Monday, December 22, 2008

My Scott International Album Wishlist from Santa (Part 2)

Christmas is rapidly approaching, so I better get the rest of my Blue International wishlist into the mail to Old Saint Nick.

5. Restore stamps dropped in later revisions

There are literally hundreds of stamps that were in the 1947 version that disappeared when Volume 1 was split into two parts. Some of these were restored in the four part version, but there are still ones missing. While many of these are Back-of-the-Book issues, some are later regular issues and commemoratives.

An example of an entire page that has gone AWOL is the one containing 33 spaces covering Austrian Military stamps from 1915-1917 (K.U.K. FELDPOST). The page was in the 1947 edition but had disappeared by 1969 and wasn't restored in the 2008 reprint.

6. Give the Indian Convention States Their Own Spaces

Scott departs from providing for specific stamps in the Convention States of India instead giving collectors a single page labeled at the top
Stamps of British India overprinted for use in the Convention States
Chama Faridkot Gwalior Jhind Nabha Patiala

The page is blank below these headings. I think Scott intended that stamps for the States be mounted in rows vertically below the appropriate headings.

By Palmer's calculation there are some 250 inexpensive Convention States that a collector might acquire that deserve to have their own pages. With some work, I bet most of these could be accommodated in just two pages front and back.

At one time Scott treated the so-called Feudatory States the same way, but by the 1947 edition, at least, the larger of these had their own identified spaces. However, there are easily acquired Feudatory States stamps that also deserve better coverage.

7. Add inexpensive stamps that have never been in the Blue International

There are well over a thousand stamps that fall within the scope of the International but, for whatever, reason never made it into the album. In a few cases, the omissions are perplexing: for example, why are there no spaces for the omnibus 1935 British Coronation issues for Ascension, Barbados, Gilbert & Ellice Islands, Mauritius, St. Helena and the Solomon Islands?

The largest concentrations of missing issues according to Palmer's study are from Austria, China, Columbia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Turkey. Some of these were originally in the 1947 edition; others have never been blessed with a space.

8. Remove stamps that are no longer in the Scott Catalog

Perhaps a few dozen stamps that were in the Scott Catalogs when the Internationals were originally published are no longer given catalog numbers. According to Palmer, this includes Armenia's 1920 pictorials, Latvia's 1919 Russian Occupation issue, Spain's 1928-1938 Postal Tax Stamps (?), Ukraine's 1920 pictorials, and the Upper Silesia 1921 Occupation issues (?). Since none of these are particularly expensive, removing them might not be worth the trouble although the process might free up space for missing issues that are in the catalog.

9. Add Scott Catalog Numbers to every cut or description

If this list were in priority order, putting a Scott number with every stamp would be right after keeping the album in print. One of the frustrations with the Internationals is that too many of the descriptions and sometimes even the cuts are inadequate to accurately identify the correct stamp. Even with the Scott catalog, you occasionally are playing a guessing game with the editors. This seems to me to be a win-win scenario for Scott because even knowing the Scott numbers, you'll still need to have their catalog.

Albums with catalog numbers has been done before. Later editions of the Minkus Master and Supreme Global albums incorporated Minkus catalog numbers for every stamps. Even Scott included numbers in their short lived Grand Award world album and in some of their Speciality Albums.

I bet Scott no longer has any record of which stamps are in the International. If the company is interested in correcting mistakes, adding or restoring missing issues, etc., they are going to need to perform this process internally, any way.

If it is too expensive to add catalog numbers to all of the International pages, what about including a notation directly in the Scott Classics Catalog? An advantage of this approach is that it would be easier to change numbers in the catalog than in the album. For example, a notation e.g. [I] could be added directly to the listings themselves:

6 A3 3s red & silver [I] 15.00 2.75

If Scott doesn't want to muddle their catalog entries, perhaps the information could be included in an Appendix. Depending upon the formatting, this would also take care of the tenth item on my wishlist. I would even forgive them if they wanted to publish the listing separately to help defray the cost.

10. Give Collectors a Checklist

As long as I am wishing for the moon, what about publishing a checklist that would make it a breeze to maintain our wantlists, collection inventory, etc.? Ideally, this would be online a la Stanley Gibbon's My Collection service, but I'm easy.

11. Add British Commonwealth Stamps 1940-1952

This would further bring the Blue International into parity with the Classic Specialized Catalogue, and, I would hazard, not be difficult or expensive for Scott to accomplish. After all, the required pages already exist in the International Volume 2 and 3s (although some of the pages in Volume 3 probably include post-1952 issues). One big argument against this: if Scott puts these issues in Volume 1, what do you do about collectors who have no interest in pre-1940 stamps and start with Volume 2 or 3? (And collectors with all 3 volumes would have duplicate pages.)

But I'm certain Santa can work all that out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Scott International Album Wishlist from Santa (Part 1)

I was reading the impressive list of changes in the 2009 edition of the Scott Classics Catalogue, and was reminded how far each year Scott goes beyond simply updating prices. According to the press release, the 2009 edition "boasts an additional 23 pages due to a number of important editorial enhancements. Listings for Canadian Semi-Official Air Post stamps have been added....In Puerto Rico, forerunners have been added....New major numbers have been added in Afghanistan, Queensland, Rhodesia and Tasmania....Very significant numbers of new minor listings are evident in United States, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, French Offices in China, Great Britain, Spain, Tasmania and Victoria."

Considering Scott's commitment to classic stamp collecting evidenced by this and previous years' enhancements, I started to think how wonderful it would be if the company devoted at least some of its expertise to improving the landmark album with equivalent coverage--yes, I'm taking about the Scott Blue International Volume One! The "Blue" will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2014. So in that spirit, here are suggestions for changes that Scott might consider implementing over the next six years. Many of these would be inexpensive for Scott to make, although some would involve fairly large revisions.

Arthur Palmer Jr.'s "Study of omissions made in the last revision of Scott's Internaional Postage Stamp Album" was invaluable in preparing this wishlist.

1. Keep Volume One in Print in Perpetuity

Kudos to Scott for bringing back all four parts of Volume One which have been out-of-print for years at a time. Of course, I wish they hadn't increased the price, but at least the complete album is once again available, hopefully this time for good. Now, if they make the improvements I'm suggesting, then price increases would be easier to swallow.

2. Nuke the handful of excessively expensive stamps that are outside the album's scope

The Blue Internationals were originally aimed at aspiring collectors with the focus of providing, to quote from the title page, "for a representative collection...of the varieties ordinarily found in most collections and blank spaces for such rare stamps as may be acquired." What was once common and inexpensive is not necessarily so today, but, in my opinion we're still not talking about much that would deter a serious collector.

And Scott's reasoning for providing spaces for a few stamps that have always been comparatively expensive is understandable. Surely every collector aspires to have Great Britain's Penny Black, the first stamp issued, and every U.S. collector, at least, the 5c 1847 Franklin, our inaugural issue.

In a couple of cases, though, I believe Scott slipped in stamps that cannot be justified. One of these is the 10c 1847 Washington. This was not in the original Internationals but was added in the 1964 or 1969 revision. Although readily attainable, Scott #2 is probably the most expensive stamp in the album. Even a space filler will run you hundreds of dollars. And, if you've been reading my blog, you already know about the scarcest stamp in the album, Syria 106a, that absolutely has no business being part of the volume. It would be easy for Scott to eliminate these by removing the cut or description and leaving the existing space blank. That way should the collector obtain either stamp, he or she can still add it. But the rest of us won't feel it incumbent to fill the space.

3. Bring the scope of coverage for the United States in conformity with other countries

Scott provides spaces for U.S. Back-of-the-Book categories that it doesn't include anywhere else in the album: envelope cut squares and hunting permit stamps are the most obvious examples. (I could also have used the hunting permit stamps as examples in #2 supra--Sam Houston Duck Company charges $400 for used copies of these admittedly attractive seven pieces of paper--about the cost of the albums themselves.) Scott has previously done some pruning of its U.S. coverage over the years--the 1947 International included Revenue stamps which are no longer in the latest edition. Fortunately, this is a cheap wish: all Scott has to do is to remove the pages. Which means they can afford to...

4. Add/Restore missing countries

If you compare the "table of contents" of the 1947 Scott International with some subsequent editions, you'll discover whole countries have disappeared. Fortunately, many of these came back when the International was revised into four parts in 1994. The countries that were left out for several decades include Benin, Cochin China, Corfu, Moheli, Obock, Rio de Oro, and Tobago.

