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.

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