Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Tale of Two Albums

The March/April 2014 issue of The Circuit (International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors) contains a very entertaining article by Emory Earl Toops titled “A Tale of Two Albums.” While the article is first and foremost a look at how the Minkus Master Global Album has evolved, using the author’s own collection that started with the 1958 edition compared with a 1967 edition, it also will remind many readers of their own stamp collecting journeys.

The most obvious differences between the two albums, Toops notes, are the changes in country names and boundaries. During this time period, this is perhaps most evident with the many former African colonies that became independent countrie. The author gives multiple examples of how this obviously vexed the album editors as they tried to fit all the new names in the alphabetization sequence.

The other major difference is how the editors attempted to squeeze in nine years of new issues while keeping the album to a single volume. The 1958 edition holds 56,000 stamps in 1320 pages. The 1967 edition has room for 65,000 stamps. According to the editors, this means that the 1958 edition held half of the worlds issues; the 1967, one third. Toops’ analysis shows that the editors maintained the single volume footprint “at the expense of earlier issues” as well as through simplification: for example, ignoring watermarks for some issues that had previously had dedicated spaces. One example of the author's analysis will have to suffice: “…Brazil’s pages in both albums [i.e., editions] were exactly the same until 1948 before severe editing occurred; after condensing the years 1948-54, the albums again resume parity in stamp display.”

As interesting as this is, what takes this article beyond the dry comparisons I do in my blog is that Mr. Toops shares through the lens of his albums how he came to collect via his father as a child and then continuing as an adult with his own children. I think this quote from the last paragraph of the article captures the flavor nicely:

“Tucked away in a volume of my Minkus Master Global Stamp Album is a picture of me and my father at our kitchen table, the album open in front of us, catalogue out and stamps on the table. I was about 13. Just a few years ago, I recreated the scene individually with both daughters…. My Master Global Stamp Album has traveled the world with me—to Iceland, Bahrain, Germany and the United Kingdom—and it is the one really tangible connection I have with my late father and the time we shared 'playing stamps of the world.'"



Saturday, April 26, 2014

Blog "On Hold"

You may have noticed the decreased frequency of posts since last year. This is a result of some family-related matters including selling a house that I am dealing with. These will be resolved by later this year and I look forward to being more active at that time. I will certainly continue to post anything I see of major importance to Blue Volume One collectors, but won't be doing any special projects such as the recent one on collating Volume One and Two.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 1st: Scott Pledges To Make their Classic Specialized Catalogue Just as Good as their Blue International Volume One Album

In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Blue International Album, Scott announced today that it will “dumb down” their flagship Classics catalog to make it mesh more closely with their flag-dingie world album.

“We are constantly being asked by collectors,” said Scott officials, “why our Classic Catalogue improves every year while the International Volume One continues to perpetuate mistakes and inconsistencies that have been in the album for decades. Well ask no more.”

Scott plans to reduce the disparity in quality between the catalog and the album by making the following changes:

1) all stamps not in the International Volume One will be eliminated from the catalog so as not to confuse collectors;

2) to compensate, catalog listings will be modified or invented to create stamps that match every space in the album, even when no actual stamp exists;

3) some correct stamp illustrations in the catalog will be replaced by incorrect ones or put in several different places;

4) stamps appearing more than once in the album will now be listed more than once in the catalog;

5) descriptions belonging to one stamp will be swapped with another a few dozen times to keep collectors on their toes;

6) as the years printed in the album often don’t match the catalog, dates for stamp sets will be adjusted randomly a year/decade or two so that nothing matches anything;

7) and in a special homage, the entire catalog listings for Syria will be reduced to a single stamp.

The editors acknowledged that collectors would no doubt prefer them to bring the Scott International Volume One up to the level of the catalog rather than vice versa, but they took a vote and agreed that “money talks.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

Author of Article on Worldwide Collecting Looking for Persons to Interview

The "In Defense of the World Wide Collector" thread on the Postage Stamp Chat Board has been rather active lately I am pleased to report. In a recent post on this thread, author Erik Cagle says that he is writing an article on "collecting the world on a simplified basis" for a US publication and is interested in talking to worldwide collectors, new and experienced. Check out his original message here and then contact Mr. Cagle if you are interested in being interviewed for the article.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

So how will dealers describe your collection when it is sold?

I was browsing the latest Kelleher worldwide auction catalog in the hopes of finding complete Blue Volume Ones. Alas, the worldwide album selection was of little interest. But I began marveling at the ingenuity of the persons writing up the catalog and the names they chose for each lot. Here are my favorites:

World wide, Dumpster Diving, 1850-1940
World wide, Balance of the Philatelic Universe
World wide, Melange
World wide, Philatelic Pandemonium
World wide, Philatelic Prospecting Extravaganza
World wide, Philatelic Plethora of Treasures
World wide, Philatelic Fandango

and the always popular

World wide, Philatelic Caboose.

How could you not want to bid on these?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Combining Scott Blue Volumes I and II

I have been threatening for some time to expand my worldwide collection beyond 1940. This finally came to pass after I recently purchased a 30% full Blue Volume II covering 1940-1949. One of the reasons I had been delaying is the assumption that my 1969 edition of the Volume One would not play nice with a Volume Two — I would need the current four part Volume One to put them together seamlessly.

But having thrown caution to the wind, I proceeded to try integrating the two albums. I am pleased to report that while the result was not perfect by any means, it was better than expected. How much better? You can see below via a 4-point scale that I used keep track of how well each country combined.

