Thursday, December 20, 2012

Harmer-Schau Auctioning a Nearly Complete Blue Volume One

Harmer-Schau's Worldwide Philatelic Auction (Sale 96, January 11-13, 2013) includes an Extensive 3 Volume Blue Internationals Collection. They describe it as follows:

Many thousands mint or used from A-Z to 1940, virtually all spaces filled incl. U.S. with back of the book spaces full, occasional extra item incl. Germany Air Zepp sets (South America set reprints), decades to put this collection together, rarely seen this complete, value throughout the collection, fresh overall, generally Fine to Very Fine. Estimate $6,000-8,000.

UPDATE: The collection sold for $18,100, including buyer's premium (thanks to Houghton Grandmal for this information). This works out to around fifty cents a stamp.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Which Blue Volume One Edition is the Best?

Choosing the Blue Volume One edition that makes the most sense for you shouldn't be that difficult, but it often is. The elephant in the room is cost. A new copy from Amos Publishing will run almost $500, more if you need binders. A used copy on eBay of an older edition might be purchased for a tenth of that, especially if the album is hardbound and mostly empty of stamps. But for the reasons advanced below, in my opinion any money you save initially by going the latter route is forever paid forward with inconvenience.

The Blue Volume One currently on the market first appeared in 1997 and is sold in four parts. It is missing 700 or so stamps that were in some of the earlier editions (the 1943 and 1947 hold the most stamps), but compensates by using heavier archival paper, puts countries in the correct alphabetical sequence, is optimized for ease of adding customized pages, and for integrating with International volumes covering 1941 and beyond. When you consider that the most common complaint about the Blue is that it omits so many stamps, the ability to add your own pages at the appropriate point in the album is a major advantage.

Needless to say, the latest edition holds even a greater advantage over the old hardbound versions as these literally can burst at the seams as you fill those spaces. Nor can you add or replace pages as you can with a looseleaf version.

One place you can consider saving a few bucks is through buying used binders. Since most collectors build their collections in the beginning by buying other Internationals, this gives you a potential source of "free" used binders. Even if you purchase new ones, in my experience binders will start to come apart after a few years of heavy use. So I would suggest starting with used ones in good condition, reinforcing them with book tape when (before?) they start to tear, and then replacing as needed. Once your collection starts to approach stasis you can switch to a nice set of pristine binders. Incidentally, while I use the Jumbo binders, I have heard that the regular 3" binders may stand up better to wear and tear.

I would also consider purchasing slipcases to protect from dust and allow your albums to easily be stored vertically. This might also reduce stress on the binders and help them last longer.

If the price of a new Volume One is an issue (and even if you can afford the new albums, it still grates some collectors to be spending money on something other than stamps), you can consider purchasing one part every few months. (See, Scott splitting what was originally one part and charging four times as much is really a feature--you're welcome.) One positive aspect of acquiring a single part at a time is it gives you the opportunity to leisurely transfer stamps from other albums as well as prepare the new ones more thoroughly for a lifetime of collecting pleasure.

Speaking of which, here is what I would suggest doing as you acquire each part:

1) Interleave. The transparent interleaving is classy but more expensive and thicker than the glossy. Regardless of which type you choose, you will need to go to a second binder because of the added thickness.

2) Reinforce the blue fly leaves pages at the front and back. These are subject to the greatest wear and tear. I have not had any luck using hole reinforcements on these outside pages. (The only product I've found that works is C-Line Product's Self-Adhesive Reinforcing Strips.)

3) Similarly, reinforce the title page and table of contents and the last page or two in the album. If you are using more than one binder, reinforce the first and last couple of pages in each additional binder. You may be able to get away with hole reinforcements for this since the inside pages are stressed less than the blue fly leaves.

4) If you have bought a used Volume One that you intend to house your collection permanently, go through the album and identify pages that are starting to tear and reinforce these with hole reinforcements. Similarly, identify any pages that will need to be replaced should you get a better copy when buying used albums.)

5) If you don't have the latest edition, a fair number of countries will be out of alphabetical sequence. I have found that creating an index page to help you find those countries is a great time saver when going through APS Circuit Books or multi-country pricelists.

6) Pencil in the catalog numbers for stamps you have yet to acquire. You'll have Jim's checklists to help for most of the first half, but for the near future, you'll need to figure out what goes where for the remainder of the album on your own. I also pencil in catalog values for the more expensive stamps I still need. This helps me quickly evaluate whether an opportunity to acquire them is a bargain without constantly having to check the catalog. (Some collectors are loathe to write in their albums and would argue against penciling in anything.)

Suggestion #7 might well have dealt with what to do about housing countries and stamps missing from the Blue, if only I was confident about the best approach. One possibility would be to do a preemptive strike and put blank pages at the appropriate places in your album for every country. (Otherwise, you have to take the album apart each time you want to add a new page.) Or you could maintain a separate album or stockbook for such stamps until you accumulate enough to decide what will work best for you.

But what if you aren't starting from scratch and already own a Scott Volume One, Minkus Global, or the equivalent? While the above observations apply, I know that transferring a large number of stamps from one album to another is a hassle. To be perfectly honest, through the generosity of another collector I own a set of the four parters, but I cannot bring myself to transfer twenty thousand stamps from my 1969 edition to the new ones. Even so I am reminded practically every time I use my album of how much better it would be if I followed my own advice.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lawrence Block's Present to Worldwide Classic Era Stamp Collectors

I've been indulging myself lately by making philately-related purchases of practically everything except stamps. On November 5, I used a $100 iTunes Store gift card I had lying around to buy the entire 2013 Scott Classic Catalogue for iPhone/iPad. (No changes in how these are accessed from what had been available for the 2012 edition.)

Today, I pre-ordered the Philatelic First Edition of Keller’s forthcoming fifth adventure, HIT ME, which includes, at no cost, a souvenir sheet of “Stamps from the Keller Collection.” Readers familiar with Mr. Block's Keller series will remember that the protagonist collects the Classic Era with the Scott Brown albums. (I can't remember whether Mr. Block mentions if Keller uses the Vintage Reproduction version or the original Browns--probably too much information for mystery fans who are non-collectors. Either way, I take satisfaction that no "Blue" collector would be in the business of killing people, no matter how much they deserve it.)

But I digress. The first edition will be "philatelically enhanced with a custom US 45¢ personal postage stamp showing the book’s cover. The stamp will be affixed to the limitation page and tied to the page with a special 'Keller Cancel.'"

The cost of the philatelic first edition (limited to 1000 copies) is $75 and can be ordered via Lawrence Block's eBay store.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Another complete (almost) Scott Volume I

My thank to fellow blogger Jim Jackson for alerting me to a collector whose Blue Volume One is only a few stamps from being complete. The collection is the property of Dilip R. Limaye who has been building it over the past 25 years. Mr. Limaye has just begun a thread on the Stamp Community forum, "Collecting the First 100 Years - Scott Intl. Junior Album." He seems very willing to share information about putting together a Volume One collection and this thread has the potential to provide Blue collectors with much to think about.

Incidentally, two stamps he has been searching for over the last many years are Cape Juby, Scott #48-49 (Edifil #64-65). I'm certain Mr. Limaye would be very happy to hear from anyone who can help him locate these two stamps.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Changes in the Scott Classic Catalogue for 2013

We're coming up on another November so it must be time for a new edition of the Scott Classic Catalogue. The October 15, 2012 Linn's has a brief article on what will be the 19th edition. There are more than 21,000 changes in value from the previous edition, 8,000 of which are unique to the Classic Catalog. One area of particular interest for the editors has been to reexamine stamps cataloging more than $2500. This project has made it through Fiji for 2013 and will be completed by 2014.

