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.