Thursday, July 28, 2016

European Classic Postage Stamps and Postal History

I've mentioned Richard Frajola's estimable PhilaMercury website before on this blog. A recent addition to the resources section are pdf's of 35 articles by Edwin Mueller originally published in the Mercury Stamp Journal between 1950 and 1961. Unfortunately, the author's death in 1962 prevented the completion of the series, but we are fortunate to have coverage from Alsace-Lorraine through the Netherlands.

A couple of paragraphs from the introduction will clarify Mr. Mueller's focus:

"[The series] is written with the intention of showing that there are many ways to collect and that there are many countries in which the classic stamps can provide the most satisfaction to the specialist. The glamor of new issues is advertised in the philatelic magazines in a way that makes the good old classic issues look like poor relatives. It is high time to show the lure of the classics, to give the collector a vivid picture of the glamor which lies in the stamps which are seventy five and morc years old and were produced and used for postal purposes only, without any intention of making them items for a stamp collection. "

"In writing about the classic issues of tbe European countries—to which we have limited our nevertheless quite extensive undertaking —we want to show the collector the possibilities which exist in this field. We want to tell him what has been already achieved in philatelic research in the various countries and where fertile fields still remain to be harvested. We want to give information about tbe possibilities of specializing and give hints about the difficulties which may discourage the collector who wants to assemble a specialized collection. We will show the fields which are so hopelessly barren that we would advise keeping out of them. We will not give any advice as to which stamps may prove a good investment, because classic stamps, bought with knowledge and alertness will preserve their value, giving to the collector the enjoyment of his collecting as a dividend."

I should note that the articles were not illustrated.

Here is the link:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Yvert & Tellier Catalogs

I received today an email from Regency Superior who, in addition to handling Stanley Gibbons, is now a source for Y&T catalogs in the US. Among the items they have for sale is a 2010 version of Y&T's Classiques du Monde (1840-1940) catalog. I was only aware of the 2005 edition. But more surprisingly, Y&T has a two volume set covering the world from 1941 to 1960. As far as I know, they are the only publisher to offer such a catalog. For those who collect a decade or two beyond 1940, this could be useful.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Antonius Ra

I can still remember when I first discovered Antonius Ra's worldwide collection on the web. It was a revelation that not only did worldwide collections like this exist, but that someone would take the time to make scans of their album pages for the benefit of collectors all over the world.

As some of you know, there was a fire at Antonius Ra's (Mitchell's) house several days ago. While no one was injured and the collection was saved, the home suffered significant damage. There is a thread on Stamporama about the fire and a link there for anyone able to make a donation to help Mitchell and his wife.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Stuffed Blue On eBay

There has been so little in the way of large Blue collections on eBay recently, I find that I am going weeks without remembering to check for anything new. Fortunately, Jim Jackson of the Big Blue blog fame, alerted me to a listing with the title "1841-1939 worldwide collection - 28,000 stamps - Scotts International Album." The sellers is asking $28K for the collection but will accept counter offers.

This is one of those albums in a single binder that is stuffed to the brim with many stamps mounted in the margins. Thus 28,000 stamps does not translate to 28,000 spaces filled. Still, I think it is worth logging on eBay to see this rather unusual Blue Volume One collection.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Adolph J. Capurro Worldwide Collection, 1840-1955

Although I am firmly into collecting the world "used," I must admit that the most visually striking worldwide collections I've seen house only unused stamps. On June 2, Daniel F. Kelleher will auction during the World Stamp Show NY 2016 the The Adolph J. Capurro Worldwide Collection, 1840-1955
of unused and mint stamps.

To quote from their auction catalog (I've underlined a few sentences I thought particularly interesting):

"The Daniel F. Kelleher family is pleased to present the formidable worldwide collection formed by the late Adolph J. Capurro. This impressive collection...was originally assembled in 14 Scott International albums, albums which often did not include spaces for the high values of the better sets.  This fact in no way deterred Mr. Capurro, as he simply mounted the premium values in the blank margins, or on the backs of other pages, wherever ample space could be found.  In other cases, he carefully cut the appropriate spaces out of Scott Specialty pages which did have spaces for all the stamps, and carefully placed these over the International pages.  In this manner Mr. Capurro was able to assemble and mount a truly massive, mint, fairly complete collection of the world through the issues of 1955. "

Unfortunately, Mr. Capurro died recently but I think all Blue Volume One collectors can agree that his is a worthy example of what can be done with the Scott International series (especially with the help of scissors and a bit of paste.)

