Thursday, July 15, 2010

More on the Cost of Building a Volume I Collection

You may have heard about the recent craze where (mostly) teenage girls upload "Haul" videos of their fashion purchases to YouTube and similar venues. Surely it is just a matter of time before stamp collectors start to do the same. Well, maybe not.

Over the past 6 weeks, I've added about 500 stamps to my Blue. My collection is now large enough that buying large albums is getting to be prohibitive, so I've begun to search for other cost effective and efficient ways to fill in the remaining spaces. One possibility is to look for sellers who have broken up an International, Minkus Global or comparable album into individual countries. Another is American Philatelic Society Circuit Salesbooks. I'm currently exploring both.

I thought it might be interesting to compare the cost of acquisition of each of these methods, recognizing that my experiences so far may be so limited as to be misleading. But I'll keep records and refine this over the coming years.

Vis-a-vis the first option, there were perhaps three dozen countries from a Blue offered recently on eBay. I managed to win 11 of these. Now a prudent collector in deciding what to bid would no doubt have guesstimated the approximate catalog value of the stamps that weren't in his or her album. But I couldn't get enthusiastic about the time required to do that, knowing that I wouldn't win everything I bid on. Instead, I did a rough count of the number of stamps shown in the eBay images that were missing from my album and based my bid on that. So how did I do? I spent $181.11 to add 489 stamps, paying 35% of catalog or 42 cents per stamp.

In the following table (also known as a Haul Matrix), 'Cost' is what I paid on eBay. 'Catalog' is the 2007 Scott Catalog value of the stamps I actually added to my album. 'Avg' is the average cost per stamp I added. '% Cat' is the percentage of the 2007 catalog value I paid. '# to Sell' are the stamps I didn't need for my Blue.

Country Cost CatalogAvg% Cat# to Sell
Allenstein $12.05 $45.75 $0.46 26%4
Argentina $13.00 $40.00 $0.35 33%131
Cameroun $7.55 $35.55 $0.20 21%27
Dahomey $10.50 $35.80 $0.29 29%18
Ivory Coast $14.50 $26.50 $0.44 55%18
Lebanon $7.01 $28.20 $0.18 25%20
Lithuania $20.50 $43.95 $0.26 47%32
Middle Congo $28.12 $57.85 $0.54 49%39
New Caledonia $7.83 $35.05 $0.20 22%26
St. Pierre & Miquelon $22.05 $52.56 $0.31 47%34
St. Thomas & Prince $19.00 $64.00 $0.90 30%34
Tripolitania $19.00 $64.00 $0.90 30%17
$181.11 $529.21 $0.42 35%400

Looks like I overbid on the Ivory Coast and probably Lithuania, Middle Congo, and St. Pierre & Miquelon. Ah well.

How does the cost of acquisition for these individual countries compare to buying entire albums? I don't know the catalog value of the stamps in the albums I've purchased, but I do know my cost figures to 8 cents or so a stamp. So my brief foray with buying individual countries has so far come out to more than five times that of buying entire albums. That doesn't sound good. However, my actual cost will drop some as I'm preparing to sell the stamps I don't need through the APS. I have 400 stamps to sell and assuming I can get as much as $100 total when all is said and done, that will drop my actual cost per stamp from individual country pages down closer to twice what I've been paying for stamps from the whole albums. That sounds better.

Next week I'll post my early experience with buying stamps from the APS Sales Circuits.


Ed said...

I've recently caught the Stamp bug from my Father. I've been doing a lot of research and wanted to start building a Scotts International Album like his, however its been fairly impossible to find a Part I and Part II album thats new, or even in fair condition. seems no one sells them new anymore, and if they do its incredibly expensive for someone like me on a budget.

Any tips on Scott's International Albums Vol I (1840-1940) and Vol II(1940-1949) the rest still seem to be for sale even thought it will take some time to save up that kind of cash...


Bob said...

Ed, congratulations (or should it be condolences?) on deciding to do a Scott International collection. Seriously, I'm having a great time and have no plan to come to my senses any time soon.

The good news is that it is still possible to purchase both Volume 1 and Volume 2 new. The bad news, which you already know, is that they will set you back a pretty penny: $150 per part, $120 at discount. You can purchase the albums from several sources, including the distributor, Amos Publishing, and larger supply shops, such as Subway:

Amos -

Subway - (type "int'l 1840" in the search box to the see the Volume one's.

In spite of the high price, if I were doing it from scratch, I would seriously consider buying at least the Volume 1 new, perhaps one of the four parts every month or two to spread the pain. With the latest version you will get a better, thicker paper than earlier editions and it will much easier to combine the latest volume 1 pages with those of subsequent International volumes. Also, there are lots of blank backs of pages for adding stamps Scott doesn't provide spaces for.

