What it means to be superb

The Stamp Man

The Stamp Man

2020-07-21 11:12:37

Six of the best – Perfect Quality British Rarities

When I use the word “superb” to describe the quality of a stamp, it isn’t selling hyperbole. 

The word “superb” in a stamp’s description is technical in nature and represents the stamp’s condition grading.

Needless to say, “superb” is the highest grade possible.

It’s not a word you will hear often.

I take the accurate describing of the stamps we offer to our clients very seriously. It is, in fact, the bedrock to our business model.

The definition of superb

The introductory pages to the Stanley Gibbons catalogues define what their catalogue values mean in relation to condition as follows:

“They are, unless it is specifically stated otherwise, for examples in fine condition for the issue concerned. Superb examples are worth more, those of a lower quality, considerably less”.

So, what does it mean to be superb?

The simple definition is superb means perfect.

A more detailed definition is a stamp where the design is perfectly centred, free of any defects and perfect in all aspects. For mint stamps, it has full original and undisturbed gum with no trace of damage done by a stamp hinge or any gum discolouration.

Old stamps in this condition are an anomaly and barely ever seen. For some stamp issues there is no such thing as a superb example. None have survived in that condition.

Obviously, the superb condition grade is more common for modern issues. Because of this, there is a further requirement of the grade of “superb” that the stamp must also be scarce.

Why superb stamps are the best investments

The old saying “quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten” is so true.

In the stamp world, quality means more value and, for the highest grade of quality, it can mean values significantly above SG catalogue values.

On the flipside, it is important to be aware that poor quality stamps generally sell for huge discounts to catalogue values. That’s because they are common. In short, they are the condition found in most stamp collections we are offered. Stamps in average condition or below are not rare and this will always be reflected in their value.

Superb condition stamps on the other hand are rarely ever found, sometimes never.

They can sell for considerably more than catalogue values.

This is because it is the most discerning collectors with the deepest pockets who focus on only buying the absolute best quality possible.

Over the past 20 years, I have witnessed a marked shift in buying attitudes. The market has become more condition focussed with the gap in prices for high quality compared to average quality examples widening.

At auction, the majority of stamps which realise prices above catalogue values fall into two categories:

  1. Stamps so rare they are only ever available to buy once in a generation 
  2. Stamps in superb condition, which is rarely ever seen 

The premiums for the top condition examples can be huge, double or even more.

We can also again look at Stanley Gibbons catalogues for further evidence of this…

As an example, the SG catalogue quotes a price for a fine used example of the famous £5 Orange, plate 1 stamp at £3,500. The price quoted for a well-centred used example is +75% (£6,125).

I think buying the highest condition grade superb examples is the best investment you can make in stamps.

The market evolution taking place is evident as the internet enables better education of buyers. Superb quality, being so ridiculously difficult to find, I believe will become even more appreciated and valued in the years ahead.

Six of the best for you

Despite the exceptional rarity of the condition grade “superb”, I actually have six examples of this quality you can purchase from me today.

Now I will use some selling hyperbole.

These six examples are not just “superb”, they are absolutely fabulous. This is why… 

  1. Rarities with a superb condition grading
  2. Available at zero premium to catalogue values
  3. Look underpriced in the catalogue relative to their rarity and remain surprisingly affordable
  4. Show very attractive growth rates in the past 20 years in the catalogue, providing confidence in their long term performance as a tangible asset investment 

Let’s go…

Great Britain Queen Victoria Surface Printed 1880 4d grey brown plate 17 (watermark Garter), SG154. Superb unused original gum example lettered CJ with beautiful colour and gum. Very scarce in this condition and fine. 

Price: £2,800


A superb quality Queen Victoria surface printed stamp from 1880, the most popular area of British stamp collecting.

Most examples from this period have poor centring and were used for postage. This stamp, having been printed perfectly (which was rare), has somehow survived 140 years without incurring any injuries and has proven immune to ageing.

Although it still seems great value at a price of £2,800, it has also proven a sound investment in the past 20 years. It has increased in value from £800 in 2000 to £2,800 today (250% growth).

Great Britain 1885 5 shilling Rose (I.R. Official, blued paper), SGO8var. Superb unused original gum example lettered overprinted "SPECIMEN" type 11. GB Specialised Catalogue Number: L7(1)s. Accompanied by a 2004 British Philatelic Association (BPA) Certificate of Authenticity. 

Price: £2,750


Inland Revenue (I.R.) Official stamps have become an increasingly popular area of collecting in recent years.

These high value stamps were used exclusively by the Inland Revenue and Tax Collector office.

They were never supposed to be sold or otherwise made available to the public. Some slipped through the net thanks to an underground trade in operation meaning a small number ended up in the hands of collectors.

