Questions and Answers

CSA Qustions & Answers

17 DEC 1997

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Q 3 - Can you make some comments with regard to the condition of Confederate Stamps particularly with regard to the gum? I like to collect Original Gum Never Hinged stamps but find that is next to impossible with regards to Confederate stamps.

A 3 - This is a question I get very frequently from collectors who are only just beginning to express an interest in Confederate stamps. Approximately 20-30 years ago, the craze for Original Gum Never Hinged stamps began to take hold particularly with the appearance of Hingeless Albums and much better quality stamp mounts. Before then, collectors really did not pay very much attention to the back of the stamp and very simply hinged the stamps into their albums. Collecting OG NH stamps is quite appropriate when dealing with Sand Dunes, Disney Topicals, commemoratives of the last 50-60 years, etc. But when this craze is carried on into the stamps of the 19th century, then it becomes totally ridiculous. The collectors who absolutely insist on OG NH 19th Century stamps have caused huge premiums to be added to these stamps and have opened the door to a vast regumming industry in order to fool these collectors.

But the case of Confederate Stamps is somewhat different. Of the 17 major CSA stamps, two (CSA #6 and CSA #14) were printed in London by De La Rue. These are extremely high quality stamps with a thin colorless gum which has stood the test of time very well. These two stamps can fairly easily be obtained in OG NH condition. The remainder of the stamps were all printed in various locations in the South (please refer to the "Inroduction" section of the web site for more details) often using inferior materials. The paper is often thick and coarse, the quality of the inks is variable, and gum is generally an organic based gum (the old fashion horse glue) which is often quite thick. In general, the gum used on these CSA stamps was terrible. After all, the gum was only meant to affix the stamp to an envelope in order to send a letter and not to remain in pristine "post office fresh" condition for centuries. The South can be a hot and humid place. This caused much of the gum to crack and crease and discolor. This is seen quite commonly on the CSA #7, #8, #11, #12, #13 stamps as many of these are still found with the Original Gum. This is not so much a problem with the Stone Lithographs because most of these have had the gum long since removed. Collectors in times past actually soaked off the gum on purpose because they knew that the gum would ultimately severely damage and even destroy the stamp. If it were not for these collectors soaking off the gum in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we would not have these stamps to collect today. That is why so many of the CSA stamps are found today without gum. In fact it is most rare to find a provisional stamp today with gum. The Scott Catalog values the provisional stamps as without gum and the General Issue Stamps both with some OG and also with No Gum. Regumming of CSA stamps has not really been a significant problem because the knowledgeable collector knows how terrible the original gum really was so a regumming process would not really fool any serious collector of these stamps. With our climate control, air-conditioning, and advanced methods of preservation, we can today safely store stamps with gum. But that was certainly not the case 100 years ago.

I can only repeat what I tell all potentially new Confederate Collectors. Collecting Confederate Stamps is really all about History and not about the back of the stamp. If you are a collector who is only interested in Original Gum Never Hinged "Post Office Fresh" absolutely flawless material and have no interest in the History, than stay with your modern commemoratives and your Disney topicals because Confederate Collecting is not for you. A complete Confederate Stamp Collection with such lofty criteria is essentially unobtainable. But if you do have an appreciation of the History, than Confederate Collecting can be a highly rewarding experience.

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