A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Big Blue, the "Browns", and Steiner: A three album shootout

1869 20pa yellow green
First issue: This stamp found in the "Browns" and Steiner
Quick History
It occurred to me while reviewing the various 1867-1906 Egyptian "Sphinx and Pyramid" issues, a reasonably complicated, but not very expensive stamp series, that they might serve as a candidate for examining the capabilities and stamp organizing philosophy of namely three albums: Big Blue aka Scott International Part I 1840-1940, the Scott "Browns", the iconic five volume album set of the world, and finally Bill Steiner's 6,500 classic era PDF files that can be printed out using one's own computer and printer.

Let's meet the candidates a little more closely.

Big Blue
One binder (original) to two binders (interleaving) to four binders ('97 edition, supplementary pages)

Big Blue and the first page for Egypt
Big Blue
Of course the album we have been using on this blog. It has 35,000 spaces for a "representative" selection from the world during the classical era 1840-1940. Originally a large one binder "Junior" album, intended for juniors or those that found the "Browns" a little too much. My 1941 Big Blue still has "Junior" written on the spine, but the 1947 edition does not. It is important to remember that Big Blue was originally a "junior" album, and therefore the stamp selection tended to be inexpensive, and the stamp spaces were simplified, ignoring watermarks and perforation differences. That DNA, good or bad, is still with us today.

But what changed? The "Browns" (My copyright 1919-1939) stopped being published; Scott preferring to concentrate on the comprehensive, but more narrowly focused  Country albums. Scott then turned the "Junior" into the first volume of its "International" albums, intended for those that wished to collect the entire world. So the "Junior" became part I (1840-1940), part II covered 1940-1948+, part III covered until 1954, and so forth.

Has Big Blue changed much over the years? Surprisingly little. There were some elimination of smaller countries, and some deletions of BOB stamps in 1969, with some strengthening of the stamp issues remaining. That's about it. The most recent edition, the '97, has spread out the format so each countries stamp categories ( postage dues, officials for instance) begins a new page. But the '69 and '97 editions are substantially the same content wise. However, Scott/Amos now sell the Album in four parts (IA1,IA2,IB1,IB2) for a price north of $400. With interleaving (necessary!) and adding blank pages, the album today is a minimum two binder, and a more likely a four binder set.

With throwing off the shackles of a one binder album, it is possible that Scott/Amos could add substantially more stamp spaces to the album. My pet peeve about Big Blue are the many inexpensive stamps that have been left out. Could that actually occur? No idea.

The "Browns"
Nineteenth Century volume

    The first Egyptian stamp page in the 19th century "brown" album                    
The "Browns"
My International Postage Stamp Nineteenth Century Album states:
"Contains spaces for every principal variety of Postage Stamp issued by any Government in the World during the Nineteenth Century"
And yes, the album cover is "brown", hence the affectionate name these volumes are known by. The complete set by Scott came in five volumes, the last for the years 1934-1938 +/-. Sometime after Scott sold the rights to these albums, a sixth volume was produced bringing the coverage up to 1940. Presently, they can be purchased on good paper printed on one side at Subway Stamp Shop Inc.

A complete set of the "Browns" will take up a lot of shelf space, specifically 12-19 binders. Big Blue clearly wins that argument. Nevertheless, linking oneself to the great collectors of the past who used the "Browns" is hard to resist. :-)

Stamp Albums Web: Bill Steiners PDF files
Computer, Printer, your own paper
The CD-ROM holds over 50,000 pages, including 6,500 classic era pages

A Steiner page for Egypt
Stamp Albums Web
Stamp Albums Web is the name of the web site where Bill Steiner sells access to his created album PDF files. He has created over 50,000 pages in total, and offers pages for virtually any country. More importantly, he has a separate section for the classic era 6,500 pages. And the cost? The CD-ROM disc is $30. And it has everything on it. If you are thinking about computer/printer generated album pages, it is clearly one of the great bargains out there. He also sells access to his website for $30/year; perhaps more important if you need up to date modern issues pages. He sells both the CD and one year subscription for $40. You can perhaps tell I am somewhat enthused. ;-)

He does not have a licence to print Scott numbers on his stamp spaces, but he follows the Scott catalogue almost exactly. I have NO problem figuring out which stamp goes where with his pages.