Friday, April 1, 2016

April 1 Breaking News: Amos responds to popular demand

Amos Press today announced the results of their recent poll concerning improvements collectors most want to the Scott Blue International album series. The most requested change was to offer the International binders in colors other than blue. Amos admits that the results were a pleasant surprise as they expected collectors would vote for error-free album pages and better coverage, all of which would have cost them a pretty penny.

Starting today, International binders will be available in vermilion, burnt sienna, and near mauve. To pay for these changes, the blue binders will be discontinued. Please note that all International binders are now special order as staff must spray paint existing blue binders and these will take some time to dry. Amos was asked if they were planning to offer additional colors for their Green Specialty albums, but replied that would be “crazy.”

And in a still developing story, we have been unable to reach Jim Jackson, proprietor of the popular BigBlue1840-1940, to learn whether he is changing the name of his blog to reflect the bold new color choices.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thoughts on the 94% Complete Big Blue Sold on eBay

As rarely as large Blue Volume One collections are offered these days (with my arbitrary definition of large as 20K plus), it is even rarer to know much about how the collections were formed and the details of their sale, much less to have photos of every page in the album. Nevertheless, the Big Blue gods are apparently in a good mood as we are now privy to such details about one collection recently sold on eBay. The information is on Jim Jackson’s Big Blue blog as a guest post by Bud, the collector who originally bought the album, removed the stamps he needed for his even more complete Volume One, and then enlisted eBay seller kenr2 to sell the remainder in country lots.

I have very little useful to add to Bud’s summary, Jim’s additions, and the many valuable comments, all of which make the above post a must read for Big Blue collectors. Not that this will stop me from trying to find something to say.

The pages in total brought almost $35K, considerably more than any other large Volume One that I am aware of, and twice as much as one first offered by H R Harmer as complete and then reoffered as “almost complete” in 2008 (admittedly that realization may have been low because it sold during the height of the recession). Even more extraordinary, unlike the H R Harmer lot, Bud’s album did not include US, which, if at a similar level of completion, would have surely swelled the realization by several thousand dollars.

While I too am convinced that “irrational exuberance” inflated the results this time around, it still isn’t clear by how much. One thing I tried, but only for a few countries, was to look at how many serious bidders there were. My methodology was to look at the final selling price and then count the number of bidders who bid at least half as much. I chose this approach because since the final selling prices were high, I think even 50% bids came from serious bidders as opposed to people lowballing.

Here are the countries I kept data on, the number in parentheses indicating the number of bidders making offers of at least 50% of the final selling price:

Latvia & Latakia (3)
Lebanon    (3)
Mariana & Marshall Island (2)
Mauritius (3)
Memel (3)
Persia BoB (2)
Persia     (3)
Prussia & Prince Edward Island [Penrhyn Ilands] (5)   
Paraguay (3) 
Papua New Guinea (4)
Orange River Colony (3)
Panama    (2)
Straits Settlement (3)
Surinam     (3)
Swaziland (2)
Switzerland BoB     (2)
Switzerland (5)

Thirty-one different bidders placed fifty-one bids that were at least 50% of the eventual selling price. There were only five lots where there were only two bidders above the 50% mark. All the rest had between three and five bidders.

Twelve different bidders won these lots. So even though two persons bid on at least five lots and were the high bidders on three, there was still plenty of opportunity for others.

While I admit my analysis of the above is still anecdotal,  I do believe the results suggest that even without irrational exuberance, the collection would easily have sold for $18K, still a record.

My two cents reinforced by this auction:
—selling by country or small groups of countries widens the appeal beyond worldwide collectors;
—taking the time to make quality scans of all pages pays off;
—clean collections show well and encourage higher bids (i.e., no stamps fallen off their hinges and laying in the margins, no stamps that aren’t relevant to the page, etc.);
—traditional auction houses generally do not do a good job selling large Big Blue collections: too few, if any scans, no accurate estimate of number of stamps or percentage completeness, no estimates of total catalog value, etc. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a big auction house even indicate the edition. All Blue Internationals are the same to them. From what I've read, these houses assume that serious bidders will be present or have an agent to personally examine the album.
—$35K is probably above the cost of the original owner to build the collection. Even if a similar collection in the future only realizes half that, I imagine it doesn't change that a savy collector could still hope to regain a significant amount of the cost to complete a Blue Volume One.