Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Linn's 2012 Stamp Count

Linn’s recently released their count of new issues for 2012, or, more accurately, those stamps that appeared in the Linn’s "New Issues Updates" from January-December 2013. This count consists of two parts. First is an article by Martin J. Frankevicz, new issues editor for Scott catalogs, “Listing policies and items that didn’t make the cut” in the December 16, 2013 issue of Linn’s Stamp News, pages 44, 46, and 48. (This is only available to subscribers.) And second, the table itself which is available online at This url also contains links for previous tables back to 2002.

The article proper is largely devoted to criticizing the increasing number of stamps being issued that do not meet Scott’s listing policy, with emphasis on the US uninverted inverted Jenny pane.

For the actual details you need to consult the online table. By my tally, there were 6676 stamps that will make it into the Scott catalog (i.e., assigned major numbers), not counting those from the United States. (I do not know why the US isn’t included in the table.) The total value of the stamps for which catalog values were assigned is just shy of $25,800.

The countries that released the most catalog-worthy stamps are Mozambique with 243, followed by Australia, France, Great Britain, Burundi, Canada, Japan, and Portugal in that order. Forty-seven countries that have produced stamps recently issued none in 2013.

Just to clarify, none of these stamps are in the Blue International Volume One, although I may try to sneak a $2 inverted Jenny into my album. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The 2014 edition of the Scott Classic Catalogue

The 2014 edition marks the twentieth edition of this essential work for any worldwide collector. The edition is currently available for purchase both in hardcopy and digitally for the iPhone/iPad.

This year there were 6,000 value changes for stamps only listed in the Classic catalog. (The total revaluations is 22,500 if you include varieties in both the Specialized and Standard Scott catalogs.) I normally don’t pay much attention to value change statistics from year to year, but I did find interesting that Scott has changed its value grading for early Great Britain from Very Fine to Fine-Very Fine. To quote the catalog’s introduction, “in today’s market, very few classic Queen Victoria stamps of Great Britain trade as true Very Fine.” Poor centering and heavy cancellation are wide spread. Such stamps “often sell for only 10 percent to 20 percent of the values listed in the catalog.”

Editorially, there has been a major reorganization of Argentina Official Departments and the Portuguese colonies Ceres stamps. For Argentina, the reorganization was done by date, type and perforation with many new images to help in identification.

The Ceres project began with Portugal in the 2013 catalog and moves on this edition to Angola, Azores, Cape Verde, Inhambane, Lourenco Marques, Macao, Madeira, Mozambique, and Tete. The issues are organized by date, paper type and perforation. There has been much renumbering and almost 150 new listings. For the 2015 edition, expect similar treatment of Portuguese Congo, Portuguese Guinea, Portuguese India and St Thomas & Prince Islands.

This is of relevance to Blue collectors because a few of these stamps had been dropped from recent editions of the Scott Standard Catalog even though they are still in the International Volume 1.

There are more than 120 listings for the occupation and annexation stamps of Greece, together with renumbering and reorganization to make identification easier.

Several of the Indian States, specifically Cochin, Gwalior and Travancore have a total of more than 350 new listings. More will be coming in 2015.

I particularly commend the editor, Charles Snee, for welcoming corrections and suggestions (

P.S. Did you notice that Scott didn’t hold a contest this year to pick the stamp to adorn the new edition’s cover?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Get Your Copy of the Rarest Stamp in the Blue Right Here

Romano Auctions-Tel Aviv will be selling soon the collection of Moise Behar. According to George Bailey, a partner with the firm, Behar “worked in the finance department of the Haut Commisariat, Postal Department, in Beirut. During that time he managed to accumulate an comprehensive collection of the overprinted French stamps for Syria, Lebanon, Alaouites and Cilicia. The collection includes both 'normal' issues and unissued stamps as well as a spectacular assortment of errors.”

Well, what interest could such an auction have for the Blue Volume One collector? Can you say “Syria 106c, the 25 c.s. surcharge on 10 c. green error” that Scott so blitheringly included in the album? I thought you could.

