The following are my opinions on some subjects on Fancy Cancels and stamps in general. I’d like to here from other people with their opinions. I’ll gladly post any comments here. Send your ideas by email and let me know if I can use your name/email as reference.


My comments on stamp condition and Fancy Cancels

Fancy Cancels are collected for the cancel. While condition effects price – stamps that are useless in other specialties are quite collectible as fancy cancels. In my auctions I try to describe any damage not obvious in the scan or state if a stamp is particularly nice.

A common cancel unusually well struck becomes a premium item. An uncommon cancel on a pretty ratty stamp is still quite collectable – it’s just worth less then on a sound stamp. I very nice struck but common cancel on a superb, sound but common stamp can be a very good premium item. I like to see a point system, similar to what the Stamp Experts do, to evaluate the value of a fancy cancel. In the end though, it all comes down to how much you like it.

How do you collect Fancy Cancels – or stamps in general?

Any way you like. One of the things that I like most about collecting Fancy Cancels is that there is no album to fill. I like having no boundaries or rules for my collections. Of course this is true of stamp collecting in general. If you are new to this great hobby, don’t let anyone (me included) tell you what you should collect or how to collect it. Collect what you like and collect it for the fun of it.

If you follow certain rules you will be more likely to be able to sell your collection in the future. However, that’s not the purpose of collecting – it’s a side benefit. When you no longer want your stamps – they can have residual value, but that’s a poor reason to collect.

What is a Fancy Cancel?

I’ve seen and discussed many definitions of what constitutes a Fancy Cancel.

My definition is: Any stamp with a cancel that gives it interest beyond the stamp itself. I really don’t care if it’s a pictorial cancel, a geometric, a number, a postmark or just a colorful blob. In fact I like socked on the nose circular date stamps.

I’d like to hear from other people how they define them. I’ll gladly post any comments here. Send your definition by email and let me know if I can use your name/email as reference.

How Much is a Fancy Cancel Worth?

As with everything, it is a matter of opinion. As I said above, fancy cancel collectors will keep stamps that other collectors will reject. Bill Weiss has an excellent state of this in his book on New york Foreign Mails, I’ll quote this one day if I remember to get permission from him to post it. One important factor in prices for Fancy Cancels is the quantity in which they are purchased. As with any stamps (or other purchases) one can buy thousands of these for less then a dollar each and find a mix of stamps form a few pennies to many dollars. Purchased individually one must pay for the dealers handling.

A worthless 3 cent green with a tear and a thin with a boldly struck unlisted shield is still worth a few dollars. The same stamp would be thrown away without it. The same shield on a perfect 3 cent green might go for $30 to $75. With a listed shield the value might go up to $35 to as much as $100. Depends on the shield. If it is a complex shield the value goes up. If it’s a Waterbury the value goes up. A shield with stars is more valuable. One with an eagle is even more so.

What about a shield on a 7 cent Banknote? The value could go up considerably. A perfect 160 catalogs about $90 – might sell for close to that in VF/XF. With a shield cancel – let’s say a simple, but nice one – it might go for $135 – or even more. It depends on just how pretty it is and how many people want it that week.

65s catalog $2.50 each and can be bought for pennies each in quantity. With a mix of ordinary Fancy Cancels they can sell for a dollar or two each. With nice cancels – the skies the limit.

The classic example of the value of a Fancy Cancel is the Running Chicken. The famous cover has a strip of three of the 1c 1869 (112) on a very nice cover. My guess is that that cover without the cancel would sell for a few thousand dollars – maybe. With the Running Chicken it last sold for $275,000.

Of the four main books that I use (Cole, Skinner & Eno, Weiss and Herst) only Herst tried to give a value range. He was a stamp dealer so I guess we can understand that. Weiss is an auctioneer and he only give three indications – Common, Scarce and Rare. Cole uses a range of factors from –I to III+. I find this quite useful, but I disagree with some of his values. Skinner & Eno gives no indication of values or scarcity – nice project for someone.

So what’s a Fancy Cancel worth? Depends on just how pretty it is and who wants to pay for it.