Saturday, November 26, 2016

Checklist of Comprehensive Worldwide Stamp Collections

[Note: I originally called this a checklist of "large" collections but it is really meant to include collections that are largely complete for the years covered. Except, of course, for the complete Blue Volume One collections which are their own animal.]

None of what is here is new information, but I thought it might be handy to have a list of these collections in one place. Additions and corrections are always welcome. I will continue to update as new information comes to light.

I’ve come up with five arbitrary categories:

1) Certifiably large worldwide collections (i.e., the collection size is certifiable, not necessarily the collectors; these are collections which encompass 1840 to at least the 1950s).

2) Honorable mentions (these might belong in the first category but we’re missing some important details about their size or scope. I’m also including here two large collections you can peruse online.)

3) Collections still being built (these might belong in one of the above categories). Keijo on his Stamp Collecting blog has been conducting a poll to identify such collections. The latest results suggest there are at least 50 active collectors with at least 50,000 up to 400,000 plus stamps.

4) Legendary worldwide stamp collections (almost entirely pre-1940; this was harder to do than I thought because even though the collectors are well known, information about them concentrates on rarities rather than more common stamps that would constitute the bulk of a comprehensive worldwide collection. So until I learn otherwise, collectors such as Caspary and Hind are missing. Much of the information comes from Dr. Stanley M. Bierman’s The World’s Great Stamp Collectors.)

5) Complete Scott International Volume Ones (obviously the most important category, but I thought I would save the best for last). I’ve included substantially complete because when you are down to a handful of empty spaces, anyone who could afford to buy such a collection could also afford to complete it. I would expand this category to include Minkus Supreme Global albums if I knew of any that were filled or almost filled.)

1) Certifiably large worldwide collections

PRIVATE TREATY. In 2012, Harmer-Schau offered by private treaty a collection they said was 99.9% complete for the world from 1840-2010, minus the United States. Assuming the description is accurate, this appears to be the most complete stamp collection ever formed, lacking only 1200 or so stamps with major Scott numbers. Accord to Harmer-Schau, “the collection is meticulously housed in black mounts in over 200 Minkus albums. Also, there are numerous albums, stockbooks and file folders with extra material, such as booklet panes and sheetlets. All countries are represented, Afghanistan (nearly complete tiger heads, mostly in full plating) through Zululand." Asking price is $2.9 million USD. Perhaps it has not sold as the prospectus is still on Harmer-Schau’s website.

WORLD TRAVELER. This collection was sold by Robert A. Siegel in 2013. According to the auction catalog, “The World Traveler collection is one of the most complete worldwide collections ever assembled for the time period covered [1840-1981], containing 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!” The more valuable items sold at auction for around $1.25 million and the remainder are being handled by a Florida dealer.

As I think about the above two, I’m wondering if the World Traveler collection was actually the more comprehensive for the years covered because of all the minor varieties? But the Harmer-Schau has coverage for almost thirty additional years. Regardless, the bottom line for me is that both of these demonstrate that it is still possible to collect the world at a level of completion that would be the envy of most individual country collectors.

CLIFFORD C. COLE, JR. Robert A Siegel sold the Cole collection of US and worldwide in 1988.  According to Siegel, "A magnificent and comprehensive 100 volume collection of general foreign postage stamps. Virtually each country collection offered in this sale has been left intact or nearly intact so as not to spoil its beauty and desirability. Mr. Cole, in his effort to achieve completeness, acquired many rare and elusive stamps of both high and low value. We acknowledge the 'low value' stamps as many of them are just as difficult to obtain as some rarities. The stamps in the collections are all different and the overall quality is far above average." Cole's US collection lacked only 4 stamps to be complete. The end date for each country varied, but seems to be largely into the 1970s. The worldwide, North America and British Commonwealth auctions realized over one million dollars.

