Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Brown versus Brown

[As background for the following, the Scott International Postage Stamp Album was first published in 1875/76. All editions published before 1900 were titled simply the "International." But once it was the 20th century and there was the need for a second volume, Scott referred to the album covering 1840-1900 as the “19th Century Edition.” Both of these are part of what are informally referred to as the “Brown” albums.]

I’ve commented on several occasions about Scott’s inexplicable decision to omit spaces for early Afghanistan from their otherwise estimable Brown International “19th Century Edition.” I was also aware that these same later versions of the Brown omit the worldwide postal stationary that was in the Internationals published before 1900. I assume this was because collecting cut squares fell out of favor as well as a desire to control the size of the albums as the number of new stamps dramatically increased.

All of this got me to wondering whether there were any other obvious differences between the Internationals published before 1900 and the ones you encounter today on eBay and other venues (or through the Vintage Reproductions edition). As I own a copy of the 1896 edition of the International as well as the 1930 printing of the Brown titled “19th Century Edition,” I decided to stop wondering and start comparing.

The bad news, as it turns out, my “19th Century Edition” is missing some pages. The good news is, when I checked my 1930 copy against the 1902 pdf copy available online via Google books, I discovered the answer to a question that I’ve wondered about: namely, did Scott’s editors make any changes in the Browns over the years? The answer, in the case of the “19th Century Edition” is yes. In general, the “19 Century Edition” albums published in the early 20th century are reasonably close to those published in the 19th century, except for the deletion of cut squares. Most of the other changes for editions published later represent stamps being removed that were in earlier catalogs as major numbers but subsequently were demoted to minor status or removed entirely (e.g., stamps determined to be essays, locals, etc.). Additions to the album in later editions were much rarer. My favorite is one that would make any Blue International collector proud: the decision to add the Swedish tre skilling yellow rarity which wasn’t in early versions. I guess too many collectors were completing the album and Scott thought it should add an additional degree of difficulty.

Below is a summary of what I’ve found, starting with some general observations. You can be certain that this is not complete; these are just what stood out as I was flipping synchronously through each album.

I think there may be a few more illustrations percentage-wise in the 1896 volume, although this isn’t always more helpful to collectors. I.e., sometimes a description is of more value than a small picture. Or a cut of an overprint sans stamp.

The cuts in the 19th century edition have a white line through them as did the illustrations in some Scott catalogs. I can guess why this was, but does anyone know for certain?

Some countries are out of order in the 1896 album and even in some of the earlier “19th Century Edition” versions, shades of the pre-1994 editions of the Scott Blue. And, of course, you are dealing with a fair number of country name changes, e.g., Haiti versus Hayti.

The 1896 edition includes postage stamps used as revenues, but these are omitted for most countries in the “19th Century Edition.” But not all. I assume that there is a justification for the “19th Century Edition” including those for Hong Kong, New Zealand, Queensland, Venezuela, and Victoria, but I haven’t investigated.

To reiterate, worldwide postal stationary is in the 1896 but not in the “19th Century Edition” except for the United States.

To save on space, I’m using these abbreviations in the following:

1896 - my pre-1900 edition of the Brown
19th - my post-1900 edition of the Brown
E - envelope cut squares
RE - registration envelope cut squares
W - wrapper cut squares.

Countries not listed below appear to include the same stamps for the period the two albums cover or they aren’t in the 1896 edition because the countries first issued stamps after 1895’ish.

OK, let’s dig in:

United States. Postmaster Provisionals. 1896 is missing a number of provisionals such as the Alexandria and Annapolis stamps. Especially peculiar is the 1896 includes only the five cent Providence provisional, and illustrates that with a sheet of 12 rather than a single stamp.

US Carrier stamps. 1896 provides two pages versus one in the 19th Century edition.

US Confederate States. Provisionals. Two and a half pages with cuts and descriptions in the 1896, just a blank page in the 19th.

Afghanistan. Six pages with cuts and descriptions in the 1896, one blank page in the 19th.

