Monday, July 25, 2016

Specialist Catalogue Review for AUSTRALIA (I)

Catalogue Title : The Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalog
Publisher : Brusden-White, Broadway, New South Wales, Australia
Editions In Latest Revision :

  • Kangaroos, 5th ed., 2013 (covers the Kangaroo & Map Definitives from 1913 to 1948 and essays for first Australian federal stamps)
  • George V, 4th ed., 2014 (covers the George V Profile Definitives, followed by commemoratives and airmail stamps released during the reign of George V).
  • George VI, 3rd ed, 2015 (covers definitives and commemoratives of this reign)
  • Elizabeth II 1952-1966, 3rd ed, 2015 (covers the imperial currency era before decimalization)
  • Postage Dues, 2nd ed, 2014 (covers both Federal Dues and the Colonial Dues of Victoria and New South Wales).

Covers of the Five volumes released to date in the latest revision of the Brusden-Whites begun in 2013.

Format : Soft Cover, pages 170mmx215mm, black & white illustrations
Language of Text : English
Pages :
  • Kangaroos, 214
  • George V, 452
  • George VI, 268
  • Elizabeth II 1952-1966, 364
  • Postage Dues, 216
Price (per publisher's website dealers often sell at lower prices) :
  • Kangaroos, Au$95.00
  • George V, Au$125.00
  • George VI, Au$95.00
  • Elizabeth II 1952-1966, Au$105.00
  • Postage Dues, Au$95.00
Reviewer's Note : Other volumes covering other aspects of Australian Philately of the Federal Era were last published in the period 2001-2003 and are still available. In particular, the Decimal Issues since 1966 are covered in a three-volume set (1966-1975, 1976-1991 and 1992-2001) which Brusden-White sells for Au$150.00 for the set of three. There are also volumes covering booklets and pre-decimalization postal stationery. See publisher website for more details. No information as to potential new editions of these volumes have been released as of present.

Introduction & Historical Background

With one of the most active collector communities on the planet, and amazing web resources such as the excellent stamp forum providing an excellent platform for exchanging information on research, Australia is one of the most popular philatelic areas of the world to collect. For collectors of Australia after the introduction of common stamps for the entire Federation in 1913, the Brusden-White Catalogues are the clear catalogue of record and a gold mine of information for collectors interested in the finer details of Australian stamps, from shades to plate varieties and much, much more.

There is one caveat to all this. With the exception of the Postage Due stamps of Victoria and New South Wales the Brusden-White catalogues do NOT include coverage of the stamps of the separate Australian colonies before the establishment of a common set of definitives for all of Australia in 1913. Collectors interested in this vast area of Australian philately have alternatives, but nothing of the depth of coverage that Brusden-White provides for the Federal Era.

The evolution of Australia into the modern nation it would become in the twentieth century is an amazing story in and of itself. Although Aboriginal peoples have lived in Australia for tens of thousands of years, the continent itself would remain, with a couple exception, outside the growing network of international trade and commerce, with the continent being seen as a land of few resources and often hostile native communities.

All that would change in 1788 with the arrival of a party of British convicts sentenced to transport to the other side of the world. Until the 1770s, the transport of convicts had tended to focus on North America, but with the establishment of an independent United States in 1783 that option was no longer viable to the British justice system. At the same time, a series of British explorers, including the great Captain James Cook, visited the eastern coast of Australia and noted the fecundity of the area and its climate. Hence the decision to send convicts to Australia in 1787, arriving at what would eventually become the city of Sydney in January 1788.

Over the next fifty years a combination of convict settlement and free immigration would lead to the establishment of six British colonies on the continent. While at first the economy would be dominated by pastorial sheep raising, the discovery of gold in the colony of Victoria in 1851, in wake of the great California rush, led to a massive influx of immigrants and a realization of the great natural resource wealth of the continent. Rapid population growth in the second half of the nineteenth century due to immigration and high birth rates among new settlers would rapidly transform the continent into a new Western settler society. The native Aboriginal population was, for the most part, treated with contempt with no rights to the land their ancestors had inhabited for centuries, and would soon either be pushed deep into the Australian outback or become wards of the colonial states.

