that, opinions.
  • One other way you can get a feel for values is go to ebay under US stamps and type "grade*."(yes with an asterisk) this will bring up some varied graded items and the prices they're generating. Also look under the "buy it now" or "ebay stores" section and type in "grade* 95*." This will show flat asking prices for several stamps from the same time period of yours(at least usually)in 95 or 95J. I think you will see most are not especially high. Now try "grade* 98*" and see how much higher they go.
  • Here are scans of my Graf Zep plate blocks. I had to cut the tab off the scan of the $2.60, so that the file size would be small enough to fit within the 50kb upload limit. The $2.60 has original gum, NH. Two of the six stamps have a gum crease, which I understand is not unusual for this series. There is almost no gum on the plate flange (or whatever the tab is called). The tab on the $2.60 is similar to the tabs on the other two. It has an "F" and the number and a couple of holes (probably from original staples)

    This is my nicest (most valuable) block.

    By the way, the tape mark on the bottom corner of the $1.30 block is on the guard, not the stamp.

    Edueke, we seem to be the only people reading this thread. Are scans of this type something that people on this forum like to see. If so, I could start another thread and call is Scans of my Graf Zeppelin plate blocks. Then anyone interested could see them. Or is it not worth the trouble?
  • The $2.60 block is very nice. The bottom right stamp is the best on centering, the middle bottom isn't too bad. I think people would be interested in seeing stamps at least I am. By the way if you get a stamp graded with a gum CREASE(a gum BEND usually isn't as bad) and the stamp WOULD grade a 98 the gum crease will knock it down to a grade of 85. A gum bend that is very light and does not show as a dark line in fluid and does not white up in drying may not count against the grade. Gum skips wrinkles creases etc. whether common or not on an issue can still lower the grade.
  • KentuckyJKentuckyJ Posts: 1,871 ✭✭✭
    > Edueke, we seem to be the only people reading this thread


    Nice thread. I'm sure several of us have been reading along with you and edueku image

    It is possible to place your pics directly into the post, saving everyone from having to click a link. As an example:


    Nice block!

  • Thanks, edueku and KentuckyJ.

    As to the gum issue, I do not know if it is a bend or a crease, since I do not really understand the difference. It is a diagonal gum line which is on the back of two stamps. I can not find any evidence that it effects the front of the stamp in any way.

    As far as fluids, etc., I think that I am far too much of a chicken to try such a thing - at least not with this block. That is best left for stamp professionals, not me.

    Is there any point in trying to scan the back of the stamps and posting that? I kind of doubt that it would show very much.

    KentuckyJ, how do I post the picture directly in the message?

    I will start a new thread just for the scans, but I agree that it would be easier for others if the scan is in the body, rather than only the links.
  • KentuckyJKentuckyJ Posts: 1,871 ✭✭✭

    > KentuckyJ, how do I post the picture directly in the message?

    fry46, when you are adding a post to the forum... under 'Message Text' you see the icons allowing you to use links, Bold, Italic, Underlined, etc. The 4th icon, looking like a little box like TV screen, is where you copy and paste the URL of whatever picture you want appearing in your message. Click that box open and insert your URL. I will usually preview the post first to make sure I got it right and the link works without any problems.


  • Well, I scanned the back of the $2.60. You can see the creases or the bends on the two stamps on the right. By the way, neither of these are the stamps which edueku felt had the best centering. I guess that this does not matter, since I am not going to break the plate block.

    I tried to upload this into this message, but I could not. When it asked for the URL, I typed in the drive and name, but the jpeg was not copied.

    Anyway here is the attachment

    KentuckyJ, maybe you could give me really simple directions. When it asks for URL, do I have to put the jpeg on line somewhere first.
  • KentuckyJKentuckyJ Posts: 1,871 ✭✭✭


    Yes, your pic has to be uploaded somewhere before you can use it on the forum. I'm simply using the URL of the link you posted.

    Hope this helps image


  • Thanks a lot, KJ. It looks like the easiest way to post a photo is to upload it here and then do what you did and use this URL.

    By the way, are any pictures posted of your National Park stamps. They must be beautiful
  • KentuckyJKentuckyJ Posts: 1,871 ✭✭✭

    > By the way, are any pictures posted of your National Park stamps. They must be beautiful

    fry46, thanks for the nice compliment image
    I do hope to add pics of each stamp later this year.


  • Good thread, lots of nice stamp pics. Seems a shame to have to break up a block. Soome really good stamp info too. image
  • Once again a blast from the past around 2 1/2 years ago exactly when I went back to my dreary/slave job. Almost makes me shed a tear... HA
  • On the original topic, I'd just add that I remember an article a couple of years ago or so in the US Classics journal that had to do with centering and margins on blocks of officials. They included mock blocks that were actually graded by someone at PSE. Each stamp in the block was assigned a grade. I think that would be one workable way to grade blocks. As a policy matter - or what's good for the hobby, I'm all for it, as I think it's too bad that there is such an incentive to break up excellent blocks. Once their broken, they can't really be put back together image

  • "Once their broken, they can't really be put back together."

    Kind of like Humpty Dumpty.

    Yes it would be nice to see blocks stay together and be graded. I think PSE would have to charge a bit more for having to check so much area and so many possible flaws like creased perfs between stamps, perf separations (imagine how easy it would be to miss a few on a plate block of 6) besides all the possibilities for flaws that just one single stamp presents. It would be neat to see encapsulated blocks. I had suggested they grade the 279B booklet panes and they wrote me for suggestions on how I would recommend grading them, but I'm not sure I could give any expertise on that as I have never even owned one of the panes. I do think panes would be a good start as they are usually kept as a whole by collectors anyway so it would make sense for them to be graded that way. Also suggested the grading of pane singles but without the deduction grade for straightedges since that's the way they are produced. Anyway I digress, but maybe in the future we will see graded blocks.
  • Just saw this today on the PSE website:

    << <i>NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., July 16 - Professional Stamp Experts (PSE) today announced that effective August 1, 2009 they will begin assigning a grade to U.S. Plate Blocks and Blocks of Four. PSE President Michael Sherman noted "a great deal of time and study went into a methodology to ensure a fair and consistent grade that we could assign to blocks. We will be placing a single grade on a block, not grades on the four (or six) individual stamps. If and when the block is broken up, the stamps will need to be regraded as singles."

    As a special introductory offer to kick off the new program, PSE will offer to add a grade to any plate block or block of four it has expertized in the past two years (certificate dated on or after August 1, 2007) for a flat fee of only $20. This introductory offer expires Dec. 31, 2009.

    I think that's great! What do the block collectors out there think?

  • I am not a block collector but I like it. It should help in the preservation of multiples.
  • Well I thought it would come eventually. Now I wonder if it will include booklet panes? It should, since even blocks of 4 will be graded.
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