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

Book review: Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting

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?

Published 2009-09-20

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