I'm always more interested in improvements in coverage than valuations and this year Portugal's Ceres stamps have been reorganized (which has involved some renumbering). The 2014 edition will extend this treatment to the Portuguese Colonies. I remember early on finding some marked differences in coverage for the various colonies so this is good news. (This is of some importance to the Blue Volume 1 collector as it helps explain the differences in what is included in the album.)

Along with Portugal, there are also improvements in the Tiger Heads of Afghanistan. Airmail semi-Official stamps for Bavaria and Germany appear for the first time, as do the five-ring numeral cancellations for Baden. New Zealand has 45 new minor varieties, Alaouites 37 and Bolivia 22.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fifty Shades of Blue (and Brown), Part 4

Type C: The Blue Internationals

[Previous parts in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Interlude, Part 3]

The Brown Internationals (what I am calling Type A1 and A2) were the flagship of Scott's worldwide album line for some seventy years. Even so, Scott had long been aware of the need for an intermediary album that went beyond their beginner albums.

Scott's first attempt to fill this niche was an Abridged International published in 1897. I have no other information about this album beyond that it apparently was not successful.

In 1914 Scott released the Junior International Album which was able to shoehorn the world into one volume by omitting what the editor considered "rare and high-priced stamps." Scott released new versions every year or two for almost forty years. Until the late 1930s there were no supplements so each new edition superseded the previous ones. The initial versions were hardbound, although there were usually several options on type of binding. Editions are often found with a blue binding, hence the "Blue Internationals" sobriquet.

I had originally planned on providing a detailed list of editions, but as I've posted this elsewhere, I think that what might be most useful at this point is a series of summary statements:

--The editions between 1914 and 1943 are named Junior Internationals and largely differ from each other by adding the latest new issues. They are mostly hardbound although Scott started issuing annual supplements around 1938 to get collectors to 1940 without having to buy a new album.

--The 1947 was the first edition which dropped Junior from the title; it is otherwise identical to the 1943 edition.

--The 1955, 1964 and 1969 editions eliminated hundreds of stamps and even some countries that had been in the album but also added some stamps not in previous editions.

--The 1979, 1985, and 1991 editions were published in two parts; these dropped even more countries and stamps that had been in previous editions (although again there are a few stamps that appear in these editions for the first time)

--1994. I have not seen this edition so I do not know if it was in two or four parts.

--The 1997 edition was split into four parts and is the one available today from Scott/Amos Publishing. This edition brought back many of the stamps dropped by the two part versions although there are still hundreds of stamps missing that were in the 1969 and earlier editions. Every country and almost all subgroups of issues (e.g., semipostals or airmails) begin on the front of a page to allow easy integration with International volumes 2 and beyond. The quality of reproduction is inferior to earlier editions but the paper is heavier and of archival quality.

I also want to emphasize what is probably the biggest point of confusion for persons coming to the Internationals for the first time. The splitting of the Volume 1 into two and now four parts was a move by Scott to cover increased printing costs or increase their profits or both. It does not mean that they were more comprehensive.

Although not apparent from the above, there were years at a time when Scott allowed various International volumes to go out-of-print. Scott is now using on-demand printing technology which hopefully means the Volume 1 will always be available for purchase, although you might have to wait while your copy is reprinted.

In the future, I will do a post on considerations in choosing an International edition for your collection.

The Blue board hardbound binding, "Brown"-type boards, Blue looseleaf

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Thirty Thousand Stamp Blue Volume One for Sale

If you are having second thoughts about ponying up $2.9 million for the 99% complete worldwide collection mentioned earlier, perhaps this will appeal. Thanks to reader Jim for alerting me about a Blue 1840-1940 with 30,000 stamps which is being offered whole by Apfelbaum until Monday, August 20, after which it will split it up. Selling price is $9500. There is a companion US collection which could mean that the worldwide volume doesn't include the US. You can read more about both sets on Apfelbaum's Corner. John Apfelbaum makes an interesting general comment about the Blue Volume 1 and similar collections:
Before 1940 everyone who collected stamps had a World Wide collection. They may have specialized in US or Great Britain but they maintained a general foreign collection that had been their starter collection and which, for most collectors, was still the major appeal that philately had for them.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

More on Just How Many Stamps Are There?

Before I did my count of worldwide stamps 1840-1940 awhile back, I tried to ascertain whether anyone else had made such a count. I assumed naturally that at least in the early days someone might have taken the trouble to count the number of stamps issued between 1840 and 1850 say. But I couldn't initially find anything. But it dawned on me that I never really tried searching Google Books. This time I came up with a citation to the article "Philately's Ninetieth Birthday" by Kent B. Stiles (Scott's Monthly Journal, May 1930, pp 74-76). Thanks to the APS Library, I now have a photocopy.

Below is the table prepared by Mr. Stiles of stamp types by decade from 1840-1930. As the author explains, the rows total correctly across, but the Grand Totals at the bottom don't because there can be overlap between types (i.e., you could have an airmail stamp that was also overprinted and thus is counted in both categories). Mr. Stiles' total of 79,500 at first seemed high to me but he then I remembered he is counting minor as well as major varieties which I certainly didn't do.

Parcel Post000023
Postage Due2382230376
Spec'l Deliv'y00002
Tete beche829575351
War Tax000330
Grand Total1811830421150106980
Overprints454163901036210611 36,816
Air0027965 992
Bisects5219846 505
Commemorative5303968032680 4,447
Inverts6087291065595 3,759
Military59620417 322
Newspaper20662195111 843
Occupation41551847633 2,843
Official10359159081300 5,265
Parcel Post32109129292 585
Pebiscite0220453 489
Postage Due65781911641808 5,141
Semi-Postal163510171418 2,486
Spec'l Deliv'y73478135 256
Tete beche41313972 381
Registration46593231 203
War Tax16141982 263
Grand Total10342134381647020915 79,377

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Why stop with the Blues when you can complete the Browns, too?

Harmer-Schau is offering by private treaty a collection they say is 99.9% complete for the world from 1840-2010. Accord to Harmer-Schau "The collection is meticulously housed in black mounts in over 200 Minkus albums. Also, there are numerous albums, stockbooks and file folders with extra material, such as booklet panes and sheetlets. All countries are represented, Afghanistan (nearly complete tiger heads, mostly in full plating) through Zululand." Asking price is $2.9 million USD.

Now before you stop reading and reach for your checkbook, I should note that there is no U.S. (which I assume also means no Confederate States, Hawaii, et al). And there are at least 600 empty spaces, ranging from expensive rarities to at least a handful of cheap stamps. (What's up with those?)

So I have a few questions. Who is the collector? How many stamps are included (using Keijo's count of worldwide stamps, I assume close to 600,000)? Are there really Minkus albums covering the world in depth? (If I had to guess, I would assume this is some combination of Minkus Specialty albums with their Global/Supreme Global supplements.)

There has been a nice discussion about this on Stampboards.

You can find more information on the collection at the Harmer-Schau website.

If anyone reading this blog buys this collection, please let me know! My guess is that it won't sell whole, but that offering it as such is the first step before breaking it up by country. Maybe if that happens we'll see some photos and learn more.