According to Mr. Bailey, “the auction has 5 lots which include 90a [the Y&T number for 106c]. Lots 567-9 and 579. There are 2 NH singles, a milliseme gutter block of 4, a regular block of 4 and a block of 8.”

This morning I transferred some money out of one of our mutual funds to purchase a car, but perhaps I should just try to buy all of these and corner the market. Nah.

You can find Mr. Bailey’s very interesting blog article on Moise Behar and his collection here:

The link for the auction house is:

I’ll try to remember to check the auction house’s website each day, but if anyone sees the online catalog before I do, please post a comment. And if you are a successful bidder, please brag about it here.

UPDATE: Here are the lots with descriptions and prices realized.

Lot 566. 1923 Yvert # 90a, French Occupation in Syria, 'O.M.F. Syrie Grand Liban 25 CENTIEMES' on 10c green Sower (Scott No. 106a), Unissued value . Single sold for €286 in Roumet sale #533. Yv cv €392 for NH. Very fresh. From the Mose Behar Collection. [YT 90a] Start Price $100. Sell price $112.

Lot 567. 1923 Yvert # 90a, French Occupation in Syria, 'O.M.F. Syrie Grand Liban 25 CENTIEMES' on 10c green Sower unissued Value (Scott No. 106a), mint NH. Single sold for €286 in Roumet sale #533. Yv cv €392 for NH. Very fresh. Estimate $200-400. From the Mose Behar Collection. [SC 106a] Start Price $100. Sell price $110.

Lot 568. 1923 Yvert # 90a, French Occupation in Syria, 'O.M.F. Syrie Grand Liban' millesime block of 4 (pl.#3). unissued value 'Syrie Grand Liban 25 CENTIEMES' on 10c green Sower (Scott No. 106a), Light toning, non-numbered pr hinged, numbered pr NH. 4 singles cv €1344. Rare item, unlisted. Estimate $300-500. From the Mose Behar Collection. [YT 90a] Start Price $150. Sell price $733.

Lot 569. 1923 Yvert # 90a, French Occupation in Syria, 'O.M.F. Syrie Grand Liban' block of 8 unissued value 'Syrie Grand Liban 25 CENTIEMES' on 10c green Sower (Scott No. 106a), 8 NH singles cv €3136, single sold for €286 in Roumet sale #533. Estimate $1500-3000 for this beautiful mint never hinged block of 8. From the Mose Behar Collection. [YT 90a] Start Price $800. Sell price $972.

Lot 579. 1923, Yvert 90a. Unissued value 'Syrie Grand Liban 25 CENTIEMES' on 10c green Sower in block of 4, French Mandate in Syria. Scott No. 106a, two of which are hinged, NH single sold for €286 in Roumet sale #533- Yv cv €1344 block of 4 Estimate $500-$1000. From the Mose Behar Collection. [YT 90a] Start Price $300. Sell price $330.

I also checked the Roumet Sale #533. Roumet is Roumet Philatélie. Here is the listing that was in that sale:

**2493 Erreur. No 90a: 25c (au lieu de 50c) s. 10c, bdf. - TB. - R (tirage 50, cote Maury). Catalogs 325€. Sold for 125 €.
Among the many interesting aspects of all of this is that there are no used examples including those on cover. I wonder if none of these errors ever made it to the post?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Index to the Countries in the Scott International Volumes I-III

Unless you own the 1997 four part version of the Blue Volume I, you are aware of Scott's interesting take on alphabetizing. To this day, I have trouble remembering where some countries fall in the sequence, or rather out of sequence. Fortunately, fellow collector Keith Arbtin has compiled a country-by-country index, not only for Volume I, but for the first three volumes which cover 1840-1956. Many thanks to Keith for his work and for giving me permission to make it available to others. I know every Blue collector will find it useful.

If you would like a PDF file of Keith's index, send a comment on this post (which I won't publish) with your email address and I will forward a copy to you.

