The Price Guide to U.S. A.P.O. Cancels of the Second World War
Introduction to A.P.O.’s
Two fundamental facts - that soldiers in the field like to receive mail and that armies move, lead to the development of numbered post offices for military postal services. Add to those the value of anonymity of location for security. The practice did not begin in the United States or during World War II. It goes at least as far back as the Franco Prussian war in the 1870’s. The United States employed a system of numbered army post office during its role in the First World War.
The system of A.P.O.’s that serviced the army and army air corps during the Second World War began before the American entry into the war, and continues with some modifications through today. In the spring of 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt entered into an agreement with the government of the United Kingdom to exchange 50 destroyers for 99 year leases to establish military bases in several British Caribbean colonies. Army Post Office numbers were assigned to each of these new bases as the troops arrived to garrison them. The number of American servicemen stationed outside the boundaries of the continental United States increased during late 1941, and so did the number of A.P.O.’s. With the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the entry of the U.S. into the war, a full system of numbered A.P.O.’s was established.
In some cases there was a logical reason for a certain A.P.O. number to be used. For example, A.P.O.’s assigned to service infantry divisions were in most cases numbered the same as the division. The 1st Infantry division was assigned A.P.O. 1. In other cases, the A.P.O. number coincided with a regiment number. Certain geographic areas were assigned a series of numbers. For example, numbers 825 through 837 were assigned to specific bases in the Canal Zone, numbers 931 through 949 were assigned to Western Canada and Alaska, and numbers 950 through 966 were assigned to Hawaii. There were also other relationships between the A.P.O. number and sort of soldiers the A.P.O. serviced, but many A.P.O. numbers appear to have been assigned numbers on a random basis. In all, about 1000 different A.P.O.’s were in use the period between 1941 and the end of 1945.
The Purpose of this Work
Collectors being collectors, World War II A.P.O. cancels have been collected from the day of their inception in 1941. Until now, the primary method dealers and collectors had to evaluate the proper price for an A.P.O. cover was to judge the desirability of the geographical location of the A.P.O, e.g., A.P.Os from Hawaii are considered less desirable than A.P.O.s from Greenland. The method has had several serious limitations. First, there has been nothing published in order to rate the desirability of various locations. In other words, had this work been nothing other than a pamphlet rating such desirability, it would be a step forward. The second limitation of the location method of pricing is that it does not allow for variances in scarcity of different A.P.O.’s from the same location. In contrast, the book Military Postmarks of Territorial Alaska by Richard Helbock shows a large range of rarity within the different A.P.O. that were located in Alaska and western Canada. Finally, the location pricing method could only have validity if the only way to collect A.P.O. cancels was by geographic location. There are, in fact, several different ways collections could be formed, each way having a direct impact on price.
A major fallacy of the location method of pricing A.P.O. covers is the implied assumption that roughly equal numbers of covers exist from each different A.P.O. The truth is far, far different from this. One of the starting points for this work was an analysis of several very large A.P.O. cover holdings. This analysis revealed several things. In a given random holding of A.P.O. covers, at least half of the covers will be from the 100 most common A.P.O. numbers. Four-fifths of the of the remaining half of the covers will be from the 400 A.P.O. numbers that are common to moderately scarce, and the balance will be from the remaining A.P.O. numbers which are genuinely scarce to rare.
In other words: assume you can find a random sampling of 1000 A.P.O. covers. Because of the nature of most A.P.O. cover holdings this is a challenge, but more will be said about that later. Of that 1000 covers, 500 will be from a group of about 100 A.P.O. numbers which are the most common; 400 will be from a group of 400 A.P.O. numbers which are less commonly found; and the remaining 100 covers will be from the 500 or so A.P.O. numbers which are scarce to rare.