In addition, there are some countries that are in the Catalog but have never to my knowledge been in any edition of the album: Cilicia, Dalmatia, Eastern Rumelia, and Eastern Silesia. Plus there are a variety of Chinese Offices, former German States, Roman States, among others which are in the Scott catalog but not in the album. Admittedly, I haven't checked these out carefully--one of my projects for 2009.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Few Bits of New Info on the Scott Blue Internationals

One of these days I'm going to be at a library with a good run of Scott Monthlys, but until then, I'll take information where I find it. A recent eBay auction offered a 1955 Scott International in bound condition--the first I've seen. I had assumed that the 1947 edition was the last bound edition but obviously not. I also was mistaken in assuming that the 1955 revision of the International was published in order to revise the US section to bring the numbering into line with the current Scott catalog. As you may know, the Scott numbers for the United States underwent a major revision in the 1940s. To begin with, the main US sequence for decades began with the Postmaster Provisionals which is why the first official US stamp, the 1847 5c Franklin, was number 28 in the Brown and early Blue Internationals, not number 1 as it is today. Further, the Back-of-the-Book issues that today begin with letter prefixes originally were part of one long numeric sequence. (For more information on this and other changes in the catalog, see Albert Ewell Jr/'s article, "The Scott Catalogue 1933 and 1995" ion the Philatelic Literature Review 45:2, pp 95-101.) To get back to the point, the 1955 edition still uses the numbering as found in the 1943 catalog. (Updated 1.22.09--I just found out that the 1964 version was the first to 1) switch to the new numbering and 2) add the 1847 10c Washington, Scott #2.)

I've found out a little more on the origin of the Scott Juniors from an article by George Turner, "A Century, 1868-1968 Scott's Albums" that appeared in the March 1968 Scott's Monthly Stamp Journal. According to Turner, Scott had been acquired in 1914 by Charles E. Hatfield which issued the first Junior in April 1914. The earliest edition I've seen on eBay so far is 1916.

Here's my current working theory on the Blue Internationals. The notation "eBay" means that an album with that date was offered for auction.

1914 - Scott Junior--1st edition
1916 - Scott Junior (seen on eBay)
1917 - Scott Junior (seen on eBay) 
           18K spaces, "several thousand" engravings
1920 - Scott Junior. 522 pages.
1921 - Scott Junior (seen on eBay)
1924 - Scott Junior
18K spaces. (eBay)
1927 - Scott Junior. 18K spaces. (eBay)
1928 - Scott Junior (eBay)
1930 - Scott Junior (eBay)
1933 - Scott Junior (eBay)
1935 - Scott Junior (eBay)
this was a Scott Junior. 31K spaces. No mention of number of illustrations. Bound. US Section corresponds to 1936 Scott catalog. (eBay)
1936 - Scott Junior
this was a Scott Junior. 31K spaces. Bound. (eBay)
1938 - Scott Junior (eBay)
32,600 spaces. Bound.
1939 - Scott Junior.
34K spaces, 7800 illustrations. Used the 1940 Scott catalog. Available bound and looseleaf. (eBay)
1940 - Scott Junior
- this was a Scott Junior and used the 1940 Scott catalog. 35K spaces, 8K illustrations. Came both bound and looseleaf. (eBay)
1941 - Scott Junior
- this was a Scott Junior and used the 1941 Scott catalog. 35K spaces, 8K illustrations. Came both bound and looseleaf. (eBay)
1943 Scott Junior (eBay)
This was still a Scott Junior (eBay) and used the 1943 Scott catalog. The '43 was available both bound and looseleaf. According to the 1943 catalog this edition came in three versions. No. 1, "Bound in boards, blue cover with red cloth reinforced back." No.2, "Bound in dark blue cloth, gilt lettering and stubbed to prevent bulging." The looseleaf edition is described as "Loose Leaf in a heavy blue Fabrikoid hinged post binder with round posts." The original costs were $4, $5 and $7 respectively.
1947 Scott International
- this was the first International without the word "Junior"; there may also have been a 1947 edition with Junior still in the title; at least one of these was available both bound and loose leaf. Based on the 1943 catalog. While I have checked only the first couple of hundred pages, I believe the 1947 to be identical to the 1943 edition with just a change in copyright date. As late as the early 50s, Scott was still referring in its ads to "Scott's International (Formerly the Junior)...."
1955 Scott International
- still using 1943 catalog, US still has 5c 1847 as Scott #28 and no 10c 1847; still has spaces for US revenues. 1955 is first copyright date listed on title page (i.e, no 1947). The 1955 edition was available bound as well as looseleaf. Still has spaces for flags and coats of arms. However, there are a number of differences in coverage between it and the 1943/47 edition.
1964 Scott International
Still one part but no longer using the 1943 catalog (title page doesn't indicate the catalog version). This is the first edition to use the revised numbering system (i.e., the 5c 1847 is now Scott #1, not #28). It also adds the 10c 1847, Scott #2 plus, presumably, other changes. Title page has two copyright dates: 1955, 1964.
1969 Scott International
- Definitely one part. 1969 edition title page has copyright dates of 1955, 1964, 1969. No mention on title page of which catalog the 1969 version is based on. Doesn't have spaces for flags or coats of arms.
1979 Scott International
- Definitely 2 parts. First edition of the 2 part Scotts?
1985 Scott International
- Definitely 2 parts. Has copyright dates of 1955, 1964, 1969, 1979, 1985.
1991 Scott International
- Definitely 2 parts. I've seen part IA which includes United States, and Afghanistan through Latvia. Has copyright dates of 1955, 1964, 1969, 1979, 1985, and 1991. Still contains countries out of alphabetical sequence including some countries still starting on the verso of pages and some multiple countries on a single page.
1994 - Have not seen
First of the 4 part Scotts? The revision into 4 parts rectified many of the problems with the 2 part version although there are still hundreds of stamps missing that were in the 1947 and even the 1969 editions. Every country and almost all subgroups of issues (e.g., Semipostals and airmails) begin on the front of a page to allow easy integration with International volumes 2+.
1997 Scott International
- Definitely 4 parts; parts from last printings were allowed to go out-of-print as stock ran out; reprinted ("on demand") in 2008 with 1997 copyright date. This printing has the following copyright notice: Copyright 1955, 1964, 1969, 1979, 1985, 1991, 1994, 1997.

Update 5/2010: Truth be told, I've been updating the above every month or two as I find bits and pieces of information. But this update is to show the image of the 1964 edition with dust jacket. You don't see these dust jackets very often:

Update 6/2010: Interestingly, two copies of the first Junior Album appeared on eBay within a few weeks of each other. While I would have liked to have had a copy, these each contained enough stamps to take them out of the realm of an impulse purchase. Also, I've seen a copy of the copyright registrations for 1914 and this is what confirms that the Junior album was copyrighted 1 April 1914 with two copies deposited on 9 April 1914. Here is what the title page looked like:
Note that the official title of the album is the International Junior Postage Stamp Album: Junior Edition!

Update 11/2010: I don't usually say anything about Volume 2 (because it isn't, well, Volume 1, but an eBay seller recently posted copyright dates for a Volume 2 of 1953, 1965, 1977. I assume more recent versions would have some additional dates. Now the question is: do the dates represent revisions or just renewals to protect Scott's intellectual property?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Resources for Worldwide 1840-1940 Collectors

Here are some Websites, books, etc., that I have found useful. I will continue to add to these in the coming months and would appreciate any suggestions. If you find any broken links, please let me know.
General Websites
Big Blue 1840-1940
A thorough discussion of the coverage of the Scott Volume 1. Indispensable blog for all International collectors.
"Many pleasures and pitfalls in collecting the whole world 1840 to 1940"
By Michael Titford. (Suggested by maplewoodhistory)
"Plentiful and Inexpensive" by Ed Denson.
One of the first pages I discovered on the Scott Internationals.
Stamp Collecting Blog.
This is the blog of Keijo who lives in Finland and collects the world. Some great discussions of the challanges of world wide collecting, comparisons of ways to house your collection, and many other topics. Some interesting comments by followers.
Klassische Philatelie
A website in German on Classic-era philately by Dr. Christoph Ozdoba.
The Philatelic Database.
According to the site: "At PDb you will discover first-class feature articles by eminent philatelists, leading stamp auctioneers and collectors with a passion for their subject."
Virtual Stamp Club.
There are some heavy hitters on this forum, but few of the threads have anything to do with pre-1940 stamps except for US. The VSC is currently undergoing a change in administration.
This venerable Usenet group has been around for decades. Unfortunately, less active every year. At least they have the spam under control.
Stamp Community: World Classic Stamps Mint and Used.
This is a subforum of the Stamp Community discussion group devoted to 1840-1940 issues. Surprisingly active.
A very active general discussion group. Covers all eras but, because the forum is hosted in Australia, tends to emphasize Australia and British Empire areas. Lots of useful information.
Stamp Forum.
Looks like another useful source of information about all aspects of stamp collecting.
"The Evolution of the Stamp Album, from Lallier to Mekeel."
BOOKS on PHILATELY: Philatelic Bibliopole. Leonard H. Hartmann.
A good guide to what is available in a variety of collecting areas.
Preservation and care of philatelic materials.
Books on Classic Era Stamps of the World

Mackay, James A. The World of classic stamps.