Angra. 1896 includes E.

Argentina. 1896 includes E and W.

Argentina. Buenos Aires. 1896 edition includes 3 more stamps than the 19th.

Austria. 1896 includes Pneumatic envelopes, E, and W.

Austria. Levant/Turkey. 1896 includes E.

Austria. Lombardy-Venice. 1896 includes envelopes, 1850 and 1858 revenues used for postage, and the Danube Steam Navigation Company which is some earlier versions of the 19th but missing from my 1930 edition.

Baden. 1896 includes E.

Bahamas. 1896 includes E and RE.

Barbados. 1896 in includes E, RE, and W.

Bavaria. 1896 includes 1865 and 1869-84 return letter stamps, E, and W.

Bechuanaland/British Bechuanaland. 1896 includes RE and W.

Belgium. 1896 edition includes newspaper stamps, E, and letter sheets.

Benin. 1896 edition includes E and thirteen postage due stamps versus four in the 19th Century Edition. According to the current catalog, “Nos. J1-J4 exist with overprint in various positions” which account for the extra spaces.

Bermuda. 1896 missing 1849 Hamilton stamps. Neither include X4-X6. 1896 includes RE.

Bolivia. 1896 includes fifteen spaces for revenues used for postage and E.

Bosnia and Herzegovina. 1896 includes E.

Brazil. 1896 includes E.

British Central Africa. 1896 includes RE.

British East Africa. 1896 includes E and RE.

British Guiana. 1896 includes 3 more official stamps than the 19th. 1896 also includes E, RE and W.

British South Africa 1896 (Rhodesia in 19th). 1896 includes RE.

Brunswick. 1896 includes E.

Canada. 1896 has spaces for a few stamps not in the 19th, e.g., Scott #1 3p red on laid and ribbed (as opposed to wove?). And Scott #2 and #3, the 6p and 12 p black, on laid. 1896 also has the 1879 officially sealed stamp and E, W.

Cape of Good Hope. 1896 has E, RE, and W.

Central American Steamship Co. In 1896. Lost Scott catalog status sometime after that.

Ceylon. 19th has 131 spaces for regular issues compared to 126 in the 1896 for the same years. 1896 has E, RE, and W.

Chile. 1896 has Official seals, Revenues used for postage, Telegraph stamps used for postage, and E.

Chinese Treaty Ports. Chefoo, Chinkiang, Chungking, Hankow, Ichang, Kewkiang, and Wuhu have separate pages in the 1896. The 19th provides three blank pages.

Colombian Republic. There are a number of differences between the two albums, e.g., the 1863 “Same, Star after Cent” spaces which are in the 1896, but not in the 19th having been relegated to minor number status in later editions of the Scott Catalog. The 1879 set of Cali Provisionals that are no longer in Scott are in both editions, six spaces in the 1896 within Colombia proper, and eighteen spaces in the 19th Century edition along with other States.  One weird difference is the cut for the 1863 bisect surcharged “Bueno por Cinco Pesos” on Scott #65 (69?). The cut is flipped for no apparent reason between the two albums. Probably a moot point as this appears to be a fantasy issue (described in Earee’s Album Weeds.) 1896 has Railroad Postal Service and River Postal Service envelopes.

Cook Islands. 1896 provides 4 spaces for the 1896 stamps where the 19th has 8 spaces, one set for toned paper the other for white.

Costa Rica. 1896 has spaces for Revenues Used for Postage as well as E and W.

Costa Rica. Guanteaste. 1896 has spaces for Revenues Used for Postage.

Cuba. 1896 has space for an 1871 ten centavo Republic of Cuba stamp. By the 1930 edition, it had disappeared from the 19th. It appears that this is an essay and there was also a five centavo.

Cyprus. 1896 has RE and W.

Danish West Indies. 1896 has E.

Denmark. 1896 has spaces for Official Seals and E and W.

Diego Suarez. 1896 has E.

