Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thank You

The recent spate of comments on a couple of my posts reminds me that I should thank all of you who have provided so much information and insight on the topics of this blog over the years. I have learned so much and really do appreciate each of you taking the time to share your knowledge. And a special thanks to Jim and Keijo for their own blogs.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Page Density for Popular Worldwide Albums

In preparing my 2012 New Year's Resolutions, I made the mistake of going back to relook at the ones I posted for 2011. I say mistake, because I am chagrined to admit that I only accomplished one of the three. In fact, I had forgotten about two of them! While I have changed my mind about the value of one of these, Joe's recent comment reminded me about the remaining resolution--to look at the density of stamps per page of the major worldwide albums. So here goes.

For printed albums, the maximum number of spaces is provided by those albums that don't give individual boxes for stamps, but rather rows and columns with lines separating the illustrations. This is a layout I associate with albums from H. E. Harris, although you can find plenty of examples back into the 19th century. The illustration shows a part of a page from the 1890 Scott Challenge Postage Stamp Album by way of example.

In the H E Harris Masterworks album for Europe that I still own for some unknown reason, the maximum number of stamps that "officially" can be housed on a page is 90: i.e., no country header and 10 rows of 9 columns for definitives. If you have a mix of small and large Classic era stamps, you might expect a page to hold between 50 and 70 stamps.

Next in maximizing the number of stamps per page is Minkus. The Master and Supreme Global albums, of course, provides boxes for individual stamps. The maximum number of stamps per page looks to be 9 rows of 9 stamps each or 81 spaces. But this is highly unusual as most pages have between 6-7, or less commonly, 8 rows and fewer than 9 stamps per row.

For the Scott Blue International Volume One, I didn't find any pages with more than 7 rows; 6 or 7 rows appeared to be the most common. Eight definitives was the maximum on a row, so this gives the theoretical maximum per page of 56 stamps.

For the Browns, I only browsed the 19th Century volume. It was the same as the Blue, maximum of 7 rows with 8 stamps per row. Most pages had fewer than 8 stamps per row. I remember that this was my biggest surprise when I first saw the Brown albums. I had just assumed there would be fewer stamps on a page than in the Blues.

From what I have seen of the Stanley Gibbons Ideal album pages, the maximum number of rows is 7 and the theoretical maximum of stamps per row is 7, giving us 49 total. Note that the page size of the Ideal is smaller than all but the Steiner.

Finally, the Steiner pages available from John checked Malta and came up with an average of 13.6 stamps per page. If I may quote his message: "Sets are together and will start on a new page if they don't fit on the previous page. Each set also has a brief description at the top of the set. The pages tend to have no more than five stamps on a row (definitives) and no more than 6 rows (most pages have 5 or less). Note that the Steiner pages are on letter size paper, a bit smaller than Big Blue." To use the same maximum calculation as above, this should mean no more than 5x6 or 30 stamps per page, about one third of the Harris albums and close to half of the density of the most packed Scott pages.

Obviously, all of this is quick and dirty, but it does give some idea of the differences between albums in terms of how many stamps you can house on a page (and, by extension, whether you need to clear off a shelf in your bookcase or build an addition to your home to house your collection).

Addendum: I randomly checked a number of Scott "Green" Specialty pages and it looks like the maximum density is 7 rows with 7 small stamps per row, or 49 spaces. (I trust everyone is in awe of my impressive multiplication skills. If only there were math checkers like there are spelling checkers.) Of course, most pages have fewer stamps. I believe the Specialty albums have the least dense layout of the Scott albums.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Stamp Image Bursting Software

Jason Drake is a software developer who created a program for his own use that takes an image of a group of stamps and automatically bursts--i.e., crops--them into individual images of each stamp that can be saved separately. When he discovered there was interest from other collectors in his program, Jason made it available via this link. It runs on Windows, Macintosh and Unix operating systems. The app is free although donations are appreciated.

I've been working with the software for about a week and have found it useful. The application works especially well with stamps housed on dark backgrounds, such as black stockbook pages. Unfortunately, white or cream color album pages can be problematic, although I have had some success.

