Friday, April 29, 2016

Reposting a bunch of my articles from my now defunct 1.0 Blog

Just a blog update I have gone ahead and reposted the more interesting blogs I wrote back in the second half of 2015 and originally published on version 1.0 of this blog.  Not sure how much longer that blog link will still exist and did not want to lose some of the posts there. So enjoy the reading, and on a couple I have provided updates to bring the stories into 2016.

Trouble in philatelic paradise???? The "Autumn of Discontent" for Scott and Gibbons...(Repost & Update)

This is a repost of a blog article from my 1.0 blog originally posted on 24 November 2015

For those of you who have visited either the Stampboards or Stamp Community forums in the last couple weeks, you may be aware that two of the most important names in the philatelic world, Stanley Gibbons and Amos Publishing (publisher of the Scott line of albums and catalogs in the USA) have both been having very trying periods.

In the case of Amos, it seems to be a massive technical failure that has completely eliminated their presence on the internet.  Going to the main Amos Advantage website only results in an error message and a note saying that the company hopes to be back online soon.  But for now, access to the products produced by Amos for the philatelic community via the publisher's own website is completely cut off.  With the holiday season rapidly approaching, hopefully these technical issues will be resolved soon, since I am sure that Amos, like most retailers, depend on holiday sales for a significant portion of their business.

While Amos grapples with internet gremlins of the first order, a much more potentially serious problem is growing for the British philatelic institution Stanley Gibbons.  A few years back new owners of the comany decided to take Gibbons into the world of Stocks, floating what had been a private company with what was, at the time, a fairly successful Initial Public Offer.  The management at Gibbons then began aggressively marketing the Gibbons company as an opportunity for investors in rare philatelic collectibles, promoting the idea that philatelic items could be a good alternative investment in an age of low returns due to the very low interest rates available in the West, and the uncertainty caused by the rapid gyrations of stock markets since the start of the 2008 Global economic crisis.

The year 2015 will likely go down as Gibbons "annus horribilis" in terms of its decision to travel down the investment pathway.  Investors have not invested to the degree imagined, and the auction market for the type of high-end UK and Commonwealth material that is the bedrock of Gibbons inventory has been flat at best and losing value in some areas.  Gibbons stock, which started the year with a value of over UKP 3.00 per share, has now fallen to  below UKP 0.90, a nearly 75% drop in value. 

The fundamentals of the Gibbons company do not augur well for a recovery any time soon. It's internet presence via the Bidstart marketplace (which Gibbons purchases a couple years back hoping to increase its internet-based retail presence) is dire and going through yet another revamping. Profits have not met market expectations, and the result has been a steeping downward slide in the value of the stock. Parts of the Gibbons empire, such as the Catalog business, remain vibrant, but that branch alone can not support a company whose marketplace ambitions may simply have been too big for the resources at its disposal.  Hopefully Gibbons will be able to turn things around, reorganize itself around its core philatelic business, and seriously rethink the idea of being a vehicle to promote stamps as an "investment opportunity" for those seeking a quick profit.  Hopefully this can be achieved without Gibbons having to be "liquidated" in wake of further profit losses, but its unclear just how much lower Gibbons' stock price can go before the marketplace starts to consider that the most likely option. 

For collectors in North America, there is a little solace in knowing that Amos Publishing is a privately-held company, so much less subject to the whims and pressures of a financial market that prioritizes short-term profit over long-term potential for growth.  As disconcerting as the longer than expected resolution of Amos' technical issues is, these issues should be resolvable in the end, and hopefully the financial cost to Amos will not have been too egregious. If Amos was in Gibbons' position as a publicly-traded company, the potential for investor flight gravely damaging the economic health of the company due to this technical crisis would probably have been immense.

I am not anti-capitalist by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes keeping a company privately owned is a better option for the long-term health of the company instead of exposing the company to the whims of the global financial marketplace. I personally think the experience of Gibbons as a publicly-traded company illustrates the great risks that any company involved in collectibles faces.  In the end, philately really should never be seen as an investment tool, but rather for what it is, an enjoyable hobby that, perhaps over the long term, can also be profitable to the collector with a bit of luck, patience and time.


