Saturday, April 1, 2017

April 1st Breaking News: Wikileaks Reveals Rejected “Filling Spaces” Blog Posts.

The secret of the Big Blue that Scott doesn’t want you to know.

You won’t believe what happened after this collector completed her Volume One.

How to sell your Scott International, quit your day job, and retire to Tahiti.

The 35,000 stamps you need for your International album. Number 30,436 is impossible.

How the coming Zombie Apocalypse will impact the worldwide stamp collector.

Family pet drops Scott International into the toilet. Watch what happens next.

Is licking hinges Oprah’s weight loss secret?

L@@K!!!!! COMPLETE INT VOL 1 FOR SALE. HUNDRED OF STAMP. WON”T FIND HUGER ALBUM. MUST CHECK ALL 5 PICS. 99 CENT START. (POSTAGE $499999.)

Fifteen reasons why owning a Big Blue will change your life. #13 will shock you.

Seven costly mistakes to avoid with your 1840-1940 album.

Big Blue versus Big Foot, Lochness Monster, and the Abominable Snowman. Who would win?

Giant asteroid heading towards Earth. Here is what you need to do NOW to protect your collection.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Limaye’s Big Blue Catalog Value Project

The eagle eyed among you will notice a new category titled Projects to the right of this post. The first project involves, among other things, calculating the catalog value of all the stamps in the Big Blue Volume One.

As Dilip R. Limaye's Volume One has been almost at 100% completion (missing only one stamp - the elusive Syria Scott 106c), he has been creating Excel spreadsheets to keep track of his collection and its catalog value. This includes all stamps for which there are spaces in his 1943 version of the Scott International Volume One (Big Blue) album. For all of these, he has entered the Scott 2017 catalog values for mint and used stamps. As a service to all Big Blue collectors, Dilip is allowing me to publish summary information on the current catalog values for every country in Volume One as he has time to enter the data. So if everything goes as planned, the last major unknown about the Big Blue, the total catalog value of the 35,000 stamps therein, may finally be within grasp. And it has only taken a hundred years. (The first International album was published in 1914.)

I think this knowledge will be an important step towards countering the notion that the Volume One is really a "junior" album containing largely common stamps. It may also confirm that a collection based on the least catalog value will be considerably less expensive to build than one exclusively used or unused. I am also intrigued with trying to guess which countries will turn out to be the most expensive and which the least.

After you read the results for countries A-C, please remember to check back periodically for updates. Dilip welcomes comments.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Closet collectors

While looking for something else, I came across a blog post from 2013, "Some Advantages of Buying Important Collections Intact," on the David Feldman auction site.
"The old-fashioned 'closet' collectors were often successful in taking decades to build their collections without broadcasting their interests to the world. Buying an important collection or exhibit, and doing so anonymously at auction or by private treaty, is a way to save time, save money, and prevent premature exposure as a collector or exhibitor of the area until you decide the time is ripe!"
I rather doubt that many of the people who use the Scott International Volume One are "closet" collectors, but it does remind me of how the collectors whose comprehensive collections have recently come on the market seem to appear out of nowhere. I suppose dealers and auction houses are aware of them, but to their friends and neighbors they might seem like normal people. (Well perhaps not that normal!) I do recall someone mentioning vis-a-vis the Harmer-Schau private treaty collection that they remembered a secretive worldwide collector who regularly outbid all comers. This is in contrast to people like Bill Gross whose collecting proclivities are well known.
 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

An Addition to the most comprehensive worldwide collections list

Even though I am a 25+ year member of the American Philatelic Society, I missed the 2009 article in the APS journal titled "Selling Stamps Can Increase Your Collection" by Forrest H. Blanding. Fortunately, friend of the blog ChrisW was more diligent and has recently written about the article on two stamp collection discussion forums. While much of Blanding's article is devoted to how he leveraged selling stamps as a dealer to support his collecting (usually thought of as a "no no" unless you collect in an area other than what you sell), I'm going to concentrate on the details of his collection.

