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Once in a philatelic shop I was looking for a couple of items – one of them a penny black– when the lady who was helping me out said unfortunately there was only one left. It happened to be a very ugly one as well, very badly cut in the margins, hinged, and the cancellation covered up the piece very badly. Also interesting was that the listed price for it, a stamp that does not even have a very high catalogue price to begin with, was 30 Dollars. She saw my face and was very apologetic. I ended up buying if for 10 until I could find a better piece.
It is common knowledge that space fillers are sold by 5-10% of their catalogue value. This is a broad concept an it does also depend on the overall condition of the piece and gravity of the damage(s), added to the will of the seller to sell and the will of the buyer to buy.
The price or percentage of catalogue value at which they are sold also seem to be linked to the rarity of the piece in question. This is also a matter of logic, since demand for those pieces are higher than their supply – I am sure many would be willing to buy a Benjamin Franklin Z-Grill even if it had one forth of it cut out and several hinges and oil stains, and would pay thousands for it. Supply and demand is what counts after all.Most substitute some pieces for others when a better copy is available (one which is better centered, or with a better looking cancel, for instance). This may even be a never ending process when collecting some issues. Still, most of us have that stamp which we hoped looked better, but which will fill in the space until a better copy comes along. Space fillers are also perhaps the only way most collectors will be able to afford the real item in their albums, and manage to complete a series.
Paying some thousands of dollars for a paper beauty is not realistic for most collectors, I believe. One may dig for years but never get lucky finding that one piece in someone’s basement or in that batch bought in a flea market. If an "ok" looking piece (maybe thinned, or with an excess ink cancel) comes along for one affordable price, it may be worth it.
I do not believe in a collection made by space filler, but if the damage does not take out the beauty and pleasure of having the item, it does give a joy of not seeing that one space empty. Still, even with that space filler there, the hope when searching basements and flea markets will not be totally gone – as you still have that piece to replace.
Every collector tries to avoid damaged pieces in their collection. That includes stamps that are thinned, tore, has missing perforations, and the list goes on. The answer is quite simple when common stamps are concerned. It is unlikely one would buy or otherwise trade one for a damaged piece. Still, depending on the damage, one might keep it at least until a better piece comes along.
When higher valued stamps are concerned, however, many more may bend the line of ‘what is acceptable to be included’. Some may even seek or purchase the so called 'space fillers'. The question becomes: when is a bad piece too bad to be displayed? Or better even, is any copy better than no copy?
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