This post contains Amazon.com affiliate links. I personally bought and own the book mentioned here, but I may also earn a commission if you purchase the book through Amazon.com.
It’s no secret that the Scott Specialized Catalogue is the only game in town where U.S. stamps are concerned. There are other catalogues, and certainly other reference books that go into far more detail, but none attempt to cover the same breadth of material.
The catalogue covers everything from postmaster provisionals to revenue stamps to proofs and essays, and even stamps issued by Cuba, the Panama Canal, and other entities while they were under U.S. control.
The 2010 edition of the catalogue contains more than 1,000 pages. It’s probably not surprising, then—although it is somewhat disappointing—that a number of errors have crept in or gone uncorrected from previous editions.
One example of this is on page 206, where the footnote following the Columbian issue souvenir sheets references known proofs, but inexplicably lists the wrong Scott numbers for the designs used on those proofs.
There are also spots where perforation or die cut measurements are off. I would say this is not a huge issue, but a) this is a specialized work, and b) the editors of the Scott catalogue list perf. measurements in tenths. I have no problem with them making such fine measurements, but if they want to do that then I would prefer that the measurements they state be accurate!
Despite all of that, the catalogue really is a beautiful work. The vast majority of the listed stamps are pictured in color, which is certainly a marked improvement over the older editions where one was faced with page after page of black and white illustrations. In addition, much of the information simply is not readily available elsewhere to the average collector.
In general, the catalogue values of most U.S. stamps have not changed that radically over the past couple of years. If you have a recent edition of the catalogue—or if you don’t collect recent U.S. issues, which is what the bulk of the new information covers—my advice would be don’t bother spending the $80 to upgrade.
On the other hand, if you’re working with an older copy of the catalogue, or if you need information about all the varieties the USPS has issued over the past few years, then the Scott 2010 Specialized Catalogue is a worthwhile investment.
In the meantime, I have no more need for my copy of the Scott 2009 Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers, so I’ve listed it for sale on Amazon.com for just $24.99. The copyright page is wrinkled—I did use the catalogue, after all—but there are no markings and the book is in good condition. If you need a copy but don’t need the very latest information, my price is less than ⅓ of the next cheapest listing on Amazon.com.
Why buy a new catalogue?
Because I like to keep my free stamp album pages up to date, it’s helpful to have the most current available catalogue on hand to ensure I don’t overlook anything. Were it not for that, I likely would not have bothered buying the 2010 edition.
Update: my old catalogue sold within a couple of hours of when I listed it. Amazon.com still has other used copies, but none quite as cheap as mine. Thanks for your interest!
When I started collecting stamps years ago, you could have probably called me a generalist with a strong emphasis on U.S. stamps. The largest part of my collection is still U.S. material, but over the last couple of years I’ve also started a thematic or topical collection: landscapes.
In the coming months, I plan to share images and write-ups on my landscape stamps, starting with Codri Nature Reserve in Moldova, which I just posted. I hope you enjoy seeing what’s in my collection.
What’s your approach? Do you collect only a country or countries, or do you have a thematic collection as well?
Book review: Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting
This post contains Amazon.com affiliate links. I personally bought and own the book reviewed here, but I may also earn a commission if you purchase the book through Amazon.com.
It’s not often that you find a new review for a book written more than 50 years ago. It’s also not often that you find a book containing as much valuable information as the Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting, which is why I felt a need to review it.
Written by the late American philatelist Richard McPherren Cabeen, the Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting was first released in 1957, but it was revised and reprinted several times. This review specifically covers the 1965 edition, which is part of my personal library.
Cabeen split his work into five parts: introduction to stamp collecting; postal history and cover collecting; miscellaneous subjects; technical matters; and classification and identification.
Beginning with an explanation of how to begin collecting stamps, Cabeen proceeded to explain how a collector should store stamps, use accessories related to the hobby, and even focus his or her collection on a specialized area. He then moved on to more esoteric areas of philately, such as collecting postal history and unusual uses for stamps.
The fourth part of the book—technical matters—may be the most valuable section. With the relatively recent widespread adoption of self-adhesive stamps and the use of less expensive printing methods than were previously used, some of the information presented in Cabeen’s work is arguably incomplete. Nevertheless, his detailed descriptions of various printing and perforation methods make the book an invaluable reference tool for anyone who collects stamps issued before 1960.
Other chapters in the book make for enjoyable leisure reading. The author presents a broad overview of the developments that led to the introduction of postage stamps. He also lists several phantom and bogus stamp issues occasionally encountered in older collections and accumulations.
If you’re looking for pictures, this book is not for you. Cabeen went heavy on descriptive text and very light on illustrations, which is not necessarily a bad choice. In addition, it is not a particularly specialized work, but is rather an overview that will benefit the new collector and prove to be a handy reference for the more advanced philatelist.
The Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting has long been out of print, but you can still find used copies for sale at Amazon.com, often discarded from public library collections.
Do you own this book? What’s your opinion? Would you advise another collector to buy it?