UPDATE: Al L, if you are reading this, please send me your email address in a comment. (I won't publish the comment.)

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Guest Post from Antonius Ra

As several readers have pointed out recently, large worldwide collections are built over decades, so how they are currently housed could well reflect what was available when the collection was growing rather than what the collector would choose today. For example, the well known Antonius Ra collection (perusable online at is largely in Scott Specialty albums. But would he use these albums if he was starting today from scratch? To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, unfortunately, we can never know. Fortunately, here to tell us what he might do if starting over is Antonius Ra. I had sent an email asking him a a question about the history of the Scott Specialty albums. Here is his reply and subsequent remarks which he has very kindly given me permission to quote:

"As far as I know Scott has printed all countries in the Scott specialty format at one time or another.  However, I think some have not been reprinted since the 1940s.  I have only ever bought a couple of countries pages new so it isn't something I keep up on.

I found a long time ago that you could buy collections housed in Scott Specialty albums with many a stamp cheaper than you can buy the new pages. For years I had several dealers keeping their eyes out for albums with stamps and finally ended  up with about 90% of the worlds countries.

Several countries I have like Canada, Russia and Great Britain are housed in the albums I bought them in.  Transferring 7,000 stamps from Russia was just to much work and expense. As for Great Britain I bought a set of Stanley Gibbons Davo hingeless albums because it is the most proper way to collect them.

As for additional pages I use Bill Steiner formats and print them on Scott Specialty blank pages or G&K knockoffs that are about half the price. This however requires a wide bed scanner or a trip to a copy shop. As I have been expanding many countries to later dates most of these new pages, I just use the Steiner formats and print them on 8 1/2 X 11 Ivory colored 67# Vellum Bristol.  It is much cheaper and easier than using the expensive Scott blanks as it is much easier for me to maintain and scan updates.

I would advise people to spend their money on stamps instead of expensive new pages/binders. I've seen many a collection that people have spent more on the albums than the stamps within were worth, which doesn't seem to make sense to me. Since the web came into its maturation I think more people are splitting up collection to sell so I don't know how easy it is to find them these days. Best way is probably tell the dealers you know that you want to purchase the Scott specialty collections, they have, after they have taken the key stamps out.

If I were to start again I would consider just using the Steiner formats on 8 1/2 X 11 pages. One of the main problems with the new Scott Spec pages is that they do not contain sub numbers just all the majors. It appears that Scott deleted them sometime in the early 1950s (just a guess). Using the Steiner formats you can customize your pages of countries that you would like to go deeper into. With the Scott Spec pages people usually just add quadrille pages to catch the spill overs. Neatness is something that I try very much accomplish so that kind of "catch all" page really doesn't fit the bill for me.

Another thing that is perhaps the most important tool the world wide collector can have, is a needs list. It takes a long long time (the longer the more stamps you need) but I would not attempt trying to conquer the world without it. I made just a simple little form in MS Wordpad (something any PC user can open, which is important) that works quite nicely. With it I can search country listings very fast and never have to drag my book out or buy a stamp I already have. For countries with more spaces than stamps I usually use a form that has numbers from 1 to 500 or a thousand and subtract the stamp numbers I have."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

From Brown to Blue to Green: The Scott Specialty Albums

One of the many aspects of the mechanics of worldwide collecting that interests me is learning where people with large collections have chosen to house their stamps. What is likely the most comprehensive collection ever assembled, the 1840-1910 "private treaty" collection offered by Harmer-Schau, is mounted in Minkus country and regional albums. On the other hand, the Traveler collection, largely complete 1840-1981 and currently being auctioned by H R Harmer, is in Scott Specialty albums, as are the two large "online" collections of Antonius Ra and Dr. Cheng Chang.

Since the Scott Specialty albums remain popular to this day, I thought I would take a brief look at their history to complement my previous surveys of the Brown, Blue and Annual albums. Much of what follows is from the article "Hails & Farewells: The Story of the Scott Specialty Albums" by Albert H. Ewell Jr., with additional information from George T. Turner's article "A Century, 1868-1968, Scott's Albums."