Since the original posting of this article back in November, things for Gibbons have gone from bad to worse.  Its share price on the London Stock Exchange is now less than a quarter of what it was in November, hovering around UKP 0.20 or so.  The management team has had to turn to stock owners for an infusion of capital, and there have been more than a few departures from the management team (some I will wager jumping with golden parachutes as is common in the world of investment capitalism these days). 

The Gibbons catalogue line is still being produced (they just released a brand new title Arabia covering the Arabian Peninsula, a welcome addition as this is an area of the philatelic world with little specialized guidance available, especially outside the British-influenced areas along the Persian Gulf) but their Bidstart marketplace looks set to be wound down, and overall the company seems to be on more than a bit of life support at the present.  Hopefully for the futue of the hobby the Gibbons name and its essential production of catalogues survives these troubling times, but it still looks very touch and go as far as the current organizational setup of Gibbons is concerned.

The "democratization" of philatelic retail - the impact of the internet on the philatelic marketplace....(Repost)

This is a repost of a blog posting I originally made on the 1.0 version of this blog on 28 October 2015

Over at the Stamp Community Forum there has been a lively debate going on regarding the impact of ebay and other online marketplaces upon the business side of the hobby.  The discussion started with the question "Can dealers compete with ebay?" and has ranges across several related topics, as is the want of a forum thread that is already eight pages long.

My reply to the question was that the question was asking the wrong thing. It's not a question of dealers competing with ebay, but rather "Should dealers consider using ebay as a platform for their business"  Ebay itself is simply a tool, a digital marketplace where buyers and sellers can meet in cyberspace and exchange goods.

Which raises a separate question. Is there a difference in the terms dealer and seller? 

A question of semantics to be sure. I would say anyone who is offering to sell stamps, in any marketplace, is a dealer.  Others would seem to prefer to "rarify" the term dealer by restricting it only to those who make a professional living from their business. For those who only do a little business on the side, they would argue that -seller- is a better term.  And in the end, the "sellers" on ebay are making it much more difficult for many "dealers" to make a living.

This observation then leads to the actual heart of the issue at question - the decline in value of most stamps over the past decade.  And here it would be wise to not separate the two groups into "dealers" and "sellers" because they are all doing the same thing : offering stamps for sale to buyers.

If we think about how the business of philately operated say back in the 1980s (yes I am sure that is ancient history for some readers of this blog, who may not have even been alive then.  Me I was a teenager, working on my stamp collection while listening to Bon Jovi, Miami Sound Machine and Heart on the radio). You had your local stamp dealers if you lived in a large enough metropolitan area. You had dealers who advertised in publications such as Linn's Stamp News.  But unless you travelled a great deal around the country, it was often difficult to find stamp dealers who might have the material you are looking for.  You could write to those dealers who placed ads in the various philatelic publications, but in general the total number of people selling stamps in the 1980s was fairly small, and in general the demand for stamps equaled the supply available (or seemingly only available) through dealers.  In that retail environment, most stamps tended to rise in price slowly, and some that would become -hot- issues could rise very fast very quickly, as anyone who remembers the US stamp bubble of the late 1970s can attest.  Philatelic retail was, I would argue, controlled by an "oligarchy" of dealers, many of whom were quite chummy with each other and would rarely move to undersell their product verses a competing dealer.

Then came the internet, and all the rules of philatelic retail were changed. Philatelic retail became "democratized" and the benefit has been to the buyer at the expense of the dealer.

