I have a question for you. I like peanut butter. Jif Extra Crunchy peanut butter is my favorite. Where do I find just the regular crunchy version? The only two kinds are Creamy and Extra Crunchy.

This is nothing against Jif. Marketing guru’s do this all of the time to many products. Talk down the aisle of any grocery store or department store. How many products use terms like “New and Improved”, “Extra”, “Superior”, “Unmatched”, and so forth. Your brain (the consumer) is tricked into believing that you’re getting something extra or something special. You’re not just getting plain old crunchy peanut butter. You’re getting the Extra crunchy version.

Here is the key point. Many times, the use of these superlatives is unchallenged. Who says it’s extra crunchy? Extra compared to what? Can I contest that claim? Can you show me evidence at how you arrived at the claim of being extra crunchy?

The same is true with stamps. Yes, there are some very special stamps that are of very high quality and warrant such descriptions. However, just like the rest of the business world, sometimes these descriptions are overused or abused.

When you look at an auction catalog or a pricelist and every other stamp is of the “highest quality”, “a superb gem”, “magnificent centering”, or “worthy of the finest collection”, is that really true?

To me, if I look at that superb stamp and I compare it to, say, a dozen other stamps of that same catalog number, that superb stamp should REALLY stick out like a sore thumb that it is blatantly obvious that it really is better than the other ordinary copies. The margins should be huge all around. The centering should be mathematically perfect. To me, if it doesn’t really stand out, then I think the description is misleading or incorrect. It may still be a nice stamp and maybe worth a small premium, but is it really worth 10, 20, or more times the normal catalog value if it’s not obvious to the naked eye that this is a superior stamp?

When such stamps have a graded certificate done by a third party with no financial stake in that item, then I believe it. Those stamps with grades of 95 or higher are many times the cream of the crop and they demand premium values. But when there is no certificate and it isn’t an eye popping example, then I’m skeptical.

My advice to you is this. If you’re interested in premium items (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that), stand back and look at the item. Is it an eye popping example? If so, get out your checkbook and be prepared to a higher price. If the item doesn’t really stand out in your mind, are you willing to pay a large premium price? If you do, there is a risk that later on, someone is going to look at that same stamp and say, “Yes, it’s nice. It’s worth double catalog value.” And you’re looking at a loss because you paid ten times catalog value when you bought it. Ouch!