FORREST H. BLANDING. Blanding's collection "included 98 percent of all major world stamps listed up to 1975 in the Scott Catalogues — more than 200,000 different stamps, all in mint or unused condition except for some high-priced nineteenth-century issues. It filled to near completion fifty bulging volumes of the Scott International series. It included the best copies from all the collections I had purchased over the years, so the stamp condition was usually exceptional on all but some of the early values." (Quoted from Nov 2009 article by the collector in the APS American Philatelist.)

DR. CLAIBORNE JOHNSON, JR. Sold by Shreves Philatelic Galleries in 2003. According to Shreves, "Dr. Claiborne Johnson, Jr. has built a United States and Worldwide collection of such size and variety that only a very few collectors have ever accomplished. His main goal was to acquire as many different examples of the world's postage stamps as possible, with emphasis on the stamps of the United States. He obtained over 220,000 different stamps, contained in well over 100 Scott Specialty albums - with a catalog value in excess of $3,000,000. " The last years covered vary but appear to be between the 1960s and 80s.

DR. HSIEN-MING MENG.  Dr. Meng accumulated a collection of more than 250,000 different in more than 400 albums. According to Dr. Meng, "With most countries I am nearly complete in issues to about 1985. A few favored countries such as China, Hong Kong, Macao and some European countries are complete to date..."The collection was auctioned by H R Harmer as part of its Sale 194: Collections of the World (October 10-11, 2008).

2) Honorable mentions

"A VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT WORLDWIDE STAMP COLLECTION.” Sold at auction by Robert A Siegel in 2016 for $749K. “Offered intact from a collector’s estate, by order of the trustee. This collection in 33 Scott Specialty albums is the result of at least three decades of dedicated collecting by one of those rare individuals who set out to complete the world. Excluding the United States and Possessions, which are not part of this collection, virtually every country is represented for the years stamps were issued up to the mid-20th century…Hundreds of countries and thousands of completely filled pages are contained in this massive collection, which is offered intact, according to instructions received from the trustee of the deceased collector’s trust."

“WORLDWIDE COLLECTION. 1840-1980's, impressive lifetime collection of unused and used stamps in 38 overstuffed volumes and one loose carton…THIS IS EASILY ONE OF THE MOST IMPRESSIVE WORLDWIDE COLLECTION LOTS THE SIEGEL FIRM HAS EVER HANDLED.” Realized $250K in 2005.

THE ANTONIUS RA COLLECTION. This is the collection of Mitchell Ward. “Most complete collection of classic World wide stamps on the internet.”
You can find some additional information here:

Antonius Ra is currently showing some pages (including mouthwatering early US) on the Stamporama site. In 2015, Mitch estimated that he had close to 400,000 stamps.

WORLD STAMP ALBUMS. DR CHENG CHANG’S COUNTRY COLLECTIONS. “Dr. Cheng Chang intends to collect over 90% of the world’s stamps from 1840, the world’s first stamp, up to and around 1990, though collections from many countries, such as China, Canada, Germany and so on, are up to year of 2000 or even over. This web site is still under construction and will be updated by daily bases. Whenever a country’s collection reaches 90% completion or over, its collection will be posted on this site.”

BEVILLE WORLDWIDE COLLECTION.  According to Cherrystone which auctioned this collection in July 2017, the Scott's Classic Catalogue 1840-1940 provided an inspiration for the Beville Collection. It consisted of 86,600 stamps (including varieties) and realized $1,622,050.

3) Legendary worldwide stamp collections

TAPLING COLLECTION. Formed by Thomas Keay Tapling, it is virtually complete 1840 to 1890 for stamps and postal stationary, with additional strength in essays, shades, proofs, multiples, and covers. I use the present tense because the collection was bequeathed to the British Museum and consequently is the only major early collection to still exist intact. The stamps are housed on 4,500 sheets, although I’m not clear as to whether these are Tapling’s original pages.