Regardless, kudos to Jason for making this available and his willingness to incorporate suggestions from users. You can find a nice discussion about the program on the Stampboards website.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

SG Worldwide Albums. Part 2: Images

As the Ideal and Imperial albums are unfamiliar to most US based collectors, I thought it would be helpful to post some pictures. As indicated in Part 1, images of the Imperial album are not plentiful. However, a copy of the 1874 edition is available on Google Books. As a reminder, only the British Empire volumes are sold today.
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Image 1, from the Regency Stamps Website, shows the Imperial Album currently available for sale. Note on the left side of the pages are abbreviated Catalog listings for the stamps that are on the right. Incidentally, the image of the Imperial (and Ideal) album on the American distributor's site are much better than on the Stanley Gibbons website and light years better that the one SG uses on eBay.

Image 2. A closeup of what one of the Imperial's "catalog" pages looks like.

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Image 3. A page of Egypt from the Imperial.

Image 4. A page of Great Britain showing spaces for different Penny Red plates.


Image 5. An "ancient" picture from the Imperial's Local Posts volume.

Now on to the Ideal. As a reminder, only the Foreign (i.e., non-British Empire) volumes are available for purchase today.

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Image 6, from the Regency Stamps Website, shows the Ideal Album currently available for sale.

Image 7. Preface to the 8th edition of the Ideal.

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Image 8. Preface to the 2nd edition of the Ideal by which Stanley Gibbons means the 2nd edition after the 8th. Confused?

Image 9. A warning about not coloring outside the lines from the Index to the 2nd edition. Boy, Stanley Gibbons was really strict.


Image 10. The first page of Mauritius in the Ideal. Yes, there are, or rather, were two spaces for your copies of the "Post Office" Mauritius.

Image 11. A page of Bavaria from the Ideal.

I have several dozen images from the Ideal albums. Let me know if you are curious about a particular country and I'll see if I have any.

Part 3 of this series will compare the Ideal and Imperial with other worldwide albums.

ADDENDUM. I forgot to put in a couple of images from the Imperial Sectional album.


Image A1. Note the high section number. As I mentioned in Part 1, there were over a 100 different sections.

Image A2. A page for Bosnia. Has the same format as the main volume so I assume we are looking here at a page for "new issues." I also assume that there was a catalog on the facing page but I can't verify that.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

SG Worldwide Albums. Part 1: Overview

I've been curious about the Stanley Gibbons albums that can be used to collect worldwide classic stamps ever since Tim put me on to them. What SG offers today in that regard is a combination of two different sets: the New Imperial Album for British Empire and the New Ideal Album for Foreign Stamps. Both sets stop with the end of King George V's reign (mid-1936) although the Imperial is more comprehensive than the Ideal for the countries it covers. Both contain more stamps than the current Scott International does for the same time span which is why I think they deserve investigation.

Unfortunately, I've found even less information on the Internet about the SG albums than I did on the Scott Internationals. This is partly because there are far fewer of these albums offered on eBay than the Scott Internationals. Moreover, I've never seen in person an Imperial album and only the pages for a dozen or so countries cut from an Ideal. But that's not going to stop me even though I must warn you in advance that there will be a lot of hemming and hawing. Addenda and corrigenda welcomed, as "they" say.

When you purchase the current Imperial or Ideal albums, you are buying only a subset of their original scope. That is, both albums initially covered the entire world with the Imperial being the more comprehensive of the two. What has happened over the years is that the parts of the Imperial album that were non-British Empire are no longer published. Similarly, the part of the Ideal volume that was devoted to the British Empire is no more, which is why you need both sets to cover the world according to Philately.

The Imperial album began in 1873 and I'm reasonably certain that it was still worldwide as late as the 9th edition which appeared around the turn of the last century. It is possible that the last worldwide edition was The Imperial Postage Stamp Album 10th edition for Issues to 1902. It and perhaps the 9th edition were supplemented by something called the Sectional Imperial Album. I can't decide whether the Sectional was sold by country or by year and whether it was intended to replace the non-sectional Imperial. In any event, it looks like the Sectional was discontinued around World War I. (There is a list of stamp albums in the British Library and the listings for the Sectional number a hundred or so entries between 1908 to 1919; unfortunately, there is no indication online as to what is in each section.)

The Imperial postage stamp album at its greatest extent consisted of four volumes:

Volume I, The postage stamps of the British Empire;
Volume II, The Postage Stamps of Foreign Countries;
Volume III, The local postage stamps of the world; and
Volume IV, Envelopes, wrappers, &c. of the world.