By the the time the author finished high school, he already had "25,000 different stamps in Scott 19th Century, 1900–1919, and 1920–1926 international albums." After a time out during college and early marriage (sound familiar?), he started purchasing in earnest, buying thousands of collections over a 50 year period which he resold largely via approvals or wantlists after removing what he needed. The end result?

"My collection included issues only to 1975, because accumulating the massive wallpaper being issued after then took too much time, cost too much money, and did not provide any real collecting challenge.  The final collection included 98 percent of all major world stamps listed up to 1975 in the Scott Catalogues — more than 200,000 different stamps, all in mint or unused condition except for some high-priced nineteenth-century issues. It filled to near completion fifty bulging volumes of the Scott International series. It included the best copies from all the collections I had purchased over the years, so the stamp condition was usually exceptional on all but some of the early values.

Two-thirds of the Scott-listed countries were complete in major varieties up to 1975, including some larger countries such as Denmark and Norway. Germany proper lacked only one stamp, France lacked two, and Canada was missing just three. I could never have owned most of these stamps with-out my collecting-selling activities."

(I'm assuming from Blanding's description that he vastly expanded the International Volume One or more likely used the original Browns.)

When Blanding decided to sell his collection in 1995, he did so through his own dealership and auction houses.

The article, by the way, appeared in the November 2009 American Philatelist on pages 1044-1048. Well worth a read if you have access.

So we now know of three collections 98+% complete for the periods 1840-1975, 1840-1981, and 1840-2012.  I have to believe there must be more. In fact, I just added a couple of more possibilities to the list (Cole and Johnson).

Thursday, February 9, 2017

More statistics on worldwide stamp collecting

I have been negligent in mentioning what I think is the most detailed analysis yet of the practicality of collecting worldwide from 1840 to date. The analysis appears on Keijo Kortelainen's Stamp Collecting Blog and is titled "Is collecting a complete worldwide stamp collection possible? Take III – the final word – money and catalog values." You need to have a subscription to read it so I will just link to his Stamp Collecting Blog site. It would be a disservice for me to attempt any summary, but I hope it will be OK to tease with the questions (quoted or paraphrased from his article) that Keijo is researching:

1) How much the total catalog value of complete (but yet simplified) used world collection would be? 

2) Is collecting the classic era (in used condition) more expensive, as generally claimed?

3) What is the ratio of different catalog values for used stamps? We collectors tend to say that 99% of stamps are worth very little or nothing. Is this true or false?

4) Are some stamp types more expensive than others? 

5) Are some countries or locations more expensive / affordable than others?


Now you know you want to learn the answers! Don't forget to read the comments.

And Linn's has published its annual "Scott Worldwide Stamp Cost" for 2015. (I.e, literally all the world except for the US.) I have done a summary in the past, but I have been beat to it this year by a much more thorough analysis and critique by "madbaker" Mark on "The Stamp Forum." You can read his post and the comments by clicking here.

The original Linn's article can be found here, as well as links to earlier ones back to 2002.

Friday, January 6, 2017

"An Analysis of Worldwide Catalog Data"

I wrote about “The Most Affordable Classic Stamps to Collect” by Michel Bégin in an article I did for the International Worldwide Stamp Collector's journal some years back. As impressive as Bégin's effort was, the concept has been revisited on an even grander scale by PostmasterGS for his GermanStamps.net site. The new study includes all worldwide stamps in the 2015-2016 Michel catalogs (except for Germany which uses Michel’s 2015 Deutschland-Spezial and which means that the coverage for Germany is more detailed than for other countries).

For every issuing authority in Michel, PostmasterGS has determined the total number of issues broken down by ranges of catalog value (for example, under 10or more than 100€) separating out mint and used.  The information is presented in tables that you can filter and sort in several different ways. He has also calculated both numbers and percentages.

PostmasterGS points out that as not all stamps are given a catalog value, or are only priced either mint or used but not both, summary calculations based on this data can be unreliable. Definitely read his notes before drawing any conclusions.

