A dear friend and very competent philatelist, George Luzitano, has sent me an expanded comment on my post about How to Evaluate a Cover. I feel this should be presented as a Guest Post.
I would, first, use the following question to give my evaluation direction: What can I learn about and from the cover?
• I would have to determine the probability that the cover is genuine and what status it has regarding whether it represent a genuine extant of a postal service. Yes, there are covers that would be in the fantasy category such as those from Sedang. However, more importantly today, is the cover genuine? There are areas of postal history where the average collector doesn’t know enough to be able to tell if one is being offered a fake.
• That being determined, I would next look at the stamp. Is it genuine? Is it known to have been used in this fashion before? If not, can this cover establish that use as being “normal” for that service?
• What is the nature of the envelope, card or other carrier of the stamp? Is it typical for those obtainable for users at that time and place?
• Can I say that about the material used to seal and mark the cover...that is, ink, seal wax, etc?
• Is paper tape or just any tape required for the sealing of this type of registered (as for registered mail here in the US.)?
• If it is a postal stationary item what is its nature. Various governments have stationary other than envelops, postal cards and wrappers, such as a money remittance envelop.
• What authority accepts this as properly franked to provide the service the covers intends?
• Is that authority a member of the U.P.U.? If not, how far does its authority extend?
• Does the letter appear to have undergone the service requested?
• Then I begin a standard examination of the items placed on the cover: what does the cancellation tying or validating the use of the stamp say: yes, month, day, hour, authority, location posted at, etc.
• Does it show the correct rate? If so, in what currency? Currency issued by whom?
• Is the authority named on the cover, the provider of the service or is a proxy providing that service? If by proxy, what is the nature of that provider’s authority?
• Then there is all the information that can be gathered about the addressor, the addressee.
• Does the cover show any signs of being tampered with, censored, or in any way handled outside of the “normal procedure?”
All of these and many more I would add to Joe’s list. Many seem silly but they are quite serious. We should take nothing for granted.
Of course, there are a whole series of other facts a cover can show. Is it a first day, or earliest known use?
Is it also the earliest known use of any item for the authority or a division of that authority?
The list can go on much further.
I hope this helps provide some useful criteria for evaluating a cover.