Archive for June, 2008

Plain Pieces of Paper

June 22, 2008

A copy of “The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 5: Supplementary Volume” arrived a few days ago, & I’d like to blog about its LMLK content in my next message, but I already know it’s going to take me several weeks to skim through it all carefully, so in the meantime, I thought it would make sense to write a little filler-message this week. I’ve been house-hunting the past few weeks, & that ongoing activity may delay my next message even further.

After learning in January, 2005 that LMLK postage stamps existed, I began monitoring their sales on eBay, & archiving every single auction that included one or more of them. To date, I’ve stored over 1,900 listings in my database.

I won the very first listing I encountered, which turned out to be one of the most valuable pieces of my collection … a Tel Aviv FDC with an unusual arrangement of the stamps: the 65m & 20m in the bottom row are shifted to the right to align with the 5m & 3m in the top row. Out of more than 150 FDCs that have appeared on the market in the past 3 1/2 years, that’s the only one I’ve seen with any arrangement other than the usual upside-down-pyramid one. And I won it for significantly less than what an ordinary one typically sells for ($5; I won this one for $3 plus 80-cents of modern postage)! I didn’t even know it was rare when I bought it!

Some day I’d like to thoroughly analyze my database, & compile some useful statistics, but earlier this month, someone set a new price-record, so I thought it would be fun to take a break from house-hunting, & document this special sale.

Aside from large panes & sheets, the most valuable configuration is the vertical-gutter tab (VGT). I’m terribly bad at making smart financial investments (one reason I’m reluctant to buy an expensive home), & this phenomenon puzzles me. Each sheet of 300 stamps with 60 tabs contains 4 VGTs. This is the only one I own, a used 3-mil specimen:

A set of 5 ordinary LMLK stamps costs about $5. A set of 5 ordinary tabbed stamps costs about $100. That’s a huge difference considering that the tabs themselves originally had no financial value when they were issued. The magic of philately is similar to the magic of compound interest. Each VGT consists of 2 stamps, 2 tabs, & 2 plain-white pieces of paper. But instead of being valued at $210 per set of 5, here are the sale prices in my eBay archive:

  • $1,850.00 – Mar-30-05 (ID# 5568068593)
  • $1,999.99 – Feb-16-05 (ID# 5558636922)
  • $2,750.00 – Jun-09-07 (ID# 160123702139)
  • $2,177.99 – Jun-13-07 (ID# 190120526053)
  • $2,750.00 – Jan-02-08 (ID# 350009715899)
  • $3,150.00 – Jan-02-08 (ID# 350009715841)
  • $3,495.00 – Apr-29-08 (ID# 110246046391)
  • $2,850.00 – May-28-08 (ID# 110255026647)
  • $3,546.00 – Jun-06-08 (ID# 130226952412)

This list is a little misleading if you’re not a philatelist:

The $1850 set was used/postmarked.

The $1999 set contained one hinged value (20m).

The $2177 set was hinged!

The 1st $2750 set contained 2 fake specimens (surgically reattached perfs; not mentioned by the seller, & obviously not noticed by the buyer), & the 2nd $2750 set contained one torn value (65m).

So immediately, you can see the market-rarity of these, in that only 4 mint-never-hinged (MNH) sets have been available via eBay in the past 3 1/2 years (about 1 per year; I’ve seen a few others in mail-order auction catalogs, but don’t have time to research their sale values).

But now compare these VGTs to what I believe are far nicer to collect & own: sheet-hearts!

Appropriately similar phonetically to “sweet-hearts”, these configurations are sweet because there are only 2 per sheet, & they consist of 12 stamps, plus 2 each of the serial-number, control-slug, & pane-triangle margin elements. Because they have serial numbers, your sweet/sheet-heart truly belongs to you! No 2 heart-number pairs are alike in the entire series of printed sheets! As an added bonus, they contain 4 of those plain-white pieces of paper known as gutters, which means they include 2 vertical-gutter configurations.

The most significant difference, however, is that sheet-hearts have no LMLK message since that’s only featured on the tabs running along 2 of the sheet’s 4 edges:

Flying Scroll:
“LMLK”

Seal Stamped
on the Wine & Oil
Jugs Given as Tax to the King

How does this affect their value? Based on paper-content & quantities made in 1948, they should be at least twice as expensive as VGTs. Let’s see (again, in chronological order):

  • $1,301.50 – Feb-16-05 (ID# 5556849217)
  • $875.00 – Mar-15-05 (ID# 5564564278)
  • $1,250.00 – Aug-22-05 (ID# 5606328477)
  • $511.01 – Oct-09-05 (ID# 5621375110)
  • $1,275.00 – Dec-27-07 (ID# 120200850385)

All of these were MNH in quality (i.e., the best possible). So there you have it: More stamps, more uniqueness, more margin elements, more colorful, more plain-white pieces of paper, & fewer available on the market … but less LMLK descriptions, & hence, less than half as valuable.

You might be thinking that the LMLK message makes VGTs more valuable, but you’d be extremely wrong. Without the plain pieces of paper forming the gutters, VGTs would be simply VTs: vertical tabs. Those sets typically contain an extra pair of stamps, like in this photo (except without the color-band margin strip along the bottom):

Over the past few years, 7 sets have sold for only $130.27 to $350!

So the extra 2-3 grand of value is buried in the gutter … those plain pieces of sticky, white paper!

Go figure.

Song of the week: “In The Moneylender’s Temple” by Ian Anderson (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 28-second sample; 360kb).
G.M. Grena

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