Postage stamp grading and condition

The basics each stamp collector should know


When it comes to determining the value of stamps, it is very important to know the basics of stamps grades and conditions. And in the hobby of stamp collection one should be able to get to know the price of his philatelic item in order to appraise it adequately. So, what should you know to grade and determine the condition of postage stamp in the right way? Let`s consider this issue in the following article.

 Postage stamp grading

The term grade often refers to the centering and cancellations of a postage stamp. The condition is often defined while determining the state of perforations, gum, color fading, tears or some damages, reperforations etc. 

Professional stamps collectors may use various techniques to appraise some postal item, however for an a average one it will be difficult to grade his stamp without some extra help. If you do not have a possibility to turn to a professional, you can use special software or some sites that are very popular among stamp collectors in the web. 

 Postage stamp grading


What is a stamp condition?

The stamp condition is determined with the help of some physical characteristics of a postage stamp. To define what condition some particular item has, it should undergo a special procedure: it should be dipped. After it one can see its faults and drawbacks such as chemical changes in color, non-postal marks like crayons or pens, tears or repairs that can only be seen under the special lightning etc. 

One more important thing to consider while determining the condition of a postage stamp is to pay attention to its gum that can vary increasingly. With this purpose you should know the main types of the stamp gum`s condition.  They are subdivided into the following categories:

 Stamp gum

  • Original gum: this gum can be found on mint stamps, that is on stamps that have not been used before;
  • Regummed. This type of gum is usually reapplied by a professional stamp dealer to improve the condition of a stamp; 
  • Unhinged, a regummed stamp that has not been affixed to a hinge or stamps mount;
  • Stamps without gum or ungummed. These are the stamps that have no gum or adhesive on their flip sides. This type of stamps may have been produced intentionally or the gum was removed by soaking.
  • The stamps as well as gum that have not been used. These are no gum and regummed stamps;
  • Hinged gum – a stamp that saved the traces of hinged mount. The stamp may have vivid or not so vivid hinges;
  • Thinned stamps: these are the philatelic items the gum of which was removed with the little paper;
  • Never hinged: it is a philatelic item that has its original gum that has been never used and glued


To grade the stamp, one should also determine the stamp perforation`s condition the types of which are subdivided according to the following criteria:

 Stamp perforation

  • Imperforations: a stamp that was produced without any perforation and can be only separate from the others items in a sheet with the help of scissors or some other types of cutters.
  • Straight edges: these are stamps that have the straight edges and do not have perf teeth ;
  • Reperforation: these are the stamps that were produced with straight edges and only after some time they were perforated so that they obtained teeth;
  • Blunt perforations: this is the characteristic of a stamp that has shorter than average perforation teeth;
  • Pulled perforations: it is a type perforation where portion of the philatelic item`s design can be seen on its perf teeth;
  • Blind perforations: that is the type of perforations that has not been fully punched that is why some paper has been left on the places where the holes should be.


What is stamp grade?

Each stamp collector either professional or amateur one should know the basics of how to grade stamps or other philatelic item correctly. So, let`s consider these basic rules in this section. The grading of a stamp varies from poor to the excellent. Of course, the stamps with superb grading are more precious for philatelists.

 Stamp grade

  • Poor grade (P) means that the stamp design is not centered and perforations are cut far into the design. These are usually some damaged stamps as their cancellations are of the poor quality and the stamp`s image is hardly visible because of it. 
  • Average grade (A) means that the stamps can have few flaws (for example it may be clightly cut or the cancellation mark is to thick). Of course, the condition of this stamp is not perfect and is closer to the previous one , the item does not has vivid tears and serious flaws. 
  • Fine grade (F) means that the stamp’s design barely misses its perforations but they do not cut into the design. The margins of the stamps are arranged disproportionately.  it is either the top and bottom are perfectly balanced while the left and right sides are unbalanced or the other way around.
  • Fine to very fine grade (F-VF). This type of design predisposes slightly off-centered arrangement and the item itself is clear from perforations.
  • Very fine grade (VF). The design of such a stamp is almost perfect as it is well centered and the margins are arranged balanced. Used stamps have light cancellations that do not distort the image depicted on an item. In their turn, the perforations are intact and have no faults.
  • Extremely fine grade (XF). This kind of a stamp is almost perfect and its condition is superb. The stamp design is well centered; margins are well-balanced and are wider than usual. Mint stamps have original gum that is in good condition. Used philatelic items have light and neat cancellations.
  • Superb grade (S). This condition predisposes that the stamp design is perfectly centered and perfect in all aspects and is usually scarce; therefore such a stamp is considered to be the most valuable. Most rare philatelic items are characterized by S condition. 


Another important aspect in stamp grading is postage stamp identification. The age of stamps and its rarity are also crucial to know the postage stamps prices.

Hopefully, this article will be helpful in grading and evaluating your stamp. If you still hesitates whether you will be able to grade your philatelic item on your own, our website will help you in with this issue.