Resource of the Month: The Crawford Catalogue

The Crawford Catalogue is simultaneously one of the oldest and one of the newest resources in the library, and it is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in early philatelic literature.

The original 1911 edition (left) and the 1991 facsimile (right).

The original catalog, the Catalogue of the Philatelic Library of the Earl of Crawford, K.T., was compiled by Sir Edward Denny Bacon and published in London by the Philatelic Literature Society in 1911. It is an annotated list of the Earl of Crawford’s library, which included the famous library of John K. Tiffany, who served as the first president of the American Philatelic Association (now the American Philatelic Society). It is considered the most complete collection of philatelic literature up to 1911, and, because the Earl of Crawford acquired Tiffany’s library, contains a very comprehensive collection of American literature. In addition to the Earl of Crawford’s holdings, Bacon included all known works, and his list was also published by Aberdeen University Press as A Bibliography of the Writings General, Special and Periodical Forming the Literature of Philately.

Following the Earl’s death in 1913, he bequeathed his library to the British Museum. The Museum’s library holdings were transferred to the British Library when it was founded in 1973, where they remain today.

In 1991, the Printer’s Stone Limited, in association with the British Library, published a revised edition of the catalog, the Catalogue of the Crawford Library of Philatelic Literature at the British Library. This edition includes shelfmarks (call numbers) for the British Library’s holdings, allowing it to serve as a reference for those requesting material from the British Library.

In 2016, the British Library and the Global Philatelic Library unveiled yet another edition of the catalog, this time available online. The online edition includes a digital, searchable version of the original 1911 catalog, plus the 1926 supplement and 1938 addenda.

Even more tantalizing for anyone interested in early philatelic literature, though, is the searchable index to the Crawford Library, which includes downloadable PDFs for most items in the library. Nearly everything from the obvious (like The American Philatelist) to the obscure (like Collector, a periodical which published one small issue in 1905 in Pittsburgh, Pa.) is available.

A more complete description of the Crawford catalog’s history was published as a supplement to The London Philatelist in March 2016, and is available online.

Essential philatelic reference books

From time to time, the library receives a question that is best answered not by a search but by human expertise. These are the questions that are both broad and subjective: what are the essential books in a personal philatelic library? what is the best book for a new collector?

To come up with a short list of essential books for a personal philatelic library, I asked the APS and APRL staff, as well as readers of The American Philatelist, for their top picks. The following list is a compilation of their responses.

Fundamentals of PhilatelyFundamentals of Philately (revised edition) by L.N. Williams, published 1990 by the American Philatelic Society. APRL call number: HE6213 .W724f 1990

First published in article format in the AP in the 1950s and revised several times in the following decades, this is still a go-to reference for stamp collecting. At 862 pages, it is a hefty tome, but one philatelists can turn to again and again.

The book gives a short history of stamp collecting, then delves into paper, watermarks, design and production, printing processes, inks and color, gum, and separation. Throughout, the author defines terms from the basic to those even advanced collectors might scratch their heads over (“Mechanical Mezzotint” or “Hectograph,” for example).

Encyclopedia of United States Stamps and Stamp CollectingEncyclopedia of United States Stamps and Stamp Collecting (2nd edition) by Rodney A. Juell, Lynn R. Batdorf, and Steven J. Rod, published 2016 by the United States Stamp Society. APRL call number: G3700 .A11 E56 2016

Like Fundamentals, the Encyclopedia explains the history and production of stamps and defines key terms, but with a focus on the U.S. In addition, helpful for a U.S. collector, the first part of the book includes sections on the major stamp issues and periods, beginning with stampless covers and postmasters’ provisionals through 21st-century issues, and including federal and state revenues, postal stationery, carriers and locals, and more. Each section includes color illustrations and resources to consult for more information.

Linn's Complete Stamp Collecting BasicsLinn’s Complete Stamp Collecting Basics by Michael Baadke, published 2004 by Linn’s Stamp News. HE6213 .B111L 2004

At 392 pages, this paperback is substantial but takes up about half the space on your bookshelf or in your briefcase that each of the previous two titles do. It also takes a slightly different approach, with sections on the basics of stamp collecting, how to obtain stamps, and how to organize and store them. The section headings may be more approachable for the true novice, with plain-language titles like, “Why does my stamp have a lot of holes in it?” for the section on perfins.