A fun idea he borrowed from Bégin was the affordability of one area to another. For example, after sorting from high to low, it appears that the following are the five most difficult to complete:

Italy - Italian States - Parma (24 stamps)
United Kingdom - Officials (103)
Malay States - Straits Settlement - Bangkok (25)
Italy - Italian States - Tuscany (39)
Mauritius (1563).

But there are lots of nuances. Eighty-six percent of Mauritius catalogs under 10 euros. And those "Post Office" stamps were mistakes anyway, so surely you can leave them out.

My original interest in such projects focused on two areas. How many stamps have been issued? And what would it cost to acquire them? Based on this latest study, the answer is 1,013,620 stamps including varieties with a catalog value of 7,670,304 Euros. So now we know!

[PostmasterGS says there are 829,992 individual stamp issues in the database, with a total CV of €48,387,679 (mint) or €26,485,722 (used).]

The tables are here: http://www.germanstamps.net/ia_cost_comparison_ww/

There is an ongoing discussion on Stampboards: http://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=74738

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Checklist of Comprehensive Worldwide Stamp Collections

[Note: I originally called this a checklist of "large" collections but it is really meant to include collections that are largely complete for the years covered. Except, of course, for the complete Blue Volume One collections which are their own animal.]

None of what is here is new information, but I thought it might be handy to have a list of these collections in one place. Additions and corrections are always welcome. I will continue to update as new information comes to light.

I’ve come up with five arbitrary categories:

1) Certifiably large worldwide collections (i.e., the collection size is certifiable, not necessarily the collectors; these are collections which encompass 1840 to at least the 1950s).

2) Honorable mentions (these might belong in the first category but we’re missing some important details about their size or scope. I’m also including here two large collections you can peruse online.)

3) Collections still being built (these might belong in one of the above categories). Keijo on his Stamp Collecting blog has been conducting a poll to identify such collections. The latest results suggest there are at least 50 active collectors with at least 50,000 up to 400,000 plus stamps.

4) Legendary worldwide stamp collections (almost entirely pre-1940; this was harder to do than I thought because even though the collectors are well known, information about them concentrates on rarities rather than more common stamps that would constitute the bulk of a comprehensive worldwide collection. So until I learn otherwise, collectors such as Caspary and Hind are missing. Much of the information comes from Dr. Stanley M. Bierman’s The World’s Great Stamp Collectors.)

5) Complete Scott International Volume Ones (obviously the most important category, but I thought I would save the best for last). I’ve included substantially complete because when you are down to a handful of empty spaces, anyone who could afford to buy such a collection could also afford to complete it. I would expand this category to include Minkus Supreme Global albums if I knew of any that were filled or almost filled.)

1) Certifiably large worldwide collections

PRIVATE TREATY. In 2012, Harmer-Schau offered by private treaty a collection they said was 99.9% complete for the world from 1840-2010, minus the United States. Assuming the description is accurate, this appears to be the most complete stamp collection ever formed, lacking only 1200 or so stamps with major Scott numbers. Accord to Harmer-Schau, “the collection is meticulously housed in black mounts in over 200 Minkus albums. Also, there are numerous albums, stockbooks and file folders with extra material, such as booklet panes and sheetlets. All countries are represented, Afghanistan (nearly complete tiger heads, mostly in full plating) through Zululand." Asking price is $2.9 million USD. Perhaps it has not sold as the prospectus is still on Harmer-Schau’s website.

WORLD TRAVELER. This collection was sold by Robert A. Siegel in 2013. According to the auction catalog, “The World Traveler collection is one of the most complete worldwide collections ever assembled for the time period covered [1840-1981], containing all but about 1,600 major listings (over 99% complete) and more than 85% of the minor varieties. It is a remarkable collecting achievement...The collection fills more than 725 Scott Specialty Albums!” The more valuable items sold at auction for around $1.25 million and the remainder are being handled by a Florida dealer.

As I think about the above two, I’m wondering if the World Traveler collection was actually the more comprehensive for the years covered because of all the minor varieties? But the Harmer-Schau has coverage for almost thirty additional years. Regardless, the bottom line for me is that both of these demonstrate that it is still possible to collect the world at a level of completion that would be the envy of most individual country collectors.

