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 North America (this is a subset of British America)
France (without colonies)
France & Colonies (except for African colonies)
Germany (without colonies or states)
Germany and German States
South Western Europe
Eastern & Southern Europe
OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
Italy & Colonies
Belgium & Colonies, Netherlands & Colonies, Luxemburg … (includes countries also found in some of the Europe albums)
Portugal & Colonies
Scandinavia & Finland
Spain & Colonies
Independent Countries in Africa
Independent Countries in Asia
Central America (but not Mexico)
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.