The contents are primarily from the author’s Refresher Course column in Linn’s Stamp News. While the book is organized with a beginner in mind, the index makes it equally useful as a reference for returning collectors or those looking to expand into new areas.

This is PhilatelyThis is Philately by Kenneth A. Wood, published 1982 by Van Dahl Publications (Albany, OR). APRL call number: HE6196 .W876t

This three-volume hardcover set is subtitled “An Encyclopedia of the Fascinating World of Stamp Collecting.” Instead of the narrative approach of the first three titles, Wood’s book takes an encyclopedic approach, with brief entries arranged alphabetically. The entries include not only philatelic terms (“Cancelation, Fancy”) but also geographic (“Caroline Islands”) and organizational (“Canadian Bank Note Company”).

APS Stamp IdentifierAPS Stamp Identifier (3rd edition), published 2004 by the American Philatelic Society. APRL call number: HE6215 .A111 2004

This small, spiral-bound book can be kept easily near a collector’s desk or tucked in a bag. It serves a very specific purpose: to help a collector identify the country of origin of a stamp based on the words printed on the stamp. For example, if you find a stamp overprinted “G.P.E.” you can look up the abbreviation in this book to discover that your stamp is from Guadaloupe, a French colony. Tables in the back of the book provide help for reading other alphabets: Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, and Russian.

The Stamp AtlasThe Stamp Atlas by W. Raife Wellsted and Stuart Rossiter, published 1986 by Facts On File. APRL call number: G1046 .P8 W456s 1986

We all know that collecting stamps can improve your knowledge of geography, and the pages of this magazine demonstrate that philatelists are often interested in the history of the countries they collect beyond the postal system. The Stamp Atlas provides that background, from large areas of the world to specific stamp-issuing entities. It includes color maps, but also narratives, illustrations, and photographs, focusing on postal systems and postage stamps, but including plenty of contextual information.

The World Encyclopedia of Stamps & Stamp CollectingThe World Encyclopedia of Stamps & Stamp Collecting by James A. Mackay, published 2006 by Lorenz Books (London). APRL call number: HE6215 .M153cg

This glossy book, with numerous color illustrations throughout, includes two major sections: A Guide to Collecting Stamps, and The World Directory of Stamps. The first section provides a summary of the different types of postage stamps and tips for starting a collection. The second section goes around the world by region, giving some history and showing some of the stamps produced in that region. For example, the section on Eastern Scandinavia includes brief descriptions of the countries and their stamps, as well as call-outs on specific topics (master engraver Czeslaw Slania, Vikings in Stamps).

This book can be a useful reference for the philatelist, as well as an attractive coffee table book for explaining the hobby to non-collectors.

The Buyers GuideThe Buyers Guide: Get the Most for Your Stamp Collecting Dollar (2nd edition) by Stephen R. Datz, published 2000 by General Philatelic Corporation.

Though it doesn’t contain the details listed in larger or more specialized books, Datz’ slim volume is a handy guide for the U.S. collector. Member Ray Hutter says he studies this book before attending a stamp show, “and I am not concerned about walking away from a pressure-dealer because I know what I want.”

Official Stamp Collector's BibleThe Official Stamp Collector’s Bible by Stephen R. Datz, published 2003 by House of Collectibles.

Datz packs a wealth of information into this paperback — from general background on stamp collecting to tips for buying and selling at auction. It also includes handy references even more experienced collectors will turn to again and again, such as philatelic terms in various languages and current and former country names. While some of the information may be a little dated, features such as the foreign stamp identifier make it, as member Blain Roman writes, a “go-to book.”

Post DatesPost Dates: A Chronology of Intriguing Events in the Mails and Philately by Kenneth A. Wood, published 1985 by Van Dahl Publications.

While not “essential,” this book may help you enjoy your own collection more. As member John Blakemore writes, it is “full of interesting surprises.” You might not have a rare gem like the one-cent magenta in your collection, but you might have the first one of something!

