This badly damaged stamp – the 90-cent face value of the 1869 Pictorial set (Scott #122) -- not even of album-space-filler quality, sold recently in an eBay auction for the ridiculous price of $434, while it would have a catalog market value of $1,900 as very fine.
This horrid stamp appears to have been put through a washing machine, dryer and a microwave after being extricated from tomato sauce atop a spaghetti dinner as if it were a bay leaf. Some collector was apparently so desperate to fill an album space he had no concern for his very high bid to win this unfortunate, bedraggled stamp. It is likely the worst stamp I have ever seen since I began collecting at age 8.
However, no attractive copies of this issue are available for under $1,000, as you may see on all auction sites. But the $434 paid for this worthless adhesive might have been better spent for many nice stamps -- less rare, perhaps, but considerably more attractive and having an actual value among collectors.
The stamp shows multiple obvious faults. Describing them would take at least a half hour. We should not choose to buy anything so terrible, instead saving our money for better stamps. There are no attractive copies of this stamp available to the common man. Most have ugly cancels obscuring Lincoln's face as well as poor centering. They basically appear aged and beat. Wealthy collectors long ago vacuumed up the excellent-looking copies and now compete for them at high prices as they become available. Copies of VF quality, with attractive cancels or mint, are not seen on internet auction sites or the Buy-It-Now sites we normally frequent. That has been true for decades.
My late friend Don Novicky waited three decades before he finally bought a better copy of #122, mint no gum with VF centering and excellent color, for $950 about 20 years ago. It was at least a-one-in-a-thousand find regardless of its selling price. His patience and perseverance resulted in finding that great stamp.
The lesson here: look before you pounce -- and let the stamp pass if it appears to be too costly or worthless, as was the case with the one shown here in my opinion.
Collecting the classic stamps of Mexico becomes decidedly one of the most challenging endeavors in the philatelic world for anyone seriously involved. It requires a range of resources: ready cash, reference material, making friends and wiliness to listen and learn.
If we were to define these classics as being issued and used from 1856 to 1883, the 149 stamps so defined involve 11 design categories, all basically overprinted with district names or numbers and having different cancels. To begin the exercise of identifying the stamps within each category, special references listing their district names and numbers as well as distinct cancels are required.
The stamps were marked with district names or numbers for each of the issuing post offices to enforce the integrity of the overall Mexico mail system. This objective was designed to eliminate or curtail stamp thievery, forgery or misuse. In that their time, persons mailing a letter or package from any post office throughout Mexico were required to use the correct marked stamps for that location. As a result, the 149 stamps in the classic category bear in total many different district markings and cancels.
Fortunately, the effort to enforce integrity and financial wellbeing in the Mexican mails involved the meticulous keeping of records regarding each stamp sold and ones that went unused as the 11 categories of them unfolded over their 28 calendar years. Philatelists using these historical records have been able in large part to determine which surviving stamps are rare or common in as much as some districts used very few or none of each type of stamp and others, many. Therefore, in determining how much any collector might pay for any of the stamps, the idea of rarity versus market demand has been developed to determine their individual offering price.
As a general guideline of what is rare or common in terms of cost, collectors gravitate to the Scot Specialized Catalog of Stamps and Covers. A lot of dealers use that catalog to set the prices of their offerings including the Mexican classics without regard to the actual worth of those stamps determined by relative scarcity and market demand. To provide a fairer context, Nick Follansbee, a leading Mexican expert and auctioneer of these stamps, developed a catalog covering the period of 1856 to 1910 to aid collectors in identifying each stamp and understanding its value.
Follansbee’s catalog and understanding his method of determining value is beneficial but only a starting point in the adventure of collecting the Mexican classic issues. Other references pertaining to the specific category one might choose to collect are also essential along with a copy of a Peter Tayor’s Postmarks of Mexico 1821 to 1883. Specific references for the Hidalgo, Eagle, Maximillion, 1868 stamp, and Juarez issues are available along with one monograph devoted entirely to just the first blue half-real Hidalgo stamp of Mexico. References may be found at the American Philatelic Society library or the Mexican Elmhurst Philatelic Society International site htps://mail.mepsi.org . This online site includes a list of dealers that offer the whole plethora of Mexican stamps from the classics to contemporary issues as well as digital references to use directly or purchase in CD form. Collectors of Mexican stamps would benefit from joining MEPSI, which publishes the “Mexicana” periodical on all aspects of Mexico philately. Dues are $35 per year. Getting acquainted with Mexican stamp dealers, participating in their auctions or meeting with them at shows is also a plus.