FERRARY COLLECTION. Dr. Bierman wrote that “by the 1880s, Ferrary was credited with owning the most complete collection known, and was never to relinquish that title.” But because of his emphasis on acquiring rarities, I’m uncertain whether he devoted much energy to common stamps. He did not keep his stamps in albums, but rather on sheets of paper kept in “stout bundles” stored horizontally in specially constructed cabinets. Fred J. Melville estimated that he owned perhaps 200,000 items. Philippe von Ferrary’s collection was sold in 14 auctions consisting of over 8,000 lots, varying from a single stamp to more than 10,000.

AVERY COLLECTION. Bierman ranks Sir William B. Avery’s collection as third after Ferrary and Tapling’s. It consisted of between 90-100,000 stamps up to the early 1900s housed somewhat haphazardly in numerous albums.

DUVEEN COLLECTION. I’m not certain how much Henry J. Duveen’s collection included common stamps, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as Bierman says that he “formed one of the greatest international collections of all time.” It is clear that Duveen assembled specialist collections of individual countries, e.g. Great Britain, that were complete or close to it. According to the prospectus for the collection, The Duveen Collection of Rare Old Postage Stamps, Duveen did not collect past 1900, or even 1890 for many countries. His preference was for mint stamps.

LILLY COLLECTION. Josiah K. Lilly preferred mint stamps in the finest condition possible, but was reasonably egalitarian beyond that. He said that there were 100,000 postage stamps he wanted for his collection and he succeeded in acquiring 77,000. Even though Lilly died in 1969, from auction catalogs it looks like his collection stopped at 1949/50. Which means the 100,000 target number would include every stamp issued from 1840 to 1949 (major and minor varieties).

BURRUS COLLECTION. Maurice Burrus had a goal which should warm the heart of all worldwide stamp collectors. In spite of his wealth, he aimed ”…to reassemble the whole of the stamps issued in one country, in a certain part of the world, or if possible, of the whole universe, and not to estimate the value of stamps according to their beauty of engraving or design." It took five years and 75 auctions/sales to sell his collection.

4) Complete and almost complete Scott International Volume Ones

CORNYN & GELLER. Stan Cornyn and Murray Geller filled all the International albums that existed at the time (eleven) over about six years in the 1970s. You can search the collectors’ names on this blog for lots of information about how they accomplished this feat.

BUD. Bud’s Volume One was completed in 2016 and is being documented with photos on Jim Jackson’s Big Blue blog (

LIMAYE. This collection was completed in 2017. There was a very nice thread by the collector on the Stamp Community discussion group back in 2012.

STUNNING WORLDWIDE COLLECTION 1840-1940. This was originally offered by HR Harmer as complete. It didn’t sell initially, but was offered again, this time as “housed in an expanded four volume Scott International albums representing one collector's lifetime labor of love which is evident not only by the mere fact that virtually every space is filled.” Selling price was a paltry $12.5K in 2009. Unless there were condition issues, I think the low price may have been due to the state of the economy at the time.

“FRIEDMAN.” Offered in 2013 by Dr. Robert Friedman & Sons: “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.” Assuming the 97% is accurate, the collector filled 34,000 out of 35,000 spaces plus added 15K additional stamps not in the original. Asking price was $29,950.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What's new in the 2017 Scott Classic Catalogue

[For an overview of changes in all the editions since 1995, type the words "classic catalogue" into the search field in the upper left corner of the screen.]

If it is November, it must be time for a new edition of the Scott Classic Catalogue. According to Donna Houseman as reported in Linn's, the latest edition features "thousands of value changes; 677 new number changes and additions; and myriad editorial improvements, including many hundreds of revised and expanded listings. More than 6,600 value changes were made in the 2017 Scott Classic Specialized catalog. Add to this the almost 13,000 value changes brought over from the six volumes of the 2017 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, and the total number of value changes soars to 19,370."

I usually don't report on changes in values, but it is interesting that the editors single out several  countries whose prices have softened, among them France and Germany.

