Sunday, May 30, 2010

Aden versus Allenstein Redux

After several years of avoiding it, I have finally begun making a wantlist using the countries for which I have no stamps as a start. Motivating me out of my lethargy was a desire to investigate if there were obvious reasons why my album doesn't have a single stamp from 70+ countries: what makes them different? While I've only gotten as far as the letter C with my wantlist, I was pleased that with one (aberrant) exception, the total catalog value (2007) for the A-B countries isn't too bad. Of course, the "Blue" collector knows that low catalog value doesn't translate into low retail, or, perhaps more important, into easy availability for purchase.

Here is a summary of the A-B countries missing from my collection:

Aguera: 7 stamps in the "Blue" album, $7.70 total 2007 Scott catalog value
Alaouites: 25 stamps, $86.75
Allenstein: 28 stamps, $48.50
Anjouan: 7 stamps, $7.95
Austria Lombardy-Venetia: 7 stamps, $182.00 (or maybe under $100--I'll explain in a future post)
Barbuda: 5 stamps, $8.30
Benin: 7 stamps, $15.65
British Central Africa: 7 stamps, $19.05

Well, total catalog value obviously doesn't explain it. I mean, what's up with Aguera or Anjouan and their 7 stamps cataloging not much more than a $1 each? To see if these countries are an example of stamps more difficult to find than the catalog values suggest, I checked my nascent wantlist with three sources: the APS Stamp Store, Poppe-Stamps, and Zillions of Stamps. I was pleasantly surprised that at least 75% of my wantlist was available from one or more of these sources for all of the countries except Aguera. Stamps from La Aguera weren't available from any source I checked, including eBay.

In my earlier post I wondered why I have a country like Aden complete, for example, and what was different about it vis-a-vis Allenstein or, to choose one of the other countries for which I have no stamps, Aguera? Scott provides spaces for 19 Aden stamps at a catalog value of around $37.50 (I say around because there are several blank spaces to be filled at the collector's discretion). Aguera is represented by 7 stamps with a total catalog value of $7.70. On the surface, doesn't it seem like my collection should be the other way around? Just brainstorming, I wonder if the reasons are:

1) Popularity. Aden is a former member of the British Commonwealth and this remains a popular area with American collectors.

2) Stamp Types. Aden in the "Blue" is all pictorials and commemoratives, including the popular 1937 Coronation set. The stamps of Aguera are what some dealers derisively call "little nothing stamps."

3) Each of Aguera's stamps catalogs $1.10. While Aden has stamps cataloging more than the $1.10 there are still 7 Aden stamps that can be acquired at well under $1 each. I might imagine that the stamps most likely to make their way into Junior collector's albums were those valued at or near the base catalog (which, for many years, was 2 cents).

I'll post something in the future about the "deal" with Austria Lombardy-Venetia (hint, it involves a Blue-per).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Status Check (Or why Aden and not Allenstein?)

As I blogged a few months ago, I've pretty much given up on being able to afford another "Blue" Volume 1 on eBay large enough to add a substantial number of stamps--i.e., at least a 1000--to my collection. Such an album would probably need to contain 10K plus stamps at a minimum and these have been selling recently for more than I want to pay. So future additions to my collection are likely to come from worldwide albums that have been split into individual countries, single country collections, the APS Stamp Store, APS circuits, etc.

That being the case, I thought I thought this would be a good point to look back at how my collection made it to this stage. The nucleus of my collection was a 1969 "Blue" with about 10,000 stamps (it contained several thousand additional stamps, but these were "outside the spaces" stamps and aren't included in my counts). The cost of this album was $625 or a little more than 6 cents apiece. At the time I was buying, 3 to 6 cents a stamp seemed like a reasonable way of judging whether an album on eBay was a bargain.

I added to my original purchase with three other "Blue" albums. The first contained a little more than 9000 stamps, i.e., about the size of my original album, but I was happy that it still yielded a couple of thousand additional stamps for my collection at minimal cost. The next album was only countries A-E but it contained a lot of stamps within this range. This album boosted my collection by another 1500 stamp. Finally, I purchased an album with only 7000 or so stamps based on photographs showing a number of better issues not usually found in the typical eBay Volume 1. This yielded 700 new stamps.