I will refer to his pages as "Steiner" in this blog.

This might be a good place to remind ourselves that all three of these albums are catalogue Scott-centric. If one is collecting Europe (Michel), or the British Commonwealth (Stanley Gibbons), or the French world (Yvert & Tellier/Maury), then think about which catalogue ( and album layout) fits best.

1874 Scott 26c 5pa brown with blurred impression, rough perforations, and Numerals inverted.
Steiner has a specific space; Big Blue & the "Browns" have a shared generic space
The challenge: Egypt "Sphinx and Pyramid" Stamp Issues
My proposal is to evaluate the stamp space offerings by Big Blue, the "Browns", and Steiner for the first three issues of Egypt's iconic "Sphinx and Pyramid" design. The "Sphinx and Pyramid" offers a moderately challenging group of varieties; yet for the most part is inexpensive. I hope this will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each album's approach to these stamp issues. But I believe the results can be used to show the general tendencies of each album.

1869 Scott 9 10pa lilac
Found in the "Browns" and Steiner
Despite moderate catalogue value ($10+), not found in Big Blue
The first issue: 1867 "Sphinx and Pyramid"
The first issue, with the Sphinx placed directly in front of the Pyramid, was issued as a 5pa orange ($10+), 10pa lilac($10+), 20pa yellow green($10+), 1pi rose red($1+), 2pi blue($10+), and 5pi brown($200+).
The first five denominations are modestly priced for classics.

Big Blue
Big Blue offers two spaces for this series: the 5pa orange($10+), and the 1pi rose red($1+). Missing are the inexpensive (for classics) 10pa lilac($10+) and the 20pa yellow green($10+). I believe this highlights one of the weaknesses (for me) of the Big Blue album. Big Blue promises a "representative" album, not an album in which they will include most of the affordable classic era stamps.  I would prefer the latter.

The "Browns"
Naturally, the "Browns" offer a space for the entire series. So far, so good. But the description for the 20pa yellow green is "green" in the "Browns". This again highlights a problem. Based on the copyright of the Album ( 1919 for the Nineteenth Century album, 1939 for the Fifth volume), the Scott descriptions are fossilized.
Yes reading the descriptions means you are reading a Scott 1919 catalogue! Naturally descriptions change. My 1947 catalogue describes the 20pa stamp (major number) as "blue green" with the minor number "a" given to "yellow green". Notice that the descriptions had already changed by 1947. Today (2011), the catalogue describes the major number as "yellow green", while the minor number "a" has "blue-green". So descriptions change, stamps drop out (Colombian States-City of Cucuta anyone?), and stamps drop in ( Five blank page coverage by the 19th Century "Brown" for the Indian Native Feudatory States, while Steiner has 131 page coverage in total). Big Blue has a similar, albeit not as severe of a problem, as their descriptions were fossilized in the 1940s-1960s.

So for the "Browns", one will need to interpret the 2011 catalogue through a 1919 catalogue lens. Not impossible, but a challenge nevertheless.

The Steiner naturally likewise has a space for all the denominations in this issue. BTW, the Steiner usually just prints the denomination description in the stamp space, not the color description of the stamp. But they will print the color description if there could be confusion because of two or more different colored stamps of the same denomination.

As an interesting aside, the color descriptions in Steiner do not always follow Scott. I noted, at least for some of the British colonies, they used the Stanley Gibbons color descriptions. (But they still followed the Scott catalogue sequence.)

1874 Scott 22b 1p vermilion blurred impression & perforation 12 1/2 rough
Five varieties of this denomination stamp 
clear/blurred, thick/thin paper, clean cut/rough perfs,
 typographed/lithographed, different colors and perfs
The second issue: 1872-75 "Sphinx and Pyramid"
A specialist's delight or a generalist's nightmare, depending how you look at it. ;-)

The primary denominations/images are 5pa brown ( Also found with Numerals inverted), 10pa (lilac,dull lilac,gray lilac), 20pa (blue,gray blue)(found Litho also), 1pi (rose red, vermilion) (found Litho also), 2pi (dull yellow,yellow), 2 1/2pi (dull violet,deep violet), 5pi (green, yellow green).

