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.


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