[Let me preface by saying that this is MY personal opinion. It may not reflect that of other collectors of U.S. revenue stamps. Some may consider it to be splitting hairs, but I believe the distinction to be an important one.]
There’s nothing more annoying to me than when I see one of the 1st-3rd issue U.S. revenues offered, whether on eBay, Bidstart, the StampStore, at auction, or in a show dealer’s stock, as “Mint, Scott unlisted, rare, LQQK!”… and it’s a stamp without gum.
I know that with front-of-book material, an uncancelled stamp without gum is considered unused, albeit below the level of “mint”, e.g., “mint no gum” or “MNG”. In my opinion it is exactly the OPPOSITE case with early revenues. Uncancelled revenues are “used but uncancelled”. The majority have been soaked or sweated off documents.
Unlike the USPS, which was fairly diligent in ensuring that stamps were canceled, revenue stamps, depending on the business or person in question, were at times just slapped onto documents without care as to cancellation, despite regulations requiring that they be cancelled. I’m sure that they felt that as long as they were sticking the stamps on there, the required tax was being paid, and they were doing their due diligence.
I cannot count the number of revenue-affixed documents I have seen where the documents are uncancelled… that doesn’t mean they are unused.
This is far more frequently the case with revenue stamps than postage stamps.
Therefore, the only way to truly consider one of the 1st-3rd issue revenues as “unused” is if (1) the stamp is uncancelled, (2) it has a large part original gum, and (3) it shows no evidence of document offset. I have seen plenty of cancelled and uncancelled fully gummed revenues with offset from the document they were affixed to. Presumably, temperature and humidity fluctuations over the years allowed the stamps to “pop” off the document, especially if the amount of water/saliva used to affix them was minimal to begin with.
If someone wants to pay a premium because they are trying to build a collection of uncancelled early revenues, then more power to them (it’s actually much harder than it sounds, and uncancelled revenues showing the designs in all their glory ARE beautiful), but the buyer should know what it is they are actually buying.
I find some of the sales tactics annoying… I see sellers/dealers frequently trying to charge premiums for uncancelled no-gum revenues, using the fact that Scott does not price the 1st-3rd issues (and the 1st and 2nd issue Proprietaries) unused vs. used as evidence of scarcity and therefore worthy of large premiums. Well, if they are actually mint 1st-3rd issue revenues, they *are* fairly scarce… but most of what is being offered out there as mint, in fact is not.
In my opinion, the standard has to be: no gum? It’s used.
Is it a huge deal? Probably not… but it is annoying nonetheless.
Related observations: The 1st and 2nd issue Proprietaries seem to be more common with full gum than the 1st-3rd issue revenues. 2nd and 3rd issue revenues that are truly mint are considerably more scarce than 1st issue. 1st issue imperforates and part perforates are virtually IMPOSSIBLE to find as mint full gum.
Here endeth the rant.
A few examples of early revenues with full gum (scanners don’t do as good a job showing reflection on gum as cameras do):