The existence of several groups of perforated medallions is well known to collectors of Belgium.
The first perforated medallions, numbered 13, 14, 15 and 16 in the cob, were perforated 12,5 and
were in use for 117 days. The second group, 13A etc., were perforated 12,5 horizontally, and exist
with several vertical perforations in addition to the 13,5 listed in the cob. This group spanned
640 days. The last group, 13B etc., was perforated 14,5 and was in use for 177 days. Thus, it is
to be expected that the A series would be commoner than the other two, and inspection of large
lots and collections usually bears this out.
To test for any large increase in postal usage through the period 1863-65, I examined my own
collection, which had been accumulated randomly with regard to perforation. The stamps of the
third group account for 18,5 percent of the total, very nearly the percentage of the days in use.
It would be necessary to study a much larger sample of these stamps than I have done to obtain
statistically reliable information here. Provisionally, however, I shall ignore the increase in
postal use, which permits an estimation of the numbers of stamps issued in each group to be deduced
from the totals given in the cob. These are shown in Table 1, in which the numbers are in thousands.
|16|| 734||16A|| 4065||16B||1091|
Some years ago I found a formula relating the prices of stamps in the cob to their rarity, that is,
the reciprocal of the number of stamps in existence. The highest-valued charity stamps were chosen
for the study on the basis that few of these stamps are trashed, so that the number still in existence
is not much smaller than the number issued. The result was that the price goes up roughly as the 1,5
power of the rarity. This price-rarity relationship is also only approximate because some stamps are
more popular than others; so the prices are widely scattered about the smooth curve of the formula.
But when similar things are compared, the formula should work well. If we compare 13, 13A and 13B we
are comparing very similar things, so the formula should work better for present purposes than for most
other examples. Also the fraction of those stamps that have survived to this day should be about the
same for #13, 13A and 13B. The same would be true for comparisons of 14, 14A and 14B; and so on.
In what follows, I consider only the used stamps. The reason is that most of these stamps were used
postally, so that the present remainders of mint stamps represent a very small fraction of all the
To evaluate prices using the formula, we need to fix the values of four of these stamps. I begin
(arbitrarily) with the prices of the 13, 14, 15 and 16 according to the 2002 cob. The formula then
yields the prices of the other eight stamps - table 2.
|COB||90.00 €||5.50 €||5.50 €||40.00 €|
|COB||40.00 €||4.50 €||4.50 €||30.00 €|
|Formula||7.00 €||0.43 €||0.43 €||3.06 €|
|COB||30.00 €||4.00 €||4.00 €||27.50 €|
|Formula||50.50 €||3.09 €||3.09 €||16.40 €|
There are about three uncertainties in using the formula, of which I have already mentioned
the growth of postage, but together these effects would not change the numbers in Table 2 by
more than about 20 percent. Therefore I suggest we accept them as rough results for the moment
and see what they imply.
The formula appears to work approximately for the 14B and 15B, almost within the stated 20
percent. It suggests a somewhat higher price for 13B and a lower one for 16B, but these are
not huge changes. If the cob price were reduced only 30 percent for #16B, the agreement would
be fair. For the four stamps 13A through 16A, however, it is clear that the cob prices make no
sense at all. It is easy to obtain examples of #13A for about 5 euros today, so a catalogue price
of 7 euros is sensible enough. The stamp 16A can also be obtained very cheaply, at or under 3
euros if they have common cancels, so the formula price for these also makes good sense. The 14A
and 15A are known by collectors to be extremely common, and add nothing to the value of auction
lots unless they have premium cancels, or are varieties. However, a price of 0.43 euros will seem
so low to some traditional collectors that it it is useful to examine whether other similarly common
Belgian stamps are priced near to the formula values given here.
I therefore looked for a common stamp where the number surviving might be close to the numbers of
#14A and #15A that are still surviving. Taking 1/15 as the survival rate for classic, postally
used stamps , we can estimate that roughly 1,8 million of #14A and 1,25 million of 15A are
still in existence. What common Belgian stamp might compare with this? A very popular issue,
such that collectors would rarely have thrown a stamp out, was the Astrid mourning set of 1
December 1935. The number of 50 centime stamps (cob #414) issued was 1,6 million. The cob
price of this stamp is not far different from the formula price of #14A and #15A in table 2.
So the error using the formula cannot be large.
A complication was made known to me by my friend M. Jean-Claude Porignon, who kindly pointed out
that some of the A series were perforated 12,5, and the number is not known. This knowledge
indicates the problem of determining when a stamp perforated 12,5 belongs in the A series
instead of the first series, but it does not change table 2. The average collector will not
be able to determine reliably if his stamp comes from the first or from the A group except
when the stamp is on cover. However, a clue will be the occurrence of the 12,5 perforation
in combination with a lozange de points cancel. Such stamps are much more likely to have
come from the A group.
In conclusion, the stamp series 13A, 14A, 15A and 16A are priced too high in the cob, so
much so that this constitutes a major pricing anomaly in the catalogue. The range of
perforations of the A group need to be officially recognized, especially the existence
of the vertical perforation 12,5 and the fact that such stamps bearing l de p cancels are
most likely from the A group.
The fraction 1/15 was a survival estimate for early stamps by the late Jim Sissons,
who was a well known Canadian philatelist and dealer. The fraction of the one-centime
medallions surviving may well be smaller than 1/15 because of the type of usage. This
would account for the fact that #13 is relatively expensive despite the large number issued.
Thank you Derek !