(Before getting to the results, I should note that Scott incorporated some changes into my 1969 edition that facilitates combining with later volumes. Which is another way of saying, if you have an earlier edition, your mileage may vary. I also want to recognize reader Keith and his index to the countries in Volumes I-III. His work made my tabulation a whole lot easier.)

My 4-point scale yielded the following groups of countries:

Group 1 - countries combine perfectly, i.e., all regulars/commems for 1840-1949 come together in chronological order as do all back of the book stamps (if any);

Group 2 - regulars/commems remain together, but one or more categories of back of the book stamps are separated (for example, you might have 1840-1940 semi-postals followed by 1840-1940 airmails followed by 1940-1949 semi-postals);

Group 3 - 1940-1949 regulars/commems are separated from 1840-1940 regulars/commems by one or more pages of BOB issues; however the entire country remains together;

Group 4 - a page from an adjacent country in Volume One is getting in the way of adding the Volume Two pages. This is invariably caused when Volume One starts a new country on the reverse side of a page;

Not applicable - these are Volume I countries that are not in Volume II or, much less often, vice-versa.

So specifically, here is the count of how many countries fell into each group:

Group 1 - 99 countries;
Group 2 - 72 countries;
Group 3 - 29 countries;
Group 4 - 10 countries.

The Group 4 countries in my album are:  Brunei, Czechoslovakia Bohemia & Moravia, Czechoslovakia Slovakia, French Colonies, India Convention States, India Feudatory States, Karelia, Malaysian States, Mongolia, and Serbia. (Remember, earlier editions may combine differently.)

I have to confess that Group 4 could look worse than I have it, depending upon how you want to rank the Indian and Malyasian States. The problem is that in Volume I Scott has crammed as many as half-a-dozen Indian Feudatory States and Malyasian/Straits Settlements States on a page. The Indian Convention States also don’t fit well into the ranking because they are on “blank” pages. If I did a literal ranking of the States then you would have 14 more Group 4s. I felt it was a little unfair to skew the results this way, since the States do stay together even if out of order. So I only added three 4’s to the above tabulation rather than 14. You may feel differently. Or maybe you are a true-Blue optimist and think there are only seven countries in Group 4!

Back to the big picture: Not unexpectedly, my two stuffed jumbo binders are now three stuffed jumbo binders. It took six packages plus part of a seventh of glassine interleaving (i.e., 600+ sheets) to accommodate the new pages.

Ideally I would have liked everything to be Group 1, but I can live with BOB stamps being split. Regular/commems intermingled with postage due stamps or whatever are more irritating (for those of us used to the Scott way of separating out BOB stamps.) But the real stinkers are the Group 4’s. I’ve thought about three approaches for these:

1) put in a duplicate page from another Volume I that I leave blank and cross through or disuse somehow;

2) make my own pages to substitute for the offending ones;

3) put the Volume II page(s) out of chronological sequence. I.e., Begin with 1940-1949 and then 1840-1940.

Solution 3 is the easiest but causes the most cognitive dissonance. Solution 2 is the most elegant solution but involves the most work. Solution 1 requires a second album that can be dismembered (admittedly something most Blue collectors will accumulate) and is the least attractive visually.

To make this clearer, lets look at Brunei. The first image shows Brunei as it would be if I didn’t try to improve the integration. Brunei 1840-1940 is on the front of a page and Bulgaria begins on the back. That would be followed by Brunei 1940-1949 on the front, a blank reverse, and then the rest of Bulgaria. Nice, no? No.

Solution 3 is shown in the second image. Brunei 1940-1949 on the front, a blank on the reverse, Brunei 1840-1940 on the front, and Bulgaria starting on the reverse. Better? Maybe. I think if there were more Group 4's this would less acceptable.


I have glossed over a few issues that I consider to be minor but you may not. For example, I ignored the blank reverses that now appear within many countries, say dividing the 1940 issues from the 1941. (You could argue this is a feature—i.e., more places to put stamps that Scott omitted.) I also did not assess demerits if the names of countries did not match (e.g., Abyssinia/Ethiopia). Finally, should I ever add Volume Three (1950-55) some of my current Group 1’s in particular may become 2’s.

Purists out there will no doubt be bothered by some or all of these, but I can’t imagine purists ever being happy with the Blues in the first place.

P.S. I should mention that I still plan to keep statistics as to how much of Volume One I have completed, but I won't be doing the same for Volume Two. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Linn's 2012 Stamp Count

Linn’s recently released their count of new issues for 2012, or, more accurately, those stamps that appeared in the Linn’s "New Issues Updates" from January-December 2013. This count consists of two parts. First is an article by Martin J. Frankevicz, new issues editor for Scott catalogs, “Listing policies and items that didn’t make the cut” in the December 16, 2013 issue of Linn’s Stamp News, pages 44, 46, and 48. (This is only available to subscribers.) And second, the table itself which is available online at http://linns.com/yearlycost. This url also contains links for previous tables back to 2002.

The article proper is largely devoted to criticizing the increasing number of stamps being issued that do not meet Scott’s listing policy, with emphasis on the US uninverted inverted Jenny pane.

For the actual details you need to consult the online table. By my tally, there were 6676 stamps that will make it into the Scott catalog (i.e., assigned major numbers), not counting those from the United States. (I do not know why the US isn’t included in the table.) The total value of the stamps for which catalog values were assigned is just shy of $25,800.

The countries that released the most catalog-worthy stamps are Mozambique with 243, followed by Australia, France, Great Britain, Burundi, Canada, Japan, and Portugal in that order. Forty-seven countries that have produced stamps recently issued none in 2013.

Just to clarify, none of these stamps are in the Blue International Volume One, although I may try to sneak a $2 inverted Jenny into my album.