Catalogs - Print
Michel's Klassik-Katalog Europa 1840–1900
According to Michel's website: "ca. 700 Seiten, ├╝ber 2800 farbige Abbildungen, rund 75 000 Preisnotierungen." Published October 2007. I do not know if there has been more than one edition.
Scott. Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps & Covers.
Annual since 1995. Book & DVD versions; note that the later pdf versions had the print function disabled. Available for the iPhone and iPad as of 2012 (discontinued in 2014).
Yvert & Tellier. Classiques du Monde: 1840-1940.
Published every 5 years. Latest edition is 2010. 
Catalogs - Online

Worldwide Stamp Catalogues is a website that lists catalogs, print and online, for all countries.

Here are the online catalogs that Keijo Kortelainen has reviewed on his Stamp Collecting Blog: 

Individual Countries (Web)

Stamp Domain Resource Pages.

     A good place to start for online and print resources for a variety of countries.
Comparative Stamp Forgery Identification Site
Stamp Forgery Guide.
     Sources for Information on Forged Stamps and on Stamp Expertising.
Stamp Forgeries of the World.
     Goal is to cover all countries with ten thousand images of forged and genuine stamps.
StampSelector Scarce Stamp Quantities Issued List.
     "This listing is a perpetual work in progress - an incomplete listing of stamps with printings of 100,000 or fewer. It currently contains over 9,700 entries, and will be updated periodically."
Internet Resources for Postal History Research.
     "An annotated listing [by Richard Frajola] of online resources that have been found useful in general postal history research.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Scarcest Stamp in Scott International Volume 1?

I just obtained a copy of Syria #106a--reputedly the most difficult to acquire stamp in the Scott International "Blue" Volume 1. Even though I'm only a third of the way towards completion, I've been searching for 106a ever since I learned how difficult the stamp would be to locate on the assumption it might take years to find. I've been checking daily on eBay and about once a week on the APS Stampstore, et al, and found a copy a few days ago on StampWants. It turns out that it only took three months so I don't know whether the stamp is more available than I thought or if I just lucked out. If any of you see a 106a for sale in the coming months, please let me know. I don't need another one--just would like to get a better feel for its scarcity.

So, what is Scott 106a? It is one of the numerous surcharges and overprints that were applied to the stamps of France after World War I for use in Syria and Lebanon.

The French Mandate issues of 1923 are part of the set Scott 104-115. The "normal" 106 is a 50 centimes surcharge on the 10c Green French Sower. The surcharge reads "Syrie/Grand Liban/50 CENTIMES." The error, 106a, prints "Syrie/Grand Liban/25 CENTIMES" on the 10c Green. (The 25c surcharge should be on the 5c Orange.) There were 630,000 of the "normal" stamps printed. I don't know whether anyone has estimated the number of 106a's that might exist. (Because of 106a I've learned some interesting facts about the pre-1940 stamps of Syria--I'll talk about this in a later blog.)

The 106a stamp has been in the Internationals at least since 1937--the earliest edition I have access to. Now what makes this interesting or frustrating, depending on your perspective, is to ruminate on why the editor of the Junior Internationals, an album marketed largely at kids, would include a space for an obscure surcharge error. As far as I have been able to determine, Scott did NOT include the error in the big "Brown" Internationals or in the Scott Speciality album for Syria! It isn't listed by Stanley Gibbons or in Michael Gebara's Syrie Liban Catalogue. While I don't know about Michel, it is Yvert & Tellier 90a. It is also covered in Alexander Kaczmarczyk's comprehensive The Postal Issues of Syria, Lebanon and the Alaouites 1919-1945.

It isn't like the "Blue" Internationals are particularly lavish in providing spaces for the various Syrian overprints and surcharges. A couple of dozen stamps cataloging under $1 each were skipped including several distinctive sets of overprints.

So how does one explain the inclusion of 106a (Scott catalog value $125, Yvert, approximately $310) when the next most expensive included stamp is $8.75 and the majority of included issues catalog under $1? Caprice, perversity, or ??? I suppose we'll never know.

FYI, if you are looking to fill those difficult spaces for stamps of the Classic era, here are some sites I've found with large selections:
APS StampStore (
Zillions of Stamps (
Delcampe International (
StampWants (
Sandafayre Auctions (

Can you recommend other sources International collectors should add to this list?

I will also use the appropriate APS circuits when I'm at the stage of needing a few stamps to complete a country or area. I'm still at the point where it is most effective to purchase large collections from eBay to build up my International a couple of thousand stamps at a time.

OK, it is not like I just scored the US 1861 series 3-cent"B Grill" for $1,035,000 or the position 36 inverted Jenny for $388,125 at the recent Siegal auction. But still, it feels good to checkoff 106a. Now that leaves only 23,000 more stamps to go.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The World of Classic Stamps 1840-1870

Unless I missed it, no one has written a book entitled Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Every Stamp in the Scott International Volume One, so I suppose we are going to have to make do with books having a narrower focus. One that I've found useful is James A. Mackay's The World of Classic Stamps 1840-1870. Although it was published in 1972 and is now out-of-print, you can find affordable copies on Amazon, Abesbooks, and even eBay, usually for under $30. To quote from the jacket blurb, "this is the first book to trace the birth and development of the adhesive postage stamp on a global scale." One particularly nice feature is the inclusion of 500 photographs of classic stamps, 200 in color. Most of the illustrations are double or more the size of the originals allowing one to appreciate the production quality of many of the classic issues. The writing is accessible as well as informative, as for example:

When the first of the German states, Schleswig-Holstein and Hanover, were swallowed by Prussia as a result of the Seven Weeks' War of 1866, the philatelic press of the period was sufficiently well organized to be able to warn its readers of the impending disappearance of these countries from the stamp album, while enterprising dealers in Hamburg and elsewhere capitalized on the situation and acquired vast stocks of the obsolete stamps. The international market in the intervening years has absorbed these stocks, although to this day, nicely used copies generally have the edge of mint specimens (page 11).

My only real complaint is that Mackay concentrates on the first issues of a country and tends to give short shrift to later stamps even when they too are pre-1870. But regardless, this book is a very handy overview of the first thirty years of postage stamps, many of which are just waiting to be added to our "Blue" Scott International Volume Ones.

An eBay International Sells for Over a Grand

There haven't been any large "Blue" Volume One's on eBay in over a month, but a recent partial volume 1 containing only countries A-Crete just sold for an impressive $1348 (Item number: 120320288085). Not too shabby when you consider that this represents less than 20% of the pages in a complete volume one and isn't even "padded" with Czechoslovakia. Most pages appeared 80% or more full with lots of stamps mounted around perimeters of pages, not to mention on additional pages the collector had inserted. There are also Scott numbers penciled in for most issues (if only Scott itself had included numbers). Unless the collector who put this together had an abnormal fear of the letters D-Z, I wonder if we can look forward to seeing the remainder of the stamp collection on eBay?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

No Takers for Complete Scott Volume 1

Lot 2507, the complete "Blue" Volume 1 offered in H R Harmers Collections of the World Sale G194 on 10 October 2008, did not sell. The lot had an opening bid of $10K but I assume there must have been a reserve that wasn't met. This sale was held on a Saturday after a week of brutal Stock Market losses so potential buyers may have been hoarding cash, gold, bits of string, etc. But most of the other worldwide collections/accumulations sold, although many at less than or near the low end of Harmer's estimate.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Interesting Ad for WWI Era Scott International Junior

While browsing Google Book Search, I came across the following advertisement promoting the Scott International Junior stamp album as "a war souvenir." It appeared in St. Nicholas by Mary Mapes Dodge, Scribner & Co., 1915. St. Nicholas was "An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks" that was edited by Ms. Dodge.