The Scott Specialty Albums, popularly known as the Green albums because of their binders, were originally announced in 1933. These represented a move by Scott from the hardbound Brown Internationals that had been their flagship world product to albums devoted to smaller chunks of the planet. Ewell writes that the Scott Specialty albums used the same plates as the Browns but were printed looseleaf on one side of the page. Out of curiosity, I compared several dozen pages between the Browns and online scans of the Specialty pages, and they indeed are largely the same. The two differences I found were a few stamps on different rows and a couple of different cuts. Whether this represents "post-Brown" corrections or occurred for other reasons, I cannot say.

Scott itself wrote in relation to the Specialty series: "Our plates have been remade and presses prepared so that we are now ready to publish any album indicated in the list just as soon as we receive a definite demand for 600 or more albums."

One thing not clear to me is whether Scott catalog numbers were present from the beginning as they are now. Antonius Ra writes in an email that "one of the main problems with the new Scott Spec pages is that they do not contain sub numbers, just all the majors. It appears that Scott deleted them sometime in the early 1950s (just a guess)."

While I believe all of the earliest Specialty albums were regional (or at least along the lines of Germany & Colonies), Scott soon began to issue Single Country albums using pages reprinted from the regional Specialty albums. I don't know whether these were originally marketed as being a separate product line from the Specialty albums, but certainly today Scott includes them along with the regional albums.

In any event, Ewell says that by the 1960s the Specialty albums had grown to twenty-four major sections requiring at least thirty-seven large binders.

If you are familiar with Scott you know that the company has been owned by a variety of individuals and corporations, and many of these changes in ownership would translate into either renewed commitment or studied indifference to their line of worldwide albums. Regardless of owners, the Blue International line continued to receive annual supplements, even as much of the Specialty albums and supplements languished. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons the Blue annual supplements were of little use to the owners of the Green albums.

In 1995, Scott announced plans to do the Specialty albums proud, bringing back out-of-print volumes and publishing missing supplements. But whatever Scott's good intentions, by 1999 Ewell estimates that 78 countries were once again unavailable. In recent years, the albums have continued to come and go out-of-print.

To give an idea of what the Specialist series originally comprised, here is a list of the albums advertised in the back of the 1941 Scott Catalog. Note that there is some overlap: for example, Canada was part of both British America and British North America. (Today Canada is sold as a single country album.)

Great Britain, British Europe & Oceania
British Africa
British America
British North America (this is a subset of British America)
British Asia
France (without colonies)
French Africa
France & Colonies (except for African colonies)
Germany Colonies
Germany (without colonies or states)
Germany and German States
Central Europe
Western Europe
Northern Europe
South Western Europe
Eastern & Southern Europe
Italy & Colonies
Belgium & Colonies, Netherlands & Colonies, Luxemburg … (includes countries also found in some of the Europe albums)
Vatican City
Portugal & Colonies
Scandinavia & Finland
Soviet Republic
Spain & Colonies
Independent Countries in Africa
Independent Countries in Asia
Central America (but not Mexico)
South America
Danish West Indies, Dutch & French Possessions in Americas
Latin West Indies
Guam, Hawaii & Philippines

It was also possible, at least in the early 1940s, to purchase the pages for any individual country from the Specialty Album. I know a lot of collectors wish this were still possible.

In later years, as the number of stamps multiplied, many albums were split into smaller units. In fact, if you look at a current list of Specialty albums, they seem to be largely individual countries. Scott says they currently produce pages for more than 120 countries which works out to less than 50 percent of what they produced in the series' heydays.

But the bottom line is, in what I have checked, it appears that the Specialty Albums did once cover every country that was in the Browns. Unfortunately, if you were starting a comprehensive collection today, you would be challenged to keep it in Scott Specialty albums unless you were amenable to purchasing used albums (which, of course, you very well might be for a variety of reasons).