Politically, the rapid growth of the nineteenth century would lead to self government for most of the colonies by 1860, with major political reforms expanding the right to vote for most Australian males of European descent by the end of the century. By the 1880s there were also many political voices in Australia calling for the separate colonies to unite to form a new single Australian dominion within the British Empire. But not all colonial leaders were keen on ceding powers to a new central government, and the debate over Federation would last for over two decades before finally becoming a reality in 1899. Royal assent to the creation of an Australian federation came in 1900, and on 1 January 1901 the Commonwealth of Australia was born.

By the time of Federation in 1900 Australia was one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. But that wealth always rested on the shaky foundations of the export of raw materials in exchange for imports of consumer goods from Britain and other advanced industrial nations. Economic downturns in the 1870s and 1890s illustrated the weakness, but while the growth of Australian population would lead to some industrial development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the dependence on raw material production remained the basis of Australian economic growth. The Great Depression, and the collapse of global trade which resulted from the tariff wars among the major advanced industrial nations would hit Australia very hard, and it was only with the outbreak of World War II and the sudden increased demand for Australian resources that would return a degree of prosperity to Australia.

Today Australia still remains highly dependent on the export of raw materials, especially minerals, to fuel its economic growth. Its industrial base remains small, and while most Australians today work in the service sectors of the economy, Australians still remain captive to world markets for their goods. A period of high demand in the 1990s and 2000s would fuel a great boom in Australia, but this would end in the mid-2010s as developing economies, China in particular, experienced economic turbulence that reduced demand for Australian resource. The great challenge for Australia in the twenty-first century will be to find a way to maintain economic growth without being so heavily dependent on raw material exports.

Review Of The Catalogue and Comparison with Scott

Comparing the Brusden-White catalogues with Scott's Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue, never mind the main Standard Catalogue, is not really fair. Scott's Classic specialized does a fairly good job with basic differences between stamps as regards shades, perforation varieties and watermark varieties (though this depends on the issue). Where Scott really can not compete is with all the plate varieties, constant flaws and deep specialized material that Brusden-White provides.

Scott 2015 Classic Specialized Catalogue listings for Australia, first full page.

For the Elizabeth II era however, Scott only has the basic listings in the Standard Catalogue, so anyone seeking specialist information will need to turn elsewhere.

The Brusden-White Catalogues are all structured in a similar manner. The one major exception is that the Kangaroo and George V sideface definitive series are organized by face value, then by release date of the variety. This is not necessarily a bad thing, in that it helps new collectors of these issues with all the information on a face value stamps in one neat block rather than across several sections. The George V commemorative and Airmail issues, as well as all the issues of the George VI and pre-Decimal Elizabeth II era, are organized chronologically by release date.

Structurally the listings in Brusden-White all follow a similar layout. For the purpose of this blog post, I've chosen to use the listings for the 1/2d Kangaroo issue of 1913-1915 as the example.

Page One of the listings in Brusden-White for the 1/2 d Kangaroo Stamp

First part of all listings provides technical information regarding printer, paper and watermark used, number of plates, typical usage of the stamp, quantities printed and info as to what replaced it (or for commemoratives, quantity sold).

Following this is the listing for varieties of the base stamp, varieties that are not specific to any single plate printed of the issue. This includes color shades, watermark varieties, perforation variteties, printing method varieties, and information regarding things such as perforated officials and the various cancelled-to-order varieties produced.

Second page of listings for varieties on the 1/2d Kangaroo in Brusden-White, focusing on plate flaws and varieties

Following the listing for varieties of the base stamp common across different plates are listings for plate flaws and varieties specific to individual plates. Australian philately has been greatly enriched by the massive amount of research done by collectors, especially of the Kangaroos and George V sidefaces, in identifying constant plate flaws. Many collectors may find such information as flyspecking overkill, but for many collectors the hunt for plate varieties adds a whole new dimension to their collections.

Graphic depiction of thevarious plate flaws listed in the cataloge for the 1/2d Kangaroo

Numerous black and white illustrations of the plate flaws accompany the listings for each value, greatly aiding the new collector who is interested in this aspect of Australian philately.