The "Blue" Junior International album line was first released the previous year by Scott (April 1914 to be specific).

In case the scan isn't clear, here is a transcription of the first paragraph:

"When you are Daddy's age you will be telling your children all about the great war of 1914 that changed the map of Europe. You will want to show them the splendid collection of stamps you made of all the countries now at war, and tell them about Belgium and Russia and France and Germany. And you will be very proud of your collection, too, because, 'way back in 1914, when you realized how interesting these stamps would be some day, you arranged them neatly, as shown above, in your new JUNIOR INTERNATIONAL ALBUM."

ADDENDA 11/16/09. The following advertisement appeared in the 1916 Scott Catalog:

A New Album for the Beginner and Medium Collector!

The International Junior Stamp Album.

For some years it has been impossible to publish a satisfactory complete album of the stamps of the world in a single volume, owing to the resulting immense size. At the same time, many collectors have been calling for an album in a single volume to include both 19th and 20th Century stamps and provide spaces for a representative collection.

This new album solves the problem by providing spaces for some 15000 varieties of all countries, from the earliest issues up to the time of publication, including both 19th and 20th Centuries. To accomplish this, the rare and high-priced stamps have been omitted, but separately described printed spaces are included for over 15000 different stamps. In addition, there are extra spaces provided for such rare stamps as may be acquired. All included varieties are illustrated with full size cuts.

This album has been designed after a careful analysis of a large number of general collections and we believe that for the beginner who wishes a separate space provided for each stamp and who does not expect to obtain at once the higher-priced varieties no better album has ever been offered.

We believe that many philatelists who have as high as 10,000 varieties will find separate spaces for at least 95% of their stamps in this book, with plenty of extra squares for the rarer varieties. This book when filled will make a remarkably satisfactory display of the stamp issues representing the entire world.

It has 400 ages and contains not only spaces for the stamps, but for the Coats of Arms, Flags and Portraits of Rulers of the various countries.



No. 1. Bound in boards, half cloth with red cloth corners. $2.00, 4 Lbs. Shipping Weight
No.2. Bound in Cloth, gilt title. $3.00, 4 Lbs.
No. 3. Bound in Cloth, and numerous Blank Pages. $4.00, 6 Lbs.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Even Hit Men Love Collecting the Classics

I've been reading reviews of Hit and Run, the latest novel by Lawrence Block in his Keller series. The main protagonist is a paid assassin who happens to be a stamp collector. Although I'm not into mysteries, our local public library had a copy which I had to, um, checkout. While I knew Keller was a stamp collector, I just assumed that hit man types would be into something like the Brazilian Bullseyes or maybe guns on stamps topicals. It is with some chagrin that I must report that Keller collects the world, 1840-1940 (plus the British empire through 1952--i.e., the range covered by the Scott Classics catalog). Do I need to worry that collectors of the first 100 years of philately may have latent homicidal tendencies? Fortunately, we are told that he owns ten albums and and it would taken millions of dollars to fill them, so that eliminates Keller as a "Blue" International collector. That's a relief. Now if you are a "Brown" International or Specialty Album collector...

While on the topic of books, I'm halfway through Helen Morgan's most entertaining Blue Mauritius and am looking forward to the US release of The Error World: An Affair with Stamps by Simon Garfield. At some point, I also need to read Nicholas Courtney’s The Queen’s Stamps — The Authorized History of the Royal Philatelic Collection.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dr. Meng's Stamp Collection and the Scott Catalogs

I mentioned in an earlier post that the Dr. Hsien-ming Meng stamp collection is being auctioned by H R Harmer as part of its Sale 194: Collections of the World (October 10-11, 2008). What caught my attention was that Dr. Meng's collection formed the nucleus of the image-scanning project for the Scott Catalogs that began in 2001 and with the help of many other collectors is now 99% complete. Dr. Meng (I don't know if he is still alive) is a worldwide collector who, according to a letter to Scott, has accumulated a collection of more than 250,000 different in more than 400 albums." Dr. Meng says that "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..."

Rather than printed albums, Dr. Meng preferred Hagner or Hagner-style black-backed stock sheets kept in Lighthouse albums. The albums were housed in a specially built stamp den with overflow into another room. According to an article by James E. Kloetzel in the Scott Stamp Monthly (January/February 2004, p. 8), "Dr. Meng's wife has put her foot down and has prohibited further expansion."

Here is a sample listing of one of the more comprehensive albums:

"MAGNIFICENT SAUDI ARABIA COLLECTION, 1916-85, MINT Here is a rare opportunity to obtain a truly educational experience as built by an advance collector, as MOST sets are here, lightly hinged, starting w/ #L115 of the first 19 sets are complete, then, there's L108-15 cplt, L116-17, L119-22, L125-29, L133-41 cplt, L142-59 cplt, L160-84 cplt NEJD Adm. #1-2, 22-29 cplt. Amongst others are #35-45, #48-54, #59-74, #92-115 (3 cplt sets), #159-284; 23 cplt sets, all commemoratives are here including the Faisal S/S #674, on through 1985 (#960). First, second , third and fourth airmail sets cplt, many of C33 // C77, B-O-B #LJ1-12, #LJ26-34 cplt, #LJ37, then #LJ40-55 cplt, #J1-3, #J7-23 cplt, Officials cplt through #O28, Postal Taxes cplt (#RA2 used). Amazing and satisfying! Fine-VF. From the "Meng" collection. Est. $5000-6000."

Some of what I assume to be the best parts of the collection, such as China and Hong Kong, don't appear to be part of this auction. Nor did I spot a "Blue" International Volume 1 although he did have a set of Minkus Supreme Globals with stamps from 1855-1970.

UPDATE 3/7/2011: Dr. Meng died 11 February 2011. There was a nice article about his contributions to the Scott catalog in the 21 March 2011 Linn's.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A COMPLETE Scott International Volume 1 Offered at Auction

HR Harmer is offering a completed Scott International Volume 1 as Lot 2507 of its Sale 194: Collections of the World (October 10-11, 2008). Here is the description from Harmer's online catalog:

"ASTOUNDING CLASSIC WORLDWIDE REPRESENTATIVE COLLECTION A wondrous assemblage of tens of thousands of different mint OG, used, and unused stamps to 1940, each identified by Scott, carefully mounted, and filling every space on both sides of every single page in 4 pristine Scott International albums, with a loose, thin, plastic interleaf protecting the stamps on each page; although very costly stamps may be absent, each album contains many issues with $50-$100+ Scott values, incl. mint Austria B81-6, China 78, 276-9, Greece C5-7, Iceland 213-15, Mongolia 62-74; used Austria 1, Canada 4, 14, 17, 27, 28, 46, 47, Cape of Good Hope 13, Ceylon 1, China 80, Denmark 3, Great Britain 1, 96, 126, Hong Kong 24, Italy 22, 72, Japan 229, Korea 6-9, Netherlands 18, Newfoundland C8, Philippines 213-19, Russia 551-4, 559-68, C53-7, Switzerland 38, United States 1 (red grid cancel), 2 (faint pen cancel), 69, 71, 72 SE, 76, 78, 112, 113, 115, 116, 117, 119, 240, 242, 291, 294-9, C1-6, C18, Q1-12, and so much more; occasional fault amongst the earliest issues, average through VF centering throughout, generally clean with plenty of fresh mint stamps; a lot of love and decades of time went into assembling this collection, a rare and enviable achievement, the likes of which may not be offered again for many years; Viewing is certain to impress and inspire covetous bidding ![v] Est. $15000-20000"

I'm assuming that the phrase "although very costly stamps may be absent" does not mean that there are empty spaces but rather that the Blue Internationals don't provide spaces for the most expensive stamps.

I'll report back on what the Lot brings.