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Resource of the Month: Mellone’s FDC Catalogs

One of the endearing areas of enjoyment in philately over the years has been, and to a large extent still is, the discovery and collecting of first day covers, also known as first day cachets (FDC’s). With their printed designs or inventive inscriptions adding color and sometimes context to the issued stamp, they provide a welcome element of color and artistic design to a first day cover usually issued in the commemoration of a particular thematic, historical or philatelic event. FDC’s can commemorate everything from a first flight, a moon landing, or the Super Bowl. These one-of-a-kind cachets are made  by individuals, private companies or in some cases by a government for first day of issue stamp events. Here in the U.S. the first cacheted FDC was produced by prominent philatelist and cachetmaker George Ward Linn in 1923, for the Harding Memorial stamp issue of the same year.

Continue reading “Resource of the Month: Mellone’s FDC Catalogs”

Resource of the Month: Member Lists

In the course of doing reference work here at the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL), there are often resources that spring up in the library collection that at first glance would not necessarily be considered to have much research value or practical philatelic information capable of answering a specific research request. One of these unique and often overlooked resources here at the APRL is what are known as the American Philatelic Society Member Lists, originally called the “List of Members” and still later by the 1970’s, the “Annual Membership Directory”. The original Member Lists date back to 1889 when they took the form of a loosely bound typewritten list arranged alphabetically by member surname. The 22 page 1889 list provides the member’s number in the American Philatelic Association (as it was known then), their full name, and title prefix (Dr. or Rev. for example) as well as an address which could be a P.O. Box number, just a city, or a full street and city address. Continue reading “Resource of the Month: Member Lists”

Resource of the month: Album Weeds

One of the more common reference requests received at the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) concerns forgery information for not only U.S. stamp issues but also worldwide issues. Among the more recent and notable resources for forgery information available at the APRL include the Serrane Guide and the Tedesco Index of Literature in the English Language that Describes Postage Stamp Forgeries (the latter being available online from the APRL) . Even the latest editions of the Scott’s U.S. Specialized Catalogue have begun to include listings for counterfeit stamps. Often overlooked but no less useful is one of the earliest attempts to compile resource material about known forgeries of worldwide stamps, Album Weeds, also known by its subtitle How to Detect Forged Stamps.

Album Weeds began as a series of articles in The American Philatelist under the title “The Spud Papers” first written by noted British philatelists W. Dudley Atlee and Edward Loines Pemberton and later by English priest and philatelist Robert Brisco Earée. Earée, Atlee and Pemberton wrote the articles, which appeared in various philatelic publications between 1867 and 1881, in an attempt to describe various known worldwide forgeries. They introduced their initial series of articles by writing “if philatelists would only study their stamps a little more, instead of merely trying to see how many they can collect, we are certain that they would soon learn for themselves far more than any book or the Spud Papers can teach them.”

Some of their earliest submissions also included an actual example of the forgery being described along with explanatory text. Their writings proved highly beneficial and popular to collectors at the time and were eventually compiled and formatted into a book with illustrations under the title Album Weeds.

The first edition was published in one volume in 1882 by Stanley Gibbons. Later in 1892 a second one-volume edition was published followed by a two-volume third edition in 1906. Today the 1906 third edition has been reprinted by different publishers as an eight-volume set.

Organized alphabetically by country and then chronologically by the date of each forged stamp issue, the resource continues to be a remarkable compilation of forgery information. Relying primarily on text to describe each country’s known forgeries with some minimal supplementary illustrations included, each country section begins with an introductory paragraph detailing the extent of each country’s forged issues followed by in some cases subheadings titled “Paper,” “Watermarks” and “Perforations” for further explanations of each. Following these general sections are descriptions of specific issues listed chronologically with further details under the subheadings of “Genuine” then “First Forgery,” “Second Forgery” and so on. Also included in each country section are descriptions of known forged postmarks. What ultimately makes Album Weeds a valuable and useful resource still is that it provides detailed primarily textual accounts of some of the earliest and most significant stamp forgeries.

Whether it be the 1851 issues of Hawaii or the 1861 Confederate States New Orleans issue, Albums Weeds provides extremely useful historic, and in many cases still current, information regarding the genuine characteristics of these particular stamps as well as their known forgeries.