Scott lists 34 varieties ( 8 major numbers: 7 for the denominations, 1 for the Numerals inverted). 

The catalogue values are 5pa ($5,$9+,$3+,$4+,), 10pa ($3+,$4+,$3+,$3+), 20pa ($4,$20,$80 Litho,$50+ Litho,$240+ mint Litho,$4,$3+),1pi ($2+,$8, $20 Litho, $50 Litho,$1+,$3+),2pi ($15,$8,$5+,$6,$10), 2 1/2pi ($11,$220+,$3+,$12+), 5pi ($35,$75,$22+,$220+). 

Therefore the cheapest values are 5pa($3+), 10pa ($3+),20pa ($3+),1pi ($1+), 2pi ($5+),2 1/2pi ($3+), 5pi ($22+). The cheapest Numerals inverted stamp is 5pa brown ($3+). Except for the lithography varieties, there are clearly many inexpensive stamps for this classical era.

There are two major stamp issues.  The 1872 issue has clear impressions, thick paper, and clean cut perforations. These are then subdivided into different perforations, and the lithography variety. (Total 19 varieties)

The second major issue, the 1874-75, has blurred impressions, thinner paper, and rough cut perforations. These are then subdivided into different perforations. (Total 15 varieties)

So how did the albums fare?

Big Blue
5pa brown : Scott 19($5) or 26 ($3+)
The Scott 26 is also the Numerals inverted type.
10pa: Scott 20 lilac ($3+) or 20b gray lilac (($3+)
1pi vermilion : Scott 22b ($1+)
2pi yellow: 23b ($5+)

Big Blue has four spaces, and offers six varieties a "chance" to be put in. This includes the Numerals reversed stamp. But BB does not offer a space for the 20pa ($3+), 2 1/2pi ($3+), & 5pi ($22+). Certainly the 20pa and 2 1/2pi are quite inexpensive. IMHO, BB should have provided some spaces for these quite affordable stamps.

The "Browns"
The "Browns" offer a space for all eight major numbers; the seven denominations and the Numerals reversed variety. Clearly, a simplified, but complete (major numbers) approach. If one wasn't interested in parsing this issue, this approach might be satisfactory. But the 2011 Scott catalogue seems to make a "big deal" out of this issue, and most of the varieties are inexpensive. IMHO, I believe the "Browns" do not offer quite enough.

Steiner offers a space for all 34 varieties-amazing! Although Scott lists many of these varieties as minor numbers, there must have been enough interest in these issues for Steiner to offer the complete listing. Since many of these varieties are inexpensive, a modicum of interest should yield many filled spaces. I'm impressed.
Some, however, might consider the coverage overkill.

Third design: 1879-02 Scott 39a 2pi orange brown
On chalky paper: note the shiny glazed smooth appearance
Fourth design: 1888-1906 Scott 49 10p purple; on ordinary paper
The third issue and design: 1879-1902 "Sphinx and Pyramid"
The third issue has 13 denominations:
5pa brown (<$1)
10pa violet ($5)
10pa lilac rose ($5+)
10pa gray ($1+)
10pa green (<$1)
20pa ultramarine ($2+)
20pa rose ($1+)
1pi rose (<$1)
1pi ultramarine (<$1)
2pi orange yellow ($1+)
2pi orange brown ($1+)
5pi green ($5+)
5pi gray (<$1)

Chalky paper varieties(1902) are found for:
1pi ultramarine (<$1) (Scott 37a)
2pi orange brown (<$1) (Scott 39a)
5pi gray (<$1) (Scott 41a)

All the stamps are modestly priced.

Big Blue
Big Blue has eleven stamp spaces, and misses the 10pa lilac rose ($5+), and the 5pi green ($5+).
Perhaps on purpose, Big Blue does not provide spaces for the two more expensive varieties. As an aside, Big Blue does a great job of mostly providing spaces for modestly priced stamps. In this case, though, I would have liked to see the complete set. :-) The chalky paper varieties are not given an individual space; but as we shall see, none of the albums provide an individual space for these stamps.