The Nature of the Listings
The listing in this work will be according to the A.P.O. numbers arranged in ascending order. In the cases where there is a definite relationship between a particular army unit, base, or geographic locale, this is noted. Following the A.P.O. number, the different countries where the A.P.O. operated are noted. For the specific locations within each country, please consult Cosentini and Gruenzner (eds.), United States Numbered Military Post Offices, Assignments and Locations, 1941-1994, published by the Military Postal History Society, 1994. Next comes the heart of the work. For each country in which the A.P.O. operated, there are three numbers. First is the rarity of the A.P.O. in that particular country. This is represented by a number which ranges from one, the most common, to ten, the most rare. Second is the demand rating of the location. This ranges from one, meaning the country is currently in the least demand, to five, meaning the country is in the most demand. Finally, this information is calibrated into a fair current market price. The price listed applies only to a clean, undamaged cover, standard size with a fully readable A.P.O. cancel, dated up to December 31, 1945. Only covers with a retail value of $5.00 of higher are priced. If the cover is either too common, or in too little demand to deserve a $5.00 price tag, the letters MV indicate that the cover has only a Minimum Value. The price for a cover rated as MV will generally be determined by the seller at the minimum amount he needs to knowledgeably offer the cover to an informed buyer. The price is akin the 15› minimum price in the Scott Stamp Catalog.
The Elements of an A.P.O. Cover
Any cover, including an A.P.O. cover, may be broken into six basic elements. First, there is the postmark, or cancel. [The authors recognize that strictly speaking, the term "postmark" applies to that part of the postal marking containing the date and location of mailing, while "cancel" refers only to the portion which "kills" the stamp, but, since A.P.O. postal markings tend to be applied by duplex handstamps and machines, we will use the term "cancel" to represent the entire postal marking.] While the postmark and cancel is usually the most important factor in evaluating a cover, in the case of A.P.O. covers it is also necessary to examine the return address. The second basic element is the franking. Third is the type of mail service that the cover received, e.g., normal first class, airmail service, registration or special delivery. Fourth is the destination of the address. Fifth is any non-postal history elements that are present on the cover, such as advertising, censor markings or patriotic cachets. The sixth, and final element of an A.P.O. cover, is the non-postal history characteristics that can only be inferred form the cover. Such factors include the significance of particular dates -- a December 7, 1941, postmark from Honolulu, or the fact that a cover was sent from a famous person. In order to determine a fair and reasonable price for any cover, it is necessary to systematically evaluate each of these elements. Let us examine in more detail these six elements as they apply to World War II A.P.O. covers before we proceed to the listing.
The Cancel and Return Address
Most A.P.O. covers have the A.P.O. number at some place in the cancel, but there are some exceptions. During mid-1942, the Army decided to remove the A.P.O. number from canceling devices. This was meant to be a security measure. Since every soldier was still required to write his A.P.O. number in the return address, it was less than successful. By mid-1943, A.P.O. numbers were placed back in the canceling device. However some canceling devices, regardless of time period, simply do not contain the A.P.O. number any place in the cancel. Wherever there is no A.P.O. number in the cancel, the A.P.O. is identified by the A.P.O. noted in the return address. Under no circumstances should any cover be identified by the A.P.O. number in the return address when there is an A.P.O. number in the cancel. This is especially important when considering covers canceled at BPO’s and PRS’s. In these cases, the A.P.O. number in the return address is almost always different than the A.P.O. number in the cancel. In many cases with mail from the South Pacific, the cover may display a scarce A.P.O. number in the return address, but the cancel says BPO 7-- by far the most common WW II postmark. The cover must be evaluated as BPO 7.
A.P.O. covers need to have a readable date in the cancel to be evaluated at the full price listed in the ratings. Poor strikes are not uncommon. Without the month, day and year, is often impossible to determine the location of origin of the cover. This is particularly important in the case of A.P.O’s which moved with the troops. Without the location, there is little potential for any value.
Franking on A.P.O. covers is usually quite monotonous. World War II A.P.O. covers were usually either sent free, or at the 6› concession Airmail rate. At least 95% of all A.P.O. covers are either unfranked, franked with the 6› Transport [Scott’s #C25] or franked with the 6› Airmail postal stationery envelope [Scott’s #UC3 to #UC9]. For the stationery collectors there are at least some minor varieties that can occur on these airmail envelopes. While of little intrinsic value, any other sort of franking is at the least uncommon. There is probably a small premium value for a cover where any other stamps are used, including something as simple as two 3c Prexies. The little color such frankings add to a collection of whites, reds and oranges make for a positive change. Where a cover received a special mail service, such as registered or special delivery, the franking will reflect the service and add to the value of the piece.