ASIDE. One of the burning questions about the Brown International is whether there was a volume that went through the end of 1940. Actually, it is certain that such a volume was never even advertised. But what isn't clear is whether it was prepared but never put on the market, perhaps because of WW2. We know that the pages covering through 1940 are in the reissue published originally by Vintage Reproductions, but where did they get them? I had hypothesized that perhaps it was from an Annual Album for 1939-1940. But again we have no proof this ever existed. I'm beginning to think, though, that the most likely source was from the Scott Specialty Albums listed above.

Ewell, Albert H. Jr. "Hails & Farewells: The Story of the Scott Specialty Albums." Philatelic Literature Review, Vol. 52, 3rd Quarter, 2003, pp 222-226.

Turner, George T. "A Century, 1868-1968 Scott's Albums." Scott's Monthly Stamp Journal, March 1968, pp 1-22, 34.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The World Traveler Collection

Another day and here's another almost complete world collection, this time covering 1840-1981. Robert A. Siegel is auctioning the first part of the World Traveler Collection as its Sale 1049, June 26-27, 2013. To quote from the catalog,

    The collection has been formed over 60 years by a father and his son. Together, they started with Great Britain’s 1840 Penny Black and Two-Pence Blue and ended with stamps issued in 1981, a span of 141 years. In that time period there are approximately 260,000 major Scott Catalogue listings and another 33,000 Scott-listed varieties, such as overprint errors, color variations, imperforates, and others.

    The World Traveler collection is one of the most complete worldwide collections ever assembled for the time period covered, comprising all but about 1,600 major listings (over 99% complete) and more than 85% of the minor varieties. It is a remarkable collecting achievement...The collection fills more than 725 Scott Specialty Albums!

    ...Why is the collection dubbed the “World Traveler” sale? The owner now wishes to travel to all of the exotic countries he learned about from collecting stamps and imagined visiting. The sale of the collection will take him there.

The collection is not being sold all at once. The first auction consists of "...interesting stamps from as many different countries as possible, with an eye towards selecting stamps that are rarely offered at auction...."

While you are on the Siegel site, I urge you to take a gander at their other auctions, including the 2013 Rarities of the World sale. Mouthwatering.

UPDATE  7/22/13. By my calculation based on the Prices Realized pdf, the sale brought $1,226.255. Scott Trepel writing on the PhilaMercury discussion board says that only 51 lots estimated at $41K did not sell. He notes that "there were pockets of weakness -- Albania, for example -- but it realized about 50% more than our pre-sale expectation."

The latest Linn's carried an unexpected display advertisement: Bejjco of Florida, Inc. (Arnold H Selengut) is now the agent for the World Traveler Collection. Selections will be at the APS Stamp Show in Milwaukee and serious want lists are also accepted. I was really excited until I saw the word "serious." In any event, for additional information you may email Mr. Selengut at  What I am wondering, though, is whether this means that there won't be any more Siegel auctions?

If anyone is going to the APS Show and stops by Booths 1502, 1504 & 1506, I would love to hear your impressions, serious or otherwise.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Revisiting the Supremes

No, Filling Spaces isn't changing into a Motown Blog. Rather, some recent comments about Minkus worldwide albums have encouraged me to reexamine the Supreme Global albums. For the collector who has yet to choose a worldwide album, the Supremes represent a tempting option. Long out of print, Scott recently reprinted the 1952 edition of the Supreme and, guess what, it costs rather less than the comparable Blues. The Supreme definitely contains more stamps than the Blue. The big question is whether the choice of stamps for inclusion is less, shall we say creative (idiosyncratic, cavalier--where is that thesaurus?) than the Blue. Or to leap to the bottom line, will the majority of stamps a worldwide collector is likely to acquire be in the Supreme?

To perform this comparison I employed a volume of the Supreme which covered countries A-J (the US is missing in my copy) and a two volume edition of the Minkus World Wide catalog from the early 1970s. For the Scott International side, I relied extensively on Jim Jackson's BigBlue blog. It would not be too much to say that one of the reasons this analysis took so long to publish is that I needed Jim to complete his work on all of the countries from A through J!