The "Browns"
Of course the "Browns" have all thirteen denominations provided. Again, though, no separate stamp spaces for the chalky varieties.

The layout for the "Browns" illustrates another difference with the Steiners. The  "Browns" list the stamps separately by issue year; so the issue is divided into 1879 (6 stamps), 1881 ( 1 stamp), 1882 (1 stamp), 1884 (4 stamps), and 1893 (1 stamp). Although the "Browns" are historically accurate for issue year, Scott now lists the stamps under the 1879-1902 grouping. Scott then indicates the issue year next to the description in the catalogue. As a consequence, if one is mounting stamps in the "Browns",  the number sequence will be 29,30,34,36,38,49;31; 32; 33,35,37,41; 39. More challenging.  Interestingly, Big Blue does list the issues under "1879-93", following the more modern Scott grouping. So one is left with another 1919 Scott catalogue legacy here for the "Browns".

Again Steiner has all thirteen stamps listed, and in  the correct Scott 29-41 sequential listing. An absolute piece of cake mounting the stamps in the album. Paradoxically, although Steiner provides the least information on the stamp spaces ( for copyright reasons) of any of these albums, they are the easiest by far to correlate using a Scott catalogue by one's side.

Now lets discuss the 1902 chalky issues varieties. Steiner does not provide individual spaces for these common minimum catalogue valued stamps. Why? Steiner simply follows the Scott catalogue in this case, and since they are minor number varieties (although bolded in Scott to show their importance), they are not in the album pages. (Since Steiner is open to suggestions, he might be willing to add these varieties.)

So this brings up a clear point. If one is interested in the subtleties of a stamp (minor color changes, different paper etc), then the Steiner-or any general album- will not be enough for you. They will provide the one major number space, and one will need to add supplementary pages. Or better, for a specialized country collection, making one's own pages is probably the best solution.

So what have we learned by putting these albums through the "Sphinx and Pyramid" torture test? ;-)

Big Blue
This examination parameters were such that  Big Blue was predestined to not do well. Big Blue's strengths are certainly not completeness, or even providing spaces for most of the inexpensive stamps in the catalogue. This was clearly demonstrated here. If one is interested in a specific country, Big Blue's offerings will probably not satisfy in the long term. But as one pulls back the focus to a general "representative" collection for the whole world ( and not getting bogged down at the country level), Big Blue fulfills its intent. The best way to use Big Blue is accept the offerings for what they are, and work within that framework. One would still have 35,000 possibilities, a number few who collect classic era stamps will ever accumulate.

The absolute best approach is one Bob Skinner of "Filling Spaces" blog fame does; simply make it a goal to fill as many of Big Blue's spaces as possible. That makes collecting classical stamps affordable, specifically defined, and completion, although difficult, is attainable, Go Bob!

The "Browns"
The "Browns" have a septia toned aura about them that reminds one of the days when world wide classical stamp collecting was the norm. But the stamp issues gushing forth as the years went by put an end to this quixotic goal for most. I love the ambitious nature of the 'Browns", and even the peculiarities of the anachronistic 1919 Scott album.

But back to reality: How easy to use in 2011?
Caveat emptor.  Definitely not as easy as the Steiner. Nevertheless, I find it difficult to say anything bad about the "Browns", because I still hold them in awe. The advantage is one can order the pages-all six volumes- from Subway Stamps- and be up and running without the fussiness of printing out one's own pages, and continue to share in the legacy of the many classical collectors whom have used this album.

Steiner was a revelation. Putting stamps into the proper spaces was like cutting through butter using the Scott catalogue. Now Steiner has 6,550 classical era pages, so one can do the math regarding how many binders that would be for the full set. ;-)  An advantage is one only needs to print out the countries or sections one needs at the moment, leaving the others as bits and bytes on the CD-ROM, or at the web site.

The Steiner is in another league compared to Big Blue. Although obviously all the affordable stamps will have a space, so will esoteric or expensive entries. One is leaving the friendly comfortable confines of Big Blue. It is like embarking on the ocean when one is used to a lake. Then there is the question of mounting in the Steiners: hinges or mounts (Expensive)? The Steiner seems to demand mounts.

