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.