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."