The total cost of all the albums including the starter collection was around $1475. Because I didn't want the hassle of selling the other albums after having removed the stamps I needed for my collection, I consigned them to a local dealer. That brought in $450 after commission. (Someone who had been willing to sell the stamps themselves might have gotten $700-800, not including eBay fees, postage, etc.) In any event, the net cost of my collection so far is a little over $1000 which, of course, includes the pages themselves and two binders. I currently have 14,575 stamps which works out to 7 cents per stamp. Needless to say, future additions will never average nearly that low!

Its not uncommon when you read descriptions of "Blue" albums for sale to see the phrase "includes the usual suspects." That is, the countries represented by a lot of stamps are the ones most commonly found in collections of this time period, such as Germany, Austria, and Hungary. I have a 100 plus stamps each for 44 countries, many of which fall into the usual suspects category.

And there are countries that seem obscure but are almost always well represented, such as Azerbaijan. I assume this is because they were widely available in packets or on approval at little cost. (Interestingly, the common countries may or may not include the United States--I've been surprised at the number of world albums for sale that are missing the U.S. Now whether this is because the collector didn't collect our country or had a separate album for American stamps, I don't have a clue.)

Just as there are countries frequently found in abundance, I soon learned that certain countries were often empty because of average cost for their issues, even though they issued enough stamps to be represented in the "Blue" by multiple pages. Cyrenaica and Tripolitania come to mind. But it may also be due to happen chance. Why is Aden complete in my "Blue" and yet none of the albums I purchased had a single stamp from Allenstein, even though the entire country is frequently available complete for under $50?

At this stage in my collecting, the number of countries for which I have zero stamps stands at a pretty amazing (embarrassing?) seventy-six. Five of these, Alaouites, Cape Juby, Columbia Santander, Italian Colonies, and Spanish Sahara are allocated at least two pages in the "Blue;" the rest one page or less. The complete list of the countries for which I have no stamps as of yet are: Aguera, Alaouites, Allenstein, Anjouan, Austria Lombardy-Venetia, Barbuda, Benin, British Central Africa, Cape Juby, Caroline Islands, Castellorizo, Cochin China, Colombia Santander, Colombia Santander Cucuta, Colombia Tolima, Danish West Indies, Elobey, Annoleon & Corisco, Far Eastern Republic, France Offices in Crete, French Offices in Turkish Empire Cavalle, French Offices in Turkish Empire Dedeach, French Offices in Turkish Empire Port Lago, French Offices in Turkish Empire Vathy, French Offices in Zanzibar, German New Guinea, German South West Africa, Germany Offices in Turkish Empire, Germany Polish Occupation, Grand Comoro, Great Britain Offices in China, Guam, Hatay, India Feudatory States Kishengarh, India Feudatory States Sirmoor, Italian Colonies, Italy Occupation Stamps, Italy Offices in China, Italy Offices in the Turkish Empire, Japan Offices in China, Japan Offices in Korea, Karelia, Kiauchau, Kionga, Kuwait, Madeira, Maldive Islands, Marienwerder, Marshall Islands, Mesopotamia, Moheli, Nevis, North Ingermanland, North West Pacific Islands, Northern Nigeria, Nossi Be, Obock, Penrhyn Island, Poland Occupation Stamps, Poland Offices in Danzig, Poland Offices in the Turkish Empire, Poland Official Stamps Issued under German Occupation, Rio de Oro, Russia Offices in China, Sarawak, Senegambia & Niger, Somaliland Protectorate, South Russia, Spanish Sahara, Ste. Marie de Madagascar, Tahiti, Tibet, Tobago, Transcaucasian Federated Republics, Uganda, Western Ukrainia, and Zululand.

Obviously the list contains a lot of Offices and Occupations, but still there are rather more than a handful of complete countries missing. I'm surprised that there are still that many political entities where I don't have a single stamp yet--76 out of 408 possible or 19%. It will be interesting as my collection progresses to learn if the lack of stamps from these countries can eventually be attributed to cost, scarcity, or just luck of the draw.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How Many Stamps Were Issued Between 1840 and 1940? Part 3

When collectors have made counts of how many stamps have been issued, the sensible ones have limited themselves to totaling Regular Issues and Commemoratives. Using that approach, I come up with a little more than 60,000 regulars and commems released between 1840 and 1940. But when making my count, I had the bright idea of including everything in the 2007 Scott Classics Catalogue even though that added multiple layers of complexity as well as increased the opportunity for counting mistakes. With that in mind, when looking at all issues, I found that regular issues/commems account for about two-thirds of the stamps in the Catalogue. The other one-third are Back-of-the-Book (BOB).