Dominica. 1896 has Revenues Used for Postage.

Dominican Republic. 1896 has W.

Dutch Indies. 1896 has E. 19th has two spaces for 1845-46 Postage Dues, Scott J1-2. Are these the first postage due stamps? Most sources say France but these are over a decade earlier.

Ecuador. 1896 has Revenues Used for Postage, and E and W.

Egypt. 1896 has a page of Official stamps 1864-1872 that are not in the 19th. (See http://www.interpostalseals.com/) The 1896 also has E, letter sheets, and W.

Fiji Islands. 1896 has an official stamp from 1888.

Finland. 1896 has E and W.

Formosa. 1896 has 2 stamps from 1888. I don’t find Formosa in the 19th.

France. 1896 has E, W and Pneumatic Envelopes.

French Colonies. 1896 has E and W.

French Guiana. 1896 has E.

French Guinea. 1896 has E.

French India. 1896 has E.

French Oceanica. 1896 has E.

French Sudan. 1896 has E.

Funchal. 1896 has E.

Germany. Postal Services of Princes of Thurn and Taxis. Northern States. 1896 has E.

Germany. Postal Services of Princes of Thurn and Taxis. Southern States. 1896 has E.

Germany. North German Postal District. 1896 has three pages of E, W and Provisional Envelopes.

Germany. Empire. 1896 has E and W.

Gibralter. 1896 has RE and W.

Gold Cost. 1896 has RE and W.

Great Britain. Offices in the Levant. 1896 has E.

Great Britain. 1896 has four spaces for Mulready Envelopes, the 19th, two. The 1896 has six pages for E, RE, W, and Compound Envelopes.

Greece. 1896 has E.

Grenada. 1896 has Revenue Used for Postage, RE, and W.

Griqualand West. 19th has blank page for “Cape of Good Hope Stamps Surcharged.” 1896 has three pages with cuts and descriptions.

Guadeloupe. 1896 has E.

Guatemala. 1896 has E and W.

Hamburg. 1896 has E.

Hamburg American Mail Company. 1 space in 1896.

Hanover. 1896 has E and Local Envelopes.

Hawaii. 1896 has E.

Heligoland. 1896 has E and W.

Honduras. 1896 has E and W.

Hong Kong. 1896 and 19th have spaces for Revenues Used for Postage/Postal-Fiscal Stamps. 1896 has Official Seal.

Hungary. 1896 has spaces for E and W.

India. My 1930 edition of the 19th starts India with three spaces for the Scinde District Posts which the 1896 has with its Protected States pages. 1896 has E and RE.

India. Protected States. 1896 has 27 pages with separate spaces, 19th has five blank pages. 1896 includes cut squares as applicable.

Ivory Coast. 1896 includes E.

Jamaica. 1896 includes Revenues used for postage and W.

Japan. 1896 includes Officially Sealed, and E, W, and Official Wrapper.

Lagos. 1896 includes RE.

Leeward Islands. 1896 includes E, RE, and W.

Liberia. 1896 includes E, RE, W.

Lubbock. 1896 includes E.

Madagascar (British). 19th has 10 pages versus six and a half in 1896.

Madeira. 1896 has E.

Malta. 1896 has RE and W.

Mauritius. 1896 has E and RE.

Mayotte. 1896 has E.

Mecklenburg Schwerin. 1896 has spaces for both Scott 6 and 6a.

Mecklenburg Strelitz. 1896 has E.

Mexico. 1896 has official seals, E, official envelopes, and W.

Mexico. Campeche. 1896 has space for imperforate 25 centavo.

Mexico. Morelia. 19th has 1 space, not in 1896.

Mexico. Zactecas. 1896 has 2 spaces, not in 19th.

Monoco. 1896 has E, W.

Montenegro. 1896 has E, W.

Montserrat. 1896 has 1884 revenue used for postage.

