Philosateleia
Kevin Blackston
PO Box 17544
San Antonio TX 78217-0544
United States of America

Philosateleian Blog

U.S. postage rates holding steady in 2010

For the first time since 2005, annual postage rate adjustments are not affecting the price of a first-class U.S. postage stamp.

The USPS announced last week that the domestic letter rate in 2010 will remain at 44¢ for the first ounce and 17¢ for each additional ounce. The base rate had increased each of the last four years.

International letter rates will also remain the same: 75¢ to Canada, 79¢ to Mexico, and 98¢ everywhere else.

If you use Express Mail flat rate envelopes, the news isn’t good, with prices going from $17.50 to $18.30. Priority Mail flat rate envelopes, however, will actually become 5¢ less expensive to mail, with that rate dropping from $4.95 to $4.90.

There’s no official word yet, but I would expect to see new Express and Priority Mail stamps. The current $4.95 Priority Mail stamp might stick around, too, however, since it will continue to cover the cost of mailing a small Priority Mail flat rate box.

You can download a full list of new rates [PDF] from the USPS Postal Explorer Web site.

Are you surprised by any of rate changes, or that the regular letter rate is staying the same?

Stamp collecting forum offers great info, but acidic personalities too

You’ll find plenty of bulletin boards on the Internet that are dedicated to stamp collecting, but it takes a lot of participants to keep a forum alive and well. Stampboards.com has achieved that critical mass.

Operated by Australian stamp dealer Glen Stephens, Stampboards at last count has several thousand registered users from some 80 different countries.

The good

With members from so many different countries, many of whom have years if not decades of experience, it’s hard to find anything even remotely related to stamp collecting that they can’t identify. I’ve seen a number of obscure cinderellas identified on the forum, information not available elsewhere on the Internet.

Several of the regular participants also have highly specialized collections, and can identify the plates or printings of early British or Australian stamps, identifying scarce varieties of otherwise common items. This sort of information is typically available only in expensive and hard-to-find reference books, but you get it for free on Stampboards.

The bad

Even though Stampboards has members from so many different countries, many of the registered members live in Australia, and the forum tends to be very Australia-centric. That doesn’t mean you can’t get help with stamps from other countries, just that you’re likely to get more information more quickly if your stamps are Australian stamps.

The ugly

As is the case with many Internet forums, seemingly simple questions tend to blow up into extended arguments over issues that really don’t matter. Such debates would be better taken offline—or at least off Stampboards—to make it easier to find information there. Unfortunately, the moderators seem to be just as quick to jump into knockdown, drag-out arguments as anyone else.

In addition, some of the moderators seem to be prone to verbally boxing individuals about the ears if they ask questions without posting scans of the stamps about which they’re asking. One of the forum’s rules is that you post scans so people can see the item in question, but new members could probably be treated a bit more gently if they miss that bit of information.

Conclusion

If you have thin skin or a short temper, you may want to steer clear of Stampboards. On the other hand, I recommend joining Stampboards if you don't mind an occasional tussle in the online mud. You’ll learn a great deal by reading existing posts, and you just might be able to help someone else answer a question about his or her own collection. That’s an excellent way to give back to the hobby.

Have you participated in other online forums? How do you think Stampboards stacks up against the competition?

Landscapes on postcards

Reader Mike K. recently showed his support for Philosateleia by sending a couple of batches of stamps and postcards, including several picturing the Oregon coast. Here’s a sample:

Postcard picturing Oregon coast
Oregon Coast Postcard

Mike identifies the large dome-shaped rock at top center as Elephant Rock in Seal Rock, Ore.

This postcard and the others similar to it will fit nicely with my landscape collection, so to Mike I say, thanks!

Book review: Scott 2010 Specialized Catalogue

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 Scott 2010 Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers lists the most recent U.S. postage stamps, with the regular postage section ending with the Anna Julia Cooper stamp issued in June. There are updates to listings for the “Forever” stamps introduced in 2007, as well as other ongoing series.

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.

Editor’s recommendation

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.

2009 Scott Specialized Catalogue for sale

I just received my copy of the Scott 2010 Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers. I’ve had time to do no more than glance at a few pages, but I plan to post a full review with my impressions of the catalogue soon.

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!

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