Sunday, February 27, 2011

International Blue-per #7: Denmark Caravals

As Jim is doing such a thorough job in his "Big Blue 1840-1940" blog going through Volume 1 country by country, I'm going to stop listing "minor" problems with the album. But in adding some stamps to Denmark, I came across a type of Blue-per that I hadn't seen before, namely a stamp cut that is completely wrong.

It is clear from the dates and descriptions that what is intended for these spaces is the 1933-40 Caravel ship definitives. But the cut is from one of the 19th century "Numeral" issues and doesn't belong here at all. And now that we are looking at this more closely, why are there spaces for the Type II Caravels from 1933-40 (Scott 283A-238J) and the 1927 Caravals on the previous page but not the Type I Caravals from 1933-34 (Scott 232-238)? I don't know that spaces for both of the types are needed, but the descriptions could have been worded so that either Type I or Type II stamps would fit.

Curiouser and curiouser is that this entire page is missing from my 1943 reference volume which stops with the 1937 series for the 25th anniversary of King Christian X's accession (i.e., the previous page in all subsequent editions). So it appears that the 1943 and 1947 editions of the Blue Volume 1 are not identical.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

OMG! There is A New Blue International Volume 1 Blog

Fellow collector Jim has just started a new blog with the great name "Big Blue 1840-1940" and a catchy intro: "A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar...Now what is between? Darn if Scott knows. Fact: Scott does not provide information for what is in Big Blue, aka Scott International Volume 1 1840-1940 But that is about to change."

Jim has set himself the ambitious task of creating a guide to the contents of the Volume One. And we're not talking about just a list of Scott numbers, but also information about the country and background on the stamps themselves.

I wish Jim the best of luck with his new endeavor which will benefit all stamp collectors with an interest in the classic era.

Here's the link:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thoughts on a Checklist for the Blue Volume 1

Jim's comment a few days ago about creating a checklist for the four part version of the Blue got me to thinking about my own "experiments" with such a list awhile back--which went nowhere, I hasten to add. When I began my Scott Volume 1 collection, my fervent hope was that someone had made a checklist and put it on the Internet or donated it to a library. Unfortunately, I've never found one.

Why a checklist? When you are dealing with 35,000 stamps, it would be nice to have a convenient way to keep up with what you own, have something to take to stamp bourses or check against websites, provide documentation for insurance, etc. Also, such a list could help identify what stamps are not depicted in the album but logically should be and to generate statistics (e.g., what is a total catalog value of of a complete Blue Volume 1, what are the most expensive stamps, etc.)

Most serious collectors, I would hazard, pencil catalog numbers in their albums as their collection progresses. I have even heard of collectors taking their albums to dealers so the album itself becomes a checklist. That is too much of a bother for me, but, in any event, ones' annotated album doesn't do other collectors any good.

I know that some collectors annotate their copies of the Scott Classics Catalogue but I haven't found a good way to mark the glossy paper. Pencil doesn't show up and pen isn't mistake or update friendly. Also, even though the Classics Catalog is a single volume, it still is cumbersome to drag around, at least in comparison to a checklist. Now, I do have the 2007 version of the Classics Catalogue on my iPad which would be handy to take to stamp shows, and it is easy to highlight catalog numbers (I use the GoodReader software). If I only wanted something to show what I owned, this might be a sufficient solution. But the downside is that the highlighting can't be used in any other context. That is, I can't use the highlighted pdf to update more recent versions of the Classics Catalog. Nor can one extract the highlighted items to use for other purposes.

So compiling a checklist from scratch still seems the best solution. To that end, I played around with various formats a while back to see what issues would be involved. The basic questions seem to be:

--How do you format the listings: vertical or horizontal?
--How do you allow for indicating that you own an item without taking up too much space?
--How much information should be included (Scott catalog number, year, denomination, color, description, other publishers' catalog numbers, etc.)?
--How important is it to indicate that stamps belong to a set/series, and skips within sets?
--How to indicate that a page has blank spaces and what goes in these spaces?

Here was my first attempt at a minimal checklist format that would take up as little space as possible.

USA 1-2, 9-11-blank, 24-26-35, 63-65-68-69-73-76-78. 92-93-94-96-97-98-blank, 112-113-114-115-116-117-blank, etc.

I started with USA as Scott had already done much of the work for me. I first figured it made sense to use standard symbols such as the hyphen for stamps in a set, but it dawned on me that simply indicating a set contained say numbers 143-160 wouldn't give the collector a way to indicate which of the stamps in the set they owned. With the set numbers broken out, you can check, circle, highlight the individual stamps as required. Commas are used to separate related sets/series.

