Resource of the Month – ATA Handbooks and Checklists

Now just after returning from a very successful American Philatelic Society (APS) and American Topical Association (ATA) joint StampShow in Omaha, Nebraska, the show brought to mind one of  the more burgeoning and popular avenues for collectors, either for those new to the hobby or those wanting to expand their current hobby interests, that being topical collecting. Topical collecting, or collecting stamps by ideas or themes, has quickly become one of the most inclusive and growing sectors of the philatelic hobby as collectors search worldwide issues to find what stamp or stamps they can include within their particular topical interest.

ATA Handbooks 1 & 2 Combined

Established in 1949 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Jerry Husak, the ATA has grown to be the second largest stamp collecting organization here in the U.S. behind only the APS. Two of the publications that the ATA are best known for are their checklists and handbooks in which ATA members and researchers have painstakingly compiled worldwide lists of stamp issues organized and titled by topic or theme. Everything from topics A – Z can be found in the ATA checklists and handbooks and at the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) these resources are a valuable part of the collection for both research and collecting.

The APRL has well over 280 of these publications covering such diverse topics as Abraham Lincoln, Astronomy, Birds, Christmas, Music, Plants, Red Cross, Religion, Space, Theater and even Stamps on Stamps. The first publications were often merely listings, with the inclusion of Scott catalog numbers and in some cases other recognized catalog numbers, by subject or country for various topics with little or no illustrations or photos.

As time went on and the publications were revised and updated or new publications were produced, in some cases color illustrations and photos were included and Scott catalog numbers often but not always became the standard for the series and its listings. Some of the early publications were about 20 pages or so while today’s handbooks can be well over 300 pages as more and more countries began producing stamp issues that lent themselves to be categorized by a specific theme or topic.

First page for Germany from ATA Handbook titled “Wild Cats in Art”

The ATA handbooks comprise a very well-used section of the APRL collection as more and more collectors explore and expand their collecting interests along the lines of thematic and topical collecting. Even competitive exhibiting has come to include thematic exhibiting as a category and as a result both judges and exhibitors now consult these useful ATA publications regularly. If you are a topical collector or have ever thought of starting a thematic collection, contact the APRL today and explore these invaluable resources for topical collecting.

One thought on “Resource of the Month – ATA Handbooks and Checklists”

  1. I ‘second’ this post, having found topical collecting (in my case, printing and the graphic arts as shown on stamps) to be an intellectually rewarding extension to my hobby…and an excellent avenue for meeting other collectors with similar interests.

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