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.


Jim said...

I feel your pain with the idea of transferring stamps...

It has taken me over a year to move the Aden-Ethiopia country collections into the Steiner, and I only finished last week.

There always seems to be something better to do. ;-)

I agree, if starting fresh, the four-part Big Blue now sold by Amos is the way to go because of the reasons outlined.

But a packed filled older BB edition does have its attractions- not the least, no stamp transfers. ;-)

Bob said...

Jim, I agree completely. You can develop an affection for your album, no matter what its deficiencies. My 1969 now seems like an old friend, even though we got off to a rocky start. (The eBay seller said 15-17K stamps, but it was more like 12K. And the album had a heavy cigarette smell that it took 2 years to work out. But still, the price I paid was a hundred or two less than what these typically sell for these days).

DrewM said...

Good advice, Bob. I, too, have purchased a number of older Big Blue albums along with some of the later volumes. The earlier ones have pages that just aren't up to modern quality, as you say. They're too thin, are often yellowed, and are inevitably torn particularly at the holes but also along the edges. The original collector may take care of the album when it's in his possession, but it later gets abused when stored or passed into other hands. By the time you end up with it, it's often a bit rough.

You're also right about the hardbound vs. looseleaf issue. As attractive as a hardbound album is when new, it never looks very good years later when it's bulging with stamps. Scott could have provided space for the stamps by adding strips along the margin ever once in awhile, as are used in more expensive hardbound albums. But they were selling to a mass market and that must have seemed either too innovative or too costly.

So, a looseleaf recent edition is the way to go. I'm surprised you like the enormous 'jumbo' binders since I find them almost too unwieldy to even pick up. I prefer either the standard-sized binder (which is still too thick for my taste) or a smaller binder which no one seems to make. I've suggested to Subway Stamps, in fact, that a half-sized Scott International binder would be a better size to take on and off shelves and to mount stamps in (less curve to the pages), and they'd sell more binders, too! No luck so far.

How do you know the clear protective sheets are thicker than the glassine sheets? The later seems to rip more easily, and since I like the look of the clear sheets I'd most likely use them. Not cheap, though.

Not to add complications, but anyone who uses mounts will quickly find a bound album does not work since the mount plus the stamp thickness will bulge the album out far faster than just the stamps themselves. For collectors using mounts, it has to be looseleaf. I prefer stamp hinges for all used stamps, and I generally prefer used stamps in place of mint whenever available. I like that they've done their duty, I guess.

A good rule of thumb I've found with albums is, at least with adults, to begin with the best album you can afford in a looseleaf format you can add too. You may end up with it for life, and no one wants to remove and remount tens of thousands of stamps. As a teenager, I began with a huge two-volume 'Regent' Album which, thank goodness I never put many stamps in or I'd be regretting it today. Now that I'm back more to collecting decades later, the Big Blue is of course the better choice.

I wonder if Steiner pages printed on Scott-sized paper punched for the Big Blue binders could be used to "fill out" incomplete countries? It would be interesting to know if that's cheaper than blank pages (probably not) or it adding years is cheaper than way than adding the later Scott supplements. I do think the two -- new Big Blue pages and Steiner pages printed on Scott-sized paper -- might be combined well even though the Steiner look and border is a little different.

Thanks for your helpful comments.

DrewM said...

Do you remember around which year Scott made the pages thicker in the Big Blue? I think yo9u mentioned 1994, but had they done it earlier than that, as well, or was 1994 the year of the changeover to heavier paper?

Bob said...

Drew, I have never seen a 1994 to know whether it was on the better paper. But more importantly, I typed 1994 in my original post when I meant 1997! I'll go back and change it.

It would be interesting to know if anyone has tried printing out the Steiner pages on International blank stock. At one time, I thought it might be interesting to prepare pages for all of the stamps/countries from previous versions missing from the current edition, but decided that might be too compulsive.

James said...

I've been meaning to ask this for a while. One of the problems of adding Steiner pages to a Scott or Minkus album is that the pages of these albums are wider than a normal letter, which makes them difficult to print at home on a regular-sized printer. There are of course ways around this with photocopying or commercial printing, but it struck me that one solution could be to add a linen hinge to the page, like those found in some of the more expensive albums. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find anyone that make linen page hinges. Has anyone tried something like this? It would also be a way of creating a really nice post-bound Steiner album in which the pages laid flat, though I don't have the shelf space to do that.
By the way, I'm actually enjoying transferring stamps from one Minkuis Global Supreme album to another, perhaps because they are from my grandfather's old collection and have good family memories.

Bob said...

James, vis-a-vis linen hinges, do a Web search on "Brodart White Double-Stitched Binder Tape" and see if this is anything like you envisioned.

I'm glad you are enjoying transferring the stamps and keeping your grandfather's collection going. I would probably be more enthusiastic about the process if I had a dedicated stamp desk. As it is, whenever I want to do much of anything with my albums, I have to retrieve a bunch of stuff from multiple places and clutter up our dining room table. While my wife is more than understanding, I can't justify taking over the table for more than a day or two. But we're talking about moving to a larger place, so who knows.

James said...

Thanks, that's really helpful. I suspect that double-stitched tape might be a bit too heavy, but perhaps the single-stitched variety might work. When I have some time I'll take in a sample of what I'm looking for to a bookbinders supply store (they still have such places in England).

You're right about space being a crucial issue, one of the reasons why its not always practical to have more than a few albums with double-sided pages and interleaving. I'm lucky, though, as I at least do have a dedicated stamp desk, which is ideal for snatched moments of collecting, which is what I generally have during most of the year.

DrewM said...

Wouldn't the easier solution be to purchase a wide-bed printer? They "only" cost a few hundred dollars now compared to some years ago when they usually cost about $500. Scott-sized pages, whether the original Scott pages or the Subway exact blank copies of Scott pages (cheaper) will fit and print in a wide-bed or "wide format" computer printer.

If using the Steiner print-yourself pages, I imagine that the page border would end up being the same size as on the smaller 8.5 x 11 pages. That means you'd have a wider border all around, but that might be better, on the whole,than the rather skimpy border on the 8.5 x 11 pages. The fact that the pages match the size of normal Scott pages means the pages you print will fit inside a Scott binder. And although the Steiner page border is a simple line, so the pages will not exactly match the Scott pages, it seems like a workable solution depending on what you need.

I'm sure Minkus sized pages would work just as well.

Another alternative is to purchase Scott-sized or Minkus-sized pages preprinted from Steiner's associate who sells printed pages. I think that seller may be noted on Steiner's home page. There's a per-page fee of between 20-30 cents per printed page by country or year or whatever you want.

James said...

Thanks, I hadn't realised that wide-bed printers had came down in price so much, that would certainly be the way to go for a really big job. Incidentally, here in England (and most of the world outside the US) the standard size of paper is the narrow A4, which gives the Steiner pages very small side margins, just where you need them. The Steiner pages supplied by Britannia (and Stanley Gibbons) thus have barely enough margin for a three-ring loose leaf binder, let alone a post binder. I'm surprised that they can get away with this, as the result isn't at all attractive.
the end , I'll probably resort to using a photocopier and some creative cut and pasting!

williamgrady said...

I retired my old wide bed printer when I could no longer get ink cartridges for it. I bought a Canon Pixma iX6520 Inkjet Printer
as a replacement. I got a great sale at Staples, but even at the current prices, it is a nice printer and does print in color, if you need it.
I use it to make pages for Minkus regional albums in lieu of supplements and use real Minkus page blanks. I have even run the sheets through twice and printed on the back sides for pages for my Supreme Global.