Morocco. 1896 has a page with spaces for Mazagan-Morocco, Mazagan-Marakech, Mogador-Morocco, and Tanger-Fez. 19th has one blank page for “Stamps used for service between various cities in Morocco.”

Mozambique Company. 1896 has spaces for two newspaper stamps versus one in the 19th.

Natal. 1896 has W.

Nepal. Missing in 1896.

Netherlands. 1896 has E.

Nevis. 1896 has revenues used for postage.

New Caledonia. 1896 has spaces for seven 1893 military stamps and E.

Newfoundland. 1896 has E, W.

New Republic. There appears to be some differences in coverage between the two albums but I was too lazy to figure out the differences (i.e., same yellow paper, same gray paper, etc.). 1896 has E.

New South Wales. 1896 has E, official envelopes, official registration envelopes, RE, and W.

New Zealand. 1896 has space for 1896 newspaper stamp as well as spaces for the 1890 railway newspaper stamps. 1896 has three pages for revenues used for postage. The 19th, which mostly ignores this type of stamp, has one page for postal-fiscal stamps.

Nicaragua. 1896 has three pages for E, an official envelope, and W.

Niger Coast Protectorate. 1896 has RE.

North Borneo. 1896 includes revenues used as postage.

Norway. 1896 includes return letter stamps and E.

Nossi Bé. 1896 has E.

Oldenburg. 1896 has E.

Orange Free State. 1896 includes nine 1892 telegraph stamps used for postage.

Pacific Steam Navigation Company. 1896 has spaces for 11 stamps. Not in 19th or current Scott catalog.

Panama. I didn’t find in the 1896 so I assume my copy is missing these pages.

Paraguay. 1896 has E and W.

Persia. 1896 starts with space for 1868 Coat of Arms stamp which is not in the current catalog. 1896 has W.

Peru. 1896 has a page of E.

Peru. Provisional Issues. 19th century edition has one blank page for Provisional issues. 1896 has three pages with spaces for Arequipa, Ancash, Apurimac, Ayacucho, Chala, Chiclayo, Cuzco, Huacho, Paita, Moquega, Pasco, Pisco, Piura, Puno, and Yca.

Philippines. 1896 separates out the provisional issues, 19th integrates in one sequence.

Poland. 1896 has E.

Ponta Delgada. 1896 has E.

Portugal. 1896 has E.

Prince Edward Island. 1896 includes space for 1b (catalog $17K versus $250 for the major number in the 2007 catalog).

Prussia. 1896 has a page of E including the 1867 Victoria National Invalided Stiftung.

Queensland. 1896 has space for 1894 Newspaper stamps and W. 19th has spaces for three registration stamps versus only one in the 19th. 19th inexplicably provides a blank page for revenues used for postage.

Reunion. 1896 has E.

Romania. 1896 includes W.

Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. In 1896, not in 19th.

Russia. 1896 includes 2 pages of E and W.

St. Christopher. 1896 includes revenues used for postage.

St. Lucia. 1896 includes revenues used for postage, RE and W.

St. Marie de Madagascar. 1896 includes E.

St. Pierre Miquelon. 1896 includes E.

St. Vincent. 1896 includes RE and W.

Salvador. 1896 includes five pages for E and W.

Saxony. 1896 includes E.

Seychelles. 1896 has E.

Shanghai. There may be some differences between the two editions but I didn’t pursue. 1896 has E and W.

Sierra Leone. 1896 has RE.

South African Republic/Transvaal. 1896 and 19th differ in coverage of pre-1877/78 issues. 1896 has E.

South Australia. 1896 has W and official wrappers. Both have a blank page for official stamps. The 19th century qualifies this is “Stamps of regular issues surcharged with the initial letters of various departments” and then provides two pages with spaces for stamps overprinted O.S.

South Bulgaria. Another cut example.

Straits Settlements. 1896 includes RE.

Straits Settlements. Johore. 1896 missing Scott #1.

Suez Canal Co. Not in my 1930 version of the 19th but was in some earlier.