The Type of Mail Service
The vast majority of A.P.O. covers did not receive any unusual mail service. Therefore, the occasional parcel post cover, as well as covers displaying such special treatment as registration, postage due, or special delivery are always in demand. The type of mail service a cover received is determined by examining the endorsements, the markings placed on the cover by the sender, the auxiliary markings placed on the cover by the postal service and the franking. Registered covers are usually of the greatest interest because not only is there a degree of variance in the franking, but the markings are different than those applied to unregistered covers. Any cover receiving postal service beyond the free surface rate or the concession air mail rate is worth a premium.
The overwhelming majority of A.P.O. covers were mailed to addresses in the United States, and a cover addressed to any other destination is therefore unusual and desirable. These other destinations fall into three categories. Most common are covers to another A.P.O. These deserve the smallest premium. Of some note is that fact that many servicemen in the pacific theater endorsed their mail "Inter-Island Mail" when sent to another Pacific Theater A.P.O. There is no particular postal regulation requiring this, but for the sender it was a matter of self defense. It took far less time to go from say, New Guinea to the Solomon Islands, than to go from New Guinea to San Francisco and then back to the Solomon Islands. An "Inter-Island Mail" notation prompted postal clerks to make certain a triangle route was avoided.
The largest concentration of American troops overseas was in England. Millions of serviceman were garrisoned there during the war. In May 1944 alone, there were over a million and a half Army troops in the United Kingdom poised for the D Day attack. The postal regulations required that when a U.S. serviceman sent a letter to a non U.S. military address in Great Britain, a British foreign rate franking of 2 ½ pence was required. This was undoubtedly a concession to the British postal service. It certainly was a way of being a good guest. It was a poor deal for the serviceman because 2 ½ pence in the early 1940’s was far more money than the 5 cents the routing might logically require. A.P.O. covers bearing British postage addressed to addresses in the United Kingdom are not rare, but they deserve a premium.
Any other foreign destination for an A.P.O. cover is scarce. Such mail was charged the prevailing domestic rate for international service. Airmail frankings are extremely scarce.
Non-Postal History Elements Present on the Cover
Traditionally, postal history has had a very narrow definition. The international body that defines collecting categories for the purposes of competitive exhibition, the F.I.P., defines postal history as a collection "based on the study and the classification of postal and philatelic items which are directly relevant to the methods, routing and condition of dispatch of postal communication of all periods." Arguments about this definition have raged on for years. Without reexamining every cogent point, the definition is important to the many people who choose to exhibit competitively. The effect of this definition is that it categorizes certain features of covers as significant to postal history, and other features to be not significant. Because some feature of a cover is not significant to a postal historian following the narrow F.I.P. definition, does not mean that the feature is not significant to many other collectors. Features such as these can be summed up as external features, i.e., features which are not directly relevant to the "methods, routing and condition of dispatch of postal communication." An example of such an external feature is the illustrated design on an advertising cover.
External features are often an important part of an A.P.O. cover. For the most part, these include advertising, patriotic cachets and censor markings. Advertising is quite unusual on A.P.O. covers. It is always worth a premium. With most advertising covers, the more unusual the subject matter and the more elaborate the design means a higher price. This is only part of the story with A.P.O. covers, for there is usually more interest in designs that have some connection to the war effort. Advertising on an A.P.O. cover is unusual enough that it is seldom a factor in evaluating a cover.
Patriotic covers are more commonly encountered. A wide variety are designs were produced covering a range of themes. While in theory, these are no different than the patriotic covers produced during the Civil War, the Spanish American War and World War I, there is a significant difference. Patriotic covers during these earlier wars existed primarily to promote patriotic sentiments. During the second world war, patriotic covers were produced primarily to satisfy stamp collectors. While not in any way disparaging the honest patriotic sentiments of the producers of the World War II patriotic, if not for designs produced and used by collectors, examples of patriotic envelopes would be scarce or even rare. This leads to some difficulty in placing proper significance to patriotics from the war. They are enthusiastically collected, but generally by a different sort of collector than the typical person who collects A.P.O. ‘s.