This example is of remarkable quality. It is most aesthetically pleasing with its vibrant rose colour and perfect centring.

It is also a rare “SPECIMEN” example meaning it was used solely by postal administrations for reference purposes to help spot any attempted forgeries.

As this area of the market has been increasingly popular in the past 20 years, the 5 shilling rose specimen has increased in the catalogue from a price of £500 to £2,750 (450%).

Great Britain 1891 £1 green, SG212s. A superb unmounted original gum, well centred example lettered CC, overprinted "SPECIMEN" type 11. An absolute revelation in quality of a stamp very rarely seen so fine. 

Price: £1,350


Firstly, I must apologise. My assistant seems to have scanned this one squint. This beauty deserves better treatment than that! 

That misdemeanour aside, the quality of this famous Queen Victorian Specimen example is an absolute revelation. I didn’t expect to ever find an example in perfect condition and you can imagine my excitement on first laying eyes on this one.

The famous “Long One Pound” stamp is widely recognised as the brightest Victorian stamp issue. Although, in typical form, many new budding philatelists of the day were not impressed with this design which didn’t fit properly in their stamp album.

It did not survive long and was only in issue a short time.

It also appears incredible value at its current price of just £1,350, and is worth far more than this in my opinion.

Great Britain King George V Essay 1912 8d Trials of Eve's Pillar Design, SG390var. Superb block of four imperforate trials printed in black on white glazed card with graduated shading behind head. Fig. 33c. Scarce and attractive.

Price: £2,500


This block of four imperforate trial essays, showing graduated shading behind the head of King George V, is a philatelic masterpiece of perfection.

These essays represent the design for the proposed Trials of Eve’s Pillar Design from 1912 submitted to the postal authorities for consideration. They were rejected and not used until alterations were made.

Essays are known for their excessive rarity as just a few are produced.

Such specialised rarities have less liquidity in the market than for standard stamp issues. However, they are the devotion of the ardent philatelist. They have been known to realise record auction prices when two such ardent collectors battle it out to secure something only one of them can ever own.

Great Britain King George V 1915 10s Blue, SG412. Superb unmounted mint original gum top marginal example printed by De La Rue. GB Specialised Catalogue Number: N70(1). Accompanied by a 2006 Royal Philatelic Society Certificate of Authenticity. 

Price: £4,000


Britain’s longest reigning stamp issue, the seahorses, have always been one of the most popular areas of British philately.

The seahorses stamp issue is not only exceptional in design and the quality of engraving, but a powerful marker of history presenting Britain’s arrogance and defiance on the eve of World War I.

This example is the best quality you will find with fresh colour, perfect centring and full unblemished gum. The icing on the cake in terms of quality is the fact it is a top marginal example and therefore much rarer.

It has increased in catalogue value from £1,500 in 2000 to £4,000 today: 167% growth.

Great Britain 1964 1s3d Fringed Water Lilly (watermark inverted). Superb unmounted mint, original gum right hand marginal example of this very difficult to find watermark variety. SG658wi.  

Price: £2,500


Don’t be put off by the fact this superb example is more modern than the rest. It is a rare inverted watermark variety, which is very difficult to find. 

Its exceptional quality is topped up by the fact it is a right hand marginal example, giving it a premium value.

Pierron, the recognised experts on modern British stamp errors and varieties, record only 10 mint examples of this inverted watermark variety. It is known this number includes a cylinder block of four and two examples which are mounted mint. This leaves just four unmounted mint single examples, like this, in existence.

The current value of £2,500 seems modest considering its extreme rarity.

As an investment, the rarity of this modern variety started to be appreciated over the past 20 years. It has risen from a value of £250 in 2000 to £2,500 today, (900% growth).

Own this superb collection today

Let me recap:

  • Six British rare stamps of the highest condition grade
  • The total value of the superb collection is £15,900
  • Catalogue quality examples have shown historic 20-year growth much above average
  • These examples are significantly above catalogue quality yet available for you to purchase today at catalogue value
  • The current catalogue values appear low in comparison to their rarity and desirability meaning there is room for significant future growth in value

If you are keen to secure the superb collection for the price of £15,900, you will need to contact me quickly before any individual stamps in the collection are sold.

You can do that either by responding to this e-mail and we will reserve the collection for you or, alternatively, call us on +44(0)1534 639998.

Adapting Warren Buffett’s famous third rule, it is far better to buy a wonderful stamp at a fair price than a fair stamp at a wonderful price.

Kind regards

Mike Hall

CEO, Just Collecting Limited

PS. Chances to buy the highest condition grade quality of rare stamps from Great Britain are few and far between. This is a golden opportunity to own six of the best.

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