Sweden. My edition of the 19th includes 3 skilling error but it wasn’t in some earlier. 1896 has E.

Switzerland. 1896 has E and W.

Terra del Fuego. This private post is in the 1896.

Tasmania. 1896 has revenues used for postage, E, RE and W.

Timor. 1896 missing Scott #21. 1896 has space for 1883 10 R free surcharged on Mozambique. 19th also has this stamp and same on Portuguese India stamp. Both are given minor numbers today, Scott 2a and 2b.

Tobago. 1896 has RE.

Tonga. 1896 has E and RE.

Trinidad. 1896 has RE and W as well as space for the Lady McLeod Steam Navigation Company stamp. The Lady McLeod was in some earlier editions of the 19th.

Tunis. 1896 has space for E.

Turkey. 1896 has six spaces for 1887 privately produced surcharged bisects. Was in some earlier editions of 19th. 1896 has spaces for E.

Uruguay. 1896 missing Scott 3B. 1896 has E and W.

Venezuela. 1896 has ten spaces for Scott 1-6 versus three in the 19th. 1896 has spaces for revenues used for postage, blank half page in 19th.

Victoria. Both 1896 and 19th have spaces for revenues used for postage. 1896 has three pages for E, RE, and W.

Western Australia. 1896 has space for the inverted Swan error 3a.

Wurttemberg. 1896 has space for postage dues. Missing in the 19th. 1896 has E and official envelopes.

United States [BOB]. 1896 has telegraph stamps, revenue stamps, playing card stamps, and proprietary stamps. 19th has official seals, E, official envelopes, telegraph stamps, revenue stamps, proprietary stamps, and documentary stamps.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April 1st Breaking News: Scott to Bring Back the Browns

In an effort to compete with William Steiner’s popular printable worldwide pages, Scott announced today that it will sell what you need to produce and customize your own International Brown albums. The Browns are widely recognized as the finest worldwide albums ever published but were discontinued by Scott in the early 1940s.

Unlike Steiner who distributes his album pages on CD-ROM or via download, Scott plans to sell customers the tens of thousands of original letter press metal cuts and type used to print the Browns. According to Scott’s press release, their market research has proven that collectors of the first one hundred years of philately want to create albums using a complementary technology. “Sure,” a Scott executive explains, “we could have gone with something experimental like dot matrix, but our company wants to be cutting edge, not bleeding edge.”

Price on request. Some assembly required. Does not include printing press. Shipping extra. (P.S. Scott is serious about the cutting edges; don’t hurt yourself.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scott International Album Accessories

There is a current eBay auction for an older set of International Postage Stamp Album Title Labels. Scott describes them as “Pressure sensitive labels. Easily attached by hand. Made of the same handsome, durable binding material as Scott’s blank International binders. These labels will appear to be a permanent part of the album spine. Yet they permit the collector to arrange his International pages exactly as he desires. Handsome. Permanent. Convenient.”

As far as I can tell, you can no longer buy a prepackaged set of labels, but you can still purchase them individually. On the Amos Advantage site, there is a dropdown in the Search menu for “binder labels: international.” They correlate to a previous version, so there are only two rather than four separate labels for the Volume One.

This got me to wondering whether there were any accessories sold for the International series that aren’t available today. The only thing I can come up with are the Coats of Arms, Flags and Rulers of Countries. Perhaps you know of others. To get us started, here are the accessories I’m aware of:

Binder small blue (regular)
Binder large blue (jumbo)
Slipcase small blue
Slipcase large blue
Binder labels (currently sold for individual binders)
Blank pages with the International border
Blank quadrille lined pages with the International Border
Blue protector sheets for International binder
Glassine interleaving 2-round post International

No longer available:

Coats of Arms (96), 19th Century Series
Flags (88), 19th Century Series
Rulers (72), 19th Century Series
Binder labels (set for all currently available volumes)

Other accessories that can be used with the International but not specific to the series include:

Scott Filler strips

I thought I remembered that Amos sold Advantage Stocksheets (1-8 pockets) with the International Border, but I don’t find these on their website. I own some but they are packed up at the moment so I can’t check.