Endnotes providing various nuggets of information regarding the various listings for the 1/2d Kangaroo

Finally, a section of notes and further details are provided as endnotes, and often contain a wealth of information regarding issues.

And that is basically how each stamp issue is listed in the catalogues, making the Brusden-Whites fairly easy to use for even the novice collector to the field of specialized Australian philately.  The only thing to remember is that the Kangaroo and Geroge V sideface listings are arranged by face value first, while the remainder of the catalogue is generally chronological by release date.

Conclusion :

For many collectors, the level of detail and heavy focus on plate varieties that Brusden-White provides in its catalogues may be overkill and perhaps not worth the high price that each volume tends to run. However, the Brusden-Whites really have become the catalogue of record for Australian issues from 1913 to 1966. Hopefully new editions of the Decimal era catalogues will be forthcoming.

The other issue that many collectors may find problematic is the lack of coverage for the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century. The Brusden-Whites are clearly a labor of love by the contributors and editors of the catalogues, and given the sheer number and complexity of pre-Federation colonial Australian issues, may just end up being beyond the scope of what the catalogue will eventually provide.

However, Brusden-White is not the only specialized Australian catalogue one can refer to, as I will elaborate further in my next post.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Vacation time..and two new acquisitions to the specialized catalogue library for Poland and Ethiopia

I had hoped to publish at least one more catalogue review this month, but alas real life work interveneed.  And tomorrow I leave for a 2-week vacation out of town, so there will be no updates until probably the first week of August.

In the meantime, I just received today a copy of volume 1 of the Fischer Katalog Polskich Znakow Pocztowych recently released in Poland, covering the main stamp issues of the Interwar Era, the Socialist Republic period and the modern Polish state.  Will hope to get volume 2 soon, which covers regionals such at Danzig and the German Plebiscites, the General Gouvernment issues from the Nazi Occupation, and other related material.

The new edition of Fischer's Poland Specialized Catalogue, volume 1.

I am also waiting for delivery from Italy the four-volume specialized catalogue of Ethiopian stamps and postal history up to 1974 published by Vaccari. They were on sale at Vaccari direct for about Euro 80, which for a four volume set is very cheap.  Two volumes deal with the stamps, with the second volume dealing with Postal History post-Italian occupation, while a third volume covers the classical postal history from the mid-19th century to 1936, and a fourth volume of addendum and furhter notes and updates.

The two main volumes of Vaccari's Ethiopia Specialized Catalogue

So lots of material in the pipeline coming for later this summer here on my blog. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Specialized Catalogue Review for ARGENTINA

The Guillermo Jalil Specialized Catalogue of the Postage Stamps of Argentina 1856-2009

Catalogue Title : Catalogo Especializado de Sellos Postales de la Republica Argentina 1856-2009
Publisher : Guillermo Jalil, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Edition : 2009
Format : Hard Cover with Dust Jacket, pages 205mm x 295mm, color illustrations
Language of Text : Spanish only
Pages : 504
Price : US$70.00 including shipping from Argentina. Available direct from the publisher although currently listed as “out of stock.” 2009 is the latest edition.
Paypal friendly? : YES

Historical Background 

Though not as widely collected as other parts of the world, the stamps and philatelic material emanating from Latin America is a fascinating area of collecting stretching from the era of classic philately to the present.  Its stamps reflect the often tumultuous history of the region, where political instability, economic dependence on markets in Europe and North America and aspirations of the societies to become “modernized” equals to the great powers of time after three centuries or more of rule by the Spanish or Portuguese empires all combine to create a history as dramatic as any other part of the world.

Argentina has one of the most fascinating of those histories. From being a slowly developing backwater of the Spanish Empire in the eighteenth century, it emerged as an independent state riven by rivalries between different provinces, between those who wanted to create a strong centralized state and those who wanted a federalized state that preserved provincial autonomy, and an economy dependent on trade with Britain for growing national wealth. Up to the early 1870s Argentina was consumed by constant conflicts and poltitical instablilty, much like the rest of the region.

