Monday, 28 May 2012

Specialised Catalogues

Every Home Should Have One (at least!)

My primary collecting area is the King George V period, so my preferred catalogue is the Stanley Gibbons British Empire & Commonwealth 1840-1970 catalogue. Widely respected, and considered the best resource for Commonwealth issues, the SG is, however, not the only catalogue required if you want to delve even further into a particular country or period.

This is not news, but it did come into focus for me when browsing The Gibbons Stamp Monthly archive on CD (available at . The archive includes every article from the Gibbons Monthly Journal, Gibbons Stamp Weekly and Gibbons Stamp Monthly from 1890 to 2009, and it’s a mind-boggling resource that I heartily recommend.

My favourite column in the archive is “Under the Magnifying Glass”, where reader-submitted errors and varieties are scrutinised and discussed. What I noticed was that many varieties, including naked-eye varieties, are identified with sheet positions, confirmed as constant, yet they have never seen the light of day in the catalogue.

This intrigues me, but I assume that the catalogue would need to become a multi-volume tome if all of the accepted, recognised varieties were to be included.

So how do you become aware of what other varieties exist that should sit side-by-side with the SG-listed varieties in your collection? There’s really only one answer. Specialised catalogues, especially those issued in the relevant country, should be your next port of call.

To illustrate this point, here’s a pair of South Africa 1935 Silver Jubilee 3d, SG 67 

Gibbons lists two varieties on this issue, the cleft skull (R.14/2)

And dots above head and behind neck (R.12/5)

These varieties were identified shortly after release of the stamps, but even these were only listed in SG in the last couple of years.

A similar variety that they have not chosen to list (as at the 2011 edition), is easily visible on the pair above. The left stamp has a constant variety on the King’s ear, known as “tagged ear”

It’s visually striking and is constant (R.16/1), yet I was unaware of this variety until I purchased the South Africa Stamp Colour Catalogue (Tracinda Publications, Craighall, South Africa)

So I have a pair of stamps with a catalogue value probably twice the usual value if SG were to list the variety. If I were to rely on SG only, I may never have known of it.

My bookshelf contains specialised catalogues for GB (Gibbons Specialised 1-5), Australia (Australian Commonwealth Specialists Catalogue), Canada (Unitrade), Ireland (Hibernian), Falkland Islands (Heijtz),  British Commonwealth (Murray Payne King George VI), Portugal (Afinsa),  Germany (Michel), USA (Scott) and many more.

Each of them opens up a world of listings outside the scope of the standard catalogues. Without the catalogues, many shades and varieties go unnoticed.

If you intend to specialise, you should avail yourself of the resources best able to help you.

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