Sunday, July 24, 2011

The First Edition of the Scott International Junior

I recently purchased a copy of the first edition of the Blue for dirt cheap because it was missing around 10% of its pages. Still, I thought it would be interesting to do some comparisons to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

As a reminder, the first edition of the Blue was published in 1914. The latest stamps I saw were from the 1913 but not even through the end of that year.

First thing you notice is how much thinner the original edition was than today's Volume 1, even allowing for the missing pages in my copy. I can see that this album wouldn't have appeared terribly daunting to a beginning collector, "Hey, this is something I can fill up!"

A surprise was that the maps in the front are the same color maps with Alphonse Mucha styled titles found in the Browns. Another surprise was that many countries did not have spaces for flags, rulers or arms. I say surprise because the title page brags that these are present for all countries, and, in fact, there is a tipped in advertisement selling the labels for a buck.

Those of us with earlier editions of the Blue before 1997 regularly complain about the order the countries appear and it was interesting to note that originally the album was largely in alphabetical order. Unlike the Browns, not completely, because Scott would try to cram two or three countries on a page when there were only a few rows of stamps involved.

The illustrated cuts match up well between the 1914 and the current editions. As a general rule, I would say that there are more spaces with descriptions in the later editions and consequently more blank spaces in the 1914.

As you will see below, there are many cases where there are more stamps in the 1914 edition than on the equivalent pages in the 1943/47 editions, the most comprehensive of the Blue Volume Ones. There are a few exceptions, and these are generally for popular countries, such as Canada, where the later editions added some more expensive stamps that had originally been omitted.

Because of the pages missing from my copy of the 1914, I didn't do a lot of comparisons between the 1943/47 edition (referred to as '43 below) and the 1914, but here are some notes:
--US: my copy of the 1914 is missing most of the US pages but I see that, as in the Brown albums, Scott has placed the US envelopes, Revenues, and Telegraph stamps at the back of the album. These had moved up to the front by the '43/47 edition but the Revenues and Telegraph stamps have now been dropped from the Blue.
--US Confederate States: 8 spaces in the 1914 vs 7 in '43.
--Abyssinia: the 1914 has a row for the 1901-05 stamps missing in the '43 plus 3 additional stamps for 1909.
--Afghanistan: the 1914 allotted half a blank page (unlike the Brown which had a full blank page; early Afghanistan obviously flummoxed both the Blue and Brown editors).
--Albania: missing from the 1914 as its first stamps were't issued until December 1913.
--Angra: 13 spaces in 1914 vs 7 in '43.
--Anjoun: 8 spaces in 1914 vs 3 in '43.
--Annam & Tonkin: in 1914, missing in '43.
--Antigua: 17 spaces in 1914 vs 11 in '43.
--Austria: 41 spaces on the 1914's first page vs 38 in the '43; 1914 includes the Austrian Offices in Liechtenstein missing in the '43.
--Austria Lombardy-Venetia: 11 spaces in 1914 vs 7 in the '43.
--Azores: 1914 has 16 nineteenth century stamps that are missing the the '43. This is one of my pet peeves about the Blue: many inexpensive earlier stamps for Portuguese Colonies are missing from some colonies but not all. Also the '43 is missing Newspaper stamps present in the 1914.
--Baden: 18 spaces in the 1914 vs 7 in the '43. You may remember than in the earlier editions of the Blue, Baden, Bergdorf, Bremen and Brunswick (sounds like a law firm!) were all on the same page. In the 1914 edition, Brunswick had its own page.
--Bolivia: 59 stamps in 1914 vs 48 in '43.
--British Guiana: 35 stamps in 1914 vs 14 in the '43, the biggest percentage loss I saw between the 1914 and the '43.
--Canada: unusually, the 1914 edition only has spaces for 5 of the earliest stamps (i.e., through the Large Queens) compared to 11 in the '43.
--Cape Verde Islands: 58 spaces in 1914 vs. 35 in '43.
--China: the 1914 has a blank page for Issues of the Treaty Ports.

So, bottom line, if the state of coverage found in the first edition could have been maintained, the current Blue Volume 1 would be an improved album.


Jim said...

Interesting. It appears the Scott editors have felt the need to pare the stamp selections ever since the introduction of the first edition.

No doubt it was done to keep the album at a manageable size as the continuous "glut" of newer stamps issued forth.

Still, it would be interesting to do an analysis of a country of two, and their Scott number offerings then compared to now.

Were high valued stamps given spaces, and the economic realities of a "Junior" album necessitated their withdrawal? Or were the modestly valued spaces-even by today's standards- removed?

I would find the results fascinating.

Jim Jackson

DrewM said...

I wonder how many pages were actually saved by cutting five stamps here and ten there? Was it just a dozen pages or so? Or many dozens? It must have been the latter for Scott to make the effort to do this, the goal being to keep the album at only one volume to make it more salable to collectors.

I suppose the cutting in the later editions saved some pages, and as a worldwide album designated "junior" for much of its existence, the idea was always to offer spaces for stamps a collector would be more likely to acquire. So, it made some sense for Scott to cut spaces over the years in order to keep the increasingly unwieldy album under control. But it was a business decision and not a philatelic one. Collectors must have wished for the additional stamp spaces when they had stamps for them. And, today, I imagine collectors wish Scott would add back the "missing spaces" or at least I wish that.

