You just made the discovery of a lifetime. You found an error on a new US stamp what is it worth? That is a very difficult question to answer. Hereís why.

If itís a stamp that is still in production, how many more errors will be found? Is your copy unique? Will more copies follow? Letís look at a couple examples.

Scott #2198-2201 is the Stamp Collecting booklet issued for the Ameripex 86 Philatelic Exhibition. It didnít take long and a few booklets were found with the black color omitted. Instantly, prices started to rise. It wasnít long and more booklets missing the black ink were found. The supply is going up which means the price is going down. As errors go, this is a common one. Today it has a Scott catalog value of $42.50. They are readily available. Those who were lucky and sold early at a high price made some money. Those who bought early found out that they overpaid.

Scott #1895 is the 20Ę Flag over the Supreme Court issue. Itís one of the most common errors available. It has a catalog value of a mere $8. The supply is huge and demand is low. Hence, the low price.

Look at Scott #C3a, the famous Inverted Jenny. Eugene Klein paid $15,000 for the sheet on behalf of Colonel Green who was the actual purchaser of the sheet. Why such a high price for a new error? There are a couple of reasons.

Eugene Klein wasnít buying the sheet for himself. He was buying it on behalf of Colonel Green. If more inverts were found, it was Colonel Green that was taking the risk, not Mr., Klein. When the sheet was sold, several weeks had gone by with no reports of additional errors. Given the publicity the invert received at the time, if other copies were found, they probably would have been well publicized too. And lastly, the error was well known to the USPOD. These stamps were only available at a few post offices. And all the clerks were keenly aware of their existence. Chances of another inverted sheet of stamps escaping the clutches of the USPOD were very low. When the sheet was sold, it was very likely that it was going to be the only one known.

Scott #1204 is the Dag Hammarskjold issue. Initially, only a few errors were known including a full, mint pane of fifty. Then the USPOD decided to reprint the error which destroyed much of the value of the original error. The unique discovery pane was donated to the American Philatelic Society years ago. It has some value, but will probably never come on the market. A few covers that are postmarked before Nov 16, 1962 are known. They are worth a few thousand dollars each because they can only be from the original error and not the reprint. Imagine what would have happened to the price if a dealer bought the original sheet for, say, $50,000. Only to see the investment vaporize overnight when the USPOD decided to reprint the error. Ouch!

Here are a few things to consider when determining the value of an error stamp.

First, is it a commemorative or regular issue? Commemoratives have lower print quantities compared to regular issues. Therefore, commemoratives have a lower percentage of errors. Also, commemoratives are on sale for about a year. Regular issues may be printed and available for many years. An error on a regular issue today may show up in large quantities five years from now when more are printed.

Second, what caused the error? Was it a normal production item or an error during production? For example, suppose you have a missing color error on a stamp. What caused the missing color? If the web of paper was torn and part of the paper folded over causing the stamps to miss some of the printed ink, thatís not something that happens normally during production. In this case, the error may be unique because of the unusual circumstance that created it. Conversely, were the stamps normally printed and maybe the missing color was due to an ink well running dry? If the ink well ran dry, there could be hundreds or thousands of errors printed until a pressman noticed the empty ink well and added more ink to the printing press. How many of those errors escaped the inspection process?

There are other considerations in determining the value of a new error, but these are two important ones.

If you find an error on a current issue and decide to sell it right away, donít be surprised if the offer from a dealer is pretty low, perhaps in the tens or hundreds of dollars. Why? The dealer is taking a risk that more copies are not found. If the dealer buys it and suddenly more copies are found, heís going to lose money. If no more copies are found, the error could be worth thousands and the dealer will reap a large reward. Itís all about assuming risk. And honestly, a dealer who buys your error is probably going to sell it right away to a collector for a reasonable profit. There is a risk in holding on to it. A dealer will probably sell it within days or weeks of buying it from you.

Valuing newly discovered errors on current stamps is a difficult task. I hope this has enlightened you on some of the considerations that go into developing these prices.