Patriotic covers are mostly collected by first day cover enthusiasts. This is a natural, since many of the people who produced cachets for U.S. first day covers also produced patriotic cachets. These collectors usually prefer their patriotic covers to be pristine, showing little or no indication that the cover went through the postal system. Typically, collectors of A.P.O. covers are less adamant about condition. Covers that carried mail show wear, and covers carried in the extremes of war often show significant wear. There is a tongue in cheek definition of a war cover that demands that a true war cover have a bullet hole to deserve a place in a purist’s collection.
While patriotic designs used on A.P.O. covers are not uncommon, and they do deserve a premium. However, the potential desirability of such covers is limited by the philatelic nature of the majority of collectible examples. The best way to arrive at a fair premium is to determine exactly how philatelic each example is. Establishment of the first A.P.O.‘s in 1941 was announced in the Postal Bulletin, and innumerable collectors created examples with a variety of patriotic cachets. So many of these covers still exist, that they can not fairly be evaluated as typical A.P.O. covers. Once the U.S. entered the war, the nature of patriotic covers changed somewhat. Collector interest focused on domestic forts and camps, since the identity of overseas A.P.O.‘s was not publicized and most were a bit too busy to service collector requests. As the war dragged on, with millions of U.S. servicemen overseas, the vast majority serving behind the lines, more time was found to create specimens for collectors. Most of these covers canceled at overseas A.P.O.’s look enough like actual soldiers mail, that making a determination as to what was a true patriotic use and what was a collector created souvenir is difficult. Sometimes recognizing the name of a collector as either the sender or recipient is the only way to be certain the cover was philatelically inspired. Proving true non-philatelic use of a patriotic cover is the most important factor in evaluating patriotic covers used from A.P.O.’s. It is also necessary to consider the subject matter of the cover. Some designs are quite common, and others are seldom seen. The many humorous caricatures of enemy leaders that exists are especially sought.
Censor markings on A.P.O. covers present both a dilemma and a challenge to the A.P.O. collectors. With but a few exceptions, censor markings on A.P.O. covers are surprisingly similar and rather monotonous. Except for the markings used early in then war, sometimes known as provisionals, little has been written on the subject of United States Army censor markings. With the seemingly limited number of types, this would appear to be an area ripe for further exploration. With the exceptions of provisional markings, censor marks play little role in evaluating A.P.O. covers. The after effects of censorship, such as re-routing and return of unacceptable mail, will affect the value of an A.P.O. considerably more.
Non-Postal History External Elements
The final factor to consider in evaluating the value of an A.P.O. are any non-postal history elements which are not an integral part of the cover. These include the historical factors that surround the cover. Some collectors find the date on which a cover was mailed to be very significant. For example, while not applicable to A.P.O. covers, any piece of mail dated December 7, 1941 from Honolulu usually sells for a substantial price. December 7th was a Sunday, and such items are truly rare. While some of the covers which have come on the market appear dubious, the date and place is the critical factor determining their price. A premium price is occasionally seen on covers dated on V-E day and V-J day. While there may be some increased demand for covers from these days, they are no more scarce that the day before or after. The fame of a cover’s sender or recipient will also affect the price. There is a strong interest in mail from commanding generals. The hand signed censor gives these covers demonstrable value for the signature from an autograph perspective. Covers sent from soldiers while they were in combat are desirable and deserve a premium. These are examples of the ephemeral aspects of a covers value. They are the hardest to quantify. They are may be very important to one collector while being meaningless to another collector.
APO Premiums and Mitigating Factors
After all is said an done, what follows is a very basic guide to the appropriate premiums and reductions for A.P.O. covers deviating from an established standard. To repeat, that standard for the purposes of evaluating covers is as follows: A standard #6 size cover, dated to December 31, 1945, sent either free, franked with a 6c transport #C25 or the 6c Airmail circular die envelope #UC3 to UC6. The fill date must be completely legible.
These premiums and mitigating factors apply to APO covers values up to $25.00. On more expensive A.P.O.’s, adjust prices so that each $2.50 move equals about 10% of the total value. The minimum price for an A.P.O. is $2.50. If the combined mitigating factors would bring the price for a cover to -$5.00, the cover goes to the junk box.
