Attempting to check each stamp 1 by 1 would take an incredibly long time, it’s highly inefficient and quite difficult to focus on many rules at once. But pattern matching and repetition of a few rules can be processed reasonably quickly. With differing results it’s clear that a process is required. Several stamps are held at a time, splitting the primary assessment between sight and touch makes it far easier to complete without overlap (rubbing head & patting tummy). The primary goal assessment is completed very quickly, the 2nd and third goals are then complimentary and with a calm clear mind the task is completed with reasonable speed (I’ve not actually timed it). The process works by making the question easier to answer and reducing fatigue from pushing the brain to failure by constantly changing questions and possible answers. I’m observant of detail anyway, but still find significant improvements in the handling time the more relaxed I am.
- Paper colour separate all coloured papers, very pale blue/yellow are fine, as is natural colour of cardboard but otherwise not.
They will be processed similarly but avoids risk of damaging other stamps, esp. metallic and red paper. Beware that that the inside of an envelope is often not coloured, so don’t assume from one side that the stamp living on the other will be mounted to plain paper, esp. red.
- Padded envelope plastic backing requires longer soaking and size likely to weigh down other stamps.
- Plastic mounted on plastic, a stamp can often be removed by gently stressing and peeling back the plastic at an acute angle.
- Suspected uncancelled if unsure place in this pile, as it’s far easier to identify cancelled stamps with evidence from the surrounding paper.
- Border/Gutter stamps with border attached (requires more care to soak).
- Multiple stamps joined by perforation (requires more care to soak).
- Stamps obviously not mounted (such as the glue having dried out and fallen away from the paper).
- Damaged stamps (separate but don’t assess, torn, stained, heavy scratching, angry Biro cancellation).
Top-right clockwise: thick backing, waste paper, damaged, uncancelled, normal handling ready for soaking, special interest (items to check immediately, postmarks, etc.), coloured paper.
Try really hard to focus on the goal of the sort and not be overly distracted. Discipline will lead to quicker completion, accurate filtering and allows for important distractions.
Uncancelled stamps are stamps that have been applied ready for postage, but have either been salvaged before the service is used or after, when the stamp is not cancelled. Estimate £30 of uncancelled stamps. Note that identification & collection of uncancelled stamps is a purely a hobby activity, pricing these stamps at current values is an aspect of the collection. Attempting to rip-off Royal Mail by using fraudulently acquired postage stamps is illegal