Today, the ability of the buyer to "comparison shop" between different dealers of stamps is so much, much greater than it was in the 1980s.  And, with the ease the internet provides to allow anyone to become a purveyor of stamps (compared to the days when most dealers had huge overhead in the cost of a shop, the cost of advertising, etc) it means the potential for a large number of retailers to join the marketplace now existed  The result is that today there is now a lot greater supply of stamps in the marketplace for purchase than there was in the 1980s.  What might have been 20 dealers in the USA offering stamp X for sale via local channels and, perhaps, an advertisement in a national publication, now has become 200 dealers of offering the same stamp, and the buyer can compare prices with just a few keyboard clicks.

The one problem with this of course is that demand for many stamps has not kept pace with the increase in availability of supply in the marketplace.  This is especially true for the "meat and potatoes" type of stamps - those stamps that were always worth more than being packet material back in the 1980s, but they were not so rare as to be nearly unobtainable unless you had deep pockets.  It turns out that these "meat and potato" stamps exist in sufficient quantity that if you have more sellers offering to sell the item than buyers to buy them, the value of the stamp is going to decrease in the marketplace.  This is especially the case for the stamps of Western Europe and North America where demand is weak due to the lack of new collectors of the stamps of the West and the vast quantities of most stamps printed at time of issue. Many stamps are now selling at a percent below face value in the marketplace because they are so common and demand is so weak for them. Countries that were -hot- in the 1980s like Germany have in particular been hit hard. A perusal of the Scott Catalogs and comparing prices clearly illustrates this - most of the "meat and potato" stamps have either remained stagnant or declined in catalog value over the past decade.

Meanwhile those stamps that always have been rare due to limited quantity in desired conditions continue to this day to increase in value because there will never be enough supply to meet demand. High quality pre-1930 USA issues, for example, continue to rise in value if they are in above average condition.  And of course one can not forget the impact of booms and bubbles in in philately. While the Chinese stamp market did decline a bit over the past couple years due to China's own internal economic weakness, the days when Chinese stamps of the pre-1990 era sold just above face value are never going to come back either, as it seems the supply of these issues is much less than the demand even when you factor out speculation.

Dealers who do not make use of sites such as ebay, Delcampe, Zillions of Stamps and others here I think really are making a grave business error. These platforms provide an audience of millions of potential collectors from around the world that the dealer would never have been able to reach had the structure of the retail trade remained the same as it was in the 1980s.  The cold hard reality is that the marketplace is now much, much bigger than it was, and as the amount of supply has grown faster than the demand for stamps from collectors, the laws of supply and demand work to the benefit of the buyer. And this will remain the case until a new equilibrium between supply and demand is reached.  It is a whole new retail ballgame in philately, and the days of the stationary retail brick-and-mortar stamp shop are probably numbered. A dealer with the cost of overhead such as owning a retail space is going to find it difficult to compete with a dealer selling items from the comfort of his or her home.

RIP Marvin Frey...and the question of sourcing stamps for your collection. (Repost)

This is a repost of a blog article from my 1.0 blog originally posted on 18 September 2015

Heard the sad news earlier this week that the owner of Bellmore Philatelics in Massapequa Park, New York, Marvin Frey, had passed away.  I have been dealing with Bellmore off and on for many years. I was a huge fan of their "in home approval service" where they would send out an assortment of old albums, dealer cards etc and let you pick the items you wanted at a percent of Scott catalog value.  For me it was a wonderful way to re-activate my collecting interest after several years away, and most of my French Colonial purchases made over the past few years have been via Bellmore.

Alas, with the passing of Mr Frey, Bellmore announced that it will no longer be providing its approval service.

For me this brings up a question that all collectors have to deal with. What is the best way to source items for your collection?  These days, the internet of course provides the collector with options to purchase items that simply did not exist before the Internet Revolution. Before you were limited to what local dealers (or dealers within your country) could offer, and comparison price shopping was at the same time quite difficult.

Today though the collector is truly blessed with a cornucopia of options, from general auction sites such as eBay to collectibles markets such as Delcampe (my favorite) or Zillions of Stamps, to all sorts of individual dealers who do maintain strong internet presences posting their pricing and stock lists for all to see. There are also several approval services, my favorite being the approval branch of British auction company Universal Philatelic Auctions. They provide amazing customer service and work very hard to send you selections to look over that fit your collecting interests.