Finally, one will need to give up the thought that one can fill all the blank spaces. :-) But if there are indeed 90,000 stamps for the era, filling half of them might be attainable.

Hope you enjoyed this review. Comments appreciated!

BTW, I measured the stamp space dimensions for the three albums for the "Sphinx and Pyramid"stamps, and here is the results...
Big Blue 28mm X 23mm (No space between the "boxes")
The "Browns" 28mm X 23mm (No space between the 'boxes")
Steiner 29mm X 25mm with 4mm spaces between the stamp space "box".

Of interest is Big Blue and the "Browns" share a similar space area. I've noticed using mounts (Showguard, Scott) for a series of stamps in BB is "tight", unless one vertically cuts the mounts close to the edge of the stamp. Also at times, I've had to place the first left stamp in a row a bit over to the left beyond the "box" to anticipate being able to mount all the stamps reasonably in the row. But it can be done.

The Steiner obviously provides more than enough room for mounts.

Algeria -1st page
Brown International


  1. Wonderfully thorough and helpful, as usual. One can read generalities about how comprehensive the Brown and Steiner pages are, but it is much more interesting (and useful) to learn what the differences in their coverage actually are.

  2. Thanks Bob
    I thoroughly enjoyed "doing the research", and putting together this blog topic. :-)

    Definitely food for thought.

  3. I'm slow-witted, so I don't grasp why "Steiner seems to demand mounts." I get the point about Steiner leaving more room between spaces so as to permit mounts better than does Big Blue or the Browns. But why "demand"? I use Steiner and you are exactly right about ease of coordination with Scott catalogues. Of course, in addition to shelf space requirements (it's very true that one doesn't have to print everything out at once but can let it grow), the other "problem" is that even a very fine WW collection of, say 20,000-30,000 will "look sparse" with many empty spaces and pages. One can achieve that crowded--oh so satisfying--look of pages just FULL of stamps--with the other two but only if one has hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend could one do it with Steiner's pages. Of course, one can achieve "crowded" pages for some countries more readily.

    There's a typo -- 1972-74 Egypt series--above.


  4. I should, perhaps, play devil's advocate with regard to my own comment. One of the disadvantages of Steiner's pages is the minimalist aesthetics--he has very simple borders and lettering. It has it's own aesthetic appeal, of course, but I do like the classic curls and flourishes of album pages from the "Golden Age."

    If I had had this Jim's splendid--and I do mean splendid--analysis of the Scott Internationals and now this wonderful comparison of the Blue and Brown and Steiner when I returned to collecting 7 years ago after decades away from the hobby, I just might have chosen the Browns. But I didn't know about them being available from Subway.

    But having mounted 4000 or 5000 (entirely in Showguard mounts) stamps in Steiner pages, I'm not going to switch at this point.

    And I must say that Steiner's pages are flexible. To address the "sparseness" problem, one can simply not print out or print but not include in one's binder the pages or series of pages of expensive stamps one will never own. For instance, in Belgium semipostals, B69-77 overprinted are described in Scott but not even given numbers by Scott. Steiner has a page for them. One can simply omit that page. And one can leave aside the many pages of Belgium semipostal souvenir sheets issued in the 1940s.

    I print Steiner's pages on acid-free 65 lb card stock, so I will end up with something closer to a series of speciality albums (and a lot of shelf space), one or two major countries to a binder, perhaps ten or so of the colonies in a binder. But I like that--I can group them geographically rather than strictly alphabeticaly. This mix and match, rearranging flexibility is an advantage of Steiner.

    A disadvantage/advantage: Steiner's pages are formatted for 8 1/2 x 11 standard paper. You can three-hole punch them to fit standard 3-ring binders. But that means that they don't have the extra space from gutter to the edge of the stamps display. This is no problem with a looseleaf 3-ring binder where the pages can lay flat. But if one puts the pages into Acco prong-binders or any kind of tighter spine binding, when you open the binder the opening is "small," and "stiff."

