As one with an interest in stamps (as you read part one of this two-part cover piece -- and if you haven't you should stop and do so now) one may safely assume your interest in covers came through stamps. So let's also assume you have a working knowledge of stamps and their collection. But do you truly know your covers?
You don't have to become a learned and scholarly philatelic bookworm, poring over the stamp and auction catalogs instead of going golfing or re-reading the Harry Potter books to be sure your covers are what they should be. No, there are people in the hobby who get paid to do this. They are called stamp and cover dealers.
The Value of Dealers Valuing Covers
The Internet has also allowed even the small time dealer to do research without going broke buying a philatelic library or wearing down his shoe leather checking out other dealers in their shops or at shows. As you might guess this has become a blessing for the dealer, who can research a cover's scarcity and meaning online, where once time strapped dealer's would just sigh and price it largely by gut.
This has a tendency to lessen the bargain finds, although they are still there. So collectors of bargain covers (i.e., those that knew the value while the dealer didn't) have found a roadblock. There was a time not so long ago when there was still gold to mine from the dealer's dollar boxes. Meaningful and exiting covers like scarce airmails, so-called crash covers, were hidden two dollar gems that could be resold for fifty dollars if you knew what they were. Rare unused Civil War patriotic envelopes could be had for a fraction of their price.
Now, with all able to access these philatelic wares on the Internet, night and day, those who had the time to haunt stamp shows and dealer stocks have met with insurmountable competition that favors the knowledgeable and the quick. And with the Internet leveling the playing field that means everyone.
History and Stamp and Cover Collectors
There is no doubt that a momentous historical event will cause a related collectible to hold more value than a more commonplace piece. And those with a knowledge of history can find an overlooked jem. The name John P.V. Heinmuller is known in airmail stamp collector's circles. He was the official timer for the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and an executive with The Longines-Wittnauer Co. He was at Le Bourget in 1927 when Lindbergh landed and also timed such aeronautic notables as Willey Post, Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes. There was great interest when he sold his air post cover collections of record flights.
But large collections like Heinmuller's break down into smaller lots, after the star pieces are sold separately. Sometimes along the way the importance of individual pieces becomes lost as a cover journeys from dealer box to dealer box until it ultimately ends up in the hands of an appreciative collector. John Heinmuller made hundreds of covers that were carried by, or related to, famed flyers of the day. But he also sent his covers on other flights that were not so momentous, but still had great collector interest. Every so often these will turn up in a dealer's stock, unrecognized for what they are and available for a bargain price.
Disasters like the Hindenburg explosion; historical interest like WWII's VJ and VE days, prompting collectors to create event covers; associations with the famous and celebrated; and interesting usages shown by postal markings are all things that can add to a cover, beyond how it might be valued by a seller who is only going by the catalog value of the stamp that franks it. But when considering what creates what dealers and collectors call better covers, a number of variables must always be considered.