In some ways today is definitely the best of times to be a collector, since it is now much easier to find the items that you want for your collection AND be able to compare prices to find the best deal to fit your budget.

Still, I am going to miss receiving those approval selections from Bellmore. It was a fun way to pass an afternoon and allowed me to exactly see the condition of the stamps I was going to purchase. Sadly it's increasingly rare to find approval services that give you the luxury of viewing at home first before you buy. Pictures on the web of front and back of stamps help, but there is nothing like seeing the actual stamp in person before you buy to make you feel confident you are purchasing what you want, and of course there are lots of horror stories about items listed on eBay or other sites that turn out not to be as described. But as the excellent service from UPA shows, stamp dealers that provide approvals still do exist.

A what if of philately...the US overseas possessions....(Repost)

This is a repost of an article originally posted on v. 1.0 of this blog on 24 August 2015

The most recent post to JKJblue's excellent blog deals with the stamps of post-partition Samoa.  This of course means the stamps issued for the western half of the Samoa archipelago, as from the time of its annexation by the United States in 1900, the eastern half of the archipelago used (and still uses) the postage stamps of the United States. 

This is not an exception for American overseas terrtories.  With the exception of the Philippines, which did issue its own postage stamps during the United States administration of 1899-1946 (likely because the Philippines had its own currency at the time of annexation, the Philippine Peso, and that currency was retained by the US Administration), and the overprints issued in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish-American war of 1898 for Guam and Puerto Rico, American overseas terrritories have used the postage stamps of the United States from the time they came under American rule.

One of the most beautiful stamps issued during the US Administration of the Philippines, the 1932 2c Mount Mayon pictorial (image courtesy

USA 1c Benjamin Franklin stamp of 1894 overprinted -GUAM- for use on that island after its capture by US forces during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Regular USA issues would be used on the island after 1901.  (image courtesy

Similarly, after the US annexation of Hawaii in 1898 separate postal issues would be superceded by regular United States issues in 1901.

1899 stamp issued by the US administration in Hawaii, the high value in a set of three stamps that would be the last separate issue for Hawaii before its stamps were replaced by regular US stamps. (image courtesy

The same fate would befall the Western Virgin Islands after they passed from Danish to American rule in 1917 when the US government bought the islands from Denmark.

Danish West Indies stamp depicting King Christian X, one of a set of eight issued in 1915 that would be the last stamps released before the transfer to American sovereignty in 1917 and the end of the Western Virgin Islands separate philatelic identity (image courtesy

I always thought it was a pity that the overseas external territories *cough colonies* of the United States lost their philatelic identity so quickly after they came under American administration. As the Mount Mayon stamp from the Philippines shows, the potential for some truly beautiful stamps that depicted these, to Americans in the contiguous 48 states, exotic lands governed by the United States would have been great. 

The Postal Service would, to a degree, do this with the Overseas Territories issues of 1937, although Guam and American Samoa were not given any recognition in this series.

The 1937 External Territories issue of the US Postal Service, honoring Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, but NOT Guam or American Samoa. (image courtesy

A lovely set, isn't it?  Now imagine what *could* have been had the external territories been given postal autonomy to issue their own stamps under US Postal Service oversight. never came to pass. Alaska and Hawaii acceded to Statehood in 1959.  While Puerto Rico became a Commonwealth/Estado Libre Asociado in 1952, it did not regain postal autonomy, and given recent events on the island, the likelihood it will become a full-fledged state in the next decade seem quite high. And the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam remain external territories, with varying degrees of self-government, and (non-voting) representation in the US House of Representatives. And they continue to use regular United States postage stamps.

On a similar note, I think it is also sad that the five French overseas departments (départements d'outre-mer) also have lost philatelic autonomy. No more separate issues for Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Reunion or, more recently, Mayotte. The distinctive cultures of these five territories produced some gorgeous stamps during their philatelic lifetimes, and while the French have issued stamps depicting scenes or personalities from these regions from time to time over the past sixty years, something I think was definitely lost to philately with the end of their philatelic independence.