Also in this auction is the 1500+ volume Meng stamp collection which was used for many of the color images in the Scott catalogs.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

eBay Notes

I suspect most of us monitor eBay, but I thought I would highlight a couple of recent listings. Just posted is


with a $7500 minimum bid (Item number: 290258788288; expires 9/13/08). This is the most complete Scott International Volume I Collection I've seen on eBay in the year or so I've been monitoring the collections section seriously. If you are curious to see what an 85% complete International Volume I looks like, it's well worth the time to scroll through the photos. It will be interesting to see if it sells. (UPDATE 9/15/08: The collection didn't sell and has been relisted at $6995. The seller is also soliciting best offers. UPDATE 10/26/2008: I finally remembered to check back on the status. The seller accepted a best offer of $4750.)

Recently, a "Scott International Collection 1840-1940 3 Volumes" (Item number: 260269681312) sold for $1,264.00. The seller didn't do an item count but from the photos I would imagine that the collection could have numbered 20K, athough there did appear to be many extra pages that were added for varieties.

There have also been several Supreme Globals with complete sets of pages on eBay recently--these don't appear that often. An unused set through 1966 sold for $296 (Item number: 200248280784) at the end of August. My memory is that the last time the Master Global base volume was in print from Amos Advantage that it retailed for three hundred and some odd dollars.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Early Scott Internationals Back in Print

Thanks to WGRADY for alerting us to the following.

An Amos Advantage advertisement in the August 25, 2008 Linn's shows a number of long out-of-print Scott International "Blue" Albums as once again available. These are Volume 1 (1840-1940) in 4 parts, Volume 2 (1940-1949) in 2 parts, Volume 3 (1949-1955) in 2 parts, and volume 12 (1976-1977). Availability comes at a price, though: the reprinted parts retail for $150 each; $120 for Amos Advantage members. I don't know how quickly they ship. The Amos Advantage website shows all of these parts as "temporarily out of stock" but to contact customer service to order. An Amos Advantage rep indicated in an email that they are able to "special order" these volumes. So, for the time being, it is once again possible to purchase International pages from 1840-2006.

ADDENDUM (9/11/08):

I decided to go ahead and "special order" the first of the four parts. Rather than the four weeks Customer Service initially estimated, it only took a little over one week for 1A1 to arrive.

I asked Amos Advantage Customer Service whether the reprinted Scott Internationals were using "print on demand?" The reply was that "we are using the same type of print technology that we have in the past for all our supplements-basically nothing different. We send the files to a printer to print the supplement/orders that are needed." For more detail on offset versus digital printing of these reprints, see the thread in the Virtual Stamp Club.

I also asked Customer Service whether there was any intention to bring back other out-of-print Scott titles, and the answer was yes, "over time." No decision has been made about Minkus titles such as the Master or Supreme Global.

Based on quickly leafing through the reprint, it appears that in the 4 part version, the illustrations and titles have not been reset. I don't have an earlier print of 1A1 to compare with the new one, but in comparison with the 1947 and 1969 editions, the images are much more contrasty. In almost all cases, this doesn't interfere with identification, but a few cuts are muddy (e.g., the Green Bayern Scott # 92).

In the 4 part version, every country is in alphabetical order and begins on its own page. To maximize continuity with later Internationals, the "back of the book" issues are also often on their own pages. For example, regular issues and commemoratives of Australia are on three pages, followed by a blank page, a page of Australian airmails, a blank page, a page with Australian postage dues, and then a blank page. For countries where there are Offices abroad or Occupation issues, these may also be given their own pages. Many of the additional pages have only a few stamps on them and blank versos.

So, by way of comparison, my quick count of the "2008" Part 1A1 came up with 582 front and back pages whereas the equivalent coverage in the 1947 edition occupied only 340 pages front and back. If the number of pages in 1A1 is any indication, you would at the very least need two of the larger Scott International binders to hold all four parts. Add interleaving or thousands of stamps and three binders would probably be more practical.

ADDENDUM (11/09): The Internet Hobby Supply website gives number of pages as follows:
1A1: 292 double-sided pages
1A2: 269 double-sided pages
1B1: 276 double-sided pages
1B2: 368 double-sided pages
Combined set sold by the company: 1,139 double-sided pages (according to the website; however, this total doesn't match the total for the individual volumes)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors

One of the interesting aspects of any type of collecting is that the activity can be enjoyed as a social pursuit or by determined individualists. (For more about why collectors collect, I recommend Hunter Davies entertaining "Confessions of a Collector.") Turns out that even worldwide collectors have our own group. I've known about the ISWSC for awhile and now that I've embarked on this project, I thought I would try the organization out. The Society is an APS affiliate and its "375+ members in more than 50 countries believe that worldwide stamp collecting is the most fun and challenging area of philately today." The ISWSC has a well-edited newsletter, sales and swap circuits, trading lists, auctions, stamp ID service, and a strong commitment to encouraging youth stamp collecting. For more information and a sample copy of their newsletter, "The Circuit," visit

Their March-April 2007 Newsletter contained the roster of the organization which indicates collecting interests. Of the 375 members, most don't discriminate chronologically in their worldwide collection (but most have other more specialized collecting interests, too.) I count 92 individuals who collect worldwide between a specific set of years. While 1840-1940 appears to be most popular, the ranges vary widely. Many start with 1840 but end at a different year: 1980, 1972, 1950, 1970, 1948, to name just the first few. Several start at 1900. Others have chosen a range using criteria that isn't obvious to me (1870-1982, for instance). A few collect a single year, for example the year of their birth or stamps issued in the first year of the millenium.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


As much as I have enjoyed having every country housed in a single volume, this 1300 page behemoth was a little unwieldy to handle, especially when working with stamps at the inside margins. And I was increasingly running into a stamps on facing pages catching at the corners. So when Subway Stamp Shop announced a sale, I bought two 4 inch G&K International Binders ($20 each, cheaper than I've seen them on eBay), stocksheets made specifically for the Internationals, and glassine interleaving. While watching TV, I split the single volume into two binders and inserted the interleaving between each page--in addition to solving the problem of adjacent pages rubbing against each other, it actually adds a touch of class to the albums. The downside is that with interleaving, the dual volumes are still pretty heavy. But the pages do lie flatter and it is easier to work with stamps no matter where they fall on the page.

The stocksheets are an experiment. If you aren't familiar with these, the International ones are thinner and more flexible than standard stocksheets. I put a set of the 5 row ones at the back of each of the volumes. The idea is to have a place to put random stamps until I can place them where they belong. This includes stamps that on occasion have fallen out the volume proper. I'll report back when I learn if this system works.

Friday, July 11, 2008

More on "They Collected the World"

I posted a variation of the following a couple of days ago on the Virtual Stamp Club message board:

A poster had asked why there were so many more albums visible in a photograph of the two collectors than the eleven Internationals they had completed. There is some information on this in an article by Stan Cornyn that appeared in Linn's Stamp News in early 1978 (sorry I don't have the exact citation). The original seven International volumes in 1971 were expanded to eleven after the collectors added interleaving. I assume they did this with the subsequent volumes that were published between 1971 and 1977. The rest of the holdings, as another poster thought, were comprised of duplicates or stamps that weren't in the albums. For example, they had several complete plate reconstructions of the Great Britain #33 penny red. More numerous, were complete sets of stamps that were represented in the Internationals as short sets. They would add the remaining stamps on extra pages. According to the Linn's article, in the first year they filled two closets with "amateur collections bought at auction."

Here a a couple of other quotes from the Linn's article that shed life on this project:

The two collectors split their duties. Cornyn maintained the collection and provided the financing. Geller compiled statistics and maintaining the wantlists. Both were "responsible for the hardest part: placating our wives and hiding the amounts of money being spent."

In the first year, the collectors "came closest to pure, amateur collecting. [Sorting through and identifying] those great ranges of nickel stamps that are incredibly hard to locate: ...China overprints, Argentine officials, India States..."

They found that the Iron Curtain countries were the easiest to complete. The only difficult series was the Romania 1952 surcharges.

"The toughest set to acquire was Spanish Sahara 36-50."

Interestingly, some then recent issues were problematic (Paraguay 704-07 and Central African Republic 126-8).

One problem that I wouldn't have guessed was spaces in the albums for sets that were announced but never issued (e.g., "the Jamaican Human Rights set that was shown in our album, but withdrawn in favor of Jamaica 271-73.")

In spite of all of the barriers, they kept true to there original goal of filling every blank space in all of the albums.