P.S. I hope to find time to work through the list of the 600 missing stamps and report back here.

Update 8/11/12: I converted the wantlist to Excel so I could more easily play with it and have posted the results in the StampBoard thread linked above. If anyone wants a copy of the Spreadsheet, let me know. Bottom line is that there are more like 1200 stamps missing with a total 2007 catalog value in excess of $5 million USD. Fortunately, there are a couple at 20 cents that I could afford.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fifty Shades of Blue (and Brown), Part 3

TYPE B: The Vintage Reproductions reprints of the Brown albums

[Previous parts in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Interlude]

By the mid-1940s Scott had sold all remaining stock of the Type A2 Brown albums. As there was no satisfactory substitute for the Browns on the market, out-of-print volumes remained sought after in auctions and other venues. In 1994 the now defunct company Vintage Reproductions of Notre Dame, Indiana, reprinted, with Scott's permission, the albums through mid-1938 on one side of 70-pound acid-free 10" x 11.5" paper. The pages were cut and drilled to fit the "Blue" International Binders making it easy to integrate with subsequent volumes of the "Blue" International Series (Type C).

1994 Volume 1 1840-1900 (815 pages);
1994 Volume 2 covers 1901-1919 (1159 pages);
1994 Volume 3 covers 1920-1929 (1058 pages);
1994 Volume 4, 1930-1934 (799 pages);
1994 Volume 5, 1935-1938 (709 pages);
1996? Volume 6 covers 1939-1940 (612 pages).

I have seen but apparently lost the press release which says when Subway Stamp Company acquired the rights to the albums. They originally sold copies in three versions: one matched the original International paper size punched for two post binders; the second was punched for #3 2-post Scott Speciality album binders, and the third for #3 3-Ring Binders.

While it is possible that the 1939-1940 volume was reproduced from an album edited by Scott, it was never advertised or published as part of its International series. Although it isn't proven, I believe Vintage Reproductions used the last two Scott Annual Albums to cobble together their Volume 6 so collectors could expand the set past 1940 with the "Blue" Internationals. However, I have never seen the annual volume that would have covered stamps through 1940, so I can't be certain that this is what Vintage Reproductions used.

You can purchase the Vintage Reproduction reprints from Subway Stamp Company. You will see examples very rarely on eBay, both with and without stamps.

The easiest way to tell loose pages of the Vintage Reproductions from original Browns is that "Vintage Reproductions Page" is printed in the left hand margin of every page.


(1) Example of the left margin of the Vintage Reproductions

(2) The mysterious Volume 6

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fifty Shades of Blue (and Brown), Interlude

[Previous parts in this series: Part 1, Part 2]

The Scott Provisional and Annual Albums

I'm going to take a detour before talking about the Vintage Reproductions reprinting of the Brown albums to discuss Scott's Annual Albums and the mysterious Progressive Albums. Today's printed albums are largely loose-leaf and therefore amenable to updating through annual supplements. But updating bound albums, like the Browns, was more convoluted. As mentioned in the earlier posts, many of these albums could be purchased loose-leaf but at a much higher cost than the hardbound versions. Although I have no hard data on this, I assume that the paucity of loose-leaf Browns on eBay demonstrates how few were sold.

In any event, in addition to interim editions of the Twentieth Century Browns published every few years, Scott also started a series of single year albums that could be used in conjunction with the Browns or other albums or on their own. The earliest of these were called the Provisional Albums. I only know about the Provisionals from one source, George Turner's article in Scott's Monthly cited earlier. Mr. Turner writes: "Returning to 1926, Provisional Albums were started. In the late 1930s the title was changed to Scott's Annual Album and were issued quarterly, later to only three times a year. These were simply temporary space providers for all new issues chronicled in the Scott Monthly Journal each year."

I suspect that Turner's comment about multiple issues in a year applies only to the Provisional Albums. As far as I know the Annual albums were published once a year.

1926-193?, Progressive albums
Loose-leaf pages published first quarterly and then three times a year
1936, Annual album 1934-35
1937, Annual album 1935-36
1938, 1 June, International annual postage stamp album, 1936-1937 ed
1939, 14 March, International annual postage stamp album. 1937-1938 ed
1940, 14 June, International annual postage stamp album. 1938-1939 ed
[1941?, Annual album 1939-40?]
I have never seen a copy of the 1939-40 album or found a reliable citation to it. It is possible that it was prepared but never released.

The dates for the stamps in the annual albums match the corresponding catalog coverage and thus are not complete years. One of Scott's ads mentions the "annual albums which provide spaces for stamps issued between publications of the Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue."

I have previously blogged about the Annual Albums. If you follow this link, definitely check out the comments as these have much additional information.

If you can shed any more light on the Progressive Albums, please let me know. Otherwise, the next time I'm in a philatelic library, I'll try to see what I can find. I will also dig a little deeper in search of the last Annual album.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fifty Shades of Blue (and Brown), Part 2

Type A2: The Brown Internationals [Previous Posts: Part 1]

Oh, I thought Part 2 of this post was going to be so simple, the Browns occupying five volumes as follows:

19th Century Edition
20th Century Edition 1901-1919
20th Century Edition 1920-1929
20th Century Edition Part 3
20th Century Edition Part 4

Straightforward, right? Except that the first version for 19th century stamps was named something different, there were multiple interim versions for all but Part 4, and Scott may even have used different titles for some printings of the albums. And I wasn't even planning to talk in this post about whether Scott published a Part 5 for 1939-1940. Whew!

So the prudent reader will take note of the simplified listing above, quit reading, and head to their drawing room for a beer or nice sherry. Still here? Don't say I didn't warn you.

It starts simply enough. Scott realized around the turn of the last century that it would soon be impractical to confine the Type A1 International album to a single volume much past 1900. They decided to freeze the initial volume's coverage through the end of 1900, and used this opportunity to make some major revisions including printing the non-US sections from "entirely new plates."

Apparently Scott wasn't initially certain when they wanted to terminate the Type A1 album they had been publishing since 1875/76. Consequently the earliest edition published in the twentieth century was still called the International Postage Stamp Album 1901 (following the Type A1 naming convention). After 1901, Scott renamed the volume covering 1840-1900 the 19th Century Edition, a title that stayed the same for as long as the Brown albums were published.

I assume that the decision to have the album include stamps from 1900 is based on their interpretation of when the 19th century ended and the 20th century began (which we all revisited awhile back with the debate about whether the 21st century started in 2000 or 2001).

As indicated in my first post, there are differences in coverage between Version A1 and A2. The most substantial is that Version A1 includes spaces for cut squares for the world. Scott indicated that the decision to drop cut squares was due to postal stationary losing popularity with collectors. I have read that when philately was in its infancy, collectors naturally wanted to own anything that smelled like a stamp, including all manner of locals and what now would be considered cinderellas. As the number of legitimate stamps grew, collectors began to focus.

In 1903, the first "20th Century" Part was published which covered 1901-1902. What seems strange to us now is the approach to handling new issues. Was the idea that a collector should buy the 1901-1902 album and when say the 1901-1906 volume came out, he or she should remount their collection? In any event, Scott continued to publish what I call "interim" editions before deciding to freeze the first 20th Century volume with stamps from 1901 to the end of 1919. Similarly, this was was followed by interim editions starting in 1920 with the second volume eventually being frozen at 1920-1929, the third at 1930-1938 with at least one interim edition, and the fourth with 1934 to mid-1938.

