Monthly Archives: October 2015

  1. Scott Catalog Values

    As the number of distinct collectible stamp varieties passes a million and moves quickly toward two, the importance of catalog values has changed. There is nowhere near enough collectors with enough interest, time, and money to absorb all the newer stamps that come to market, let alone the enormous quantities of older material that is sold every year. Accordingly, the resale market for stamps has evolved into three distinct markets.


    First, is the postage market. Every major country’s stamps are useable for postage. (This varies by country, with some European countries

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  2. Varieties

    Most of the pre-1940 listings for most counties in the Scott catalog contain many varieties. The "a" and "b" numbers are legion, listing subtleties of shade and perforation. After 1940, variety listings are seldom found. Most collectors think this is because advances in printing technology made for fewer varieties of more modern stamps. But this is not so. The real reason that there are so many varieties of stamps that are over a century old is that collecting standards have changed. Collectors in 1915 had far fewer stamps to collect, and so they examined and studied them more closely. There are just as many shades of many worldwide stamps that are issued today as there were one hundred years ago. But with nearly two hundred new issues worldwide coming our way every day, collectors have enough trouble just looking carefully

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  3. Eighty Five Year Old Scott Catalog

    The 1930 edition of the Scott catalog listed all the stamps of the world in one 1,700 page, 4x6, two column volume (today is six large volumes). Prices were interesting. The mint ten cent type IV of the 1857 US issue (Scott #34 mint) cataloged just $300. Today we know that there are fewer than ten of this stamp with original gum, and a decent copy would sell for $30,000. But just five Scott numbers later is the #39 which at $1,000 in 1930 is nearly the same as it catalogs mint no gum today (2015 cv $1,100).


    I’ve never seen the story written up on why the high values (24¢,

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  4. Small Ball

    In baseball, small ball refers to the concept of scoring runs without big hits. All hitters are streaky, going hot and cold and though everybody loves to see home runs, what separates great teams from good teams is the ability to score runs with few or even no hits. In the 1960's there was something called the Dodgers home run where short stop Maury Wills would walk, steal second, go to third on a bunt, and score on a sacrifice fly. A run scored without a hit! The metaphor here is that small ball is found in all activities and playing it well distinguishes successful people. Dieting isn't about not eating for a day or starving yourself to your target weight. It is about small ball, thousands of better decisions each year. Eating

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  5. The Abridged Album for United States Stamps

    Regular readers of this column know that one of my pet philatelic peeves is that the Scott catalog listings of United States stamps is unnecessarily complex, and that that complexity makes our hobby less popular than it could be. To have made the types of the one cent 1851 separate major catalog numbers is silly. The grills should be listed as minor varieties. The Bank Note issues (#134-218) are really one set of stamps specialized beyond logic. The Special Printings and Reissues are just that—special printings and reissues—and do not deserve major catalog status. And the Washington-Franklin twentieth century issues are a nightmare of inconsistent and confusing listings. If Scott made this mess out of the listings of any other major country,

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  6. Advertising Stamps

    Advertising is so pervasive in American society that it's hard to realize that we are one of the few first world countries that never used them in philatelic issues for private advertisements. Advertising on stamps was first used by New Zealand in the late nineteenth century. Their "back prints" were government sold advertising printed on

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  7. The Modern era in Philately Began in 1960

    We are offering a collection described as follows:



    Most really comprehensive, worldwide collections are very strong in traditional philatelic areas, and this wonderful collection of many tens of thousands of stamps, housed in 11 clean and neat Master Global albums, is no exception. Germany, Great Britain, Scandinavia, and Latin America are all very well represented with thousands of better stamps and hundreds of hundred dollar and above stamps.


    Where this collection

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  8. Umberto of Italy

    Italian history is relatively little known in the U.S. Most of us have heard of Napoleon and Bismarck, Lenin and D'Israeli, but few know of Italy's Victor Emmanuel II or Umberto and the fight to unify Italy.