I especially like the last paragraph: "Would we recommend that others follow our path and collect the whole world? 'Absolutely,' Geller offers. 'For all the problems--and the International Volume 1 is really a bit of a mess--it's been the most fun I've had since my honeymoon.'"

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"They Collected the World"

The article mentioned in my earlier post about the two collectors who successfully completed the first eleven Scott Internationals makes a very interesting read. (Thanks to Len Beasley who posted the Washington Post article on the Virtual Stamp Club message board).

The two collectors were Stan Cornyn, a record industry executive and Murray Geller, a planetary astronomer. The impetus for the project came when Cornyn bought a set of Scott Internationals for his 12 year old son who turned out to be more interested in skateboarding. The two men first thought about only filling the volumes with stamps costing less than a nickel. They then agreed that a dime wouldn't be too bad. At some point, the desire to fill all those spaces triumphed over economy.

Not unsurprisingly, dealers felt this was a foolhardy endeavor: nobody collects the world! And their fellow collectors who were specialists argued that acquiring 195,219 stamps was something anyone could do and not fit for real philatelists. Why didn't they put their time to better use by researching, say, "19th-century ship arrivals showing mail service to Latin America."

The collectors had 11,965 stamps in July 1972. By January 1975 they had filled all but 1394 of the 195,219 spaces. At this stage, "the hunt [became] more important than the object of the hunt." Some of the last acquisitions took a lot of effort. After all, these were the days before email, much less the World Wide Web. Syria Scott # 106a, Syria RA12, Paraguay 704-7, and Spanish Sahara 36-50 were toughies--especially Syria 106a which is an error that doesn't belong in the album in the first place (2007 catalog value is $125). They purchased it from a dealer in Damascus. The last stamp to be acquired was from a New York City dealer: the Malaya Kelantan # 10 overprint. And then it was done. Every space in 29 binders filled.

Cornyn and Geller claimed to not know how much they had spent, although the estimated value of the completed collection was six figures in 1978. They are less reticent about the time it took: around 8000 hours.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Do you remember your first?

Stamp album, that is. Mine was published by Minkus and titled, appropriately enough, My First Stamp Album. My father gave me the album as part of a kit, My First Stamp Outfit. The kit included the album which had spaces for 4300 stamps, a packet of 100 all different stamps (one hopes all in the album), a plastic pocket magnifier, 1000 stamp hinges, stamp tongs, and adhesive flags and coats of arms of the world. Cost for the kit was $2.95 (1959). Although my album and kit probably disappeared before I was in high school, I remember distinctly some of the stamps that came with it, such as Scott # SD7, the 20 cent Special Delivery stamp featuring a 1920s postal truck which was decades before my time, as well as some 3 cent US commemoratives which were only a year or two old. It's interesting how some things stick with you.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Filling one volume? Try Eleven!

Thanks to Ron Mitchell via the Virtual Stamp Club, I've learned that "Stan Cornyn and Murray Geller filled all the International albums that existed at the time (eleven) over about six years in the 1970s. Their story was reported by Cynthia Gorney in the Washington Post in an article called "They Collected the World." ...[It] was reprinted in Scott's Monthly Stamp Journal, July 1978, pp. 16-17 and 20-21."

The original Washington Post citation is "They Collected the World: The Herculean Effort for a Grand Total of 195,219 Stamps. In a Herculean Effort, They Collected the World." By Cynthia Gorney, Special to The Washington Post. Apr 26, 1978, B1-[B2?] (in the "STYLE Entertainment People Comics" section).

The collection was sold by Collectors Auction Service in four sales under the title "Cornyn - Geller All - World Collection": Part One, Countries A-F : March 1, 1978 ; Part Two, Countries G-M : August 1, 1978 ; Part Three, Countries M-R : November 1, 1978; and Part Four, Countries S-Z : March 15, 1979.

I've requested a copy of the Scott's Monthly reprint from the APS Library as well as the auction catalogs and will post more information later. If anyone knows of others who have completed a volume 1 (or more), please let me know.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Scott International Volume I Coverage

Several years ago I came across the citation to an item in the American Philatelic Society's library titled "Study of omissions made in the last revision of Scott's International Postage Stamp Album. Part 1 1840-1940" by Arthur J. Palmer, Jr. I finally got around to borrowing a copy and it is a very interesting document.

What Mr. Palmer did was to give the APS a copy of his 1982 study which "systematically reviewed the 1840-1940 volume and identified what has been left out which would frustrate the average collector." His purpose was to bring the omissions to the attention of the Scott Publishing Company in the hopes that they would address the issues in the next revision of the volume. In 1988, Scott Publishing indicated to him that the then "Part 1-A and Part 1-B" [were to be] extensively re-edited when they have completed reprinting the Specialty Series that was ignored for so many years before sale of the company to Amos Press..."

Mr. Palmer indicated that the "lack of provision of very common issues...[was] mainly the result of the last revision when an attempt was made to provide for the matching of pages with Part II." Cognizant that Scott could not economically be expected to make wholesale revisions, his suggested corrections tried to minimize "re-editing of existing pages."

His minimum recommendation would require 39 new pages, 12 of which would replace blank pages in the album. This would restore 75% of the missing issues. To achieve 89% coverage would require an additional 15 additional pages. One hundred percent coverage would require 40 additional pages.

Mr. Palmer developed a precise and objective set of rules for determining which stamps would belong, the gist of which was to identify missing low value stamps rather than make decisions based on popularity, aesthetics, or similar subjective criteria.

One interesting part of Mr. Palmer's report is his opinions on what had happened in the revision that I assume occurred in the 1970s. He believed that in order to provide continuity between volume 1 and volume 2 that the editors "left out much material," with "back of the book" material, regional and occupation issues, and even regular/commemorative stamps of the 1930s bearing the brunt--i.e., pre-1930 regular and commemorative issues remained largely untouched. Also, he felt that the Scott catalog then current was more fragmented than it is now, particularly regarding definitive issues that were frequently reissued in different colors and denominations...sometimes covering two or more decades." This results in issues that appear together in recent versions of the catalog but are split over multiple pages in the International. Finally, he noted that there were problems with inaccuracies, some of which were natural consequences of changes in the underlying Scott catalog. Others could have been avoided such as correct use of terms like "overprinted" and "surcharged." Finally, he noted that chronological order tends to suffer more in the later editions.

One comment he made I wish I better understood: If Scott were to follow his suggestions, "the added pages will cover a very high percentage of the material that was left out from the last major revision in the 1950's." My 1969 version has copyright dates of 1955, 1965 and 1969 but I currently have no way of determining what changed with each of these revisions except that the countries below identified as left out of the last revision are still in the 1969 edition, albeit out of strict alphabetical order. So, again, I think he is talking about a revision that occurred in the seventies.

The majority of Mr. Palmer's's study is concerned with identifying specific stamps to put into the new version. Here is a summary of the largest lacuna (there are many less numerous omissions not included below):

Argentina--missing 207 official stamps for departments
Austria--missing 30 WW I Military stamps
Benin--entire country left out at last revision
China--missing 88 stamps from Sechwan and other provinces
Cilicia--entire country missing (I assume that Cilicia and similarly designated countries below were never in any Scott International "Blue" edition although they are listed in Scott's catalog)
Cochin China--entire country left out at last revision
Corfu--entire country left out at last revision
Czechoslovakia--many regular issues missing; no newspaper or special delivery stamps; "poor coverage of Bohemia, Morvia, and Slovakia"
Dalmatia--entire country missing
Eastern Rumelia--entire country missing
Eastern Silesia--entire country missing
France--missing 24+ Offices in China - Kwangchowan
Hungary--missing 73 Occupation stamps
India--Mr. Parker would like to see "real" spaces for Convention and Feudatory states (several hundred stamps)
Iraq--missing 49 official stamps 1923-
Moheli--entire country left out at last revision
Obock--entire country left out at last revision
Paraguay--missing 44 regular issues between 1910 and 1938
Persia--missing 67 regular issues 1917-
Philippines--missing 24 official stamp
Poland--missing many common values
Rio de Oro--entire country left out at last revision
Romania--"substantial number of color changes and values missing for the regular issues"; 50 missing postage due and official stamps
Russia--43 stamps from offices in the Turkish empire
South Russia--entire country missing
Tobago--entire country left out at last revision
Turkey--missing 92 regular issues; 39 newspaper stamps

Sunday, June 8, 2008

How many stamps do you have?