I randomly chose countries (colonies, etc.), big and small, that were in both the Scott Blue International Volume One and my copy of the Minkus Supreme. This came to 63 before I stopped. Out of these 63, I did not complete 13 because making the comparison turned about to be too time consuming. For those not familiar with their approach, Minkus, as with most publishers besides Scott, integrates semi-postals, officials, postage dues, airmails, etc. within a single sequence. Thus it is impossible to quickly compare the Scott and Minkus albums page by page. Moreover, the albums tend to group stamps of similar design even when separated by decades. As an example, here are the Minkus catalog numbers for a row from the Supreme that contains spaces for the Christian X definitives of Denmark from 1913-1927:

124 125 276 275 126 222 223 127

From a display standpoint, I'm not complaining as I would rather have related stamps in denominated order rather than scattered over multiple pages. But from the standpoint of comparing coverage, jumping back and forth within a range of hundreds of catalog number makes matter difficult.

OK, enough excuses; lets look at some of the larger countries. Coverage in the Supreme Global of those countries I compared ranged from 60 to 100 per cent. Specifically,

Albania 29% of the stamps from 1840-1940 are in the Blue vs 60% in the Supreme;
Afghanistan 10% vs 62%;
Greece 46% vs 66%;
Denmark 52% vs 67%;
India 58% vs 78%;
Bulgaria 64% vs 82%;
Czechoslovakia 50% vs 87%;
Finland 57% vs 88%;
France 66% vs 90%;
Germany (Empire) 77% vs 90%;
Argentina 40% vs 100%;
Greenland 39% vs 100%
Bavaria 80% vs 100%.

Wow, look at those 100 percents! Impressive. What is problematic for me is that the Supreme's coverage isn't always impressive even if it almost always beats the Blue. Take Greece and Denmark, for example. Why should the Supreme be missing one third of their stamps issued 1840-1940?

In looking at Denmark, I found that while the Supreme contains more stamps than the Blue, it is missing 33 stamps that are in the Scott album, only a couple of which were probably omitted because of catalog value. Ignoring some individual items, the Supreme is missing all of the following that in the Blue occupy multiple spaces:

--all of the 1875-1902 numerals (Scott 25//34, Minkus 43//52) perforated 14x13 1/2
--the three 1884 large corner numerals perf 14x13 1/2 (Scott 38-40, Minkus 63-65);
--all of the 1907 Newspaper stamps (Scott P1-P6, Minkus 98-107);
--four semi-postals (Scott B1 and B6-B8, Minkus 221 and 387-388)
--two early airmails (Scott C1 and C3, Minkus 262 and 264)

Catalog value could not have been a determining factor in most of these cases. Nor do I think it was just the perforation difference, as the Minkus catalog clearly differentiates the issues via major numbers. In any event, the omitted Newspaper stamps, semi-postals, and airmails clearly are as important as similar stamps included in the album (even, as in the case of the two airmails, a little pricier).

To say this another way, the question I was hoping to answer was why the Supreme has poorer coverage of Denmark compared to say Finland. And the bottom line is the reason isn't obvious. (Incidentally, I did check the Supreme against the Master Global just in case my copy of the Supreme had the wrong pages.)

If there were a "problem" with Denmark and Greece, I assume there also are at least a few other countries that aren't as well represented as they could be. But can't you resolve the issue via adding your own "blank" pages? Unfortunately, unlike the latest version of the Blue Internationals, the arrangement of the Supreme Globals does not lend itself to displaying stamps missing from the album for two main reasons: 1) countries can begin on the back of pages meaning any blank pages you add will be out of sequence, and 2) the greater page density of Minkus albums means there often is little space to squeeze in more stamps (assuming you would even be open to using the margins).

