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.


Keijo said...

Superb post, Bob.

I had plenty of fun doing a quick comparisong between your have-not countries compared to my stamp collection; it seems our collections share surprisingly many similarities (though covering different timespan).

Personally I believe that trading / exchange of stamps is one of the key factors in finding at least some of the hard to get (low value) items after a specific point. But I admit / fear that very likely it alone will not be enough to fill those spaces.

John said...

I've been reading your fantastic blog for the last year or so, and I particularyly enjoy the posts that paralell my own experience, as the last few have. I have around the same number of stamps in my Blue as you do and my list of postal entities with no stamps is also very similar. The albums I went through to build my collection usually had good representation from Austria and Germany and most of the other usual suspects.

Bob said...

Keijo, I agree that trading/exchange has a lot to recommend it. I've just haven't seen a good way to implement this without more trouble than it is worth. (I like your method that avoids wantlists but that seems harder to accomplish when you are looking at filling spaces in a particular album.)

John, thanks for your post. I think there is definitely a pattern here that cuts across many albums. And, I wonder if the occasional exceptions--my first album I acquired was exceptionally strong in Liberia!--have to do with the predilection of the individual collector or perhaps some ancestral connection with a country.