Seems like a perfectly reasonable question but a pain both to begin and keep current. I started with a quick and dirty count on the Scott International Volume 1 I purchased, but am now going back through and doing a more thorough job. I'm using an Excel spreadsheet keyed to country and page. (Pages in the Scott International aren't numbered--I've added numbers in pencil.) Once done I will copy and paste to as many columns as will fit on a page and then print the inventory. As I add new stamps, I will pencil these in on the printout. Then I will periodically update the spreadsheet and print out a new copy. At least that's the plan.

Addendum: I've completed the spreadsheet. I decided it would be easier to print if I copied the data from Excel and pasted it into Microsoft Word using a 3 column format. With margins at .75 inches and using Arial 9 point as the font, I was able to fit everything into 8 pages. In order to get each page count from the album to fit on one line, I truncated the listings to 25 spaces [=left(A1,25]. The resultant entries after pasting into MS Word look something like this:

343/345 Egypt 25
344/346 Egypt 30
345/347 Egypt 30
346/348 Egypt 18
347/349 Egypt 22
348/350 Egypt 9
349/351 Eritrea 2
350/352 Eritrea 0

The first column is the page number. Why the slash? Because I can't count. In retrospect, I should have done a more methodical numbering of pages. While I only made 3 mistakes, the worst was to misread my handwriting and skip 40 pages about one third of the way through! So in the example above, the 343 indicates my penciled in page number; the 345 is what the actual page number should be. Next is the country followed by the number of stamps mounted on that page (counting only those stamps matching the illustrations or that can legitimately be placed in one of the blank spaces). In my Excel spreadsheet I have an additional column for the actual number of spaces on the page, but I haven't done any count of these yet.

If anyone would like a copy of the Excel spreadsheet to use for your own collection, just let me know. Again, I have the 1969 edition although I'm not yet clear on what difference the copyright date makes.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

What to put in all those blank spaces

What actually belongs in a Scott International or Minkus Global is not as easy as it seems and in the end comes down to personal choice--after all, this is supposed to be fun :) Obviously, the stamps that correspond to the image or catalog number form the core of the collection although even here there may be multiple options due to color, perforation, etc. But there are also numerous blank spaces for, as Scott terms it, "such rare stamps as may be acquired." The most liberal view would be that as long as stamps are from the appropriate country and within the chronological range, they are legitimate candidates for empty spaces. I prefer a more conservative approach: stamps in blank spaces should be non-depicted issues from the same set or a set with the same design type (but that might have a different perforation, watermark, overprint, etc.).

Some collectors will put closely related stamps underneath one another in the same space--for example, same design but different color. I'm not certain what I think about this although I don't mind putting one or two duplicates underneath so that I can quickly find these for trading.

The final mounting decision is whether to "color outside the lines"--i.e., mount non-depicted stamps anywhere on the page. I'm also conflicted about this as there are undepicted stamps that I hate not to include. But, at some point, I suspect that the look of the page will suffer, not to mention the weight the extra stamps add and increasing the possibility of stamps on adjacent pages catching on one another if you don't use interleaving. An alternative would be use any blank pages for the country if available or to add blank pages although this would separate issues chronologically from their depicted counterpoints.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Minkus and other album options

The main competitor to the Scott Company after World War II was Jacques Minkus who the New York Times credited with giving "the once-patrician hobby of stamp collecting its mass-market reach." Minkus was associated with the famous New York Department store Gimbels for years. In 1951, he first published the Minkus Global stamp album edited by Colonel George Tlamsa. The 1,250 page first edition sold for $15 with binder and claimed to contain "more than one-half of all the major stamp varieties ever issued" with spaces for 55,951 stamps and 24,000 illustrations. Supplements were available from 1952 on. In 1959, it cost $18.95. By 1966, the base volume had grown to 1680 pages with spaces for 65,000 stamps.

I believe in 1954 Minkus first published the even larger Supreme Global stamp album. Originally in two volumes, the 1954 edition contained spaces for over 76,000 stamps with 40,000 clear illustrations, and 2000 pages. I don't have the stats for Volume 1, but in 1955, the 1008 page Volume 2 covered Italy to Zanzibar with spaces for 38,452 stamps and 20,390 illustrations. In 1959, it cost $27.50. In 1961 the Supreme Global was still two volumes, but Japan started Volume 2.

By 1966 the Supreme Global album had expanded to 3 volumes with 3600 pages, 96,000 illustrations and spaces for 120,000 stamps--"more than two-thirds of all stamps ever issued." I believe the Supreme Global originally had its own supplements but at some point began using the same supplements as the Master Global.

Minkus sold his company in 1986 to Harry de Jong (and was owned after that by Novus Debut?). The Minkus line is now distributed by Amos Publications which continues to issue new supplements. Currently you cannot purchase new copies of many of albums, although the Master Global is usually available on eBay or from dealers/auction houses, albeit less frequently than the "Blue" Internationals. Complete Supreme Globals are much harder to find.

At some point I would like to make comparisons in coverage of the Scott Blues versus the two flavors of Minkus. It would also be interesting to know if it is easily possible to distinguish between the Global and Supreme Minkus album pages. On eBay, at least, some albums with the Supreme Global binder are obviously the Master Global pages and perhaps on occasion vice-versa. Of course, after awhile, the supplements did double duty so the differentiation would apply only to the base volumes I assume (but at what cutoff date?). My current guess is that the Supreme Globals are the ones with Minkus catalog numbers for 19th century issues. Can anyone confirm?

No other worldwide albums that I am aware of offer the coverage of the Scott International and the Minkus Master Global albums. (I'm ignoring that one could try to purchase all of the Scott "Green" Specialty albums for extreme coverage, although I don't know if even in their heyday the series covered every country. Minkus had their own equivalent of country and regional albums.) Scott used to publish a one volume Grand Award album. It had the virtue of including Scott catalog numbers. I don't know how the Grand Award compared in coverage to what I assume was its main competitor, the Minkus Master Global. H. E. Harris published several larger worldwide albums. Although they have their proponents, my impression is that many common stamps were omitted for even popular countries, at least for earlier issues.

The remaining album option is to use computer printable pages such as those offered by Stamp Albums Web ( The site offers a "complete set" of over 6500 Classic Era pages. This includes British Commonwealth to the start of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and all other countries to the end of 1940. as well as 50,000 U.S. And foreign pages that you can mix and match. Some (all of the Classic era?) are available in the form of Adobe Pagemaker files that can be modified for personal use.

UPDATE 6/10: I just saw on eBay an auction for "MINKUS SUPREME GLOBAL STAMP ALBUM VOL 5 New 1971-1973." Sure enough, the title page actually says "Supreme Global" and Volume 5. It doesn't give the number of stamps but the number of pages is 1328. If there was an "official" Volume 4, I guess it covered 1967-1970. I've seen a combined Supreme/Master Global supplement for 1976 so presumably it was sometime between 1973 and 1976 that Minkus started combining the supplement for both versions.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Scott Internationals

[I've updated some of the information below since this was published. I suggest using the Blog search function in the upper left hand corner to find relevant posts.]

To the person seriously interested in collecting worldwide, there are really only four possible choices for housing your collection: the Scott International "Brown" series, the Scott International "Blue" series, the Minkus Master or Supreme Global series, or computer produced album pages. (I'm going to ignore stockbooks, blank pages, etc. although these are viable options for some people.) A big problem with any of the first three approaches is that the albums go in and out-of-print. Often, only more recent supplements are available (this is especially true for Minkus).

I've gathered the following from personal knowledge as well as a variety of sources on the Internet. Also very helpful was Michael Laurence's Editor's Choice column entitled "Classic Scott album pages reproduced" which appeared in the 31 October 1994 issue of Linn's Stamp News, page 3. Nevertheless, there are many gaps and no doubt errors. If you can add or correct, please let me know.

The most comprehensive albums ever published were the Scott International "Brown" albums, so called because of the color of their covers. The Scott International series began in the 1800s, and featured spaces for all Scott listed issues ("spaces for all varieties of watermarks, inverted pictures, etc., etc."; but not all perforation varieties) during the years covered.