Rarity and A.P.O.’s
It is impossible to evaluate any cover without examining the way in which collectors choose to build their collections. Understanding the ways a cover would fit into a collection will tell what he potential demand for a cover might be. Most covers are, in a sense, infinitely rare. Every piece of non-collector created mail is uniquely different from any other piece of mail. Some factor is virtually always different, the place it was sent form, the address it was sent to, the franking, the time of the posting all make each cover somehow different from another cover. This would be significant if there were a group of people each trying to assemble a collection that consisted of every conceivable piece of mail. Every cover would be an integral part of this collection. With limitless rarity, and demand limited only by the combined resources of such collectors, every cover, no matter how mundane, would command a high price. This is a farcical example because no such collectors exist.
A cover is in demand only based upon how it fits into the different collections being formed. A "unique" cover is not unique if it is one of many examples that fits a place in a collection. An A.P.O. cover from A.P.O. 5 dated July 1, 1944 at 4:00 PM from Sgt. Smith to Mrs. Jones in Iowa censored by Lt. Johnson presents a combination of factors that are undoubtedly one of a kind. If a collectors wants one example of cover mailed on each day of the war, this cover needs to complete with every other cover dated July 1, 1944. If a collector wants one example from each A.P.O., the cover must compete with every other cover mailed from A.P.O. 5.
Knowing that a particular cover is rare is of little value, because from a certain perspective, every cover is rare. It is more important to know that a particular cover is from a collecting area that is in demand. However, knowing a collecting area well enough to understand how the typical collector arranges his collection is most important. If you know what covers are necessary to make a collection virtually complete, or fully representative of a collecting area, then you can determine the significance of a cover. Significance is a vital component to proper cover pricing. The most valuable covers are covers that are useful for a popular collecting area, and are examples of a particular facet of the collection where no other cover will fit.
If a collector has a goal of obtaining an example from every location from every A.P.O. during the second world war, certain covers will be more valuable to that collection than others. A.P.O. 679 (Ikatek, Greenland) is one of the rarest A.P.O. numbers. A.P.O. 9 (9th Infantry Division) is fairly common, but was located innumerable locations. If a such a collector has a cover from A.P.O. 679, which only exists from one location, another example has little value to that collector. An example from A.P.O. 9 from a town in Belgium, where the A.P.O. was located for only three days, may be of the highest importance to such a collector. If another collector has a goal of finding every marking from every unit stationed in Greenland, then the A.P.O. 679 cover is far more important and valuable than the A.P.O. 9 cover from a three day town in Belgium. But, if a collector’s goal is to have an example of every A.P.O. from a town in Belgium, then the A.P.O. 9 cover from that town, which only existed for three days, is of the highest value.
Types of A.P.O. Cover Collections
By Geographic Area - This has traditionally been the most popular way to collect United States A.P.O. covers. Given the worldwide distribution of U.S. forces during the war, there are few places where at least some troops were not garrisoned. Once a geographic area is chosen, the collection usually includes examples of each A.P.O. located in the area, sometimes examples of the different postal marking each A.P.O. used, and occasionally examples of unusual postal history usage from the A.P.O.’s. At their most specialized, such collections include examples of the different censor markings applied and examples form the various military units making up the troops.
By A.P.O. - This type of collection usually encompasses one of two levels of depth. The goal of the most basic level of this type of collection is to obtain an cover example from each A.P.O. A deeper level is to obtain one example from each location of each A.P.O.
By Unit - With this sort of collection the focus is on the military unit. There is no specific focus on the A.P.O., but since many A.P.O.’s were specifically tied to certain military units, any collection of this type is bound to focus on those of A.P.O.’s. There seem to be three main types of unit based collections. One focuses on a specific unit, for personal of historical reasons. For example a collector with an interest in the Japanese-American interment camps in the U.S. might choose to collect covers form the 442nd Infantry Regiment, the Nisei Regiment comprised soldiers recruited form the camps. Some collectors choose to collect covers from the unit where they, or some relative, served during the war. A second focus of unit collectors would be collecting covers from a certain type of unit. Examples might be fighter squadrons, infantry regiments or tank units. The third focus concentrates more on the individual soldiers. This might include mail from chaplains, pilots, or members of the Womens Army Corps (WACs).