Iconic low value stamp from the 1947 pictorial issue of Guadeloupe.  Alas this would be the final set of stamps issued specifically for the island, as stamps of France itself would replace Guadeloupe stamps shortly thereafter. (from author's collection)

Stamp issued by France in 1970 depicting the Rocher du Diamant in the overseas department of Martinique.  Martinique, like Guadeloupe, issued its last stamps in 1947. A beautiful stamp to be sure, but only one of a handful of stamps released in the past nearly seventy years depicting the overseas departments (image courtesy

Of course, philatelic independence can also go horribly wrong, as the recent philatelic histories of the external realms of the Kingdom of the Netherlands - Curacao, Aruba, Saint Maarten, and the Caribbean Netherlands communes of Saba, Saint Eustatius and Bonaire, will attest. Philatelic independence for these external territories had in the past five years led to their selling their philatelic souls to a philatelic agency that issues stamps in their name with often only little relevance to the local cultures. But this is a recent phenomenon, and in particular I always found the stamps of Aruba in particular to be gorgeous until it made its bargain with the philatelic devil. 

Aruba 1993 Folklore issue, from the days when Aruba's philatelic production was conservative, relevant to the island, and the stamp designs in general of a very high quality. (image courtesy

Aruba 2014 Classic Cars issue, released by the philatelic agency the Aruba Post Office sold its soul to.  Higher-than necessary face values, little cultural resonance to the island, and less that stellar artwork.(image courtesy

So perhaps this is one of those double-edged sword issues, since the temptation by almost all postal services these days semes to be to to use their philatelic programs as cash-cows, cashing in on the popular topics and generally ignoring the culture, history and society of the countries or territories the stamps purport to represent.

Are Philatelic "Rogue States" helpful or harmful to stamp collecting???? (Repost)

This is a repost from my orignial blog posted on 8 August 2015

Over at his excellent Big Blue 1840-940 blog as part of his post on the classic era stamps of St Vincent, jkjblue discusses some interesting data he crunched comparing stamp output to population for modern issues (he based his study on the issues of 1980 to 2012). His results were quite interesting based on the number of stamps released per 1 million people in population

"The Top 51
(Total Stamp issues 1980-2012 normalized for one million population )

1. Grenada Grenadines – 4410/.008* = 551,250
2. Grenadines of St Vincent – 3153/.009* = 350,333
3. Nevis – 2753/.009 = 305,888
4. Palau – 3256/.019 = 171,368
5. Antigua & Barbuda – 4423/.064 = 69,109
6. Grenada – 5528/.1 = 55,280
7. St Vincent – 6586/.121 = 54,429
8. Dominica – 3467/.065 = 53,338
9. Marshall Islands – 3056/.066 = 46,303
10. St Thomas & Prince – 4363/.155 = 28,148 
11. Micronesia – 2408/.13 = 18,523.
12. Maldives – 4011/.3 = 13,370
13. Guyana – 7606/.7 = 10,865
14. Gambia – 6293/1.1 = 5,720
15. Guinea-Bissau – 5855/1.2 = 4,879
16. Comoros – 2535/.6 = 4,225
17. Liberia – 4990/2.6 = 1,919
18. Guinea – 8750/7.5 = 1,166
19. Mongolia – 2591/2.6 = 996.5
20. Sierra Leone – 5204/5.3 = 982
21. Central Afr. Rep. – 3205/3.4 =942.6
22. Togo – 3202/4.3 =744.6
23. New Zealand – 2178/3.7 = 588.6
24. Nicaragua – 2430/4.4 = 552.3
25. Libya – 2259/5.0 = 451.8
26. Mozambique – 5569/16.5 = 337
27. Cuba – 3189/11.1 = 287.3
28. Portugal – 2330/9.9 = 235.4
29. Belgium – 2283/10.4 = 219.5
30. Hungary – 2197/10.2 = 215.4
31. Ghana -3372/18.1 = 186.3
32. North Korea – 4128/22.2 = 186
33. Cambodia – 2110/11.6 = 181.9
34. Australia – 3188/17.9 = 178.1
35. Tanzania – 4806/31.3 = 154
36. Romania – 2992/22.6 = 132.4
37. Uganda – 2742/21.6 = 126.9
38. Taiwan – 2442/22.1 = 110.5
39. Venezuela – 2175/23.3 = 93.3
40. Spain – 2297/39.2 = 58.6
41. France – 3080/59.0 = 52.2
42. Bulgaria – 2213/42.9 = 51.6
43. Philippines – 3481/68.6 = 50.7
44. Great Britain – 2741/59.1 = 46.4
45. Japan – 4870/126.2 = 38.6
46. Thailand 2305/60.6 = 38.1
47. Vietnam – 2567/77.3 = 33.2
48. USSR/Russia – 3030/147.1* = 20.6
49. Brazil – 2296/157.1 = 14.6
50. United States – 3518/281.4 = 12.5
51. China – 2915/1,246.9 = 2.4"

