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?