Various editions of Album Weeds are available in the main book collection on the first floor of the APRL and can be used onsite or requested remotely for borrowing by APS members.

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Visit to Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation

Charles Verge and Scott Tiffney

Back in June I had the opportunity to visit the Vincent Grave Greene Philatelic Research Foundation in Toronto, Ontario. Charles Verge, Secretary of the Foundation, Sheila Moll, the Head Librarian, and Kathy Hartley, the Reference Librarian there were my hosts showing me around the Library and the facilities of the Foundation.

The Foundation is located at 10 Summerhill Avenue in Toronto, Ontario in the beautiful Summerhill neighborhood just north of the downtown, easily reachable by car or more conveniently by a nearby subway station. The Foundation is home to the Harry Sutherland Research Library which houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of Canadian and British North America philatelic literature in North America. The collection includes all of the most important monographs, journals, Postal Guides, Postmaster General Reports, auction catalogues and research papers on British North America. Many of the earliest journals in the collection have been scanned and are available digitally for full-text searching. The Research Library is a contributor to the David Straight Memorial Philatelic Union Catalog and the Global Philatelic Library, making their collection searchable online.

The Research Foundation is also home to Canada’s foremost expertizing service for the stamps and postal history of Canada and British North America. In February 2012 the Foundation purchased a Foster Freeman VSC6000/HS Video Spectral Comparator which allows the Foundation’s Expertizing Committee to examine items under some of the highest magnification commercially available as well as exposing the material to a wide range of wavelengths of ultraviolet, infrared and filtered visible light. Also on site is a large meeting room with exhibit frames mounted on its walls. The space is used regularly by a number of local clubs and societies, notably the Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada, the Greater Toronto Area Philatelic Alliance and the Canadian Aerophilatelic Society. But finally, one of the truly unique objects, especially for this native philatelic traveler and librarian, is the original safe of the Marks Stamp Company, one of Canada’s oldest and most significant stamp dealers. The safe is still operational and is a centerpiece in the Research Library.

If you plan to visit Canada near Toronto or are just interested in the philatelic history of British North America, be sure to make time to visit the Vincent Graves Greene Research Foundation. They are open Mondays through Thursdays and one Saturday a month from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and by appointment. Email or phone ahead (library@greenefoundation.ca or 416-921-2073) just in case.

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Resource of the Month – Brookman Price Guide

One of the lesser known catalogs still in publication that can be found in the American Philatelic Research Library collection is the Brookman stamp catalog, more properly referred to as the Brookman Price Guide or Price List. Although in the shadow of the more prominent and highly regarded Scott, Stanley Gibbons, Michel and Yvert & Tellier stamp catalogs, the Brookman Price Guide is still considered a very reputable “retail” price list that, for the purposes of the general or beginning collector, can provide very valuable information. The original Brookman Price List, a little more than 30 pages published over 80 years ago, was nothing more than a list of philatelic items on sale with the Brookman Stamp Company. Now published by Brookman, Barrett & Worthen in Bedford, New Hampshire, the current catalog is over 390 pages and has grown to become a combination of the Scott United States Specialized Catalogue published by Amos Publishing and the annual Postal Guide to U.S. Stamps produced by the U.S. Postal Service.

The Brookman Price Guide includes not only listings and values for all regularly issued U.S. stamps and back of the book issues, but the guide also includes listings for postal stationery, revenues, booklets, state and federal hunting permit and Indian reservation issues, first day covers, souvenir cards, souvenir pages, and uncut press sheets as well as several other types of philatelic material. In addition to the regular U.S. listings the catalog also includes philatelic information for “U.S Related Areas” such as Canal Zone, Cuba, Guam and Confederate States to name a few. If that’s not enough, the current catalog also contains listings for the regular issues of the United Nations, Canada, and the Canadian Provinces, all in one book. Although the format of the catalog is a scaled down version of the U.S. Specialized, all listings include Scott numbers, image illustrations, some watermark information and prices for single issues, sets of various sizes (4, 6, 8 and 12), mint sheets, and plate blocks. Keeping in mind that the Brookman Price Guide is primarily meant as a pricing guide and sales inventory for the stamp company, the catalog’s listed values can be slightly higher than those found in the Scott U.S. Specialized or other standard catalogs but the inclusion of prices for mint sheets, plate blocks, booklets and stamp sets as well as individual issues affords the collector the unique opportunity of consulting another recognized catalog for U.S. material in order to make value comparisons when purchasing various philatelic items.

