One night last week, when I had finished all my washing and tidying chores early, my wife decided it would be exciting to watch a DVD. She is easily excited so not wishing to disappoint her, I agreed and left the choice to her.

After ten minutes we both felt the film was rather poor and on a steep downhill gradient, but decided to watch it anyway. One of the stars was George Clooney and all I can now remember about the evening was in the films credits, George Clooney not only had his own hairdresser he also had an assistant hairdresser.

Now George is a lucky man. He is blessed with looks not dissimilar to my own and a head of hair perhaps slightly better than mine. In the film his hair was cropped tightly to his head. As an auctioneer and valuer who is follicly challenged, my knowledge on hair care is obviously limited, but as his main hair dresser I am sure I would find a forty hour week hard to maintain and as his hairdressers assistant, who I assume would hand scissors and combs to the hairdresser, I am sure I would find job satisfaction hard to maintain. Perhaps if there were a few other heads of hair to look after life might be a bit more interesting. What that assistant would need as a distraction is a stamp collection.

The collection and study of postage stamps is known as philately and is hugely popular with beginners and specialists alike. The first ever stamp produced was the Penny Black first issued on 1st May 1840. Although it has legendary status it isn’t in fact rare with over 1.5 million still around today. A used stamp still has a reasonable value but the scarce unused versions, could set a collector back many, many times more. The Two-Penny Black, issued a week later, attracts similar prices.

Rare Stamps
Rare Stamps

The market offers huge variety for the stamp collector with over 350 authorities issuing stamps worldwide. Due to this wide range many collectors limit themselves to one area and focus on that. The British Commonwealth is a popular choice with stamps bearing the head of the British monarch, providing a fascinating document of the history of the Empire. As far as value is concerned, more valuable stamps tend to be those with a higher face value as they are rarer.


Value can also be found in the detail. A rare painting or cutting can increase a stamp’s value such as the 1955 one-penny stamp, where a small number of stamps had perforations cut 6mm too high so the bottom of the design appears at the top of the stamp. Cancellation marks or postmarks can also alter value and often certain marks are collected specifically. Occasionally, the Royal Mail actually issue an official variation such as a range with slightly different perforations of self adhesive instead of gummed. The Stanley Gibbons catalogue, a must read for all philatelists, includes these variations but many collectors only discover the variation on reading the catalogue and find the stamps are no longer on general sale, thus the subsequent high demand pushes their value up in the auction room.


Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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