After 1870, however, Argentina would enter a period of rapid economic development and increasing polticial stability, as waves of immigrants from Italy, Iberia and other regions of Europe and the Mediterranean were actively encouraged by Argentine efforts to start new lives on the virgin soils of the vast Argentine Pampas, though most immigrants would in the end choose to settle in the rapid growing metropolis of Buenos Aires.  By 1910 Argentina had evolved into the most economically successful Latin American nation, with a per capita income that was actually even higher than that of the United States at the time.  This “economic miracle” was soon joined by a polticial transformation that would bring full democracy to Argentina in stages by 1947, when women were finally granted the vote.

But if the period from the 1870s to the 1920s represented the age of the “Argentine miracle,” what would follow for the rest of the century would be a tremendous reversal of fortune.  Heavily dependent on exports to Britain and the rest of Europe to fuel its economic growth, the Great Depression and collapse of global trade in the 1930s hit Argentina severely.  New political ideologies, and new ideas of national development that would encourage less dependence on foreign trade soon came to influence Argentina, while the rapid economic changes of the boom era exposed major socioeconomic fissures between the wealthy elite who dominated politics and an increasingly impoverished mass of workers and farmers (often dependent on wealthy landowners) in the countryside.

The result has been a legacy of massive political instability, from the rise and fall of populists such as the Perons and, more recently, the Kirchners, to challenge the middle and upper class elite, to a series of military coups supporting one side or the other in the political conflict and culminating in the severely repressive military regimes of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when thousands of populists and Left-Wing activists “disappeared.”  Attempts were also made by the various regimes to industrialize Argentina with its own resources, resulting is massive economic dislocations and several periods of hyperinflation as the country found itself having to bring in basic inputs to fuel its industrial plant but few markets for the goods it produced..  Democracy was restored in 1983 in wake of the junta's  disastrous military intervention in the Falklands, but since then the history of Argentina has in many ways reverted to its class-riven strife, poltical populism, and a renewed dependence upon export-led economic growth that has resulting in several economic crises in the last two decades.

And all of this history is reflected very well on the stamps of Argentina.

The Catalogue & Comparison with Scott's Classic Specialized (pre-1941) and Standard (for post 1940).

The Jalil Catalogue (from this point referred to as GJ) is what every specialized catalog should be. Highly detailed information, plenty of coverage of printing varieties, errors and odd usages,  illustrations in full color, and physically well constructed for a lifetime of use. In fact, I would physically rate the GJ as one of the most beautiful of the specialized catalogues in my collection, and it would look just as good on a coffee table as it does on a shelf.

For the classical era up to 1940, the GJ catalogue runs for 120 pages in the main postal section, plus 48 pages for the various official stamps (general and departmental), and five pages of other back of the book material (telegraph stamps, postal savings, the Tierra del Fuego local etc).  So approximately 175 pages of the catalogue relate to the classical era.  The Scott 2015 Classic Specialized, for the same period, is contained on 14 pages.  To be fair, the images in the GJ are MUCH larger, the information is presented in larger text and in a less crowded format, and there are several pages of advertising interspersed throughout the section.

But where the GJ really differentiates itself, as is usually the case with specialized catalogues, is the degree of varieties listed for stamps.  Take for example the issue of 1889-1891 :

The listings of the 1889-1891 Definitives in the Scott Specialized (one stamp on next page)

The Scott listing runs for around 2 ½ columns of one page, with one final stamp on the next page over.


The 1889-1891 issue in the GJ catalogue

The GJ listing runs 3 full pages.

One can clearly see the level of detail of varieties in the GJ is at a higher level.  Many more shade varieties not listed in Scott at all, watermark varieties that at best are footnoted in Scott, plate flaws all included in the listings. To be fair Scott does list a good portion of the varieties that GJ includes, but the GJ definitely has all those and much, much more with just this one issue.

Let's turn to a later classical-era issue, the popular personlities and natural resource defintives of 1935-1951.

The 1935-1951 Definitives in Scott (1st page from the Classic Specialized, others from the Standard)

Scott's coverage is broken down into three separate listings based on watermark, with the second and third wartermark varieties issued post. Hence I have taken scans of those listings from the 2012 Scott Standard Catalogue, which will in most cases never equal the degree of content a specialized catalog will have.Overall this means about one full page of coverage in Scott between the two catalogues.

