Tuesday, December 22, 2015

New Additions To My Philatelic Library Part 2 - Oh Canada!

In my previous post I provided a brief review of the new Farahbakhsh specialized catalog for the Stamps of Iran.  This post I am going to provide a brief review of the latest edition of the Unitrade Specialized Catalog of Canadian Stamps, the other specialized catalog that I recently purchased.

If there is any specialized catalog that deserves to be considered the "Gold Standard" of what a specialized catalog should be then the Unitrade, in my opinion, is the one that does it. It is simply a joy to own, and designed with an eye to being something a collector will make use of every day, not just as an occasional reference.

To start off with, this book is a TOME.  Almost 725 pages, and high quality pages at that, with full color illustrations on a heavier than average paper stock.  Also, the catalog is spiral bound, not solid-bound, which makes for much greater flexibilty in keeping the catalog open to where you need it, something that many other catalogs simply are terrible at when trying to use for more than a quick reference. 

Another benefit for the North American collector, Unitrade licenses the Scott catalog numbering system as the base for its catalog database.  This means that for collectors of Canada here in the USA, there is no problem with catalog number translation at the basic level.  Canada #1 in Scott is Canada #1 in Unitrade.

But from that solid base, Unitrade takes its listings to a whole different level of information that even makes what Scott does with the USA Specialized catalog seem, in some ways, like nothing more than an intermediate level reference.   

The catalog starts with the issues of the Province of Canada in 1851, with the iconic 3-penny Beaver stamp. But we don't just get a beaver (hmm that doesn't sound right...), with a couple varieties as the Scott Specialized Catalog 1840-1940 provides. Oh no, that is just 3-penny Beaver 101, as you can see below. [Apologies for the scans, the pages of the catalog are slightly bigger than the bed of my scanner, and the spiral binding added additional difficulties in trying to capture as much of a page image as possible.]

Enough beavers to dam up a river in central Nunavut!  And there plenty more on the next pages with the Wove paper issue, with sixteen varieties of the 3-penny listed.

And it's not just the classic issues that get the kind of attention to varieties, color shades, plate flaws and so forth.   Fancy your Admirals??

or perhaps your tastes run to the more modern, such as the Landscape defins of the early 1970s

and even contemporary Canadian issues from the past couple decades get plenty of specialized love from the Unitrade editors...

Commemoratives aren't ignored either, with information on print runs, value of First Day Covers, and any varieties produced all provided.

Perhaps back of the book issues are more to your liking. Unitrade has you covered, and how

plus there is a great section on the private airmail issues from the 1920s as the new technology of aviation and its utilization to deliver the mails was adopted to help overcome the vastness of the Canadian wilderness

And of course there are the provincial issues for those provinces that were separate colonial administrations before their accession to the Dominion.  Unitrade provides full coverage for this material as well, including things like numeral cancellation rarity guides for each colony (and for early Canada as well)

And then there is of course Newfoundland, which has its own very dedicated collector base and issued its own stamps until it voted to join Canada (just barely) in a 1949 referendum.

Again Unitrade's level of detail on varieties is simply amazing, perhaps for some even overwhelming.

This catalog is simply a pure philatelic joy to own. If every nation had a specialized catalog that combined the level of detail on varieties and specialist material with the physical production quality that the Unitrade 2016 provides with its heavy full color pages and spiral binding, more collectors would definitely consider purchasing these catalogs. 

It is exactly because of catalogs such as Unitrade that I am such a fan of specialized stamp catalogs, and the information they contain provide collectors with so many new collecting vistas to explore once they complete (or near completion within their budget) the basic collection.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Additions To My Philatelic Library Part 1 - The fascinating world of Iranian Philately

So work has been completely crazy for me lately, working six day weeks with the holidays just around the corner.  My free time has been sparse to say the least (especially since I am also currently involved in Beta Testing a PC historical grand strategy game, which has been a blast!) But I haven't totally ignored my philatelic pursuits. And over the past couple weeks I have added a couple of excellent new specialized catalogs to my philatelic library. This post will discuss one of them, the Farahbakhsh Stamps Of Iran 2015 Catalog, and the next blog in the next few days will cover the 2016 edition of the Unitrade Specialized Catalog Of Canadian Stamps.

As someone who has a Masters, and worked on the PhD in history focusing on the history of Islamic Civilization, the philately of the Islamic World fascinates me. The stamps of Iran are fascinating. The classical issues of the Qajar era include lots of color, perforation and paper varieties, as well as so many forgeries and reprints as to scare many collectors away from these stamps.  A good solid specialized reference is therefore vital to navigating the minefield of classical Iranian philately, and the Farahbakhsh catalog is considered by many philatelists of Iran as the gold standard catalog of record for Iranian stamps.

Farahbakhsh himself was an amazing man. From the obituary published in 2013 by the Iran Philatelic Study Circle :

On Saturday 19 January 2013, one of the great men of Iranian Philately, Feridon Novin Farahbakhsh passed away. Through his catalogs and exhibits he expanded our knowledge as well as promoted Iranian philately. My he rest in peace.
Mr. Farahbakhsh was born into a 'stamp family' on 6 September 1930. His farth was a well-known stamp dealer in Iran and started his first business in 1925. In 1951 he left Iran to go to Germany to study engineering. In 1953 he returned to Iran and continued his studies at Teheran University until 1958 when he received his Bachelor degree in Language (German and English). At the same time he started his own stamp business.
In 1960 he was greatly influenced by the superb exhibit of Iranian classic stamps presented by late Dr. Mohammad Dadkhah. This inspired him to one day show such great collection at a World Stamp Exhibition. After many years of building his collection and exhibiting, he finally reached his dream by receiving the Grand Prix International at BRASILIANA 83 in Rio. He subsequently exhibited in many more international shows.
He was Iran's FIP National Commissioner between 1978 and 1987 and subsequently from 1992 until his passing. Mr. Farahbakhsh was also appointed as legal expert in stamp by Iran Justice Department. Besides the well known Iran Stamp Catalog he published every year, he also published "Early Lions Stamps of Iran",  "The early postmarks of Iran" and "The Postal Stationary of Iran".
The business has been continued by his son, as has the catalog, and the 2015 edition represents the catalog's 54th edition.

The book is published in Iran, and is bilingual in Farsi and English.  Being a book in Farsi, the page order is from right to left, the reverse of the page order in most Western books. If you are not used to this format (I am due to years of reading documents in Ottoman Turkish, Farsi and Arabic as a grad student) it may take some getting used to.  Prices are in Iranian Rials, which currently is trading at US$1.00 = IRR 29850.00 (!!!) so while prices look high, they are in a severely depreciated currency.

Below are some scans from different parts of the catalog just to give an idea of the depth and flavor of the catalog.

As you can see, a wealth of information available.  All in all worth the price (UKP 30 from Prinz UK/Vera Trinder, plus shipping, so about US$50 altogether.)  The only drawback I have is that my copy is missing about 20 pages from the end of the catalog, covering the stamp issues of late 2011- mid 2014. Don't know if it just a production flaw in my copy, or a problem with the entire run of published copies, but have sent an email to Prinz UK to notify them of the issue. 

In the end, the most important part for me, the coverage of the classical issues in all their glory, is all there and the missing pages do not make the catalog copy I received useless.

Now, time to start planning to build an Iranian collection!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The joy of technology - relaunching the blog

Unfortunately due to some technical gremlins in my Google account I can no longer access the account I had originally created this blog with.  So relaunching the blog in version 2.0.  Version 1.0 is still visible, and readers can reply to posts there but new content will be here.

Link to DJ CMH's Philately Blog 1.0