By Traditional Postal History - In a collection entitled "The Postal History of the U.S. Army Post Office in World War II" the focus would be on the traditional postal history themes as defined in the F.I.P. statement quoted earlier. Such a collection would have only a limited concern about each individual A.P.O., but rather a much greater concern that the collection showed a full range of the postal history of the overall system.
By Battle - In this collection, the focus is on a particular event of the war. The collection might be, for example, focus on the the postal history of the battle of Monte Cassini. The idea would be to tell the story of the battle by showing covers from the many units taking part in the battle.
By Specific Location - Here the focus is one particular place. The A.P.O. cover would only one part of a collection which would cover a larger period. A collection of Berlin, Germany postal history that covered at least up to 1945 would need to have a showing of U.S. A.P.O. covers as part of the larger story.
By Historical Factors - Although the most ephemeral part of any A.P.O. cover, there are collectors who consider this to be the focus of their collection. These types of collections include items of particular significance based upon A.P.O. and date, such a covers from A.P.O.’s in use during the June 1944 Normandy invasion.
As Part of Another Collection - Any collection that focuses on an issue or theme that would involve the years 1941 to 1945 should have A.P.O. covers as an important part of the collection. As 20th century postal history has become popular over the past few years, interesting A.P.O. covers are vital to collectors who collect the 1938 U.S. Presidential Issue or the 1941 Transport Airmail Issue.
These are but a sampling of the ways in which A.P.O. covers are collected and fit into collections. There is a general rule about these types of collections which affect the demand for any given A.P.O. It states, the more A.P.O.’s that fit into a collection, the less demand for any given A.P.O. Collectors who have a wide focus, such as a collection of "U.S. forces in Belgium during WWII", and that collection is in great depth, including different postal marking, interesting postal history usages, different military units and different censor numbers, will have an easier time finding something to go into their collection. Such collectors are often reticent to pay a high price for a cover, since there is almost always another cover that they can find to suit the needs of their collection. A collector with a very narrow focus, such as a Belgian town cancel collector, who wants one A.P.O. cover, and one A.P.O. cover only, from the one A.P.O. that based in his town for only a few days, is usually willing to pay a greater price for the cover. That may be the only A.P.O. cover he ever buys. Both hypothetical collectors want the same cover. The first collector has 1000+ A.P.O. covers in his collection, is certain to be able to add another 100 covers over the next few years. The second collector has no A.P.O. covers in his collection, and can see a need for one A.P.O. cover and one cover only. It is only logical that the second collector will pay more for the cover.
Interpreting the Listings
The listings are arranged according to A.P.O. number. Details are provided only for those A.P.O. numbers from which there is evidence that a regular Army Post Office existed. A large number of four and five digit A.P.O. numbers are known from the return addresses on covers. These "high" numbers served as transit A.P.O.s for groups of soldiers while they moved from an assignment in the United States until they reached permanent units overseas. High number A.P.O.’s are nearly always seen in the return address on covers, never in a postmark. They are considered to be beyond the scope of this book.
Listed below each A.P.O. number is the country, or countries, of the various overseas postings. The specific location -- city, villages, etc. -- is not given unless that A.P.O. was assigned to a base that was not mobile during the war. Exact locations are available from Cosentini and Gruenzner (eds.), United States Numbered Military Post Offices, Assignments and Locations, 1941-1994, published by the Military Postal History Society, 1994. In some cases, there were several different places within a country where the A.P.O. was located. Since it is beyond the scope of this book to evaluate each individual location with each country, the specific locations are omitted.
There is some variation in price between different locations within a country. It is an area which needs further study. While it is logical to assume that the shorter the stay in a particular place, the more scarce covers are likely to be from that location, this is not always so. During a period of intense combat, an A.P.O. tied to a unit may have been listed at a location for three or four weeks. When the resistance on that front is quelled, or the units was pulled pack temporarily, the A.P.O. is then listed at a new, more quiet location for five days. Mail from the four weeks of combat will be scarcer than from the five days of down time.
