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Stamps (Philately)/catalog numbers/paper types

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Question
Two questions:

1. Many times I've found stamps that have pencil numbers on the back that are not Scott numbers and older albums many times have stamp numbers that are also not Scott numbers. Is there any way to look up these other numbers online or should I just disregard them?   

I've having a difficult time with "Official Stamps" (U.S. Executive Departments determining those from 1873 having "thin hard paper" from 1879 having "soft porous paper" I tried the flicking sound method and looking at them under strong light with and without magnification. I've used known stamps for comparison and still having trouble.
My thanks in advance.

Answer
Hi Howard,
Thanks for the question,
Howard, I know what you mean about the writing on the back of some stamp. I have also seen many stamps with all kinds of writing on them. Unfortunately not only does it reduce the value of the stamp, in most cases it is little to no help of any other kind either. The numbers could be a lot of things, catalog# (Scott or others), wrong catalog#, old catalog values, original cost, plate position, etc. I usually just ignore them, even if it is a catalog#, it might be the wrong one.
Now for the second question, as you discovered, paper identification can be somewhat tricky. The best way I found is to look at it facing a strong light (so you see the light through the back of the stamp). To me the soft porous paper looks like it has a lot of small holes (the link below shows a pretty good picture of it), and the thin paper has a smooth opaque appearance. It definitely takes a little getting used to, but you should get the hang of it after a while.

Below is a link with a little more info on paper, it is also excellent for stamp identification in general.
http://www.1847usa.com/BanknotePaperTypes.htm  

Here is another excellent site for early stamp identification

http://www.theswedishtiger.com/

Thanks again for the question, I hope this helps some.
Mike  

Stamps (Philately)

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Mike Stern

Expertise

My specialty is United States Errors, but I can answer most questions on United States stamps (except covers). I have been collecting U.S. stamps for about 35 years, and U.S. Errors for approximately 25 years. I have been selling both online for about 4 years. I am also a member of the APS (American Philatelic Society)

Experience

As I said above, I have been collecting U.S. stamps for about 35 years, and U.S. Errors for approximately 25 years. I have been selling both online for about 4 years, mostly on Ebay and Bidstart.com.

Organizations
I am a 25+ year member of the APS

Education/Credentials
I went to 2 years of college at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, and received a degree in Applied Science

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