What about smaller countries including territories, offices, etc? As I knew from previously comparing the Supreme and the Blue, for the mainstream countries well-represented in both albums, Minkus in most cases is noticeably better. But I also had the impression that the coverage for states, territories, offices, etc., seemed less impressive, and so it is:

Brunswick 24% in the Blue vs 13% in the Supreme
France (Offices Egypt) 18% vs 14%
France (Offices Zanzibar) 10% vs 15%
Eastern Rumelia 18% vs 24%
France (Offices Turkey) 37% vs 25%
Baden 28% vs 29%
Germany (Marianas Islands) 42% vs 36%
Italy (Offices China) 19% vs 40%
Italy (Offices Crete) 60% vs 45%
French Colonies (General) 25% vs 46%

So here are my opinions:

--if you are the kind of collector who expects to find a space in your album for all but the most expensive stamps in the catalog, the Supreme won't do: it is missing too many affordable if not necessarily common stamps;

--if the need to keep the footprint of your albums to a minimum is paramount, the Minkus Supreme gives you more bang for your buck than the Scott Blues;

--if you want to collect worldwide for a decade or two beyond 1940, the Minkus Supreme appears to offer good coverage and you might still be able to squeeze the pages into three binders*;

--if you go with the Minkus, don't expect an easy time of converting Minkus numbers to Scott and vice-versa. It took me most of an afternoon to do a concordance for Denmark. The flip side of this is, unlike the Scott Blue, Minkus does provide catalog numbers for every stamp in the album and the Minkus catalogs are still affordable to acquire from eBay or other sources.

Because I want to keep my worldwide collection to a couple of binders, if I were starting over, I might very well choose to go with the Minkus Supreme Global. But, in my opinion, the Supreme isn't comprehensive enough to persuade me to remount my Blue. I know that there are readers who use and prefer the Minkus albums and I would love to hear your opinions or counter arguments.

*The reprinted base volume sold by Amos Press covers 1840-1952, so you will need to buy at least one set of Supreme Global supplements if you want stamps beyond this date. Part 2A & 2B will take you through 1963. Again, vis-a-vis affordability, similar coverage with the Blue Internationals would take you into parts 5/5A.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Yet Another Almost Complete Blue Volume One

Dr. Robert Friedman & Son's 102nd Sale in the 27 May 2013 Linn's offers a Volume One as lot 337. Here is the description:

337 Worldwide - A fabulous 1840-1940 valuable collection of some 50,000 stamps with no duplication in three excellent condition bulging Scott albums containing Scott Junior International pages in A-Z format. Approximately 97% of the spaces provided are filled with a mint or used stamp and about 90% of the value is in mint singles and sets. There are literally some thousands of nice condition stamps that catalogue between $20 and $300. The collection was lovingly assembled over some forty years and the stamps were purchased individually or in sets. The collector wrote in pencil the Scott catalogue number under most of the stamps for easy identification. Many of the countries are complete or almost complete for the spaces provided. It is obviously very rare to find such a comprehensive pre 1940 collection these days and the buyer will be thrilled with the price of: NET $29,950.

So, if the 97% is accurate, the collection is missing only about a 1000 stamps for which Scott provided spaces. Since the album appears to contain an additional 15,000 stamps beyond the spaces, it would be interesting to see where the collector found room to put them.

Another way of looking at the collection is that the stamps would fill a little more than 60% of a set of the Browns. I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether the price is right.

When I first began obsessing about the Blues in 2007/2008, it wasn't even obvious if anyone had  completed a Blue Volume 1. Now, a couple of complete or almost complete Blues seem to appear each year. Still very rare, but it is comforting to know that multiple collectors have taken up the challenge that the album presents.

Monday, April 1, 2013

No More Empty Spaces

"True Blue" collectors live for filling our album. But what are we to do with the occasional album mistake by Scott's editors for which there is no proper stamp? You know what I'm talking about: duplicated spaces, spaces with the wrong description or cut, and spaces for which no possible stamp will fit (for example, the provided space is vertical but the only stamp that will work is horizontal).