CLIFFORD C. COLE, JR. Robert A Siegel sold the Cole collection of US and worldwide in 1988.  According to Siegel, "A magnificent and comprehensive 100 volume collection of general foreign postage stamps. Virtually each country collection offered in this sale has been left intact or nearly intact so as not to spoil its beauty and desirability. Mr. Cole, in his effort to achieve completeness, acquired many rare and elusive stamps of both high and low value. We acknowledge the 'low value' stamps as many of them are just as difficult to obtain as some rarities. The stamps in the collections are all different and the overall quality is far above average." Cole's US collection lacked only 4 stamps to be complete. The end date for each country varied, but seems to be largely into the 1970s. The worldwide, North America and British Commonwealth auctions realized over one million dollars.

FORREST H. BLANDING. Blanding's collection "included 98 percent of all major world stamps listed up to 1975 in the Scott Catalogues — more than 200,000 different stamps, all in mint or unused condition except for some high-priced nineteenth-century issues. It filled to near completion fifty bulging volumes of the Scott International series. It included the best copies from all the collections I had purchased over the years, so the stamp condition was usually exceptional on all but some of the early values." (Quoted from Nov 2009 article by the collector in the APS American Philatelist.)

DR. CLAIBORNE JOHNSON, JR. Sold by Shreves Philatelic Galleries in 2003. According to Shreves, "Dr. Claiborne Johnson, Jr. has built a United States and Worldwide collection of such size and variety that only a very few collectors have ever accomplished. His main goal was to acquire as many different examples of the world's postage stamps as possible, with emphasis on the stamps of the United States. He obtained over 220,000 different stamps, contained in well over 100 Scott Specialty albums - with a catalog value in excess of $3,000,000. " The last years covered vary but appear to be between the 1960s and 80s.

DR. HSIEN-MING MENG.  Dr. Meng accumulated a collection of more than 250,000 different in more than 400 albums. According to Dr. Meng, "With most countries I am nearly complete in issues to about 1985. A few favored countries such as China, Hong Kong, Macao and some European countries are complete to date..."The collection was auctioned by H R Harmer as part of its Sale 194: Collections of the World (October 10-11, 2008).

2) Honorable mentions

"A VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT WORLDWIDE STAMP COLLECTION.” Sold at auction by Robert A Siegel in 2016 for $749K. “Offered intact from a collector’s estate, by order of the trustee. This collection in 33 Scott Specialty albums is the result of at least three decades of dedicated collecting by one of those rare individuals who set out to complete the world. Excluding the United States and Possessions, which are not part of this collection, virtually every country is represented for the years stamps were issued up to the mid-20th century…Hundreds of countries and thousands of completely filled pages are contained in this massive collection, which is offered intact, according to instructions received from the trustee of the deceased collector’s trust."

“WORLDWIDE COLLECTION. 1840-1980's, impressive lifetime collection of unused and used stamps in 38 overstuffed volumes and one loose carton…THIS IS EASILY ONE OF THE MOST IMPRESSIVE WORLDWIDE COLLECTION LOTS THE SIEGEL FIRM HAS EVER HANDLED.” Realized $250K in 2005.

THE ANTONIUS RA COLLECTION. This is the collection of Mitchell Ward. “Most complete collection of classic World wide stamps on the internet.” http://antonius-ra.com/mward/collection/
You can find some additional information here: http://globalstamps.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-guest-post-from-antonious-ra.html

Antonius Ra is currently showing some pages (including mouthwatering early US) on the Stamporama site.