Source : Big Blue 1840-1940 Blog

The top 20 nations are of course nations that have huge stamp outputs and small populations, and are dominated by nations represented by a few (in-)famous philatelic agents who release issues in the names of these nations depicting all sorts of topical themes, from Cats and Dogs to Pop Stars and everything (and anything) in between.

To a large percent of the stamp collecting community, these -stamps- are little more than glorified wallpaper being peddled under often questionable circumstances with little relevance to the nations they purport to represent, all in the quest to part (mainly topical) collectors from their coin.

Exploitative stamp issues released with an eye to cashing in on collector interest is of course nothing new. The United States Columbian Exposition Commemorative of 1893, an issue of 16 stamps in a range of values from US$0.01 to US$5,00 (which in 2015 dollar purchasing power, would be well over US$130 today!), resulted in howls of protest from the philatelic media of the day, and the issue would not really begin to sell over face value for the high values until the 1930s when a whole new cadre of collectors entered the hobby in wake of both the Great Depression and the high profile philatelic activities of both a British King (George V) and an American President (Franklin Roosevelt).

In the 1970s the American Philatelic Society, which at one time included global new issue listing in its journal The American Philatelist, created the "Black Blot Program" program to list new issues its editors felt were exploitative to the collector community, often issues of a topical nature from developing nations in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Basin and the Caribbean.  In the end the APS would end listing global new issues altogether, and the Black Blot program was soon just a memory.  Interestingly enough, many of those 1970s issues that received Black Blots have gone on to appreciate in value somewhat more (and sometime very much more) than their face value at release than stamps whose release were not seen as a threat to the philatelic wallet.

Since then the tide of new issues has truly become an antidiluvian flood of issues, and not just from countries who have "sold their philatelic souls to agents." Japan now regularly tops 300 stamps per year, while nations as respectable as New Zealand, the United States, Australia and Great Britain routinely have more than 100, and total cost due to much higher face values means keeping up with new issues can be a challenge financially for many collectors. A large percent of the collector community shun modern-day issues as a result.

At the same time though, if there was not a demand for the -wallpaper- issues of Saint Vincent, Central African Republic and the like, why do nations continue to allow these agents to issue stamps in their name.  There must be some benefit to at least someone in the issuing nation (even if not to the budget of the issuing nation or the general population as a whole) and the market must be large enough to keep demand for these issues growing. There must be a large enough cadre of "casual collectors" purchasing this material because the images on the releases appeal to the them enough to pay hard cash for the stamps. What perecent of this group moves beyond the occasional purchase of the latest Formula 1 stamps from Mozambique or Obama stamps from Saint Vincent is hard to qualify,

In the end collectors collect what they like, and they determine what they want to collect.  As I have been working on French colonial issues the last couple years, I have also begun collecting stamps from the independent successor states.  While one can often quibble that there was no reason for, say, Cameroun to honor Space Achievements as it did on a series of issues in the late-1960s, I would argue that at least in comparison to much of the production today (both by countries represented by agencies and nations that still control their new issue programs) the quality of design was much higher (many of these issues were produced in France by the French post office printers by multi-color engraving, and are really stunning pieces of artwork). And in comparison to face value at time of release, some of these "international" topical issues (though not all, to be fair) have appreciated quite nicely in the intervening decades.