Subway Stamps in their G&K line sells versions of most of the above, but it is worth specifically noting:

G&K Interleaving Crystal clear film
G&K Inventory Record Pages
G&K Crystal clear page protectors (closed on 2 sides).

Saturday, January 3, 2015

If You Still Have Money Left Over From the Holidays....

The Daniel F. Kelleher Auction Sale #662 (January 23-24, 2015) features more tantalizing country and area collections than I've encountered in awhile. (There is one Blue collection, lot 857, that looks interesting but one would need to see this in person to gauge its completeness. If you look at lot 857, note what I assume are custom binders. Cool.) But I'm posting about this sale because of the range of single country and area collections, particularly Tony Pasquarello's "Impossibles" Collections.

According to the auction firm, these are "vast country collections from 1840 to 1940 where the emphasis was on obtaining stamps that were impossible to find and to complete each collection. (I'm not certain that "Impossibles" is entirely accurate, but at least they didn't called it the "Uniques" collection.) Pasquarello's collections focused primarily on Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt (see the image on the left), Estonia, Finland, France, Germany & Germany States, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Italy and Italian States & Colonies, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Colonies, Norway, Poland, Portuguese Colonies, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tripolitania, Turkey and [the always popular] worldwide balances. The collections are mint and used and complete or almost 99% complete." Not only do I like the date range that Mr. Pasquarello chose, but also that there are a surprising number of (choice) used stamps as opposed to the high percentage of unused/mint typically found in large country collections. Now all I have to do is win each of these lots and I will be well on the way to a nice Brown International Collection (or a Blue with a lot of extra pages).

In addition to Pasquarello's holdings, there are many others worth perusing, not the least of which is Michael Roger's specialized Ethiopia. But the latter falls beyond the scope even of the Brown Internationals.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Robert E. Zoellner (1932-2014)

As this blog has been happily writing itself the past few days due to all of the excellent comments being submitted, I'm going to feel free to digress a bit. Perhaps the most erudite stamp discussion group I regularly read is PhilaMercury which is largely devoted to 19th century United States, but with frequent forays into other time periods and countries. Even though the US is no longer a specific collecting interest of mine, the quality of the contributions and depth of knowledge keeps me coming back.

Recently on PhilaMercury, Scott R. Trepel wrote of the death of Robert E. Zoellner, apparently the only collector to have acquired every Scott listed United States stamp. This prompted me to go back and look at the Robert A. Siegel auction catalog for Mr. Zoellner's collection which was sold October 8-10, 1998 (the pdf of the auction catalog is available online).

Four aspects of Mr. Zoellner's collection stood out:

1) I had been curious whether it was possible to form a complete US collection but had never taken the time to research the question. One reason this interests me is a common admonition against collecting the world is that a complete collection is impossible. But we've seen that it is possible for a worldwide collection to be 99% complete, at least as regards the major numbers. Which begs the question of how many single or area country collectors ever come near that goal? That they don't presumably does not argue against country collecting.

2) Only of personal interest, looking through the catalog took me back to my childhood when I first discovered in the local library Lester G Brookman's then two volume set on 19th century US stamps. I still remember drooling over the hand lettered album pages from the Philip J. Ward collection, as well as page after page of incredible covers and multiples. The Zoellner collection offers a similar feast.

3) Mr. Zoellner kept his collection in a Scott Platinum album, with custom pages designed to interface with the published ones.

4) Finally, Mr. Trepel's introduction to the Siegel sale  details how the collection was built. Here are a couple of quotes that I particularly enjoyed:

"…my thoughts go back to an observation once made by Raymond H. Weill… He told me that above all, the collector must have both the means and the inclination. The concept is so simple that my reaction upon hearing it was to look for other requirements. What about knowledge? Or time? Was it not important to join collector groups? Surely there must be other essentials.