So a more accurate summary of the Brown Internationals as published by Scott in the twentieth century is:

1901 edition, published 1901?
[covered 1840-1900?];
19th Century Edition
[1840-31 December 1900];
20th Century Edition 1901-1919
[Part 1] (interim editions include 1901-1902, 1901-1908, 1901-1910, 1901-1912, 1901-1916, 1901-1917, 1901-1918)
20th Century Edition 1920-1929
[Part 2] (interim editions include 1920-22, 1920-1927)
20th Century Edition Part 3
[interim editions include 1928-1934, Sep 1929-1933, 1928?-1935 (c1938)]
20th Century Edition Part 4

(You'll note that the later volumes are really partial years that match up with the respective catalog--i.e., the 1939 catalog only covers through mid-1938 which is why Volume 4 only has spaces for stamps through mid-1938.)

To my knowledge, the covers for the 19th Century Edition and the last two parts of the 20th Century Edition do not specify years. So if you see a year range on the other two bindings rather than volume numbers, e.g., 20th Century Edition 1920-1927, this is a clue that you have an interim edition, not the complete one. But this isn't foolproof. I have a Part 3 that doesn't have a year range on the binder but the title page indicates that it isn't the final version.

The earlier volumes, at least, were reprinted multiple times. I have seen a citation to a 19th Century Edition printed as late as 1941, for example. I have heard rumors that Scott made some revisions over the years when reprinting the Browns, but have no concrete evidence of this.

As with Version A1, the Browns were available in a surprisingly wide variety of bindings and paper qualities, most of which are not encountered today. Almost all of the Browns you see for sale are hardbound, although Scott did sell loose-leaf versions. There are also hardbound versions printed on one side only.

Scott decided in the early 1940s to discontinue the Brown series in favor of their Green Specialty albums although they continued to advertise the Browns for as long as they had copies to sell.

The original Brown volumes show up on eBay and other venues with some frequency. The earlier ones are more common than the last two. The Twentieth Century Volume 3 is the hardest to find.

If you are new to the history of the Brown Internationals you may wonder why there is no 20th Century Edition Volume 5 [1939-1940]. For information on that, see the discussion in the next post concerning what I call Version B. This post will also reveal something never before mentioned in my blog: the Scott Provisional Albums.

I realize that this is convoluted, but I believe it is worth knowing that interim editions exist so you won't think you are automatically buying the complete volume without first checking.


(1) The first Type A2 album that in later printings became the 19th Century Edition (the number of engravings, 4000 rather than 6000, is the giveaway that this not the Type A1)

(2) A 19th Century Edition bound in boards

(3) The 19th Century Edition printed in two volumes on one side of the page

(4) The first Twentieth Century album covering 1901-1902 only

(5) An Interim album for the Twentieth Century Part 2 that covered 1920-1926 (versus 1920-1929 in the final version) and the Part 3, both bound in the typical brown

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fifty Shades of Blue (and Brown), Part 1

I've been blogging about the Internationals for four years now and am the first to admit that a lot of what I've published is buried and not easily accessible--even by me! It has always been my intention at some point to create webpages devoted to specific topics. To that end, here is a go at a summary of the publishing history of Scott's International albums. This is intended to be an orientation to the various types of Internationals that Scott sold and how to tell them apart; choosing a worldwide album to use for a collection today will be the subject of a future post.

Much of what follows on the earliest Internationals is from George T. Turner's article in Scott's Monthly Stamp Journal, March 1968, titled "A Century, 1868-1968 Scott's Albums." As always, corrections and additions are welcome.

I find it useful to think of the Scott International albums as falling into three main types, with the first part split into two subtypes:

Type A1) The original Scott Internationals published in the 19th century. The Types A1 and A2 are commonly referred to as the "Brown" or "Big Brown" International Albums (so called because of the way they were usually bound in the twentieth century; Scott never advertised them as such);

Type A2) The successor to Type A1. These include a revision of the Type A1 album for 19th century stamps and four additional volumes covering issues through mid-1938. The Browns went out-of-print during the early 1940s;

Type B) An authorized reprint of the Type A2 Brown Internationals by another company, Vintage Reproductions, which added a sixth volume to provide pages through 31 December 1940. These are still being sold today by Subway Stamp Company;

Type C) the so-called Blue Internationals (again, unofficially named "Blue" because of their usual binding) which began as an abbreviated single volume aimed at beginning to intermediate collectors and is still current and published to this day.

TYPE A: The original Scott International Postage Stamp Album

Type A1 is comprised of ten numbered editions followed by a series of unnumbered editions/printings:

  • 1875/76, First Edition
  • January 1877, Second Edition
  • November 1877, Third Edition
  • 1878, Supplementary pages to the Third Edition appeared in ten monthly issues of the American Journal of Philately. (I don't know whether these were incorporated into a Fourth Edition or whether these serve in lieu of a Fourth Edition.)
  • 1880, Fifth Edition
  • 1882, Sixth Edition
  • 1884, Seventh Edition
  • 1886, Eighth Edition (available in English, Spanish, French, German or Portuguese)
  • 1890, Ninth Edition
  • 1891, Tenth Edition [thanks to InForaPenny for the corrected date]
  • 1894, no edition number
  • 1896, no edition number
  • 1897, no edition number
  • 1898, no edition number
  • 1899, no edition number

There may be other editions/printings after the Tenth that I have not come across. Scott revised the album in the early 1900s and renamed it the Scott International Album 19th Century Edition (and thus the first volume of of what I'm calling Type A2).

The Type A1 albums have spaces for more stamps than the Type A2 version published in the 20th century. Scott claimed 6000 illustrations in the last editions of Type A. I don't know that the albums ever indicated the number of stamps, but one contemporary source says that the 1894 edition had spaces for about 15,000 stamps. The primary reason the Type A1 albums had more spaces is that they included postal stationary cut squares. But there were also 6 pages for Afghanistan versus 1 page in Type A2, 2 1/2 pages for Confederate States Provisionals versus 1 page, etc.

The Type A1 volume was available (or at least advertised) in a surprisingly wide variety of bindings and paper qualities, most of which are rarely encountered today.

In my experience, the most commonly found of the earliest Internationals on eBay is the 8th and the albums with no edition numbers,. I don't know that any of the Type A's are of particular value as collectables except perhaps the First Edition. I suppose though that if you found one of the special editions, such as the 1894 which was "printed on the finest linen paper in three full morocco bound volumes," these would have some antiquarian value. But, in general, the value of the Scott International albums is in the stamps they hold.

Part 2 of this post will cover the Type A2s.

(1) Example of a "board" bound Type A1. Interestingly, this has the name of one of Scott's competitors on the cover.

(2) A more sumptuously bound example from 1888.

(3) The 1896 edition bound in the way typically associated with the Brown Internationals published in the twentieth century.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Counting Spaces

Thanks to reader Joe for making available his count of the number of stamps in the current version of the Blue--i.e., the four part 1997 edition. Even if earlier editions will vary in both number of countries and number of stamps, Joe's data gives us access to additional interesting facts about this series.