    And that brings me to a question for those reading this blog:

    I have yet to find decent 3-ring binders at a reasonable price. Even the relatively flimsy Minkus generic burgundy 3-ringers cost close to $30.00 each. This IS a disadvantage of Steiner's huge inclusivity: to buy 40 blank Scott green 2-3 inch speciality binders or 30 or so blue International binders or 50 of the tiny 1-inch G and K Centurian fancy padded 3-ring binders at $35-40.00 a pop adds up. But vinyl office supply store 3-ring binders are ugly. I have searched high and low for nice binders somewhere in between, cloth-covered rather than vinyl, and found little.

    Perhaps I shouldn't have gone with 65lb card stock!


  5. One more, this time short, comment.

    Another advantage of Steiner, for strictly classic era collectors, is that, if you want to go beyond 1940 (or 1950 for British Empire) slightly for a given country--including the war years, for instance, all you have to do is go to the "World" pages rather than the "Classics" pages and print out whatever 1940s or 1950s pages you want, country-specific. Sometimes, however, the "World" pages for 1940s pick up a partial page from the last "Classic" page, so you get a few stamps duplicated in the transition. Still, the flexibility is nice.


  6. Dennis, Thanks for the in depth comments/analysis about the Steiners. Great stuff!

    And thanks for the Typo alert. :-)

    Your point about the ability to expand the year coverage with the Steiner is a good one.

    I don't have an aesthetic problem using an Avery Dennison PVC free binder for the Steiner, but that is just me.

    As far as whether the Steiner "demands" mounts; of course not. I was using a bit of hyperbole there. ;-) Big Blue and the "browns" were constructed in the hinge era, and hence the narrow (but do-able) space for mounts. The Steiner's nice stamp box aesthetics gives me the urge to use mounts. I notice you use mounts in your Steiner. So we are alike in that regard.

    Dennis, I do have a question for you. How much space/binders do the Steiners take up? I realize you do not print out every page ( As not needed), but where are you at the moment?

  7. I have by no means printed all the pages; I've printed regular issues for perhaps 60-70% of the worldwide countries but BoB only for perhaps a third of those. In 65 lb card stock they take up perhaps 2.5 to 3.0 feet of shelf space in simple pressboard binders (the ones with the foldover prongs). In standard 3-ring binders they'd probably take up 3-4 ft. But if I had printed on 24lb paper instead of 65 lb, I could put a lot more pages in a single binder and save some space. 200 pp. is about max for a single pressboard binder; a 3-inch vinyl binder might take 350, perhaps more. If I were to print out all of Steiner's pages on 65 lb paper, it would probably require 25-30 binders and take up perhaps 6-7 ft of shelf space???

    Now, my original plan was to write up country descriptions and historical commentary on various sets on facing pages, with catalogue numbers and other info (I pencil in catalogue numbers under each stamp I mount). My main purpose as a collector is to create a snapshot of the world into which I was born in 1952, a world in which the 1850s were much closer than the 1970s are to us today, a world in which the colonial empires, though fading, were not yet gone, a world that still had living memory of horse-drawn transportation. I'm a professional historian, and the way that stamps mirror the world has always been my main interest.

    If I ever managed to produce those facing page interleaved 24lb acid-free paper commentary pages, I'd need 12 feet of shelf space for all of Steiner's pages.

    But first I have to mount 10,000 stamps. Since I'm still working full-time (9 more years, if the government doesn't totally wipe out my retirement nest egg via inflation), that's going to take, shall we say, "a while," especially since I log the condition front and back and current value of each stamp into a set of registers before mounting it.

    Perhaps I should have gotten a Big Blue and set about filling it. I might have stood a chance of finishing before I die. Mostly I didn't know what I was doing when I started in on this hobby again. I've been stumbling around in the dark, learning by trial and error, ever since but blogs like this one and "Filling Spaces" have helped immensely to fill me in on things.

  8. One other note, especially for anyone who might see this who has not yet committed himself to one of the choices discussed in this thread.

