Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Has the Internet Made It Easier to Complete a Blue Volume One?

The article that did the most to make me take the worldwide plunge was “They Collected the World” that appeared in the 26 April 1978 Washington Post. As I have written on this blog before, the article detailed how two collectors completed the first 29 volumes of the Scott International series. I was particularly fascinated by the details of how they acquired their stamps and which were the hardest to find. 

“’The hunt becomes more important than the object of the hunt,’ [one of the collectors] muses. A Syrian misprint, a nondescript green portrait of the goddess Ceres that says 25 centimes where it ought to say 50, eluded them for two years; [one of them] tramped all over Paris looking for it, pored through every catalog he could find, sent letters off to Damascus. One of the letters was forwarded to a Syrian dealer who had moved to Dubai, a minuscule Arab state on the Persian gulf, and who responded with a nice little note conveying his respect and enclosing the stamp.”

And for many stamps the story was similar. Countless wantlists and letters mailed to dealers around the world. Obsessive perusal of printed auction catalogs. It took them six years to complete their task of filling all 29 volumes.

And all done before eBay, Delcampe, online auction catalogs, and email. But today?

Cases in point: There are three stamps in the Blue that I have at one time or another seen identified as difficult to find:

—Syria Scott 106a (the Syrian misprint described above)
—Colombia E1, the country’s first special delivery stamp
—Cabe Juby 48-50 (high values from an overprinted series; the Blue has spaces for any two of the three).

Syria 106a took a year to find a copy. When I did find it, the stamp only cost me $25 on Delcampe, about 10% of catalog. Not long after I saw another copy on eBay. Unfortunately I didn’t record the details, but I remember the purchaser paid closer to the catalog value. Most recently, there was an auction with multiple copies, each of which sold for high prices.

I learned about the Colombia E1 special delivery stamp from a stamp market column by Henry Gitner in Linn’s. He said something to the effect that, in spite of not being particularly expensive, most collectors of Colombia have never seen this stamp. Nevertheless, this was the easiest of the three to acquire. The search took only about a month, but I had to obtain it as part of set of album pages which cost about $13. I just checked and there is a copy for sale on eBay. In spite of the scarcity of single stamps, Antonius Ra found a complete sheet. (Check out his comments here:

Cape Juby 48-50 took a year and a half of searching. The entire country is something of a challenge but I was first alerted to the difficulty of this particular series by a collector who needed the high values to complete (literally) his Volume One. Since I have been searching, I have not seen a set for sale until one appeared on eBay a couple of weeks ago which I acquired for $71 (the entire set, not just the top denominations).

Now, I must say that I wasn’t diligent in looking for any of the above but the Syria error. For the Cape Juby, in particular, weeks would go buy where I would forget to check. But when I did remember, there was nothing on eBay, Delcampe, or any of the usual suspects. Until now.

Is there any stamp, then, in the Blue Volume One which cannot be found online with reasonable persistance? So far, none that I know of. But still, in spite of the feeling by some specialist collectors that there is no thought needed to collect the world, only a big bank account, I do like the idea that there are thousands of stamps required for the Blue that you cannot find on any given day, even for ready money. The quest to fill the Blue will take you on a journey lasting years and the final stamp you hinge in your album is just as likely to cost 50 cents as it is $500. Probably more likely.

Addendum. The 29 volume set of completed Scott Internationals mentioned above were eventually sold at auction. One of the ironies is that most of the individual auction lots were for stamps not in the Blue but in country collections purchased entire for cheaper but elusive stamps the collectors needed. Here are my notes from the auction for some individual stamps that I believe are in the International series and that were identified by the collectors or auctioneers as “hard to get.” An asterisk indicates those in the Volume One.