To start with the big question: How many stamps are in the Blue Volume 1? Scott/Amos is no longer willing to say. The title page used to state "more than 35,000" spaces but now is silent on the topic. But we know that Scott has been dropping more stamps than adding in recent revisions, so it is not surprising that, according to Joe, the number is currently 34,475. Another way of looking at this, I come up with 58 countries/stamp-issuing-entities that were in the 1943/47 edition but are missing in the 1997 edition. Sounds like a lot, but if you assume each of these averages 10 stamps, then that would only mean a reduction of ~600 (58x10) stamps. I haven't counted, but I would guess the 600 is low (and see the comment below about the US). We should also remember that there are stamps in the post 1947 edition that weren't in the 1943/47. Not a lot, but some.

Now Joe's 34,475 probably doesn't include the free form "blank" pages that Scott includes for certain issues, each of which could hold 50 or so stamps. But there were dedicated "blank" pages in the earlier versions, too, so this shouldn't skew the results too much. Incidentally, I don't think I have ever broken out the "blank" pages in the Blue, so here they are:

US Souvenir Sheets (missing in later editions)
India Convention States
India Feudatory States (missing in later editions)
Italy Offices in the Turkish Empire
Italy Aegean Islands Occupation Stamps (in the 1943/47 edition these were split between two pages; later versions have combined this into one page)

The biggest surprise in the data was which countries were allotted the most spaces. If you had asked me before I saw Joe's spreadsheet, I would have confidently said the US was first. Second would probably have been Germany, and then some combination of France, Austria and, oh, probably Hungary. But I would have been wrong: the US comes in fourth. The top ten countries in order in the 1997 edition are:

1. France    948
2. Germany    801
3. Austria    755
4. United States    729
5. Hungary    620
6. Italy    617
7. Russia    617
8. Salvador    582
9. Nicaragua    569
10. Spain    567

(I should note that the US would have ranked first had Joe used the 1943/47 edition which included more than 300 Revenues, Newspaper stamps, and other issues no longer in the album. This also is a big factor in explaining why the 1997 edition contains under 35,000 stamps.)

Now its interesting to compare the top ten above with the top ten countries ranked by the number of regular issues/commemoratives that are in the Scott Catalog for 1840-1940:

1. United States (#5 in the Blue album's coverage)
2. Iran (Persia) (#15 in the Blue)
3. Turkey (#16 in the Blue)
4. Russia (#7 in the Blue)
5. Mexico (#17 in the Blue)
6. Spain (#11 in the Blue)
7. Nicaragua (#9 in the Blue)
8. Portugal (#14 in the Blue)
9. El Salvador (#8 in the Blue)
10. Hungary (#6 in the Blue)

That is, Iran has the second highest number of regular issues/commems in the Scott catalog but comes in only 15th in terms of the number of spaces provided in the Blue. Since a lot of what we find in old albums for Persia are likely reprints or forgeries, Scott may have done us a favor by providing fewer opportunities to go awry.

I made a rather feeble attempt to look at the comprehensiveness of coverage in the Blue for all countries using my count from the 2007 Scott Classic, but for reasons not worth going into, the following really are only ballpark. Fortunately, Jim is doing this measure accurately in his Blog. Anyway, until he finishes, it looks like two countries in the Blue are complete for every major number: Allenstein and Kionga. A total of 17 countries come in at 75 plus percent completion. At 50% comprehensiveness we are looking at 85 countries. That means that something like 176 countries come in at less than 50% coverage.

I don't know that there is any purpose listing the bottom ten except to answer the trivia question: The country with the fewest spaces is Tahiti with three. Tahiti is also at the bottom in terms of number of possible stamps included in the album: five percent. So apparently pretty scenery and exotic locale were not an influence on the album's editors.

As I have to remind myself whenever I think about comprehensiveness, the Blue is supposed to emphasize affordable stamps. So ideally, if a country in the Blue had spaces for only 1/3 of the stamps in the Catalog, but included every stamp cataloging under $10, then I would think the editors did a good job. So I revisited Michel Bégin's Affordable Classic Stamp website that I blogged about awhile back and imported his information into a database along with Joe's data. This was primarily helpful in that it reminded me how to build relational tables in FileMaker rather than giving much in the way of useful philatelic insights. Nevertheless, 23 countries in the Blue also fall in the Most Affordable Countries category. (Actually, there are more than that but some are Indian Convention States and Italy Aegean Island issues that don't have dedicated spaces in the Blue.) Of the 23 countries with dedicated spaces, Niger comes in at the top. The album is 85% complete for this country which, at the time Bégin compiled his list, had no stamp cataloging more than $3. The other Affordable countries with 50% plus representation were, in order of completeness, Middle Congo, Chad, Italian Colonies, Algeria, Georgia, Mauritania, Eastern Silesia, Ivory Coast, and Haiti. The countries with the fewest spaces, in spite of their being on the Affordable list, were Lebanon, Ethiopia, Memel, Far Eastern Republic, and Azerbaijan, the latter providing spaces for only 9% of the major numbers in the Scott Catalog. This is ironic because anecdotally I think that all of the Blue albums I've seen of any size have most if not all of the spaces filled for Azerbaijan. I've read that this is because they were commonly available in approvals marketed to beginning collectors for many decades.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Paradigm shift?

There have been several threads relating to worldwide collecting on two stamp discussion groups lately. One is on Stamp Boards and is now on its fourth page. The other is on Stamp Community and related specifically to the deficiencies with the Blue Volume 1. This is something that is much on my mind, and I thought I would repost here what I wrote on that thread:

Even after having grappled with this for some years, I still blow hot and cold about the Scott Blue International Volume 1. I'm currently running on the chilly side as I just finished penciling in the last of the Scott numbers for the stamps I am missing, and this has only served to remind me of how capricious the editing of the album has been. But based on past experience, I will warm back up, if for no other reason that I doubt there will ever be anything better.

One thing that would help collectors come to terms with the Volume 1 is to embrace a different mindset. Most collectors who move beyond the beginners stage but still like to use printed albums are collecting "to the catalog." I.e., the albums they use, such as the Scott Green Specialty albums, largely mirror the general catalogs in the stamps they include. If the catalog gives it a major number, it gets a space in the album. Should the collector decide to specialize in varieties that are minor numbers or missing entirely from the general catalogs, then he or she has likely moved beyond the utility of printed albums.

The Volume One International Collector who tries to collect by the catalog, though, is in for frustration. Sixty percent of the major numbers in the Scott catalog will not be in the album. This includes literally thousands of stamps that cost under $1.

So consider this approach. What if you collect "to the album" itself, not to the catalog? Then the challenge becomes to fill the spaces that are there. And it is a challenge. Whether intentional or not, the editors have filled Volume One with thousands of stamps that are not easily found. And as your holdings grow, you will be building a "representative" collection of the world. This doesn't mean that you can't add stamps that aren't in the album, perhaps in the margins or on blank pages. But it is about embracing the chase and letting the album provide you a structure for a more or less affordable journey through the first hundred years of philately.

Now if Stanley Gibbons were to reprint their Ideal Album series in loose leaf form, then I would be seriously conflicted.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Blue International Realizes $21,240 in Kelleher Auction

Stealing a page from Dave Barry's playbook, many thanks to alert reader Jim for alerting me to a Scott Blue 1840-1940 Collection housed in 3 volumes that realized an alert-worthy $21,240. The collection was offered as Lot 2144 by Daniel F. Kelleher in his Sale 628 held January 25-27, 2012.