WORLD STAMP ALBUMS. DR CHENG CHANG’S COUNTRY COLLECTIONS. “Dr. Cheng Chang intends to collect over 90% of the world’s stamps from 1840, the world’s first stamp, up to and around 1990, though collections from many countries, such as China, Canada, Germany and so on, are up to year of 2000 or even over. This web site is still under construction and will be updated by daily bases. Whenever a country’s collection reaches 90% completion or over, its collection will be posted on this site.” http://worldstampalbum.com/

3) Legendary worldwide stamp collections

TAPLING COLLECTION. Formed by Thomas Keay Tapling, it is virtually complete 1840 to 1890 for stamps and postal stationary, with additional strength in essays, shades, proofs, multiples, and covers. I use the present tense because the collection was bequeathed to the British Museum and consequently is the only major early collection to still exist intact. The stamps are housed on 4,500 sheets, although I’m not clear as to whether these are Tapling’s original pages.

FERRARY COLLECTION. Dr. Bierman wrote that “by the 1880s, Ferrary was credited with owning the most complete collection known, and was never to relinquish that title.” But because of his emphasis on acquiring rarities, I’m uncertain whether he devoted much energy to common stamps. He did not keep his stamps in albums, but rather on sheets of paper kept in “stout bundles” stored horizontally in specially constructed cabinets. Fred J. Melville estimated that he owned perhaps 200,000 items. Philippe von Ferrary’s collection was sold in 14 auctions consisting of over 8,000 lots, varying from a single stamp to more than 10,000.

AVERY COLLECTION. Bierman ranks Sir William B. Avery’s collection as third after Ferrary and Tapling’s. It consisted of between 90-100,000 stamps up to the early 1900s housed somewhat haphazardly in numerous albums.

DUVEEN COLLECTION. I’m not certain how much Henry J. Duveen’s collection included common stamps, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as Bierman says that he “formed one of the greatest international collections of all time.” It is clear that Duveen assembled specialist collections of individual countries, e.g. Great Britain, that were complete or close to it.

LILLY COLLECTION. Josiah K. Lilly preferred mint stamps in the finest condition possible, but was reasonably egalitarian beyond that. He said that there were 100,000 postage stamps he wanted for his collection and he succeeded in acquiring 77,000. Even though Lilly died in 1969, from auction catalogs it looks like his collection stopped at 1949/50. Which means the 100,000 target number would include every stamp issued from 1840 to 1949 (major and minor varieties).

BURRUS COLLECTION. Maurice Burrus had a goal which should warm the heart of all worldwide stamp collectors. In spite of his wealth, he aimed ”…to reassemble the whole of the stamps issued in one country, in a certain part of the world, or if possible, of the whole universe, and not to estimate the value of stamps according to their beauty of engraving or design." It took five years and 75 auctions/sales to sell his collection.

4) Complete and almost complete Scott International Volume Ones

CORNYN & GELLER. Stan Cornyn and Murray Geller filled all the International albums that existed at the time (eleven) over about six years in the 1970s. You can search the collectors’ names on this blog for lots of information about how they accomplished this feat.

BUD. Bud’s Volume One was completed in 2016 and is being documented with photos on Jim Jackson’s Big Blue blog (http://bigblue1840-1940.blogspot.com/2016/09/buds-big-blue-introduction-and-index.html).

LIMAYE. This collection is missing only one stamp which the collector is actively working to aquire. There was a very nice thread by the collector on the Stamp Community discussion group back in 2012.

STUNNING WORLDWIDE COLLECTION 1840-1940. This was originally offered by HR Harmer as complete. It didn’t sell initially, but was offered again, this time as “housed in an expanded four volume Scott International albums representing one collector's lifetime labor of love which is evident not only by the mere fact that virtually every space is filled.” Selling price was a paltry $12.5K in 2009. Unless there were condition issues, I think the low price may have been due to the state of the economy at the time.

“FRIEDMAN.” Offered in 2013 by Dr. Robert Friedman & Sons: “A fabulous 1840-1940 valuable collection of some 50,000 stamps with no duplication in three excellent condition bulging Scott albums containing Scott Junior International pages in A-Z format. Approximately 97% of the spaces provided are filled with a mint or used stamp and about 90% of the value is in mint singles and sets.” Assuming the 97% is accurate, the collector filled 34,000 out of 35,000 spaces plus added 15K additional stamps not in the original. Asking price was $29,950.