Editorial enhancements specifically mentioned by Ms. Houseman can be found in Newfoundland, Canada, Switzerland (including valuations for on-cover and MNH), Jordan, Montenegro,  Serbia, Venezuela (postally used fiscal stamps) and the Malay State of Pahang (1942 issues not in the Big Blue).

Price for the hardbound version is $174.99 or $154.99 for Amos Advantage members. An eCatalogue version is available for $125.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Schwaneberger Specialized Kosmos Stamp Albums

I thought I knew about all the major worldwide albums that existed, but the Schwaneberger Specialized Kosmos (World) Stamp Album is a new one to me. Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions has the 1921 five volume set as lot 1037 in their Sale 694 ("Collections, Stocks and Accumulations of the World," November 18-19, 2016). The auction house very kindly tells us something about the albums: "Worldwide, Collection, 1840-1920. Schwaneberger Specialized Kosmos (World) Stamp Album in five volumes, 1921 edition (regarded by many experts as the finest printed stamp albums ever made) published in Germany by the makers of the Michel catalogues, and hailed as the first 'scientific' stamp albums and catalogues. This set of albums---with descriptions and spaces for every postage stamp known to be released through 1920---puts many catalogues to shame since it includes all major and minor shade, color, paper, watermark and perforation varieties (as in the Michel catalogues). This deluxe edition was printed in a very limited edition of a few hundred copies. It includes almost 1,000 singled-sided double folio-size heavy coated-paper pages, with a hidden springback mechanism in large buckram binders (with dust cases)."

You can see examples of the page layout here:

Hope you've been saving your pennies!

Robert A Siegel's 16 November 2016 auction includes as Lot 3946,  "A VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT WORLDWIDE STAMP COLLECTION. Offered intact from a collector’s estate, by order of the trustee. This collection in 33 Scott Specialty albums is the result of at least three decades of dedicated collecting by one of those rare individuals who set out to complete the world. Excluding the United States and Possessions, which are not  part  of  this  collection,  virtually  every  country  is  represented  for  the  years  stamps  were  issued  up  to  the  mid-20th century. There are tens of thousands of unused and used stamps carefully mounted with hinges or in hinge-less mounts. Hundreds of countries and thousands of completely filled pages are contained in this massive collection, which is offered intact, according to instructions received from the trustee of the deceased collector’s trust. It  is  impossible  to  describe  every  significant  item  in  this  collection..."

At the end of the description: "Our conservative estimate is based on the fair market value of the stamps if they were offered in typical individual  lots  and  small  country  collections.  The  estimate  does not reflect  the  extraordinary  opportunity  to  acquire  a worldwide collection of this vast scope and depth in one lot. Filling page after page with the sets and scarce issues found  in  this  collection  took  decades  and,  if  attempted  incrementally,  would  take  an  equal  amount  of  time.  For someone who loves stamps — the entire world of stamps — and wants a “turn-key” worldwide collection on which to build, this is a unique opportunity. Needless to say, for a dealer with the means to make a substantial investment, its acquisition within, or even above, our estimate range holds certain potential for a substantial resale profit. Special  presale  registration will be required in order  to  bid  on  this  lot,  and  it  will  only  be  released  to  the winning bidder after payment in full has been made, in accordance with the Conditions of Sale. Estimate $500,000-750,000."

I see two problems for the Big Blue collector. First, there is that $500-750,000 thing. Second, what are you going to do with all those extra stamps that won't fit in the International Volume One?

While you are pondering this, I must commend Siegel. They actually included photographs of four album pages from this collection.

And if the price tag for this lot is a little high, you might consider their lot 4179 , "Worldwide Big  Pile of Stamps." Not for me, though. I already have one.

UPDATE: The collection sold for $745K or $856,750 with commission. The buyer was Mystic Stamp Company who said "this is the highest price ever paid at a U.S. auction for a single stamp collection."

Monday, September 19, 2016

"What are worldwide stamp collections worth?"