What is as amazing as the stamps is how they are mounted. I like Jim's description on the Stamp Community list: "Never have I seen an album so encrusted with stamps like barnacles on a hull." While I have seen album pages completely covered in stamps, they have invariably been ones where the stamps bore no relationship to what was intended by the editor to reside on the page. You can check out the images on Kelleher's website for a fraction of what was in the albums.

Here's the description from Kelleher's auction catalog (I corrected a few typos):

"Worldwide, Absolutely Extraordinary 3 Volume International Collection, 1840-1940. Forget what you have ever thought about International collections, as this magnificent, old-time collection is absolutely astounding in its breath of coverage. If there was no space allotted the owner just went ahead and created one. Duplicates or parallel mint and used coverage? Definitely not a problem, as the owner simply overlapped premium stamps one over another, often with a better mint example buried beneath. To list the endless quantities of premium individual stamps would be fruitless, though we will provide scans on the internet to give an overall flavor of the lot...About the only slight negative we can associate with this valuable lot is the time necessary to properly evaluate it. Turn each page and add it up; we've handled scores of International collections, but few like this one! Estimate $10,000 - 15,000."

While I would never mount a collection this way, you've got to admit that is unique.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"The Most Affordable Classic Stamps to Collect"

When I was first researching the collecting of classic era stamps, I came across the website by Michel Bégin of Quebec with the above title. His site is no longer online but can be accessed through the Internet Archive WayBackMachine. I tried emailing M. Bégin several years ago but had no response. But as I once again came across the archived pages a few days ago, I decided I should mention the website here.

Bégin's purpose was to show which were the least expensive classic era countries to collect. As the website is still copyrighted I can't reproduce the data, but here are some highlights. Bégin calculated there were 436 countries that issued stamps during this time (not counting Offices). During the 19th Century alone, there were 276 stamp issuing entities. During the classic era, there were 13 countries with more than 500 issues. The US had the dubious distinction of having issued the most stamps: 902.

 Bégin calculated that 148 countries could be considered the most affordable to collect and provided several tables summarizing this information. For example, he notes that the Ivory Coast issued 166 stamps starting in 1892 with no stamps cataloging over $100 (based on 1997 catalog values). So, definitely still worth checking for Bégin's interesting statistics and comments, especially if you are considering starting an affordable single country collection.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1st Breaking News: Slabbed International on eBay

In what may be a first, an eBay seller, Bob's House of Stamps, has listed a slabbed Blue International Volume 1. According to the description, before slabbing the album was completely filled with all 35,000 stamps graded GEM100 or above. The eBay description also states that each stamp was MNH when it was hinged into the album. Furthermore, every stamp is guaranteed and the album comes with 35,000 certificates from Bob's House of Expertising. All the certs read: "We beg to inform you that is our opinion that this stamp is what it appears to be."

Opening bid is 99 cents. Bob's House of Stamps has 10,000+ all private feedback of 100% and he is a member of all major organizations including the APS (Amalgamated Peripatetic Stampers) and the ASDA (Albanian Stamp Doctorers Anonymous). Note that Bob has only twelve of these slabbed albums available so this is definitely first come, first served. The seller appears to be located in Antarctica but offers discounted shipping if you select the "Buy It Now" option for $199,999.99. The album may be returned within 24 hours for partial refund but only if the slab is unopened and the seal is intact.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Linns/Scott Catalog Survey

Here is the link to a survey that you can take to share your opinions on Linns and the Scott Catalogs. There are prizes! The survey is being conducted by Amos Publishing and closes April 14, 2012.

Odds & Ends

I was able to spend a couple of hours at the Wineburgh Philatelic Library at UT Dallas last week and found some further information to add to earlier posts. Specifically,

1) I was missing the Editor's Letter for the 2005 Scott Specialized Catalogue. I now have a copy of this and have added a summary of what was new in the 2005 edition.

2) I found a couple of pieces of information on the publishing history of the Stanley Gibbons Ideal/New Ideal albums.

3) I have added counts for the Minkus Supreme Global's coverage of 19th century Austria, Bavaria, Germany, and Hungary to the comparison of the Ideal, Brown, and Blue albums.

A couple of tidbits on the Scott Blue and Brown Internationals. I saw an ad in the April 1941 Scott Monthly for the following Annual Albums: 1934-35, 35-36, 36-37, 37-38, 38-39, and 39-40 with the dates matching the corresponding catalog coverage. As you may know, there is a question as to whether Scott ever issued a final volume in the Brown International series that covered mid-1938 through 1940. I have never seen anything to so indicate and therefore believe it was the Annual Album that provided collectors these final months. (Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever seen any of the Annual Albums offered on eBay. Has anyone reading this seen one?)

The August 1941 Scott Monthly has an ad indicating that Scott had just published a Supplement that could be used to bring the 1939 edition of the Blue Junior Album up to date through 1940. Other ads promised supplements to the Blue Volume One every two years.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Scott Classic Catalog for iPad/iPhone/iTouch is out

Amos Publishing has released the first two Scott catalogs for the iPad etc. In addition to the US Specialized is, incredibly, the 2012 Classic Catalogue. The app itself is free. The cost for the Classic Catalog is $90 which you can buy in three parts at $29.99 each. I did a quick and dirty review of the app on the Virtual Stamp Club thread. You can also find some nice screen shots as well as more discussion on Stamp Community.

According to Charles Snee on Stamp Boards, "The six 2013 Standard catalogue volumes will be available through the app at the same time the print versions go on sale."

Here is a link to the Scott Catalogue app at the Apple App Store:

Screen shot is from the iPhone version.

UPDATE 3/6/12: The March 5th Linn's has a one page article on the Scott Catalogue Mobile (the app's official name) by one of Scott's catalog editors, David Akin. He gives some interesting technical data (resolution, font size) and some explanations for how the catalog has been partioned for purchase and downloading. Amos Publishing welcomes comments about this product which may be sent from within the app or by email to Cuserv@amospress with SCM in the subject line.

UPDATE 3/20/12: Chad Snee on PhilaMercury writes that Scott is working on improving the search function for the next version and perhaps--be still my heart--a check list function.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

SG Worldwide Albums. Part 3: Comparison

I would love to be able to do a proper review of the Stanley Gibbon's Ideal and Imperial albums. Unfortunately, I've never seen either in person, just cut out pages. But these pages together with images I've collected off the web provide, I think, enough information to make some comparisons between the SG Classic era worldwide albums and those of Scott, Steiner and to a lesser extent Minkus. Nevertheless, a lot of the following is incomplete and/or subjective and your milage will almost certainly vary.

As a reminder, the Ideal albums are currently sold in a three volume set which includes the World from 1840 to 1936 but no stamps from the British Empire. For the British Empire, you need the two volume Imperial Album. Unless otherwise stated all comments below are with the current version of the albums. (Earlier versions of the Ideal and Imperial each covered all the world, but not the albums sold today.)


The Ideal Album's page size is 283 x 215mm and the Imperial's 280 x 215mm. These approximate 8.5x11 inches: i.e., smaller then Scott Blue and Brown albums but approximately that of Steiner. (I've seen two early ads for the Ideal that give the page size as 11.5 x 9 inches and 11 3/8 x 9 3/8 inches respectively.)

Older editions are on paper comparable in thickness to Scott albums of the same period. As for the albums being sold today, according to the 2012 SG accessories catalog, "All our leaves are acid free and manufactured without the addition of chemicals that would present a hazard in use. The paper is produced with a neutral pH value and meets ISO9706 permanence of paper." My guess is that the thickness of the pages is 130 gsm. I think 130 gsm corresponds to a paper weight of a little less than 90 pounds, but don't trust me on this. I believe the Scott Internationals sold today are printed on 80 pound archival quality stock.