    As the western Roman Empire crumbled in the late fifth century, Italy became a series of principalities, states, and papal enclaves. Keeping up with the political jockeying

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  9. Plate Blocks

    One of the most idiosyncratic aspects of US philately is the collecting of plate blocks. Many countries have marginal plate numbers in the selvedges of the sheets of their printed stamps. Most United States stamps that were printed before 1894 had plate numbers in the selvedge, put there by the private printing contractor who printed the stamps so that they could keep track of things like plate wear or damage and remake the plates when they were needed. But plate blocks, as American collectors understand the term today, were really a phenomenon that began in the era of the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

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  10. Newfoundland

    After confederation with Canada in the late nineteenth century, Newfoundland continued to issue its own postage stamps. The classics of Newfoundland are very scarce, but the stamps issued after 1900 are among the most popular in the hobby. Newfoundland used the American Bank Note Company to print its stamps, and it seems that a bit of competitive energy was the reason. The American Bank Note Company (ABNC) had been the printers of United States postage stamps before 1894 when the USPO decided to pull the contract and have the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing do the work. Stung by the loss of such a high profile and prestigious contract, the ANBC put their heart and

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  11. The First Communications Revolution

    Stamps played a big part in the communications revolution of the nineteenth century. Before the innovation of postage stamps, mail service was expensive and little used. In the United States in 1840, the per capita number of letters carried by the postal service was three. By 1900 the average person received nearly seventy letters. Before stamps, letters were paid on delivery, resulting in slower and more expensive service as postal deliverers had to stop at each house

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  12. German States

    German States stamps are synonymous with classic philately. Before 1870, what we today call Germany was a confederation of numerous independent states, ten or more of which operated their own postal services and issued their own postage stamps. From about 1850 on the German states issued stamps, and even the earliest collectors vied for them as some of the rarest and most desirable stamps of the hobby.


    German States collecting

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  13. Indian States

    Most American philatelists have only a loose understanding of Indian history. We know the India was a “British Colony” but are unaware that British rule was largely confined to major cities. Most of India was ruled by hundreds of Princely States, each with their own laws and rulers, pledging allegiance to Britain and allowing the British Raj to dictate foreign policy and relationships between the States but controlling their own internal politics. There has never been such a large scale sovereignty sharing arrangement with so many different independent political entities (at one point in the early twentieth century there were over 550) under another nation’s suzerainty. And the philatelic implications created some of the

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  14. Italian States

    Before the mid-1860s, Italy was a confederation of a number of independent states. These states were independent countries, loosely confederated for defense purpose (when they weren’t fighting with each other), each with ruling families jealously guarding their independence (which usually meant sources of income). It is one of the major historical debates of the modern period just what caused both Italy and Germany to unite a score or more political entities into two large countries. It is not in the nature of rulers to voluntarily give up sovereignty, and both Germany and Italy united within ten years of each other. My own sense is that world events were proving the traditional European model of tiny independent nation states (most were fragments

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  15. Coils Present a Problem for US Collectors

    Scott #338Most of the rarest twentieth century US stamps are either coils or coil waste (“coil waste” are stamps that were prepared to be issued as coils, but later additional perforations were officially put on the stamps, and they were issued as regular postage stamps). Coils present an unusual problem for collectors in that they are so hard to authenticate. It is easy for a forger or stamp alterer to cut the perforations off the edges of a regular stamp to produce a rare coil or add perforations to an imperforate stamp.  This is why valuable US flat press coils (those with Scott numbers before #448) should only be bought with expertization certificates. This warning is given in the Scott catalog, and it is good

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  16. In stamp collecting, there are four “… and States” areas that are collected as cohesive collecting specialties and that have always had tremendous philatelic cachet. They are German States, Italian States, Indian States, and Australian States. Each area is enormously popular and avidly collected as part of classic philately. Each has its own collecting peculiarities, and each can be specialized in by a collector of modest means or expanded into a seven figure international grand award collection. This week’s articles will be focused on each of these four States areas.


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  17. Prince Edward Island

    When it comes to challenges, stamp collectors come in different sizes. Some are the Everest climbers—they collect US, a monumental climb with some 10,000 main varieties (as listed in the Scott specialized US catalog) and costing anywhere from a fortune on up. And so

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