The heart of the work is a set of three numbers which represent value. Using three separate numbers is something new and different for a pricing work. The object was to arrive at numbers which are useful to as many different people as possible. Most pricing guides contain only a scale of rarity, but a rarity scale is limited because the rarity of a cover is only part story required to determine its fair market price. Rarity is also very hard to define for A.P.O. covers. The range of the scale is immense. The highest level of rarity -- 10 -- encompasses several A.P.O.‘s where no recorded examples are known. In other cases, only one or two examples are known. At the other end, the most common, rarity scale "1", includes Army Post Office units such as BPO 7, where there must be easily five million collectible examples, maybe many more. The rarity number listed generally applies the A.P.O. number during the entire time of the A.P.O. ‘s existence in the war. Only in cases where there is strong evidence that the rarity of covers is substantially different in different locations for the same A.P.O. is a different rarity number used for the same A.P.O. The rarity scales can be simplified in another way. A.P.O.’s rated 1, 2 or 3 are the most common. As discussed earlier, in a random showing of A.P.O. covers, at least half of the covers will be from the A.P.O.’s with these most common ratings. The middle ratings, 4,5,6 and 7, are seen occasionally, covering virtually all of the rest of the random sample. The highest ratings of 8,9 and 10 are only very seldom seen. Random showings of A.P.O. covers are quite unusual. The nature of A.P.O. covers is such that most of the time when a new find of covers comes into the market, it is from a correspondence. A group of letters that one soldier sent to one person, is likely to have only three or four different A.P.O. numbers. When a correspondence comes to market, it can temporarily affect the supply of an otherwise scarce number. Over time, the find gets dissipated, and the market returns to normal. Knowing the status of such finds is very useful in day to day buying and selling, but the long term transitory affect has kept such factors out of these listings.
The next number in the listing is the demand scale. The demand rating focuses on the desirability of the location. This is a rating on a 1 to 5 scale of how much interest there is in the particular area. It is both the most important and unusual part of this work and bound to be the most controversial. There is a specific linkage to the rarity scale, the demand rating and the price. Rarity scales are nothing new. An individual rarity number has potential for controversy. An A.P.O. rated at 7 might engender discussion that the more accurate rating is 6 or 8, but it won’t engender discussion that the more accurate rating is 2 or 10.
Demand scales are subject to much more discussion. Numbers in the demand scale are based on the best estimate of the level of interest of an A.P.O. location to a collector in the United States, or a dealer from overseas shopping in the United States. They are not meant to rate overseas collector demand. If the level of demand for a cover is higher from an overseas dealer than from a domestic collector, the demand scale will reflect that. In general, demand is believed to be constant for each location, e.g., all A.P.O. covers from Hawaii are expected to have about the same level of overall demand, but that level is likely to differ from the demand for covers from Germany. The exception for this usually occurs in the case of the rarest A.P.O.’s from a location. Overall demand for a location may be at a medium level, but the demand for the rarest A.P.O.’s form the area is usually much higher. The prices are derived from a computed market index. This market index is the product of the rarity and the demand scale. For the most part there is a direct correlation with the market index and the price shown. When a price is shown as Minimum Value, or MV, it means that that item is too common to price with any accuracy. Items rated MV will usually trade at a specified price which covers only the handling cost of offering the cover. Since this is the first attempt to publish a set of fair market prices for World War II A.P.O. covers, the authors anticipate that there may be some disagreement among readers over the listed prices. These potential disagreements show the ultimate value of a multiple part system. If one or two numbers of the valuing system are considered reasonable, then, by altering the number(s) considered erroneous, a reader can make the system workable for his own needs. For example, if one agrees with the rarity scale for an A.P.O., but disagrees with the demand scale for the location, by substituting a different demand scale, valuable information is still available form this work. If one agrees with both the rarity and demand scale, but still doesn’t like the price, they can substitute different prices for the computed market index (rarity times demand). The multiple numbers give this work maximum flexibility. Rarity should not vary much over time. Demand varies constantly. This work should still be current five years from now by adjusting the demand scale. As of today, there is strong demand from Europe for many of the European Theater A.P.O.’s, especially those in Germany. European collectors of local postal history have begun to include United States. A.P.O.’s in their collections. The demand rating reflects the fact that German dealers are avidly searching for such covers. If and when this activity stops, the demand rating and the prices for such locations will fall. Currently there is little demand for A.P.O.’s located in Hawaii. If collectors begin to expand their horizons from Kingdom of Hawaii to Territory of Hawaii, the demand rating and the prices will rise. Multiple part listings are more accurate and flexible.
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