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.