By old, I mean pre-1900 material. Not just US stamps, but many stamps of this era have faults. Some faults are very trivial and other faults are more significant. Why? There are a couple of reasons.
These stamps have been in and out of collections and dealers stocks many times over. All of that handling increases the chances that damage may occur.
Collectors didnít really become condition conscious until about the last 50 years. The very first collectors were not concerned about pristine original gum or perfectly centered stamps. They wanted to collect a copy of a stamp for their collection. No one cared if it had gum or not. So what if it was off center or creased?
If you read accounts about early stamp dealers, some dealers used a straight pin to hang up stamps for display. Hinges werenít invented yet. Likewise, the mounts that we are all familiar with today didnít exist. Early collectors used tape, pins, and other forms of ďmountingĒ that would make todayís collector cringe.
Gum was a nuisance. Some early collectors didnít want to be bothered with gum, so they soaked it off. And in some cases, the gum would deteriorate over time and damage the stamp. It was better to preserve the stamp by removing the gum. Stamp printers worried about having the stamp stick to the envelope. They werenít worried if the gum was going to destroy the stamp in another 100+ years.
The Scott catalogs donít list prices for never hinged copies of many early stamps. Why? Because there are few, if any, such copies in existence. Most 100+ year old stamps have been at least hinged sometime during their life. The few never hinged copies that are around today came from larger blocks that were separated where a few of the stamps were not hinged.
Yes, many early stamps are not in perfectly sound condition. This is especially true for mint stamps. Given their age and the way early collectors handled them Ė itís par for the course.