I don't know whether it applied throughout the history of the "Brown" albums, but at least at one point, you had your choice of a variety of versions: bound printed on both sides of the paper; bound printed on one side of heavy paper, a special bound edition on even heavier paper; and, finally, unbound with "movable leaves."

I believe Scott stopped publishing the "Brown" albums after 1938, preferring to concentrate on their specialty series in "Green" albums for individual countries and regions. Even so, the original volumes show up on eBay or in auctions with some frequency.

Some years ago the company Vintage Reproductions of Notre Dame, Indiana, reprinted, with Scott's permission, the "Big Brown" albums on one side of 70-pound acid-free 10" x 11.5" paper, one country per page. The pages were cut and drilled to fit the "Blue" International Binders making it easy to continue with subsequent volumes of the "Blue" International Series (qv). In 1971, Subway Stamp Company bought out Vintage Reproductions and sells new copies on two different sizes of paper: one matches the original International paper size and the other the size of paper used in Scott's Speciality albums. I don't know whether Vintage originally sold their albums on two different paper sizes or not.

Volume 1 as published by Vintage covers 1840-1900 (815 pages); volume 2 covers 1901-1919 (1159 pages), volume 3 covers 1920-1929 (1058 pages), volume 4, 1930-1934 (799 pages), and volume 5, 1935-1938 (709 pages). Volume 6 covers 1939-1940 (612 pages). I believe Vintage Reproductions itself, not Scott, created the final volume so collectors could expand the set with the "Blue" Internationals if they desired.

(In the original Browns as published by Scott, the company differentiated between the 19th Century Edition and the 20th century volumes, which they numbered as Volume 1 (1901-1919), volume 2(1920-1929), volume 3 (1930-1934), and volume 4 (1934-1939), the last edition of the final volume corresponding to the 1942 Scott Catalog.)

As one might expect, the "Brown" albums contain many very expensive and elusive stamps. (Michael Lawrence's article notes that the first page for British Guiana alone would cost literally millions of dollars to complete.) Interestingly, this comprehensiveness appeals to many collectors of classic issues who rightly note that the much less complete International "Blue "albums or Minkus titles omit many stamps that a collector might reasonably expect to own. I, on the other hand, am vexed by seas of empty spaces that can never be filled, a difficulty that is mitigated by another series that began life as the Junior Internationals.

I don't know exactly when, but no later than 1917 and into the 1940s, Scott published a Junior Edition which eschewed comprehensiveness in favor of offering a representative collection of the postage stamps of the world. The Junior Edition forms the basis of the "Blue" Internationals that are still being updated with annual supplements by Amos Publishing who purchased Scott Publishing in 1984. Most Junior editions were hardbound. The nickname for the new series comes from the Blue binding that was used for the last releases in the Junior line and carried over even after "Junior" was dropped from the name. I don't know precisely when that occurred but I have seen on eBay a 1941 Scott Junior and, on the other end, a 1947 Scott International without Junior in the title.

The "Blue" International volume 1 covers 1840-1940. It is printed on two sides of a page. Volume 1 was originally issued in a single album, and then, presumably to keep the cost down, was divided and sold in two parts: 1A and 1B. My original understanding was that the bifurcated version was identical in layout to the one part. But an analysis of the Scott International volume 1 by Arthur J. Palmer that is in the American Philatelic Society Library implies that the two part version "provided for the matching of pages with Part II." Today, the album is sold in 4 parts (1A-D); when in print, that is. According to several sources, this version definitely starts all countries on a new page, making it easy to keep countries together when interfiling supplements (although I don't know what happens with airmails and back of the book materials).

While I'm going to talk about the Palmer study in another post, it is worth noting here that in originally splitting volume 1 into two parts, Scott apparently deleted a number of stamps that were in the single part version. According to Palmer, in 1988 Scott was planning a major re-editing of volume 1. Perhaps this was what was accomplished with the 4 part version. If anyone reading this owns the 4 parter, I would love to hear from you.

I own a copy of the 1969 edition which has copyright dates of 1955, 1965, and 1969. My copy has 1322 pages (including blank recto pages and one repeated page). It would be interesting to know what changed in these three years from previous versions although at least the 1955 copyright may be related to changes in numbering in the US section of the Scott catalog--just a guess. (The 1955 edition still used the 1943 catalog for the US section!) Interestingly, the 1969 version still contains countries that begin on the reverse side of the page. So presumably the change to integrate with Volume II came between 1969 and the date of Palmer's initial study, 1980.

I have heard that the reason the 4 part version of volume 1 is out of print is because Scott no longer has the masters (one rumor is that they were destroyed in a fire).

The current breakdown of the Scott International series for the coverage period I'm interested in is as follows:

#1A1 1840-1940 US; Aden-Ethiopia (the latest version of Volume 1 has 48,000? spaces; ? Illustrations; 1943 edition had 1200 pages with 35,000 spaces and 8,000 illustrations; the 1955 edition also had 35,000 spaces, 8000 illustrations and still references the 1943 Scott catalog; my 1969 edition has 1322 pages)
#1A2 1840-1940 Falklands- Latvia
#1B1 1840-1940 Lebanon through Quelimane
#1B2 1840-1940 Reunion-Zululand
#2A 1940-1949 USA-Jamaica (total 1280 pages, 16,000 spaces, 6,000 illustrations both parts)
#2B 1940-1949 Japan through Zanzibar
#3A 1949-1955 USA-Jug (15,000 spaces --both parts)
#3B 1949-1955 Kenya through Zanzibar
#4A 1956-1959 USA; Aden-Kenya (15,000 spaces --both parts)
#4B 1956-1959 Korea-Zanzibar
#5 1960-1962 Afghanistan through Zanzibar plus United States for the years 1960-1963
#5A 1963-1965 (part year) Abu Dhabi through Zanzibar plus United States for the years 1963-1965

In all cases, the binders are sold separately. (According to the publisher, the regular 3" binder holds 300 pages; the jumbo 4", 400 pages.)

Unfortunately, currently you cannot purchase new copies of many of the early volumes, although they are regularly available on eBay or dealers/auction houses.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Can you jumpstart a worldwide stamp collection?

As others have noted, it makes the most sense to jumpstart the process by purchasing a collection already in progress, presumably the largest one can afford, and ideally in a loose-leaf album in good enough condition to not require remounting. To that end, I've been monitoring eBay for the past year looking for a large Scott International or Minkus Global collection. A couple of weeks ago, I successfully bid on a Scott International Volume I (copyright 1969). According to the seller, there are spaces for 48,000 stamps and 18,000 - 22,000 stamps are present.

One interesting question is what will be the most efficient way of adding to the collection? The most bang for the buck would appear to come from purchasing additional albums (or pages from them) covering the same era, removing the stamps I need, and then reselling or trading the album. But presumably at some point the smaller collections that are affordable (a couple of thousand stamps for under $50) will yield fewer and fewer stamps that I need.

Two other options will be country pages from albums covering the appropriate time spans or even country collections in specialty albums (or their equivalent). At the end, no doubt I will be left with filling empty spaces stamp by stamp--a much more expensive proposition.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Am I nuts?

As every stamp collector knows, achieving a comprehensive collection of the world is impossible--too many stamps, too many rarities, and frankly, too many recent issues meant to exploit the hobbyist.

To help provide focus, I'm exploring two possibilities. One is to purchase a Scott International album, specifically volume 1 (1840-1940), with as many stamps already in it as I can afford. This covers the first 100 years of Philately. Although a complete new Volume 1 is currently unavailable for purchase from supply dealers, these albums and their earlier variants are often offered on eBay and from other sources. While I like the idea of a self-contained volume, the problem with this approach is there are many stamps I remember from my stamp collecting as a child that were issued between 1940 to as late as 1965. As will be explored in another entry, either the Minkus Master or Supreme Global seems a more affordable approach for that route than attempting to combine multiple Internationals.

My main purpose in keeping this blog is to explore questions such as the following: How feasible is it to complete one of the current Scott International Volume Ones? What is a ballpark estimate of how much it would cost? Which of the "representative coverage" worldwide albums (Scott "Blues", the Minkus Master Global and Minkus Supreme Global) do the best job of providing spaces for commonly available stamps? Once you have a worldwide collection started, what is the most cost effective way of adding to it? What is an efficient way of storing duplicates for trading or reselling? Has anyone compiled checklists of the stamps in these albums or do you use the Scott Classic or other catalogs to keep track?