The 1935-1951 Definitives listings in GJ

GJ lists the three main watermark varieties all in one section, which runs five and a half pages in the main section, plus a second section of two pages for a later paper variety used in production of the stamps.

As can be seen from the illustrations, there is a lot going on with this issue in terms of varieties than what Scott lists. Four paper varieties depending on country from which paper was sourced (Netherlands at first, then Austria, then locally made in Argentina, and finally Britain). Plate varieties. A few shade varieties. Postal forgeries. Imferforates. It is almost mind boggling.

As we move into the modern era, its a bit more difficult to compare, as the Scott Standard catalog makes no real attempt to list many of the varieties that exist in modern postage stamps based on paper type, existence or absence of fluorescence or phosphorescence, and the like.  It also does not list information such as First Day Covers.  This, for me is where the specialized catalogues come into their most valuable, since it opens up many new collecting vistas that those who simply rely on Standard Scott or Simplified Gibbons will have no inkling exist for so many nations in the post-1940 era.

For example, here are Scott and GJ listings for the 1978-1982 Numeral and Sol de Mayo definiitive issue, one of the many issues that resulted from the increasingly galloping inflation that would consume Argentina during the era of Military rule in the late 1970s.

The 1978-1982 issue in the Scott Standard Catalogue, 2012 ed.

In Scott the issue gets one listing as a set, with a footnote regarding flourescent vs ordinary paper vareties for a couple of values

The 1978-1982 Definitive Issue in GJ, plus a few 1979 commemoratives

GJ has the listing run for one and a half pages, with the listings summarized in a handy table format (GJ uses this format for most modern definitive issues where you get paper, flourescence and other types of varieties all coming together. Very handy and easy to understand!)  But beyond the paper floursecense issue, we have different types of paper, shade varieties, and valuation for stamps with attached blank labels.  Like I said, GJ shows that this one issue, which seems so basic in Scott, is really quite complex as most definitive issues of Modern Argentina seem to be based on Jalil's listings.

As far as commemoratives go, as can be seen on the second page of the 1978 definitive listings above, after the definitive issue, Jalil provides information regarding number of stamps issued, value of First Day cover, and where appropriate, the existence of varieties.  Much of this information is of course not included in the Scott  Standard, as is appropriate for a “standard” or “basic” catalogue.

The listings in GJ for Computer-Vended Stamps (not listed in Scott)

Another area that is covered by GJ (and the majority, though not all Specialized catalogues produced) but not included in the Scott Standard are listings for Computer-Vended Stamps, or what the Michel catalog calls “Automatenmarken”  As is often the case with many nations who tested the concept in the 1980s and 1990s (Argentina first released one in 1995), many of these are quite valuable and rare, often being used for short periods on an experimental basis.    This is one of my bugaboos with Scott, not listing these issues (except for the USA).   I really wish Scott would list these issues so that collectors are aware of their existence, and while some countries, like Argentina, tend to be rare, others that have developed the Automatenmarken concept successfully, such as Australia, France and Germany, can often be found in Kiloware or other mixtures and collectors in the USA are left wondering what in the world they have in their collection.


For any collector with more than a passing interest in the stamps of Argentina, I highly recommend acquiring a copy of the GJ catalog.  While all the text is in Spanish, it is presented qute clearly and with thought given to making presentation of complex issues easy to understand, as the 1978 issue shows.  Scott's Classic Specialized does a pretty solid job with its Argentina listings, but as I have shown above the GJ takes things to “the next level” in terms of varieties.  And just from a physical standpoint, the catalogue is simply GORGEOUS.  The illustrations are of a nice size and in full color, quite a few examples of postal history are included among the classical issues, and the book is solidly constructed, being a hard cover with a durable library book binding.

The fact that the catalogue is in Spanish only should not deter one from seeking it out. Most specialized catalogues are going to  contain similar information regarding paper, watermarks, shades etc. that are fairly easy to figure out after a little time spent with the catalogue.  And there is always google translate and other online translators to help you out if you get stuck and can't comprehend what the catalogue is saying.

Bloggers note - images of catalogue pages are taken from the relevant catalogues listed and are used solely for educational purposes.  All copyrights belong to the original publisher of the catalogues being discussed in the text.