All? of the above were edited by Gordon Smith, MA (1856–1905), a director at Stanley Gibbons and a well known philatelist of the era. The volumes contained 4500 engravings and a comprehensive catalogue, as well as a series of the national arms of various countries. The spaces for stamps were on the recto sides of pages; on the opposite pages (i.e., the versos) were abbreviated catalog listings which I find a very interesting idea.

The Imperial has always been sold fastbound--i.e, you can't add or rearrange pages. One impact of this was that SG had to struggle with the problem this created for collectors using its earlier albums who would have to remount stamps when a completely new edition was published. SG originally tried to deal with this through supplemental volumes by date and later through the Sectional Imperial Album. It is a non-issue now that the album is frozen in time.

At some point, volumes 2 through 4 of the Imperial were dropped by SG leaving only the volume for the British Empire available for purchase. This remaining Imperial volume is still published today, and is according to the SG, "great for a straightforward Empire collection and includes spaces for changes of colour and watermark as well as postage dues and officials, special delivery stamps and visible plate numbers on GB stamps. Perforated, removable pages in the album allow for expansion without distortion, as your collection grows." I say "volume," but because the pages are printed on one side only, what originally took one volume now requires two with interleaving or four if the pages are printed on one side only. The two volume version splits with Volume 1 covering Great Britain and Antigua to Malta and Volume 2 for Mauritius to Zululand. I don't know how the four volume version divides.

So much for the Imperial. For the rest of the world, you need the Ideal album. The Ideal was first published around 1900 and contained then about 600 pages. According to SG, the aim of the album was to "give collectors a one-volume album with printed spaces for the whole world at a popular price." They accomplished this by confining the album to "ordinary postage stamps," and excluding Postage Dues, "Officials," etc. Note that this is why the Imperial is more comprehensive for the countries it covers because it includes Postage Dues, "Officials," etc.

By 1922 the Ideal album was in its 7th edition and had expanded into two volumes, the first for stamps issued from 1840-1914 and the second for issues after 1914. By 1933, a third volume was published 1930-1933 issues. At this point the Ideal had grown to 1424 pages for the foreign countries alone. Recognizing that the rate of new issues was only going to increase, SG decided in 1937 to stop the main volumes at mid-1936 and divided the album into two sections. Section 1 was devoted to the British Empire. Section 2 was Foreign Countries. It was at this point that the name was changed from Ideal to the New Ideal.

In addition to freezing the end dates, according to an advertisement, "Countries such as the Old Australian States and India Native States have been cut down where too much space was provided, and the space so gained has been used for the stamps of various colonies with Multiple Crown CA watermark, which previously were not distinguished from the issues on Single C Paper."

At its greatest extent, the Ideal was comprised of 3 volumes and contained spaces for almost 50,000 stamps:

Vol 1. British Empire with Egypt and Iraq. Spaces for over 11,000 stamps;
Vol 2. Foreign Countries Abyssinia to Jugoslavia. Spaces for over 18,500 stamps;
Vol 3. Kiautschou to Zanzibar. Spaces for over 19,250 stamps.

According to a contemporaneous SG Catalogue, the New Ideal was "designed for moderate collectors--neither beginner nor specialist, but just sufficiently advanced to be no longer content with sticking stamps in nameless squares." SG intended to publish "new issue" albums for later years but I do not know whether it did so. I do know that at some point after 1936, SG decided to drop the British Empire Volume 1 leaving only the volumes for foreign countries in print.

Clearly, what to do about the Ideal/New Ideal album vexed SG. In an article on "Our Publications Programme" in the SG Stamp Monthly for April 1947 (no. 8), one reads "Increasing costs and the large amount of paper required, makes us wonder whether we should be able to republish this album (i.e., the New Ideal), in its old form. Possibly we might do smaller albums for groups of the more popular foreign countries in this simplified form. We should be glad to hear our readers' views on this."

As with the Imperial, the Ideal was only sold fastbound. It was originally published with facing pages separated by tissue interleaving in 6 volumes as well as without interleaving in 3. Today what were Volumes 2 and 3 are printed on front pages only. While this means that the interleaving is no longer required, the set now occupies three voumes.

This ends Part 1 of my look at the Imperial and the Ideal. Part 2 will consist of images from these albums. Finally, Part 3 will compare coverage of some of the countries in the Ideal Album with the Scott Blue and Brown Internationals and similar albums.


"Stamp Albums in the Printed Book Collections of the British Library" by David R Beech, FRPSL