Cameroun's 1968 Satellite Communication issue. Directly relevant to Cameroun, not really, but design-wise quite beautiful and a nice example of the growing "internationalization" of culture in the 1960s.

In today's interconnected global village, the idea that there are topics that are "irrelevant" to certain societies is an increasing difficult assertion to maintain.  Vintage American films, Japanese anime, British pop music are as much enjoyed and appreciated in Freetown, Sierra Leone or Georgetown, Guyana as they are in any Western city.  The number of stamps issues per year may make it difficult for collectors raised on the traditional -collect the country- model to keep up with, but personally I do not think these philatelic "rogue states" are harmful in and of themselves,  unless those buying the issues believe they are making an investment that will pay off in the future.  Stamps only are a good investment in terms of leisure time to relax and discover the world. Financially a collector *might* make a financial gain from the expenses put into the hobby over time, with a bit of luck. But more often than not that does not happen. However, I've never really seen any advertising from these agencies touting their productions as an investment tool, something that can not be said for other retail branches within the world of organized philately.

Personally I do not really collect the post-1980 generation of stamps produced by agencies for these "rogue states" - their design ethos for me is just not appealing - but I can see how they can become a "gateway" to attract new collectors into the hobby. I think perhaps a bit less "pooh-pooh"-ing of the issues and a bit more outreach to these casual collectors to show them the vast variety and diversity of the hobby would be a wiser approach when these issues come up for discussion.

My current catalogue library...and my love of specialized catalogues! (Repost & Update)

As my last post indicates, I have quite a few specialized catalogues in my collection. I LOVE specialized catalogues. Part of the reason is due to the sheer number of varieties you often find listed, which makes shopping for stamps all the more fun if you have the chance to find a variety that is only listed in specialized catalogues in the stock of a dealer who does not know.  To quote Glen Stephens, the moderator of collection forum Stampboards, "Knowledge is POWER".  Another reason I love specialized catalogues is that it lets me set up my albums to include spaces for all known varieties. No, I may not ever own many of them, but one can always dream, and there is always the thrill of the chase.

And finally, for collectors in the USA, the realization that Scott does not list many items that would be considered basic issues in other countries is a frustration that only the overseas specialized catalogues can redress, at least until such time as Scott finally provides listings in its Classic Specialized Catalogue. One of my current bugaboos with Scott is its complete failure to list the Parcel Post stamps of Algeria.  First released in 1899 (twenty-five years before the first Algerian-specific postage stamps) the Parcel Post (or as the French say, Colis Postaux) issues have a strong following in France and are considered a basic part of any Algerian collection, and the Maury catalogue lists almost 220 major number varieties (and lots of minor varieties to boot!)

A selection of Algerian parcel post stamps from a Delcampe listing. Just don't spend time looking in the Scott catalogue for them! 

The oddest thing about this Algerian parcel post question is that Scott DOES list similar parcel post issues for mainland France, which were added to the Classic Specialized catalogue in I believe 2012. So for Scott not to list the Algerian issues is even more anachronistic now than it was when the French parcels were not listed either.  Scott editors, if you read this, please consider listing these issues - there is plenty of market data available!

