Essential Guide To Condition
The edges of the stamp should be perfect. Most stamps have perforations (lines of small holes between rows of stamps that make them easy to tear and separate). The perforations must be complete. Missing perforations mean a cover is completely ruined.
The stamps should be stuck flat with no air bubbles, lumps, bumps or creases.
The postmark should be clear. You want to be able read the date and place.
The postmark should touch each stamp once and link them to the envelope.
The envelope should be clean. On earlier issues always stand back and have a look at the cover, to make sure it is up to your standard. Pick the one with the cleanest envelope, the neatest address and nicely laid out stamps.
Be careful with addresses. Royal Mail has a rule that everything sent to be postmarked must have an address on it, which is why you will see our Internet Stamps printed in small type at the bottom right of our covers. However, collectors have high standards. Small printed dealers addresses or peelable labels are acceptable. Handwritten ink addresses are only acceptable on issues up to 1953 (The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II). Between 1953 and 1971 (Decimalization), you should try and get covers with a neat typed or label address. From 1971, collectors expect a neat label, light pencil or ideally no address at all (unless it is a very, very rare cover). We strongly recommend that you don’t put your name and address on a cover. It may personalize it for you but it completely devalues the cover if you want to sell it in the future.
Not Essential But Nice-To-Have Extras
Stamps arranged in value order. Ideally, the stamps will be stuck in value order, starting with the lowest value (usually 2nd class) and moving to the highest value (which can be as high as £1.12 or more!). While some collectors feel the order of the stamps is very important, most are not too bothered providing the cover is in good condition (see points listed above). Sometimes, our designer will deliberately change the order of the stamps to improve the overall look of the cover. For example, our Jane Eyre stamps cover deliberately has the wrong numerical order because we wanted to avoid putting two grey stamps next to each other which would upset the colour balance of the overall design.
Perfection! Although the overall condition is very important, it is a mistake to get too hung up on tiny details. You could go cross-eyed checking whether stamps are stuck on perfectly straight. Also, if a cover has been carried onboard a ship or plane and then signed, it is not going to be completely pristine. Slight fingernail marks or dents from where the signer has picked up the cover or very slight dog-earned corners are all tributes to the cover's adventures. It would be more suspicious if the cover looked perfect in these cases. Traveled covers always have a story to tell. If you are not sure, ask our advice. We are care about building long-term relationships with our customers so we will tell you the truth!