Just as it is tempting to buy original editions of the Brown or pre-current editions of the Blue to save money, there are a number of tradeoffs to be considered for buying second hand Stanley Gibbons albums. As regards the Ideal, I don't know that it makes sense to buy an older version unless you can find one with interleaving. Otherwise you will be forever coping with stamps catching or rubbing against each other on facing pages. Even then, although the illustrative cuts are cleaner in the older editions, you album will be on thinner, non-archival paper. The one compelling reason to consider an old Ideal album is if you are able to find the matching British Empire albums which are no longer available.

While the Imperial album has stamps on the front of pages only, the issue about paper quality still applies.


Like the original Brown albums and most of the Blues before 1955, both the Ideal and Imperial albums are hardbound, or as SG calls it, fastbound. However, unlike the Scott products, the current Ideal album is printed on only one side of the page eliminating the need for interleaving. As indicated above, The Imperial is effectively also single sided as spaces for stamps are on the recto sides of pages with catalog information on the verso. While that eliminates one problem with hardbound albums, two issues still remain: 1) what to do about stamps not provided for in the album since obviously you can't add pages; and 2) how to keep the album from bursting at the seams as you fill it up.

As to the first, the only real option is to maintain one or more additional volumes with blank pages (unless you go the stockbook route). As to the second, SG does provide a very interesting solution although I don't know how well it works in practice. That is, according to SG "Perforated, removable pages in the album allow for expansion without distortion, as your collection grows."

One advantage of the Ideal and Imperial albums from the standpoint of keeping an inventory or making notes about your collection is that the pages to be numbered. The Scott, Minkus and Steiner products are not paginated.


Countries in the Ideal appear to be in alphabetical order, but countries can and do begin on the back or middle of pages. I don't know about the Imperials.


SG provides more info in its headers and often in the spaces than any other album. I particularly like their practice of putting the color underneath stamp illustrations. More than once I've been certain that I have a stamp in the right space in my Blue only to find out I've mistakenly mounted an identical design but different color that was issued in a different year. The Blue generally ignores watermarks, but SG doesn't so it is helpful that they include this information in the headers: i.e. "The permanent issues of Italy are all wmk. "Crown" and perf. Although better than the Blue or Brown albums, SG is inconsistent about indicating the purpose of a stamp or who is depicted. Many times the album says nothing at all, especially for definitives. Other times it is more helpful. Some examples of titles:

Austria: 1933 "Various Designs showing skiers"
Germany: 1875. "PFENNIGE" with final "E".
Hungary: 1933. Air stamps. Perf.
Italy: 1922. "Mazzini" issue

The Supreme Global also puts color under some cuts, and, next best to having the catalog on the facing page, includes catalog numbers. One attribute that separates Minkus from the others is that it groups stamps on a page over too large a date range: for example, the only dates on the second page of Italy are "Issues of 1870-1926," a total of 61 stamps. Minkus does go the extra mile by illustrating watermarks but my eyes find these too small to be as helpful as they could be.

Of course, if you want to talk about identifying text, you have to talk about the Imperial album where the stamp descriptions (really a little mini-catalog) are printed on the page opposite where you mount the stamps.


Even though the page size of the Ideal album is smaller than Scott, the pages do not feel crowded to me. Nevertheless, one area where I feel the Blue is visually superior to either Minkus or SG is in the symmetry of its pages: i.e., Scott will choose to interrupt the denominated order of a set to arrange the horizontal and vertical issues aesthetically. Here is an example from the Ideal:

Within countries, the Ideal intermixes regular issues, commemoratives and semi-postals (just as do the SG catalogs). Airmails seem to be both intermixed and separated. I'm sure there is some logic to this but I don't have enough examples to see the pattern.

This intermixing is a help with some countries, such as Italy, which issued some sets that included both "normal" and semi-postals stamps. (I seem to remember there are even sets which have airmails and "land" issues.) On the other hand, when I'm trying to match catalog numbers, having the stamps in denomination order certainly makes things simpler.

While the Ideal typically supplies dedicated spaces for stamps, on rare occasions the album will be more free form. For example, there are two rows for Mexico 1916 revolutionary overprints without any spaces.

One very different feature of the Imperial Album is that it does not have frames around the stamps. Instead, there is a small box for each stamp to aid in aligning stamps on the page. If you are using mounts, this won't make a difference as the frame would be covered in any event. And, no doubt some collectors prefer their stamps sans frame. My preference, no doubt because it is familiar, would be for frames. I suppose I would have to see a neatly mounted collection in person before I would know for certain about the Imperial.


The Ideal set contains spaces for around 37,750 stamps compared to 35,000 for the Blue Volume 1 and perhaps 80,000 for the Brown. While this may seem like the coverage of the Ideal is nothing special, remember that this total does not include any British Empire, ends with 1936, and essentially only includes regular stamps, commemoratives, airmails, and semi-postals, i.e., no postage dues, officials, etc. It also does not include varieties which I take to mean stamps with minor catalog numbers. Within these parameters, the Ideal aims to include stamps of all catalog values. In comparison to the Blue, then, the collector is likely to find a space for almost any stamp that falls within the SG album scope, where as the Blue is missing thousands of stamps that catalog under $1. And yet, because of the density of stamps on a page, a collection lacking the most expensive stamps will not appear as barren as with, say, the Steiner pages.

A big issue for collectors is whether they would feel to constrained by the Ideal including only regular issues, commems, semi-postals, and airmails. While I admit I wouldn't miss most Postage Dues and similar stamps that were left out of the Ideal, there are some issues I would be sorry not to see in a Classic era album. I assume, for example, that the Belgian Parcel Post/Railroad stamps from the early 20th century aren't in the Ideal.

I didn't do a lot of counting once it became apparent that SG successfully included the great majority of stamps that fall within its scope, but here are a few comparisons.

For Italy, SG has 60 spaces for 19th century Italy; the Blue 55 ('47 edition), the Brown 59, and Steiner 68. While we expect Steiner to have the most, it beats the others by including a Scott unlisted stamp as well as minor numbers.

For the entire period up to 1936, The SG Simplified Worldwide Catalog lists 489 stamps for Italy, the 1943 Scott catalog, 508. The Ideal has spaces for 482 of these stamps (or all by 7 in the Simplified Gibbons), the Blue 391, the Supreme Global 445, and Steiner 521. (I am missing a volume of the Brown, but I would expect its coverage to be very close to the number of stamps with major numbers in the Scott catalog.)

From a layout standpoint, the Supreme Global gets all of Italy (through 1936) on to 15 pages, the Blue 18 pages, the Ideal 19 pages, and Steiner 37. The Supreme Global averages 30 stamps per page, the Ideal 25, the Blue 22, and Steiner, 14.

Since I couldn't do counts for the Brown, here is a look at 19th century issues of several countries for the Brown versus the Ideal. I've thrown in the Blue for grins. I've also included the counts for countries that are in the Minkus Supreme Global. I haven't gone back to see why Minkus has so many more stamps for Austria than the others.