Experience has taught me the simple truth of Raymond Weill's observation. Truly great collections begin with the inclination to collect and grow through the dedication of financial resources necessary to acquire significant items. Knowledge may come to the collector. Membership in societies may add sociability to the process. The time spent collecting may be long or short (the key is being there at the right time). However, means and, inclination are the fundamentals that determine how events in a collector's life will unfold."

"Collectors are motivated for many reasons, but the seeds of inclination are often planted in childhood, when many of us were introduced to stamp collecting by our parents or teachers. Robert Zoellner started as a child and tried to fill the spaces of a United States stamp album with the best copies he could afford. When his interest was rekindled in 1984, Mr. Zoellner pulled out that old album and became reacquainted with the Columbian, Trans-Mississippi and Overrun Nations issues. This time he could afford to complete those sets with examples in choice condition."

"When Mr. Zoellner told me he was considering selling the collection that he calls 'our' collection, I actually felt myself resisting the idea, despite the obvious benefits to me and this firm. Then I thought about Raymond Weill's words again-means and inclination-and I realized that for a dozen years Robert Zoellner was the most determined collector I have ever met, who had the means to achieve his goal. He did it, he enjoyed it, he learned from it, and now he no longer has the inclination to go beyond his original goal or to keep stamps locked away from other collectors."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Apfelbaum’s Corner

I know there is some disagreement about the Apfelbaum organization as the most affordable way for purchasing stamps, but I hope there is no disagreement about the value of John Apfelbaum's informative and entertaining blog. Just a couple of examples from my most recent perusal:

--as of 2009, "there was slightly over $2 billion of unused postage stamps in collectors’ hands";

--Hermann Herst Jr's Nassau Street "was on the New York Times’ bestseller list";

--How it came about that "collectors all around the world use the same types of perforation gauges and count perfs."

I have a permanent link to Mr. Apfelbaum's latest blog entry on the right of this screen, and I encourage you to check out his posts at least a couple of times a month.

there was slightly over $2 billion of unused postage stamps in collectors’ hands - See more at: http://www.apfelbauminc.com/blog/the-will-always-be-new-stamps/#sthash.9pPijO5f.dpu
there was slightly over $2 billion of unused postage stamps in collectors’ hands - See more at: http://www.apfelbauminc.com/blog/the-will-always-be-new-stamps/#sthash.9pPijO5f.dpufthere
there was slightly over $2 billion of unused postage stamps in collectors’ hands - See more at: http://www.apfelbauminc.com/blog/the-will-always-be-new-stamps/#sthash.9pPijO5f.dpuf
there was slightly over $2 billion of unused postage stamps in collectors’ hands - See more at: http://www.apfelbauminc.com/blog/the-will-always-be-new-stamps/#sthash.9pPijO5f.dpuf
there was slightly over $2 billion of unused postage stamps in collectors’ hands - See more at: http://www.apfelbauminc.com/blog/the-will-always-be-new-stamps/#sthash.9pPijO5f.dpuf

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Has the Internet Made It Easier to Complete a Blue Volume One?

The article that did the most to make me take the worldwide plunge was “They Collected the World” that appeared in the 26 April 1978 Washington Post. As I have written on this blog before, the article detailed how two collectors completed the first 29 volumes of the Scott International series. I was particularly fascinated by the details of how they acquired their stamps and which were the hardest to find. 

“’The hunt becomes more important than the object of the hunt,’ [one of the collectors] muses. A Syrian misprint, a nondescript green portrait of the goddess Ceres that says 25 centimes where it ought to say 50, eluded them for two years; [one of them] tramped all over Paris looking for it, pored through every catalog he could find, sent letters off to Damascus. One of the letters was forwarded to a Syrian dealer who had moved to Dubai, a minuscule Arab state on the Persian gulf, and who responded with a nice little note conveying his respect and enclosing the stamp.”

And for many stamps the story was similar. Countless wantlists and letters mailed to dealers around the world. Obsessive perusal of printed auction catalogs. It took them six years to complete their task of filling all 29 volumes.

