Graf Zeppelins

Issued during the Great Depression, the "Zeppelins" are one of the most popular of all US stamps and some of the most valuable stamps of the 1900s.

This set of three stamps was issued in 1930 when deflation made each of these stamps cost more than the average daily wage, sealing their fate as a poor seller.

They were removed from service after only about 2 and a half months with the vast majority of the printed stamps destroyed by the US Postal Service, thus sealing their fate as a scarce set of stamps.

This set was issued on April 19, 1930 for the May Graf Zeppelin Europe-Pan America flight, with 3 slightly different views of the airship on each stamp.

  • $0.65 Green (Scott #C13)
  • $1.30 Brown (Scott #C14)
  • $2.60 Blue (Scott #C15)

Plate Blocks and entire panes of 50 are both extremely rare with Never Hinged Plate Block sets selling for thousands of dollars and sets of sheets going for many tens of thousands.

This set harkens back to an era where flight was new and with excitement of scientific discovery and advances. Zeppelins, in particular, grabbed the public's attention - some remnants of which can still be felt today. It is easy to grow weary of the hassle of today's air travel but air travel was an absolute wonder in 1930. Humans had officially learned to fly and if I were to sum up the wonder of flight in stamps - I would pick this intricately engraved set.

Because this set was issued for mail use, there are a fair number of covers with a variety of cancels and cachets making this set a popular specialty area for many cover collectors.

For the Mint stamp collector, a set of Original Gum previously hinged stamps has a catalog value of about $1300 with Mint Never Hinged sets valued at about $2500. Providing the stamps are sound and well centered they can sell close to or even above those prices.

One thing to beware is regummed stamps. Because of the increased value of Never Hinged stamps, there are many Zepps out there that have had their original hinged gum soaked off and then reapplied to make the stamp look never hinged.

I highly recommend getting a never hinged set expertized by a third party such as APS, PSE, or PF. Even if you're comfortable and experienced it takes time to identify a regummed stamp.

1. Start with a close examination of the perforation edges looking for evidence of regumming after the stamp was separated from its original sheet

  • Crystalized Gum residue at perforation edges
  • Edge paper fibers coated

2. Reference Stamps are needed to identify expert regums by checking known good copies against the stamp in question.

Unfortunately, this is the best method to verify authenticity but msot collectors don't have an extensive enough collection to act as a comprehensive reference library - especially when getting into the gums of early US Classics and other pricey areas.

  • Oddities in uniformity or lack of uniformity of application,
  • Color and thickness of the gum

One thing you don't have to worry about when buying is reperforations. An expert reperforation may be even more difficult to detect than regumming. But Zeppelins were printed in panes of 50 with perforations on all sides. This means there were no stamps on the edges that had a straight edge.

Anyone that's ever received a certificate back with a reperf identified on an otherwise perfect stamp, you know how important apiece of knowledge this can be.

I'd love to hear from you so please let me know if you have any stories, pictures of flight mail, or any other comments about this great issue of stamp.


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