But one of the truly unique additions to the Brookman Price Guide and one that is not found in the Scott U.S. Specialized or other similar catalogs is a section devoted entirely to autograph collecting. The autograph section is organized under various subheadings such as Astronauts, Authors, Entertainers, Politicians, Scientists, Athletes and Celebrities. The listings include specific values for autographs found on photographs, letters, cards, or covers as well as just signatures on a piece of paper. This section of the price list has proven to be a valuable and one-of-a-kind resource in the Library when answering requests that involve a cover or postal card which includes a signature such as a President, an astronaut, or even in some cases a Postmaster General. One recent request involved the value of a postal card depicting the 1969 moon landing bearing the signature of astronaut Neil Armstrong. Although no catalog or price guide can ever conclusively evaluate the true value of such a distinctive piece of philatelic ephemera, the Brookman Price Guide was able to provide a reliable starting point for the market value of such an item (it’s $1,200, by the way!).

If you are interested in borrowing or just using the latest Brookman Price Guide come by for a visit or request it by contacting the Library. The latest Brookman Price Guides are located on the first floor of the Library’s public space right next to the main Reference Desk.

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Resource of the Month: Higgins & Gage postal stationery catalog

For many specialties, we acquire new catalogs annually or every few years. This is not the case for worldwide postal stationery. The most comprehensive catalog is still the Priced Catalogue of Postal Stationery of the World, more commonly referred to as Higgins & Gage.

The catalog, issued in multiple parts covering the countries of the world from A to Z, was first published in the 1960s and last updated in the 1980s.

Member Richard Thompson recently lent us some supplements he had acquired that were more up-to-date than ours, and we are now confident that we have the most up-to-date editions and supplements available. Still, that means the most recent date on any of our Higgins & Gage volumes is 1986, more than 30 years ago.

Though the pricing, even with the supplements, is out-of-date, Higgins & Gage is in regular demand for its detailed listings and illustrations and comprehensive coverage. The numbering system is also used regularly.

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Resource of the month: American First Day Cover Society Archives

“What do you have at the APRL regarding the history of Artcraft Cachets?” was a recent reference request received at the APRL. Apart from some articles found in the American First Day Cover Society’s (AFDCS) own journal, First Days, and the various handbooks and catalogues which are housed in the circulating collection at the APRL that list, illustrate, and in some instances value Artcraft and other cachetmakers and their cachets, the APRL also holds another unique collection which over the years has grown thanks to contributions from the AFDCS and its members and that can assist in answering this question. Starting in the late 1970’s the AFDCS decided to donate its considerable archives of materials to the APRL for safekeeping and for use by future first day cover researchers. The initial donation comprised ten four-drawer filing cabinets but has now through ongoing donations by the AFDCS and its members grown to take up 45 linear feet of compact shelving space in the closed stacks area on the second floor of the APRL.

The AFDCS Archives consists of over 3,000 file folders labeled mostly by cachetmaker and arranged alphabetically with the files including such valuable research information as original advertisements, correspondence, unserviced cachets, biographies, article clippings, photographs of the cachetmaker and their cachets, as well as in some rare instances, serviced cachets. Not all AFDCS Archives file folders contain all of this useful information but many include a good number of the aforementioned items. Continue reading “Resource of the month: American First Day Cover Society Archives”

Resource of the month: the APRL staff

Need to know the postcard rate in Czechoslovakia in 1920? Have a Scott catalog number and need to know the Michel number? Want to learn more about the Inverted Jenny?

Every day, APS members turn to the library staff with questions like these, and our library staff uncover the answers. We can help you search our online catalog, provide more information about a book or journal in our collection, and even recommend resources on your topic.

For National Library Week in April, we featured each of the APRL’s five staff members on this blog. We are experts in philatelic literature, and we can help you build your knowledge and enjoy your hobby to the fullest.

Visit our library services page to learn more about what we can do for you and how to get in touch with us.