This is the title of a new thread on StampCommunity started by dealer KReleya. (Thanks to Jim Jackson for alerting me.) KReleya (who is also a dealer) looks at various categories of worldwide material sold on eBay and has come up with low, high, and sample prices per stamp (or per pound, in the case of bulk) to use when estimating value. When I was buying Blue Volume One collections on eBay I kept a similar list for a couple of years, and came to roughly the same figures (for collections of under 20K stamps--there weren't any larger ones that I knew the size of).

What KReleya confirms, is that you cannot use a single value per stamp that will work with every type and size of collection. That is, two or three cents a stamp makes sense for a Volume One with a few thousands common stamps, but would seriously underestimate the worth of a large album.

Unfortunately, unless we have a count of stamps (preferably by country) and a lot of photos, it is still something of a crapshoot. And without a mess o'photos, you don't know whether the album is padded with stamps that don't belong. But it is still a helpful metric to know where an item is worth more serious consideration. Many thanks to KReleya for taking the time to compile the data and share his experiences.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Yet another complete Big Blue Volume One. But this one comes with pictures!

Another collector, Bud, has fulfilled the daunting challenge of completing a Scott International Volume One. Jim Jackson posted the news in a "reply" to one of my original blog entries, but I want to make certain this gets the attention it deserves.

From Jim:
I am pleased to announce that Bud is posting scans and comments about his completed Big Blue (Scott International Part I 1840-1940 Album) on my blog.

Yes, all 34,700 stamp spaces are filled!

And all of Bud's Big Blue's filled pages will be scanned and shown!

It is expected that 3-8 country scans from Bud's BB will be posted every month.

This will be the first time that every page from a complete Big Blue has been scanned and published on the Internet. Moreover, Bud has been very kind to several of us over the past several years by sharing his experiences with completing the Big Blue and it is great that he is making this information public. I've been particularly curious about what Bud will do next. I'm not certain what I would do if my Big Blue was complete, so Bud's thoughts are especially interesting:
Although every space in my BB is filled, the activity of collecting goes on. Preening, that is replacing stamps lower in my preference list with stamps higher up, will continue indefinitely. Supplement pages will, no doubt, mushroom.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Several large worldwide collections at auction in August

Daniel F. Kelleher often features large worldwide collections, and their Auction 691 is no exception. Unfortunately, the only photos are almost all of the album binders. By way of example of what they are listing is Lot 822: "Worldwide, Collection, 1840-1953. 20-volume (A-Z) fairly new Scott International blue binders with Vintage reproduction archival pages printed on one-side only up to 1940 (albums and pages retail $3000), plus Scott International pages for Part II (1940-49) integrated in, with some countries containing additional pages...."

Harmer Schau also has a Big Blue Volume One in three binders in their APS Stamp Show Sale #110, lot 1670. There are a few photos.

UPDATE: Lot 822 realized $61,950 against an estimate of $30-40K. Lot 1670 realized $10,350 against an estimate of $10-12K. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

European Classic Postage Stamps and Postal History

I've mentioned Richard Frajola's estimable PhilaMercury website before on this blog. A recent addition to the resources section are pdf's of 35 articles by Edwin Mueller originally published in the Mercury Stamp Journal between 1950 and 1961. Unfortunately, the author's death in 1962 prevented the completion of the series, but we are fortunate to have coverage from Alsace-Lorraine through the Netherlands.

A couple of paragraphs from the introduction will clarify Mr. Mueller's focus:

"[The series] is written with the intention of showing that there are many ways to collect and that there are many countries in which the classic stamps can provide the most satisfaction to the specialist. The glamor of new issues is advertised in the philatelic magazines in a way that makes the good old classic issues look like poor relatives. It is high time to show the lure of the classics, to give the collector a vivid picture of the glamor which lies in the stamps which are seventy five and morc years old and were produced and used for postal purposes only, without any intention of making them items for a stamp collection. "

"In writing about the classic issues of tbe European countries—to which we have limited our nevertheless quite extensive undertaking —we want to show the collector the possibilities which exist in this field. We want to tell him what has been already achieved in philatelic research in the various countries and where fertile fields still remain to be harvested. We want to give information about tbe possibilities of specializing and give hints about the difficulties which may discourage the collector who wants to assemble a specialized collection. We will show the fields which are so hopelessly barren that we would advise keeping out of them. We will not give any advice as to which stamps may prove a good investment, because classic stamps, bought with knowledge and alertness will preserve their value, giving to the collector the enjoyment of his collecting as a dividend."