Belgium 717-727A Scarce
*Dominican Republic 209-232 Hard to find
*France Offices in China, difficult
*Germany 242A scarce
*Great Britain 33 Plt 225 scarce
Iran 1058A-72 scarce
Iran O58-71 Scarce
Italy QY5-11 scare
Lebanon RA1-7, 9 Elusive
*Mayotte 1-20 scarce high values
Mexico C285 NH scarce
Nepal 51-9 scarce
Nepal O15 scarce
Nigeria 258-67 scarce
*Norway 67-9 scarce
*Norway 132-5 underpriced
*Norway 154-7 underpriced
Pakistan 258-9 scarce
Pakistan O73 cat. $1.56
Paraguay C382-8 Very difficult issues
Saudi Arabia 302/449 gas and oil series, difficult
Saudi Arabia 459-597 scarce definitives
*Syria 106c The toughest stamp in the Intl's (Scott has subsequently renumbered 106c to 106a)
*Upper Sileisa Four unlisted Scott shown in Intl's
Yemen Following 58: Three unissued values which appear in Intl. Very scarce.
Yugoslavia 393 scarce


Keijo said...


I can't speak for Big Blue specifically, but I think Internet has made the entire concept of worldwide collecting more challenging by providing 'more of everything'.

Yes, the stamps are likely a bit easier to find, but the reality is there is more supply than I (or anyone) can honestly imagine buying. At least in short term. The good news is that we can now be picky in what goes into our albums/stockbooks ;)

But more importantly, how much more knowledge we 'modern day worldwide collectors'have than those before us... Few decades back when I looked an page of exotic stamps I didn't think there must be forgeries in there; or if I did then I lacked the means of finding them out. These days it's the opposite: go to Google, write what you want to know (let's say 'Montenegro stamp forgeries'), and you'll be greeted with matching tidbits. So in a sense filling those empty spaces in the album has become much harder (unless you want to imagine that every stamp you come up is genuine).

Just my 5 cents worth,

PS. BTW. Nice to see you're back on blogging again.

Jim said...

I don't have the Syria 106 misprint error, the Colombia E1 special delivery, or the Cape Juby values.

Fortunately, the Colombia E1 was dropped by the '69 editors, so I'm O.K. with that one. ;-)

I did find another possible "hard to find" value..

From the Nicaragua blog..

1894 Scott "65B" 25c yellow green (Type A9)

Look for this illustrated 25c yellow green "Victory" stamp to fill a space in BB.

There was an 1894 25c yellow green "Victory" stamp produced during the Seebeck era, but Scott now believes it only had telegraph duty, not postal duty. Therefore there is no Scott number now assigned to the stamp, although my '47 Scott has "65B" for it, and valued it in italics @ $5. Just based on inflation, that would be a value of $50 today.

And BB has a space designated for this stamp.

I did manage to find one after some searching, but suspect the stamp is "neglected" in albums, even if an owner has one, as it is no longer listed in Scott.

Bob said...

Keijo, I'm still in limbo on my collecting, so the sudden flurry of posts is a black swan event. Nothing to see here, no need to panic.

Interesting observation about how much more easy it is these days to realize how many forgeries there are out there, not to mention regums, reperfs, repairs, and other attempts to defraud.

Jim, I do own the Nicaragua 65B and even have "telegraph" printed in pencil above the space. I don't remember buying it so I assume it came as part of an album. Your comment suggests that it would be nice to have a list of stamps in the Blue that have been dropped from the catalog. The first stamp I found like this was Angola Ceres 129/130. I wonder if the latest Scott Classic Catalogues have these two sorted out?

DrewM said...

Thanks for this terrific article. Now I know some of the tough ones to look for.

You note that "Syria Scott 106a (the Syrian misprint described above)" is difficult to find. But in your list at the bottom, you refer to Syria 106c. Is that a different stamp - or (ironically) a "misprint" of your making?

Thanks and keep up the great articles which I always find helpful and interesting.

Bob said...

Drew, thanks for mentioning this. Syria 106c was renumbered by Scott in the not too distant past to 106a.

Rand said...

Syria Sc 106a is the inverted surcharge cataloging $27.50.

Syria Sc 106c is the 25c on 10c green cataloging $240.

Rand said...

The Colombia Sc E1 that Ant.Ra shows is a half sheet of 30 stamps.