    While Steiner's pages don't cost much for access to the pdf files, the cost of paper, ink, and mounts [since they "demand" mounts :-) ] and binders adds up faster than one might realize. Of course I'm doing the Cadillac approach with the 65lb card stock--6500 pages of it would cost perhaps 350.00-400.00. And you end up reprinting things, so plan on 10000 pages by the time you are finished, $500.00-750.00. Printing on 24 lb paper would save perhaps half of that? Thirty binders at $10.00-30.00 20,000 mounts--I've not done the math but it'd be about $400 or $500? Then there's ink cartridges . .

    So $450.00 for a set of Browns from Subway begins to look rather attractive, n'est-ce pas?

    One tip for those foolish enough to follow me with the card-stock approach: I initially printed with a laser printer. The heavy card stock curls at the top and bottom edges, slightly but noticeably, from the heat and you can't get the curl out. Also, the toner can bleed or rub off if you try to push your printer's drum too far (I think that's what caused it).

    I've since switched to an inkjet printer and the pages are flat and the lines crisp, especially if you use the highest quality setting. How well the ink lasts, well, in 50 years, I guess we'll know. . . . Or at least someone might know, if any of my nieces or nephews cares enough about their crazy old uncle's monstrous stamp collection to study it . . .

    And now I've worn out my welcome, I imagine.


  9. My estimates for paper costs were high. One could probably get 10000 sheets of 65lb card stock for about $425.00 at current prices.


  10. Dennis- Thanks for your insights which come from a " a voice of experience".

    The total costs for a Steiner album should be noted, to say nothing of the mounts. ;-)

  11. I thought I'd add a word in favor of the Minkus Supreme Global, not least because it's back in print from Amos and offers a real alternative to Scott or Steiner. I started recently with an original (but unused) copy of the album from 1961. This has thin but reasonable quality paper (though thicker than the original Browns), but the new reprint is 80lb. As with any double-sided album, you need interleaving.
    I really like it. This way I can have an album that covers the whole world, from 1840 to 1960 (up to about 1952 if you want only earlier), in 3-5 fat binders once the stamps are in. There are two caveats: The individual stamp spaces are tight for everything through the 1950s, and although you can put in the odd mount, its not made for that. But I hate mounts. Second, it features Minkus numbers, or in the early editions no numbers at all. But then Scott and Steiner don't have Scott numbers either, so this seems a moot point. (I just bought an old 2 vol. Minkus catalog for $50, which has lots of helpful information, but the album is self-explanatory so you don't really need it.)
    For anyone who wants a classic collection of used or previously hinged mint stamps I think its a real option. In terms of your Sphinx and Pyraminds shootout, the only major catalog number missing is the 5pi brown from the first issue (cat $200+). It doesn't have any of the varieties, but that's not surprising in a general album.
    Coverage in the first 1954 edition of the Minkus Supreme (which goes up to about 1952-3) is the same.

  12. James

    Thanks much for listing the very real alternative of the Minkus Global Supremes. I agree it appears to cover more comprehensively then Big Blue. I don't have a copy of the Minkus, so did not include it here.

  13. Interesting post...

    I so much agree with Dennis about printing costs. Paper itself is somewhat cheap, but ink is deadly expensive. Few years back I did some cost comparison of various storage methods, and DIY pages (like Steiner) proved to be surprisingly more expensive than most commercial pages if seeking proper quality. The comparison results should be somewhere on my blog, but they apply for collecting anything issued 1840 to date.

    But what really caught my eye is the tidbit where you mention 90,000 stamps for the era of 1840-1940. May I ask what's the story / source for this? The reason I'm asking is that for last six months I've been building up a new version of my (Michel-based) inventory, and unlike with the first two versions, this time I'm building a "highly detailed" overview that tracks a wealth of information (for example how many stamps were issued on specific intervals, such as 1840-1940)... So far I'm about 98% complete done with data entry, and the results I have strongly indicate somewhat different number than 90,000 stamps. That said, I do acknowledge that comparing different catalogs is like comparing cats to dogs. Despite a large number of similarities, they are very different creatures.

  14. Hi Keijo- good to hear from you. Your blog continues to be a must read.

    Interesting comment about (apparent) difference in numbers for classic era stamps. But you did not indicate which- high or low. :-)

    My information for the 90,000 total was not my own research, but another blog where a responder in the comment section had counted the stamps in the Scott Classic catalogue.