One obvious problem is how to deal with the situations where Scott has provided one or more blank spaces. Usually these are for higher values in a set but on occasion they could be for any stamp that fits and falls within the date range/description. My first format attempt simply indicated the number of blank spaces but I began to wonder if it would be of more use to list the possibilities for filling the space. Here is a variation that attempts to solve this:

USA 1-2, 9-11-blank for 5-8/10/12-etc.

Well, that didn't work out so well. I didn't come up with a good solution except where there was a contiguous series of stamps (see the China example below).

Although not shown in any of my examples, in hundreds of places in the International there is more than one possible stamp that matches the cut or description. Scott uses the word 'or' to indicate this in the US section: for example, 187 or 188. I thought about abbreviating this with187/188 but as the slash traditionally means something else in dealer/auction catalogs so that probably wouldn't be a good idea. The problem with 'or' is that in some cases you have 3 or even 4 stamps that could work. So that issue isn't resolved.

As long as you are looking for stamps from a seller that uses Scott Catalog numbers, you're all set. But once you are on sites like Delcampe where many of the sellers use other numbering systems, then you are out of luck. I think we can eliminate the possibility of identifying each stamp in the checklist by Scott, Stanley Gibbons, Michel, Y&T, etc. Even if one had the resources to make such a list, we know that Scott/Amos Publishing in particular would never allow such cross-referencing.

But regardless of seller, what most of these services have in common is that generally the year and sometimes denomination are included in the title or description. If I'm searching for a stamp that I know was issued in 1924, then I can add to that to my search string and get around not knowing the catalog number. So here is a modified version of the above with just the year:

USA 1847 1-2, 1851-56 9-11-blank, 1857-60 24-26-35, 1861-67 63-65-68-69-73-76-78, 1861-67 grills 92-93-94-96-97-98-blank, 1869 112-113-114-115-116-117-blank

One issue is whether to include a year range for sets (either from the album or the catalog) or specifically indicate the year for each individual issue. Going the latter route significantly adds to the work and I'm not certain whether it significantly improves the accuracy of search results.

Here is the sample with denominations:

USA 1847 #1 5c, #2 10c 1851-56 #9 1c, #11 3c, blank 1857-60 etc.

Actually, the "blank" seems to me to work better here. That is, my assumption would be that the word blank means you can pick any other stamp issued between 1851-56 without the checklist having to specify the actual catalog numbers.

Here is an example of a vertical format that I tried with China:

___ (10) 1885 1c
___ (11) 1885 3c
___ (16) 1894 1c
___ (18) 1894 3c
___ (78) 1897 1c on 3c
___ ( ) 1897 [1 selected from #79-85]
___ ( ) 1897 [1 selected from #79-85]

([The ___ was intended to provide a space for a checkmark, or a u for used, etc.)

Even though I think the vertical arrangement would be easier to mark up, this approach takes considerably more space. "Vertical" China requires two pages using three columns per page as opposed only part of a page horizontally:

CHINA 1885 #10 1c #11 3c 1894 #16 1c , #18 3c 1897 #78 1c on 3c, two blanks

Seems congested but I might get used to it.

A quick and dirty estimate suggests that a horizontally formatted checklist for the 35,000 stamps in the Volume One would take up 70 single sided pages, assuming 500 stamps per page. Not a big deal to carry around in a small binder.

I can always come up with excuses for why I never got around to doing more with the checklist, but I suppose the main reason is the hope that Scott will put their catalog online in a way that could be used for generating at least the raw data needed for a checklist. We know that they are in the process of creating an online catalog, just have no idea as to the details.

Any ideas and thoughts on formatting would be most appreciated.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Unsung Heroes of the Scott Catalogue and a Hint of Things to Come

I've praised the Scott Classics Catalogue many times in this blog, but had little idea of who the people were behind the endeavor. An article in the February 21, 2011 Linn's helps put a face on its staff. According to the article, Bill (William A.) Jones has been the guiding force behind the catalog "to the point that where one could almost say it became his catalog." Mr. Jones has now retired and Donna Houseman has taken over many of his responsibilities. Ms. Houseman has worn several hats at Amos Publishing, including editor of the Scott Stamp Monthly. Stamp dealer and expertiser Sergio Sismondo continues to be a special consultant.

Although not specifically associated with the Classics Catalogue, Associate Editor Dave Akin is the "point man" in efforts to bring the Scott catalog online. The article promises that we will be hearing more about this project in the coming months.