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 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:

There is an ongoing discussion on Stampboards:

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Checklist of Large Worldwide Stamp Collections

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’ve come up with four 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 1980s).

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) 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.)

4) 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.

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.”
You can find some additional information here:

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.”

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, I suspect he concentrated on pre-1940 stamps which means the 100,000 number would include every stamp issued during that century (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 (

LIMAYE. This collection was missing only two stamps in 2012 and I’m sure has been finished. 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.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What's new in the 2017 Scott Classic Catalogue

[For an overview of changes in all the editions since 1995, type the words "classic catalogue" into the search field in the upper left corner of the screen.]

If it is November, it must be time for a new edition of the Scott Classic Catalogue. According to Donna Houseman as reported in Linn's, the latest edition features "thousands of value changes; 677 new number changes and additions; and myriad editorial improvements, including many hundreds of revised and expanded listings. More than 6,600 value changes were made in the 2017 Scott Classic Specialized catalog. Add to this the almost 13,000 value changes brought over from the six volumes of the 2017 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, and the total number of value changes soars to 19,370."

I usually don't report on changes in values, but it is interesting that the editors single out several  countries whose prices have softened, among them France and Germany.

Editorial enhancements specifically mentioned by Ms. Houseman can be found in Newfoundland, Canada, Switzerland (including valuations for on-cover and MNH), Jordan, Montenegro,  Serbia, Venezuela (postally used fiscal stamps) and the Malay State of Pahang (1942 issues not in the Big Blue).

Price for the hardbound version is $174.99 or $154.99 for Amos Advantage members. An eCatalogue version is available for $125.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Schwaneberger Specialized Kosmos Stamp Albums

I thought I knew about all the major worldwide albums that existed, but the Schwaneberger Specialized Kosmos (World) Stamp Album is a new one to me. Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions has the 1921 five volume set as lot 1037 in their Sale 694 ("Collections, Stocks and Accumulations of the World," November 18-19, 2016). The auction house very kindly tells us something about the albums: "Worldwide, Collection, 1840-1920. Schwaneberger Specialized Kosmos (World) Stamp Album in five volumes, 1921 edition (regarded by many experts as the finest printed stamp albums ever made) published in Germany by the makers of the Michel catalogues, and hailed as the first 'scientific' stamp albums and catalogues. This set of albums---with descriptions and spaces for every postage stamp known to be released through 1920---puts many catalogues to shame since it includes all major and minor shade, color, paper, watermark and perforation varieties (as in the Michel catalogues). This deluxe edition was printed in a very limited edition of a few hundred copies. It includes almost 1,000 singled-sided double folio-size heavy coated-paper pages, with a hidden springback mechanism in large buckram binders (with dust cases)."

You can see examples of the page layout here:

Hope you've been saving your pennies!

Robert A Siegel's 16 November 2016 auction includes as Lot 3946,  "A VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT WORLDWIDE STAMP COLLECTION. 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. There are tens of thousands of unused and used stamps carefully mounted with hinges or in hinge-less mounts. 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. It  is  impossible  to  describe  every  significant  item  in  this  collection..."

At the end of the description: "Our conservative estimate is based on the fair market value of the stamps if they were offered in typical individual  lots  and  small  country  collections.  The  estimate  does not reflect  the  extraordinary  opportunity  to  acquire  a worldwide collection of this vast scope and depth in one lot. Filling page after page with the sets and scarce issues found  in  this  collection  took  decades  and,  if  attempted  incrementally,  would  take  an  equal  amount  of  time.  For someone who loves stamps — the entire world of stamps — and wants a “turn-key” worldwide collection on which to build, this is a unique opportunity. Needless to say, for a dealer with the means to make a substantial investment, its acquisition within, or even above, our estimate range holds certain potential for a substantial resale profit. Special  presale  registration will be required in order  to  bid  on  this  lot,  and  it  will  only  be  released  to  the winning bidder after payment in full has been made, in accordance with the Conditions of Sale. Estimate $500,000-750,000."

I see two problems for the Big Blue collector. First, there is that $500-750,000 thing. Second, what are you going to do with all those extra stamps that won't fit in the International Volume One?

While you are pondering this, I must commend Siegel. They actually included photographs of four album pages from this collection.

And if the price tag for this lot is a little high, you might consider their lot 4179 , "Worldwide Big  Pile of Stamps." Not for me, though. I already have one.

UPDATE 11/18/16: The collection sold for $745K!

Monday, September 19, 2016

"What are worldwide stamp collections worth?"

This is the title of a new thread on StampCommunity started by dealer KReleya. (Thanks to Jim Jackson for alerting me.) KReleya (who is also a dealer) looks at various categories of worldwide material sold on eBay and has come up with low, high, and sample prices per stamp (or per pound, in the case of bulk) to use when estimating value. When I was buying Blue Volume One collections on eBay I kept a similar list for a couple of years, and came to roughly the same figures (for collections of under 20K stamps--there weren't any larger ones that I knew the size of).

What KReleya confirms, is that you cannot use a single value per stamp that will work with every type and size of collection. That is, two or three cents a stamp makes sense for a Volume One with a few thousands common stamps, but would seriously underestimate the worth of a large album.

Unfortunately, unless we have a count of stamps (preferably by country) and a lot of photos, it is still something of a crapshoot. And without a mess o'photos, you don't know whether the album is padded with stamps that don't belong. But it is still a helpful metric to know where an item is worth more serious consideration. Many thanks to KReleya for taking the time to compile the data and share his experiences.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Yet another complete Big Blue Volume One. But this one comes with pictures!

Another collector, Bud, has fulfilled the daunting challenge of completing a Scott International Volume One. Jim Jackson posted the news in a "reply" to one of my original blog entries, but I want to make certain this gets the attention it deserves.

From Jim:
I am pleased to announce that Bud is posting scans and comments about his completed Big Blue (Scott International Part I 1840-1940 Album) on my blog.

Yes, all 34,700 stamp spaces are filled!

And all of Bud's Big Blue's filled pages will be scanned and shown!

It is expected that 3-8 country scans from Bud's BB will be posted every month.

This will be the first time that every page from a complete Big Blue has been scanned and published on the Internet. Moreover, Bud has been very kind to several of us over the past several years by sharing his experiences with completing the Big Blue and it is great that he is making this information public. I've been particularly curious about what Bud will do next. I'm not certain what I would do if my Big Blue was complete, so Bud's thoughts are especially interesting:
Although every space in my BB is filled, the activity of collecting goes on. Preening, that is replacing stamps lower in my preference list with stamps higher up, will continue indefinitely. Supplement pages will, no doubt, mushroom.