I was given a 1939 edition of the International Postage Stamp Album "Junior Edition," as they were designated, which, like most old albums, has a sprung binding. It is very thick and quite heavy. How many times must it have been dropped by its previous owner? The large size and weight could not have pleased collectors who had to manhandle the album off the bookshelf. What Scott might have done to avoid eliminating stamps a collector might reasonably acquire and to keep size and weight down is what it later did--issue multiple volumes. I imagine most collectors would have preferred this even at this early date, but this would have raised the price and would have hurt sales. Scott's decision to continue to publish a one-volume album no matter what cuts in stamps had to be made was a business more than a philatelic decision.

This raises the question of why, when Scott began to publish the International as a multi-volume album (today it's up to dozens of volumes!), they didn't restore the stamps which had been previously cut? Would this have been so difficult? I sure wish they had.

In the loose-leaf edition today, adding blank pages is easy enough, but Scott really should have made some effort to restore missing stamps--and to add additional stamps a collector might reasonably acquire. This would not necessarily have required redesigning countries' pages but might have been done perhaps by issuing a special supplement with pages to add after countries or in place of existing pages. Any newly-designed pages could, of course, have been added to later editions. Scott issued a special supplement for PRC (Red China) some years back in order to get "caught up". Maybe there is a way to do this for countries "missing" collectable stamps?

Didn't Scott also redesign pages at one time so that they would begin and end each country on separate pages? If redesigning pages is possible, and maybe new technology makes it a lot easier, I wish Scott would give us the best of all possible words and add back these missing stamps. This would be not only a good philatelic decision but good business as Scott would sell its supplementary pages. Or am I dreaming?

Bob said...

Jim and Drew, you pose some interesting questions.

Jim, I think it would be interesting for me to take the first edition and pencil in the catalog values for some random pages and/or a few countries. I've got the 1916 catalog which would be only a few years off. And then perhaps pencil in the 1943 prices so we get an idea of what the values were like when the most complete edition of the Blue was published. And I could finish off with my latest Scott Classics which is the 2007. I might start by correlating the pages I'm going to include against your Checklist.

Drew, with the 4 part version, Scott did indeed print the pages so that not only does each country begin and end on its own page, but also separates categories within a country, such as airmails. However when making these wholesale changes, Scott only incompletely brought back stamps and countries that had been dropped over the previous decades. I don't believe you are dreaming--since the cost for the four part version was dramatically higher than earlier editions, restoring the missing stamps would have been a boon to collectors and would help justify the increase in price that everyone complains about.

I can't help but believe that we're talking only a few dozen pages that were saved by dropping a few stamps here and there, surely the number would be less than 50 out of 1300+ pages in my 1969 edition. In any event, in almost every case, I agree it was a business decision on keeping printing costs down. (Although at least one person analyzing the coverage of the Blue came to the conclusion that on occasion the editors just "threw their hands up" rather than taking the trouble to sort out troublesome sets or countries.

I really do see the appeal of a single volume album, even when it began to get unwieldy. Compare the thickness of the bound copy of the 1943/47 version with the looseleaf. But again I think it was a business decision that led to the splitting of Volume 1 into two parts in the 1970s rather than a concern for any inconvenience to collectors (especially since the two part was less comprehensive than any of the single volumes that had come before!).

When you mention redesigning pages to restore missing stamps, I've never come across this until recently, but International Supplement 36B for stamps issued in the year 2000, includes, and I quote from the title page, "pages for Russia 1941-44 that correct a printing error in the 1976 reprint of part 2B." How strange. Does this mean that if we looked at all of the International supplements we might find corrected pages for Volume 1 that would address all of its deficiencies? Nah.

DrewM said...

Any album that has been around for a century or more since the days of the earliest Scott International Junior Album and the enormous and more complete brown International album (no longer in print from Scott but available from Subway Stamps) has to have gone through a lot of changes.

It's interesting that Scott "massaged" the listings in some editions in order to save a few pages here and there. Interesting because the changes made it a little less complete for what it was intended to be, an album with all the affordable stamps in it and all the obscure and long gone countries, as well.

The idea of a worldwide album with only the affordable stamps, not the rare or hard to get, was and is a very good one. I imagine the brown International which I believe is supposed to have spaces for virtually all stamps, must be a very frustrating album to own. So many spaces which can never be filled because the stamps are so expensive or so rare that no collector is likely to ever own them.

The blue albums are more practical. But, leaving affordable stamps out or dropping countries in later editions to save a few pages makes the blue albums less satisfying. We can add blank pages, and so forth, but this gets a little messy.

One possible option would be to print -- or maybe I should say reprint -- your own pages. I'm a little surprised Scott hasn't made such an option available to collectors. In fact, I think there is a company (whose name I don't recall) that sells Scott style page layouts on a CD for all countries in the world. You print your own pages or they print them for you (for a good deal more money). And, the pages look pretty close to the Scott page style but without catalogue numbers which is I think the one line they can't legally cross. A Google search might turn up the name of this company. The pages are the same size as the blue International and presumably fit just fine.

I wonder if Scott/Amos Press has considered offering something like this on their own CD or on a subscriber website? I'm not sure I'd want to print thousands of my own pages, but for some countries I would like to print them. And if Scott could design the software to permit adding (or removing) stamps, and so forth, you could really customize your collection.

I'm not sure what all the pro's and con's of this are from a business point of view, or if it is even feasible to design such a product, but as something similar is already being offered, Scott/ Amos may be dropping the ball by not offering their own. And you can print on one side of the page and make other alterations! It's worth thinking about particularly since buying only the new Volume I pages is now something like $500.

The point here is to let the collector add or delete whichever stamps he chooses and, basically, to end up with an album which does not leave out stamps of countries arbitrarily but does so by the choice of the individual collector. I'd buy such a product if it were comprehensive and especially if it were editable by the collector.