Below is a table of my counts for the various stamp categories in the Scott catalog according to Scott's prefixes. These are sorted from the most stamps in a particular category to the least. Again, I caution you in placing too much faith in the exactness of the counts.

60,107 [No prefix] Regular issues, Commemoratives
5778 O/OX Officials, Post Office Seals
5248 J/JX Unpaid Postage
4885 C/CE/CO Airmail
4035 B/BK Semi-postals
3001 A*, AR Mandates, Plebescites, Provisionals, Postal-fiscal
1139 N Mandates
1113 R/RA/RAJ Revenues
1056 #L Local stamps
739 Q Parcel post, special handling
682 P Newspapers, periodicals
670 1N Occupation issues
614 U Envelopes
408 M Military
371 L Local
321 #X Provisionals (e.g., US or Confederate Postmaster Provisionals)
277 E Special Delivery
136 F Registration, Certified
62 Carrier Carrier
45 H Acknowledgment of Receipt
33 I Late Fee
32 G/GY Insured Letter, Marine Insurance
28 S Franchise stamps
18 D Pneumatic Post
18 K Offices Abroad
5 Y Revolutionary
90,821 TOTAL

When I started, I listed every prefix separately: for example, I initially separated Airmails from Airmail Special Deliveries, etc. This quickly became tiresome and so I went back and subsumed these all under a single prefix letter, in this case, C. Unfortunately, I shouldn't have done this for all categories. Mixing the various prefixes where A is the first letter intermixes the AR category which is cut from a different cloth than the others. I should have left that separate.

It should also note that the prefixes K, L, M, N, and Y can be used with any category. Consider the Military Stamps of Austria. There are regular Military issues, Military Semi-Postals, and Military Newspaper stamps. In my count all of these are included in the M count, not with the B or N counts.

Finally, some categories are deceptive. There are hundreds of Offices Abroad listed throughout the Catalogue but the only stamps assigned with the "official" K prefix are for UNITED STATES OFFICES IN CHINA Shanghai.

The last table breaks down the percentage for the most numerous prefixes. The most common type of BOB stamps are Officials--they constitute almost 19% of BOB issues. (Note that this is 19% of the thirty thousand BOB stamps, NOT 19% of the ninety thousand total stamps issued between 1840-1940.)

18.81% O/OX Officials, Post Office Seals
17.09% J/JX Unpaid Postage
15.90% C/CE/CO Airmail
13.14% B/BK Semi-postals
9.77% A*, AR Mandates, Plebescites, Provisionals, Postal-fiscal
3.71% N Mandates
3.62% R/RA/RAJ Revenues
3.44% #L Local stamps
2.41% Q Parcel post, special handling
2.22% P Newspapers, periodicals
2.18% 1N Occupation issues
2.00% U Envelopes
1.33% M Military
1.21% L Local
1.05% #X Provisionals (e.g., US or Confederate Postmaster Provisionals)

For the first two posts in this thread see: Part 1, Part 2.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The iPad and Stamp Collecting

I am an unabashed gadget geek. One example of this is that I have owned an iPad since the first day it was available for purchase. Since then I've found a couple of good uses for the iPad with my "Blue" collection which I would like to share.

I spend a lot of my time with my albums sitting on the couch rather than at a desk. This means I'm usually trying to balance an album, catalog, and laptop at the same time. Turns out for a couple of tasks, the iPad provides a viable alternative for the laptop, the catalog or both!

Off and on I will select a country that is largely complete and see what it would take to fill the remaining spaces. I usually start with the APS Stamp Store. I was happy to find that the iPad's screen size is fine for viewing this site in the Safari browser and it is easy to go back and forth between listings and zoomed views of the stamps. Most important is that the size and weight of the iPad vis-a-vis a laptop made this task much more convenient. I would expect other websites such as Zillions of Stamps to work equally well unless they use Flash to serve up their content or shopping carts.

I own the last DVD version of the Scott Classics Catalogue. As you may know, the DVD contains the catalog in Adobe PDF format. I transferred the PDFs over to the iPad and viewed them using the GoodReader software. Although it is little bothersome to find the exact page you want, the overall convenience is hard to beat. It is especially nice if you find yourself refering between the website and the catalog.

Incidentally, this post was typed on the iPad but I had to add the images "manually."