Austria Brown = 70, Ideal=69, Blue = 43, Minkus = 131 (!)
Bavaria Brown = 71, Ideal = 69, Blue = 34, Minkus = 56
Germany (Empire) Brown = 49 , Ideal = 49, Blue = 39, Minkus = 50
Hungary Brown = 48, Ideal = 49, Blue = 23, Minkus = 50
Mexico Brown = 276, Ideal = 239, Blue = 77
Mozambique Company Brown = 46, Ideal=40, Blue = 11
Sweden Brown = 57, Ideal = 52, Blue = didn't count because of date overlap

The only country that the Ideal is obviously inferior to the Brown is Mexico. The Stanley Gibbons simplified catalog lists 281 stamps so I don't know why SG omitted 42 of these (presumably a lot of these are overprints--I didn't check). It does beg a question that I can't answer which is whether the coverage for the Americas is inferior to that of Europe. The Blue's best showing is with Germany, but is not in the ballpark for the rest (although, of course, I didn't look at catalog values which is why the Blue omits many stamps).


What I think the Ideal best demonstrates is that it is possible to create a worldwide album that is comprehensive enough for many collectors but doesn't need to take up the entire shelf of a bookcase. And if SG still sold the complete Ideal, i.e., the entire world, and, especially, if they sold it looseleaf, I would be sorely tempted. Then it would only be left to decide what to do about stamps from 1937-1940.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Blue Skies are Here Again

Blue International collectors need no longer sing the blues, at least in lament for Jim's Volume 1 checklists. The checklists are back! Now there is no excuse for you not completing that Volume 1. Well, fewer excuses. If you aren't familiar with Jim's blog, scroll down and look on the right for the link to Big Blue 1840-1940.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Random Jottings about Marginalia

There are book lovers who would never consider writing notes in their books while others gleefully personalize their tomes with addenda and corrigenda. Similarly, there are stamp collectors who want to keep their albums unsullied by any emendations (unlike most postal history collectors who for some reason have never met a cover that they didn't want to scribble on). Any way, I regularly pencil "stuff" in my album and this article looks at the type of emendations I find useful. I don't claim any of the following as either necessary or the best solution, but I hope it might help someone just getting started.

Most obviously, I am penciling in the Scott catalog number for every stamp I am missing. While this isn't as necessary when your initial purchases are from other International albums, once you start buying individual stamps it is a real timesaver. Less obvious is coming up with a system for treating the blank spaces where more than one stamp will fit, not to mention multiple blank spaces where a range of stamps will fit. Examples of what I do:

69 : only Scott #69 belongs here

69,72,84 : any one of these three Scott numbers matches the cut/description and falls within the date range

8-12, 15-20 : as above, but for ranges of stamps.

When there are multiple blank spaces in a row, I write the catalog numbers for all of the blank spaces in the last space. That way, I don't cover up the catalog numbers until the last space is filled. (The disadvantage of this approach is that if I acquire the stamps out of sequence, stamps may not be in order by denomination. An alternative would be to list the missing stamps in the margin, not in a space.)

What I don't have a good solution for is complicated situations where the album has spaces for many stamps, often spread over several pages, and out-of-order to boot. There is a part of the US Cut Squares section, for example, with 6 blank spaces that any of the following items will fit: U114-115, U117-141, U143-162, U165, U167-177, U179-180, U182, U188, and U189-217!

In addition to catalog numbers, I also pencil in the value for stamps I'm missing that catalog more than $10 each. This helps me spot potential bargains on eBay when sellers post album scans. More randomly, I also pencil in catalog values of $100 or more for stamps I already own. I'm not certain why I do this!

One marginalia that has been consistently helpful is a small arrow penciled in to highlight imperfections. I.e., if there is a problem with the upper right hand corner of a stamp, I have a small arrow pointing at the naughty bit. That way, when I'm transferring stamps from a newly purchased album to my collection, I can easily see if any imperfect stamps I already own need to be replaced. This may not seem particularly useful, but the density of stamps on the Blue's pages means that I might overlook such stamps when better copies come along.

What I can't really justify is my system of using an "x" above a stamp that is in the wrong place, and by wrong place, I mean that it doesn't belong in any space in the album. So why don't I just remove the stamp when I discover it? The main reason is that when I find the mistake it often is not convenient to look up the correct identification and transfer the properly identified stamp to a stocksheet. So I leave the imposter where it is until convenient to remove. If you are more organized than me (an easy feat), then you will probably want to extricate any misplaced stamps as you discover them.

I also make notes to help me visually identify which stamps belong in the spaces so I'm not constantly having to consult the Catalog. For example, the first owner of my album didn't always successfully differentiate between the King Edward VII ("the baldies") and the King George V definitives. When I was first starting my collection, to keep me from making the same mistake I would note in the album which set belonged to which King. Another random example: I have a note that the first 3 spaces for Kiauchau are denominated in Pfennig and the remainder with Cent to keep me from accidentally mounting otherwise identical stamps in the wrong space. And the nice thing is such marginalia are easy to erase when no longer needed.

What else? I correct date headers when later research has shown that say a set that was thought to be 1911-1913 when the album was published in reality is 1911-1914. And I note errors in the album, e.g., wrong cuts or descriptions that don't match any stamps.

If you do any scribblings that you find particularly useful, please post a comment.

Warning: Don't Attempt This At Home!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Block's "Generally Speaking" columns now available for Kindle

I was pleasantly surprised to see in the latest Linn's that Lawrence Block's first 25 columns on collecting the world are available as an eBook for the Kindle (or any other device that has Amazon's Kindle app). You can find out more on the author's blog. If you collect classic era stamps but don't subscribe to Linn's, or have missed some of Block's informative and entertaining columns, this is a very inexpensive ($2.99!) way to catch up. It would be interesting to learn if any non-collecting mystery lovers download the book and decide to start a collection.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Blue Volume 1 sells for $8700 on eBay 1/1/12

This was covered in nice detail a week ago by Jim on his Big Blue blog (be sure to also read the comments) but I finally decided I should at least reference the sale here for the record. I have been monitoring worldwide albums on eBay since January 2008 and this album realized far more than any that I am aware of. I estimate that the volume held between 23-25,000 stamps with many key items present. My experience is that the average eBay Volume 1 has fewer than ten thousand stamps, usually much fewer. Once you hit fifteen thousand, you are talking about only one or two collections a year. There was a volume with 30,000 stamps offered in 2008 with a starting bid of $7500 which eventually sold for $4750 after several relistings. Unfortunately, I didn't save any pictures of this collection.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 New Year's Resolutions

I have only two resolutions for 2012. The first is to try to reach the 20,000 mark in my Blue Volume 1. This resolution is only of interest to others if I use it as an excuse to take another overview of what a Volume 1 at this state of completion "looks" like: e.g., which countries do I still not have a single stamp, which are complete or largely complete, what has been the cost so far, what do I wish I had done differently, etc.

The second resolution is to finish penciling in Scott numbers directly in the album for all of the stamps I still need. Largely thanks to Jim's checklists, I am complete through French Guinea plus another dozen or so countries later in the alphabet. It may seem like this is a no brainer, but in my early days of filling the Blue knowing the numbers was more of a convenience than a necessity. After all, I was largely buying other International albums so a catalog was only necessary on occasion to puzzle out a difference of opinion as to which stamp belonged in a space. But at this point I am largely buying individual stamps and sets so knowing what I need when going through pricelists, etc., would be a real time saver. If I would devote just 30 minutes a day to this task it would be done in a month or so. But if it were easy, everybody--even Scott Publishing--would have already done it!