So what do I have in my library currently. Here is the current listing :

  1. Scott 2015 Classic Specialized Catalogue 1840-1940
  2. A complete set of 2012 Scott General Catalogues - all 6 volumes
  3. 2009 Scott US Specialized Catalogue (I will probably get a newer version this year)
  4. Maury Timbres de France 2011 edition
  5. Maury Timbres de l'ex-empire français en Afrique 2006 edition (I wanted to update to the 2014 edition but it has gone out of print already!)
  6. Maury Timbres des bureaux et anciennes colonies français en Europe et Asie, 2011 edition
  7. Maury Timbres des DOM-TOM 2009 edition (catalogue for the current Departments and Territoires d'Outre-Mer, except St Pierre & Miquelon and French Antarctica, which are in #8)
  8. Maury Timbres des Principautes et Terres Polaires, 2011 edition
  9. İsfila Türk Pulları Kataloğu 2014 edition
  10. GJ Catálogo Especializado de Sellos de la Republica Argentina 2009 edition
  11. Stanley Gibbons Specialized Australia Catalogue, 9th edition
  12. Stanley Gibbons Specialized New Zealand Catalogue, 5th edition
  13. Stanley Gibbons Specialized Brunei-Malaysia-Singapore Catalogue, 4th edition
  14. Afinsa Catalogo de Sellos Postais : Portugal, Açores e Madeira, 2005 edition
  15. Afinsa Catalogo de Sellos Postais : Portugal, Açores e Madeira 2000-2012 supplement
  16. Afinsa Catalogo de Sellos Postais : Colonias Portuguesas, 2011 edition.
Unfortunately the Afinsa catalogues are no longer produced as the publisher went bankrupt in wake of the Afinsa Ponzi Scheme Scandal but copies can be found in the second-hand market with a little searching.  Maury no longer lists catalogues on its own website, my guess is all the latest editions are out of print as well, though again the aftermarket will have copies.

Over time I am sure my collection of specialized catalogues will grow. I desperately want a copy of the Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps but the current 2015 edition is out of print, though the 2016 edition should be available in late 2015 and that will be purchased this year!

EDIT : Since the original post my collection has grown and now also includes :
  1. Brusden-White Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalog : Kangaroos, 2015 Edition
  2. Brusden-White Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalog : King George V, 2014 Edition
  3. Brusden-White Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalog : King George VI, 2015 Edition
  4. Brusden-White Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalog : Queen Elizabeth II 1952-1956, 2015 Edition
  5. Brusden-White Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalog : Postage Dues,  2014 Edition
  6. OBP Belgium 2016, 61e, 2 volumes (vol 1 - Belgium, vol 2 - Ex Colonies)
  7. RHM Catalogo de Selos do Brasil 2013, 58e
  8. Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps, 2016 edition
  9. Stanley Gibbons Collect Channel Islands & Isle of Man, 2016 edition
  10. Filatelica Chilena, Catalogo Especializado Chile 2006
  11. China Stamp Society Specialized Catalog of China to 1949, 2016 edition
  12. Michel Germany Specialized 2014, 44e, vol 1 1849-1945
  13. Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise Stamp Catalogue, 2015 edition
  14. Philatelica Hungarica 2016-2017 Hungary Specialized
  15. Stanley Gibbons Specialized India Catalogue, 4th edition
  16. Zonnenbloem Indonesia 2016, 54e
  17. Farahbakhsh Stamps Of Iran, 54e, 2015 
  18. Sassone Italy Specialized 2016 v. 1, 75e
  19. Hibernian Ireland 2014, 2e
  20. NVPH Netherlands and Former Colonies 2016 Speciale Catalogus, 75e
  21. Campbell Patterson Specialized Catalogue of New Zealand Stamps, 2015 edition
  22. Tracinda South Africa Stamp Colour Catalogue 2013, 32e
  23. Ciardi Catalogo Especializado de los Sellos del Uruguay, 2006 ed
You may be thinking wow how can he use all these catalogues, most are not in English!  Well, I fortunately have fair to good reading ability in nine different languages (French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Turkish, Arabic and Persian) as a result of years of training as a graduate student in Islamic History at Ohio State.  But, I find that most catalogues are organized in such a way that someone with little foreign language knowledge can, with the help of online translators, get the main jist of what the catalogues are saying.