Thee are several used Volume Ones and Twos for sale on eBay today. Here are the eBay numbers for the ones I found for the looseleaf Scott versions that seem to be complete (but double check me):
310232046189 <==this one is ony $50K!

Just remember if you purchase a pre-1970 edition of Volume One, the pages will not intermix well with Volume 2.

My experience has been that over the course of several months you ought to be able to find a descent volume 1 or 2 on eBay for under $100 each if they don't have too many stamps.

Ed said...

Thanks for the info Bob, I'll keep watching ebay and crossing my fingers for an affordable volume I set. I have a beatup 1947 bound version of Scotts International which I'll use to get started, and now armed with the info you gave me dream of the day I get that I save up for the newly printed version from Amos. I have a million questions that I wont pester you with, other then do you know of any stamp clubs in South Florida.


Bob said...

With the 1947 edition you have the best coverage so that is a great one to start with.

I was surprised to find 34 stamp clubs in Florida listed by the APS, although a number of them don't have websites or email contacts. A fair amount are in southern Florida. Here's the url:

I haven't had much luck with clubs as an adult (which says more about me than the clubs), but I do enjoy going to the occasional stamp show. Here's a list of upcoming Florida ones courtesy of the Florida Stamp Dealers Association:

Carolina Gent said...


I have much enjoyed and benefitted from reading about your collecting experience, especially your detailed comparisons of albums.

About eighteen months ago I returned to the hobby and replaced my childhood Harris Standard with a used set of International Blues. Last week, I finally replaced the Blue Volume 1 with the Vintage Brown reprints. I did this for two reasons.

First, I found it difficult to acquire stamps for Volume I, without also acquiring many cheap stamps for which it has no spaces. I would buy collections on eBay, and find that only half of the stamps fit.

Second, my goal is not to fill the albums, but to enjoy and study history, so I prefer to sort my collection by country. The organization of the Blue Volume I makes that difficult with Air Mails, Postage Dues, and sometimes even different countries sharing a single page.

I looked at the "new" Volume I from Amos, which solves the sorting problem. However, this really does not seem to be a good deal. For about twice the money, you can buy the Vintage Browns from Subway and get about four times as many spaces for stamps.

To each his own. Just thought to share. Thanks again for all your postings.

Bob said...

Carolina, thanks so much for your comments. As heretical as it is for me to admit, I do think the Vintage Brown Reproductions are a better choice for many of the reasons you list. Unfortunately, they are just too inconvenient to fit in with the couch potato approach I practice when working on my albums.

I'm definitely befuddled about the best way to deal with the stamps that ought to be in the International but were omitted by Scott. So far these are sitting on a dozen or so stock pages waiting for me to make a decision. Since I've stopped buying albums regularly, at least the number of orphans isn't growing as fast it once was.

I hope you'll post more about your experiences with the Browns as you have a chance to work with them.

Carolina Gent said...

Being an admirer of Country Joe and the Fish, I have enjoyed Ed Denson's pages:

Ed advised "blank pages" to deal with the problem of acquiring stamps that do not fit Scott's Volume I. So, I bought quadrille ruled pages, and used those to transfer my childhood collection, from A to C.

At China, I gave up. For every major country, I was using an additional 4 or 5 blank pages. I fit them in as best I could, but they couldn't perfectly follow the Volume I sequence.

It is just too cheap to acquire stamps that don't fit; you can spend $25 for a country collection, and find a third of your stamps don't fit Scott Volume I. If you buy collections, you can't avoid this. The Browns cost twice as much, but they provide about four times the space as the Amos "new" Volume I.

The only problem I've had is the cost. Subway sells the pages for $900 or so, but I've had to buy an additional 10 Regular-sized binders to hold them. As I acquire more stamps, I'll need more binders.

However -- although I'll never fill them all, I am *so* happy to have more spaces :-)

Bob said...

I too like the quadrilled pages which are the only way I can keep my rows and columns at least somewhat aligned. And since I only need the stamps that "ought" to be in the Blue Volume 1 (i.e., inexpensive, face different), usually a single page per country will do. However, as you note, those of us who don't have the two or four-part editions are going to have pages that are out of sequence.

When you consider that your collecting may go on for decades, even $900 for albums seems like a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. Even buying them over the course of many months could prove to be an advantage as that would spread out the work of remounting (in my case) 15,000 stamps. It is trying to visualize working with ten binders that does me in. Perhaps I need one of those narrow library book trucks that I could keep the albums on and just wheel the truck to the couch when I want to work on my collection.