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.


  1. Wow - great first catalogue review! Based on your detailed comparisons, I will need to pur this Argentina catalogue on the want list. Thanks Gene!

    1. Hey jim! Missed your comment earlier. Bad news is that the GJ seems to be out of print, and with the current political and economic instability in Argentina it may be a while before the next edition. Hopefully it won't be too long a delay.