Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Big Blue Checklist

I've been faithfully following Jim's progress on documenting the stamps in the Blue. I can't emphasize enough how helpful his blog is. Even if you don't plan to use the checklists, his blog is worth reading not only for his comments about the stamps of the individual countries, but also for his more overreaching posts on topics such as the most expensive stamps in the album.

I use Jim's blog for two purposes beyond learning more about the countries and stamps in the Big Blue: 1) notating those stamps I own or need on a copy of his checklist I've printed; and 2) using his checklists to pencil into my album the catalog numbers for stamps I still need.

I've played around with a couple of ways of printing his information to use as a checklist. I finally settled on putting the information into a MS Word document, 3 columns, using the Arial Narrow 10.5 pt font. What I was trying to do is to find a compromise format that would reduce the total number of pages to as few as possible but would still be easily readable and allow room for notes, such as the specific catalog number of the stamp in my album if there is more than one choice, or a reminder I need to return and carefully check such and such a stamp to make certain I've got the one in my album identified correctly. I also note if I own the stamp but need to replace with a better copy.

What I recommend if you are experimenting with your own formatting is not to chose one that obscures Jim's arrangement of stamps by the row they occur. That is, most of the time Jim's checklist makes clear which stamps are on a particular row in the album. I've found this very helpful in efficiently penciling in the catalog numbers for the stamps I don't own yet directly in the album.

I've also experimented with how to mark which stamps I own and which I need. After a couple of trials, I settled on marking X's through those I have and circling the numbers for those stamps I still need. When I acquire one of the circled stamps, I put an X through it. I had originally started by circling the stamps I owned and leaving the ones needed without any marking, but I was having trouble spotting the lacuna among all of Jim's helpful verbiage. Of course, your mileage may vary. I know that many collectors would want to be more thorough, indicating if their stamps were used or unused, and perhaps other details.

In addition to the penciling in the catalog numbers of missing stamps, I also make a note of the catalog value for stamps over $20 or so as a way of helping me watch out for these in collections for sale on eBay.

So to conclude, I can only hope Jim is not reading this because I need him to devote all his time to the checklist :)

UPDATE: I played around with bolding the Scott numbers so that they would stand out more and I think this worked nicely; eliminates the need for circling the stamps I still need. Although not necessary, I also underlined the year/description headings while I was at it.


Jim said...

You caught me with my legs up perusing my favorite blog - Yours!

I REALLY appreciate your comments, and am glad the format is working out well.

Most of the time, I try to mimic Big Blue's rows in the '97('69 should be the same,'47 and '41 usually the same) by keeping the same numbering as the rows present. I'll remind myself to continue to do that.

I noticed I made an error in one of the identification numbers in the Cape Verde list. Let me know! What I don't know, I can't fix.

This past weekend,I decided to "bin" the prices to "ball park" categories. The prices should still give an indication if it is a $1 stamp or a $20 stamp, but will not be a substitute for the real thing: the Scott catalog.

Thanks Bob for your support. It really does make it worthwhile!

Well, time to put the feet back up. ;-)


sniggy said...

I have trouble spotting the lacuna among all of Jim's helpful verbiage too - but not all checklists are created equal.

Bob said...

Sniggy, I briefly thought of removing the helpful verbiage to save space in my printout, but it quickly dawned on me that this information was probably just what I would need if I were somewhere in the wild and trying to decide whether to buy a stamp, especially if there were several possibilities.

Jim said...

Bob and sniggy, and anybody else that would care to comment..

I agree the Checklist is a bit “busy” with the annotation that occurs. Here are some solution possibilities..

A) Keep it the same. Yes it will be difficult to read at times, but most the information about an issue is in one place. No need to consult another section, except for the occasional expanded discussions in Big Blue Overview.

B) Keep it the same, except attempt to put all the “helpful notes” directly below the issue. That would mean some of the stamp numbers might have asterisks (or similar), so one can find the appropriate note below the issue. That would remove the clutter around the numbers. Also that would facilitate “deleting” the note if one did not need the “helpful note” for one’s own checklist. ;-)

C) Create two checklist sections: a fully annotated one that might even include “additionals” for the issue that could be added by the BB collector; and a “simple” checklist- no explanation, just the chosen numbers.

What would work best?

Bob said...

Jim, first, I neglected to comment positively on your binning numbers.

Secondly, I spent 30 minutes or so playing around with various formatting options and the only thing I could come up with that would take a minimal amount of time on your part is to bold the numbers of stamps that belong in the Blue so they would stand out more clearly. This is something, of course, that any of us can do individually on our own. As soon as I have enough listings from your latest countries to fill a new page I'll try this and report back.

Bud said...

Hello, Bob,

I share your enthusiasm for Jim’s blog and, like you, have begun to use it to track desiderata. Rather than printing out the list, however, I keep the entire working list in my computer using MSExcel. I also keep alphabetical sections of it MSWord. I mark the lacunae in red, making them easy to spot. By copying the files as attachments to my Gmail account, I can access them wherever there is a computer. That means also that they’re saved in an additional location besides my laptop and zip drive. I find these files easy to modify and manipulate so I don’t plan to print hard copies, but could if the need arises.

As for the verbiage in Jim's list, I keep it all in my lists since computer storage space is cheaper than paper. Also, the lists are easier to search on the computer.

Jim is indeed doing us Big Blue collectors a great service. As I work through his list, I occasionally find minor errors (wrong overprint, an entry in twice, etc.). None of these are consequential, but I forward them to him and he appreciates the opportunity to make corrections. Your readers might do the same. It seems small repayment for all he is doing for us.

Best regards. -- Bud

Bob said...

Bud, I certainly second your comments on supporting Jim's efforts in any way we can.

I keep Jim's info in two forms: the checklists alone in MS Word that I printout and markup; and 2) everything in the database program Filemaker. I played around with Excel early on but for some reason decided to go the analog route with paper printouts. I should probably go back and revisit this.

Jim said...

Update on the BB Checklist...

I've completed the revision of the Checklist so that all relevant Scott catalogue numbers are now in bold, and the Headings and Categories are underlined.

Actually, I think it turned out pretty well. :-)

Thanks to Bob, Bud, and Sniggy for the helpful comments.