What's an RPO cover worth? When I resumed collecting railroad postmarks after a hiatus of several years, I learned quickly that things were different in regard to prices on good RPO material and Postal history items in general. It was apparent also that the valuation guidelines that existed were hopelessly out-of-date or not truly reflective of the real value of covers.
There is ample data available for sales on higher-priced material, but little to guide the average collector in regard to fair value pricing. I set out to assemble data from mail sales, auctions, knowledgeable dealers and other sources to give a better picture of values for the low-to-medium priced railroad postmark covers.
I did not seek to include data from sales that focus on high-end markings but if high rarity factor markings or especially-attractive covers appeared in the sales that I had realizations for, these are included in the data. By the same token, if a high rarity factor marking had major faults, was on piece or had other negative factors, it was left in the data as well. Data on more than 20,000 covers sold by auctions or on Ebay, published on net price lists (or listed for sale) from 1989 to the present has been assembled so far. Over 18,000 items were included in this data. The balance of the covers likely did not sell at auction, etc. The prices ranged from $0.49 to over $3,000! Six covers that sold for over $1,000 were not included in the calculations below.
Low rarity factor cover average prices are inflated by auction and retail minimum prices, and in many cases may not have actually sold at the listed price, especially in the case of retail lists. The highest rarity factor groups' prices are lower than expected due to the types of auctions and lists included in this data - many superior covers sell for much higher prices.
Even though a number of higher-priced individual items that were included in the previous calculations from a year or so ago have been removed from this data, the average price of a cover increased significantly; previous averages were $9.50 in 2005, $12.96 in 2011 and $14.71 in 2015.
The average price for all covers sold was $16.48
The median price for all covers sold was $7.75
3,951 Rarity 1 covers sold at average price $ 6.16
7,490 Rarity 2 covers sold at average price $ 8.89
4,178 Rarity 3 covers sold at average price $ 16.43
1,694 Rarity 4 covers sold at average price $ 34.53
499 Rarity 5 covers sold at average price $ 53.46
174 Rarity 6 covers sold at average price $121.25 *Note1
124 Rarity 7 covers sold at average price $ 95.96
73 Rarity 8 covers sold at average price $148.27
25 Rarity 9 covers sold at average price $257.00
6 Rarity 10 covers sold at average price $833.00
*Note1: Rarity 6 cover prices were inflated due to four covers having US #1 or #2.
UPDATE MARCH, 2020
RPO cover prices have deteriorated significantly.
The sales I tracked, mostly on Ebay and MPOS auctions since January, 2019 came up with these numbers:
22 Rarity 1 covers averaged $ 2.35
181 Rarity 2 covers averaged $ 5.32
224 Rarity 3 covers averaged $ 6.56
123 Rarity 4 covers averaged $13.09
38 Rarity 5 covers averaged $24.95
14 Rarity 6 covers averaged $42.23
12 Rarity 7 covers averaged $76.52
6 Rarity 8-9 covers averaged $55.23* (*likely lesser quality items)
This is an ongoing project, and collaborators and more data will be welcomed. Contact Rick Kunz if you'd like to help.
Auctions included in data
Dealers included in data
A few words about the Ebay Prices Realized Project
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