And all done before eBay, Delcampe, online auction catalogs, and email. But today?

Cases in point: There are three stamps in the Blue that I have at one time or another seen identified as difficult to find:

—Syria Scott 106a (the Syrian misprint described above)
—Colombia E1, the country’s first special delivery stamp
—Cabe Juby 48-50 (high values from an overprinted series; the Blue has spaces for any two of the three).

Syria 106a took a year to find a copy. When I did find it, the stamp only cost me $25 on Delcampe, about 10% of catalog. Not long after I saw another copy on eBay. Unfortunately I didn’t record the details, but I remember the purchaser paid closer to the catalog value. Most recently, there was an auction with multiple copies, each of which sold for high prices.

I learned about the Colombia E1 special delivery stamp from a stamp market column by Henry Gitner in Linn’s. He said something to the effect that, in spite of not being particularly expensive, most collectors of Colombia have never seen this stamp. Nevertheless, this was the easiest of the three to acquire. The search took only about a month, but I had to obtain it as part of set of album pages which cost about $13. I just checked and there is a copy for sale on eBay. In spite of the scarcity of single stamps, Antonius Ra found a complete sheet. (Check out his comments here: http://stamps2go.com/Item.aspx?SellerID=ANTONIUSRA&Ref=cole1)

Cape Juby 48-50 took a year and a half of searching. The entire country is something of a challenge but I was first alerted to the difficulty of this particular series by a collector who needed the high values to complete (literally) his Volume One. Since I have been searching, I have not seen a set for sale until one appeared on eBay a couple of weeks ago which I acquired for $71 (the entire set, not just the top denominations).

Now, I must say that I wasn’t diligent in looking for any of the above but the Syria error. For the Cape Juby, in particular, weeks would go buy where I would forget to check. But when I did remember, there was nothing on eBay, Delcampe, or any of the usual suspects. Until now.

Is there any stamp, then, in the Blue Volume One which cannot be found online with reasonable persistance? So far, none that I know of. But still, in spite of the feeling by some specialist collectors that there is no thought needed to collect the world, only a big bank account, I do like the idea that there are thousands of stamps required for the Blue that you cannot find on any given day, even for ready money. The quest to fill the Blue will take you on a journey lasting years and the final stamp you hinge in your album is just as likely to cost 50 cents as it is $500. Probably more likely.

Addendum. The 29 volume set of completed Scott Internationals mentioned above were eventually sold at auction. One of the ironies is that most of the individual auction lots were for stamps not in the Blue but in country collections purchased entire for cheaper but elusive stamps the collectors needed. Here are my notes from the auction for some individual stamps that I believe are in the International series and that were identified by the collectors or auctioneers as “hard to get.” An asterisk indicates those in the Volume One.

Belgium 717-727A Scarce
*Dominican Republic 209-232 Hard to find
*France Offices in China, difficult
*Germany 242A scarce
*Great Britain 33 Plt 225 scarce
Iran 1058A-72 scarce
Iran O58-71 Scarce
Italy QY5-11 scare
Lebanon RA1-7, 9 Elusive
*Mayotte 1-20 scarce high values
Mexico C285 NH scarce
Nepal 51-9 scarce
Nepal O15 scarce
Nigeria 258-67 scarce
*Norway 67-9 scarce
*Norway 132-5 underpriced
*Norway 154-7 underpriced
Pakistan 258-9 scarce
Pakistan O73 cat. $1.56
Paraguay C382-8 Very difficult issues
Saudi Arabia 302/449 gas and oil series, difficult
Saudi Arabia 459-597 scarce definitives
*Syria 106c The toughest stamp in the Intl's (Scott has subsequently renumbered 106c to 106a)
*Upper Sileisa Four unlisted Scott shown in Intl's
Yemen Following 58: Three unissued values which appear in Intl. Very scarce.
Yugoslavia 393 scarce