I should note that most of the articles were not illustrated. (Thanks to Keijo for letting me know there were some illustrations.)

Here is the link:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Yvert & Tellier Catalogs

I received today an email from Regency Superior who, in addition to handling Stanley Gibbons, is now a source for Y&T catalogs in the US. Among the items they have for sale is a 2010 version of Y&T's Classiques du Monde (1840-1940) catalog. I was only aware of the 2005 edition. But more surprisingly, Y&T has a two volume set covering the world from 1941 to 1960. As far as I know, they are the only publisher to offer such a catalog. For those who collect a decade or two beyond 1940, this could be useful.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Antonius Ra

I can still remember when I first discovered Antonius Ra's worldwide collection on the web. It was a revelation that not only did worldwide collections like this exist, but that someone would take the time to make scans of their album pages for the benefit of collectors all over the world.

As some of you know, there was a fire at Antonius Ra's (Mitchell's) house several days ago. While no one was injured and the collection was saved, the home suffered significant damage. There is a thread on Stamporama about the fire and a link there for anyone able to make a donation to help Mitchell and his wife.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Stuffed Blue On eBay

There has been so little in the way of large Blue collections on eBay recently, I find that I am going weeks without remembering to check for anything new. Fortunately, Jim Jackson of the Big Blue blog fame, alerted me to a listing with the title "1841-1939 worldwide collection - 28,000 stamps - Scotts International Album." The sellers is asking $28K for the collection but will accept counter offers.

This is one of those albums in a single binder that is stuffed to the brim with many stamps mounted in the margins. Thus 28,000 stamps does not translate to 28,000 spaces filled. Still, I think it is worth logging on eBay to see this rather unusual Blue Volume One collection.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Adolph J. Capurro Worldwide Collection, 1840-1955

Although I am firmly into collecting the world "used," I must admit that the most visually striking worldwide collections I've seen house only unused stamps. On June 2, Daniel F. Kelleher will auction during the World Stamp Show NY 2016 the The Adolph J. Capurro Worldwide Collection, 1840-1955
of unused and mint stamps.

To quote from their auction catalog (I've underlined a few sentences I thought particularly interesting):

"The Daniel F. Kelleher family is pleased to present the formidable worldwide collection formed by the late Adolph J. Capurro. This impressive collection...was originally assembled in 14 Scott International albums, albums which often did not include spaces for the high values of the better sets.  This fact in no way deterred Mr. Capurro, as he simply mounted the premium values in the blank margins, or on the backs of other pages, wherever ample space could be found.  In other cases, he carefully cut the appropriate spaces out of Scott Specialty pages which did have spaces for all the stamps, and carefully placed these over the International pages.  In this manner Mr. Capurro was able to assemble and mount a truly massive, mint, fairly complete collection of the world through the issues of 1955. "

Unfortunately, Mr. Capurro died recently but I think all Blue Volume One collectors can agree that his is a worthy example of what can be done with the Scott International series (especially with the help of scissors and a bit of paste.)

Friday, April 1, 2016

April 1 Breaking News: Amos responds to popular demand

Amos Press today announced the results of their recent poll concerning improvements collectors most want to the Scott Blue International album series. The most requested change was to offer the International binders in colors other than blue. Amos admits that the results were a pleasant surprise as they expected collectors would vote for error-free album pages and better coverage, all of which would have cost them a pretty penny.