So in keeping with the day, I am pleased to report that Scott intends to provide collectors with custom stamp-shaped labels that can be mounted in these specious spaces. Scott is doing this because it is a much cheaper solution than actually correcting the album errors. The Cinderellas will be available in MNH, MLH, Unused, and Used formats. (Specialty versions, such as with inverted centers, are under consideration.) Now Blue Collectors will no longer have to look at any empty spaces in their albums.

The labels announced so far are:

Label 1) This space intentionally left blank.

Label 2) We are experiencing technical difficulties.

Label 3) Error Code 404: Stamp Not Found.

Label 4) Label reproducing the Penny Black but Queen Victoria is replaced with a portrait of J Walter Scott who happens to look a lot like Alfred E Newman.

Speaking of Alfred E Newman, does anyone remember Mad's Talking Stamps authored by Frank Jacobs?

Friday, February 1, 2013

The "Towson" Collection

Daniel F. Kelleher is auctioning on February 24, 2013 a worldwide stamp collection built in the 1950s-1970s and housed in over 100 Scott Specialty Albums. Now I know my fellow Blue collectors will have difficulty understanding why anyone would go to so much trouble when a perfectly good one volume album was available, but to each their own.

You will find a link to the auction website here. Note that you can download two Adobe acrobat files for the Towson Collection as presented in the print catalog (there are three other collections being auctioned over the same weekend). But you should also checkout the individual country links for the individual lots. I particularly call your attention to what appears to be only a single image for a country lot but that in reality often contains multiple pages from that album.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

How Much Does It Cost to Collect the World, 1840-1940?

There are two statistical questions that I have been interested in since beginning to collect the first century of philately. The first asks: how many stamps were issued between 1840-1940? That one has been answered well enough for my satisfaction. (There are approximately 80,000 major varieties. For more details, search this blog using the two words "how many.")

The second question is: how much does it cost to collect the first hundred years of philately? Or more precisely, what I'm really interested in is how many stamps from this era are affordable.

I have cited in an earlier blog post Michel Bégin's cost analysis. But Bégin's work was limited to only a couple of dozen countries. I have recently learned that Sandy R. Stover undertook a more complete study which was published in 2006.* Rather than attempt to add up the value of every stamp in the catalog, Mr. Stover used statistical sampling for stamps cataloging less than $1000. (For stamps above $1000, which otherwise might have skewered the results, he identified individual stamps.) His initial calculations used the Scott Classic Catalogue for 2000, which he updated five years later for his article.

To briefly summarize Mr. Stover's study, he estimates there were in the neighborhood of 82,000 stamps issued between 1840 and 1940. Of these, 50 percent catalog less than $1.50, 77 per cent less than $10, 92 per cent less than $100, and 99 percent less than $1000 per stamp. However, if you wanted one copy of every major number in the Scott Catalog, you are looking at approximately $22.5 million American dollars (with the understanding that many rare stamps do not have values in the Scott catalog if there is insufficient market information available).

Along this line, Mr. Stover analyzed the affordability of collecting Classic Era stamps of individual countries. The United States had by far the largest number of stamps valued at $1000 and above: 341. The US was followed by Italian States/Italy German States/Germany, Great Britain, France, and, surprisingly to me, Mexico. A total of one hundred and ninety stamp issuing entities had at least one stamp cataloging $1000 and above. One hundred and forty one had none!

Mr. Stover enlivens his statistics with a number of interesting comments. For example, although it is heartening that 92% of Classic Era stamps catalog at under $100, he notes that this still comes to an aggregate catalog value of $540,000. While obviously, one would be paying only a percentage of the catalog value, even half of a half a million dollars is no small sum for most of us, even if amortized over decades of collecting.

But those of us using the Blue can take satisfaction that our total cost will be rather less than $540,000. How much less is unclear, but I suspect we are talking about a current catalog value for a Blue Volume One falling in the very low six figures.

*Stover, Sandy R. "Surveying the Classics: Questions of Value." The Circuit: The Official Journal of the International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors, July/August 2006, pp 6, 9; September/October 2006, pp 6-7, 9.