Starting today, International binders will be available in vermilion, burnt sienna, and near mauve. To pay for these changes, the blue binders will be discontinued. Please note that all International binders are now special order as staff must spray paint existing blue binders and these will take some time to dry. Amos was asked if they were planning to offer additional colors for their Green Specialty albums, but replied that would be “crazy.”

And in a still developing story, we have been unable to reach Jim Jackson, proprietor of the popular BigBlue1840-1940, to learn whether he is changing the name of his blog to reflect the bold new color choices.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thoughts on the 94% Complete Big Blue Sold on eBay

As rarely as large Blue Volume One collections are offered these days (with my arbitrary definition of large as 20K plus), it is even rarer to know much about how the collections were formed and the details of their sale, much less to have photos of every page in the album. Nevertheless, the Big Blue gods are apparently in a good mood as we are now privy to such details about one collection recently sold on eBay. The information is on Jim Jackson’s Big Blue blog as a guest post by Bud, the collector who originally bought the album, removed the stamps he needed for his even more complete Volume One, and then enlisted eBay seller kenr2 to sell the remainder in country lots.

I have very little useful to add to Bud’s summary, Jim’s additions, and the many valuable comments, all of which make the above post a must read for Big Blue collectors. Not that this will stop me from trying to find something to say.

The pages in total brought almost $35K, considerably more than any other large Volume One that I am aware of, and twice as much as one first offered by H R Harmer as complete and then reoffered as “almost complete” in 2008 (admittedly that realization may have been low because it sold during the height of the recession). Even more extraordinary, unlike the H R Harmer lot, Bud’s album did not include US, which, if at a similar level of completion, would have surely swelled the realization by several thousand dollars.

While I too am convinced that “irrational exuberance” inflated the results this time around, it still isn’t clear by how much. One thing I tried, but only for a few countries, was to look at how many serious bidders there were. My methodology was to look at the final selling price and then count the number of bidders who bid at least half as much. I chose this approach because since the final selling prices were high, I think even 50% bids came from serious bidders as opposed to people lowballing.

Here are the countries I kept data on, the number in parentheses indicating the number of bidders making offers of at least 50% of the final selling price:

Latvia & Latakia (3)
Lebanon    (3)
Mariana & Marshall Island (2)
Mauritius (3)
Memel (3)
Persia BoB (2)
Persia     (3)
Prussia & Prince Edward Island [Penrhyn Ilands] (5)   
Paraguay (3) 
Papua New Guinea (4)
Orange River Colony (3)
Panama    (2)
Straits Settlement (3)
Surinam     (3)
Swaziland (2)
Switzerland BoB     (2)
Switzerland (5)

Thirty-one different bidders placed fifty-one bids that were at least 50% of the eventual selling price. There were only five lots where there were only two bidders above the 50% mark. All the rest had between three and five bidders.

Twelve different bidders won these lots. So even though two persons bid on at least five lots and were the high bidders on three, there was still plenty of opportunity for others.

While I admit my analysis of the above is still anecdotal,  I do believe the results suggest that even without irrational exuberance, the collection would easily have sold for $18K, still a record.

My two cents reinforced by this auction:
—selling by country or small groups of countries widens the appeal beyond worldwide collectors;
—taking the time to make quality scans of all pages pays off;
—clean collections show well and encourage higher bids (i.e., no stamps fallen off their hinges and laying in the margins, no stamps that aren’t relevant to the page, etc.);
—traditional auction houses generally do not do a good job selling large Big Blue collections: too few, if any scans, no accurate estimate of number of stamps or percentage completeness, no estimates of total catalog value, etc. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a big auction house even indicate the edition. All Blue Internationals are the same to them. From what I've read, these houses assume that serious bidders will be present or have an agent to personally examine the album.
—$35K is probably above the cost of the original owner to build the collection. Even if a similar collection in the future only realizes half that, I imagine it doesn't change that a savy collector could still hope to regain a significant amount of the cost to complete a Blue Volume One.