    Well, now am curious, so I counted 12 pages (page 100, 200,300 etc) in the Scott with the page count range from 51-140. To be continued....

  15. The average was 79.3 stamp descriptions per page. Then selected 12 more pages ( page 50,150,250 etc) with a range of 35-120 stamp descriptions. The average for this group was 80.2 stamp descriptions per page. I am reasonably confident the Scott has around 80 major stamp numbers per page

    The total number of active stamp description pages in Scott is 1217 pages. I removed 34 pages for advertising - an estimate. That leaves 1183 pages @ 79.8 stamp descriptions per page for a total of 94,403 stamps.

    To be continued....

  16. Two caveats..

    The Scott Classic includes British Commonwealth through 1952- king George VI era- so will estimate will be high for strictly a 1940 limit.

    I only counted major numbers, not minor numbers in Scott, which will make the estimate low if one wishes to include minor numbers.

    So I believe the 90,000 figure for total stamp count for the Scott catalogue appears to be substantially correct.


  17. Keijo-

    I tracked down the source of the 90,000 count. It was from Bob Skinner's excellent "Filling Spaces" blog entries of 17 April, 20 April, and 3 May, 2010. He has quite a bit of detail about the contents of the Scott Classic catalogue.


  18. Hi Jim,

    I figured it must have been Bob's blog. Nobody else is enough 'passionate' to do stunt like that ;)

    Here's a quick rundown of my findings. As you see the number I came up is somewhat lower - especially if excluding the locals (which I know not many are listed in Scott).... Maybe in few years time I'll start chasing the answer behind this mystery. LOL.

  19. Keijo-


    That required a lot of work, and the results are interesting. 80,000 total 1840-1940, and 76,000 if exclude locals. No doubt those are very accurate figures for the Michel catalogue.

  20. @Jim... The numbers should be relatively accurate unless I have screwed with data entry on some point (which is why I will run down some additional checks later this year). Michel states that their online catalog has 644,000+ major numbers whereas my database has 621,000 - but I believe the difference can be mostly explained by different timespan (MOK includes 2011 issues whereas I stopped tracking on end of 2010).

    It would be definitely fun to have similar data for Scott, SG and Yvert. I have done some country specific comparisons (UK, USA namely) that show very large differences. I can only hope catalog publishers would release insights of their data some day, as it would prevent "stamp nuts" like from undertaking projects like this. LOL.

  21. I really enjoyed the comparison of the four (including the Minkus added in the comments) options to collect. It is interesting to see the different approach that individual collectors have chosen. My feeling is that two of the great strengths of Philately are the flexibility of how to collect and the willingness of other collectors to share their perspectives on collecting. Being that there is no “perfect” solution to collecting worldwide 1840-1940 anyone should review conversations like this one and find what fits their individual strengths and time they can devote to the hobby. I should probably say that I use the Vintage Reproduction pages and do understand the limitations. Additionally I create by own pages and print them off on the matching blank pages. I chose this approach with my eyes wide open to its major issue. That issue being a reproduction of an album that follows does reflect the changes that have been made to the catalog in the interring years. I use my own pages to fill in the gaps and to display items that would not be included (for example interesting covers).
    My advice to anyone trying to determine which approach to use should read as much as possible and weigh the pros and cons of each option. Some food for thought would be:
    • Make sure if you going to print off your album, evaluate all the cost involved that must the pages themselves but paper, toner, a quality printer, and your time. (Personal since creating pages is one my least favorite task, however I do not mind an occasionally page).
    • Preprint albums may seem to be the most expensive option; there is lot to be said for hitting the ground running.
    • I view any album option as the framework for each collector to use and build on to suit themselves (ultimately I am in this for my own enjoyment).
    Good luck to one and all. As side note that I would love to hear more from other collectors is keeping track of their inventory. I seem to be taking an unusual approach from most collectors. In my non-stamp life I write, develop and implement database. Thus I am in the process of creating a stamp database that not only includes what stamps I own, but also keep tracks of supplies and equipment. Since I hate data entry (I am noted for saying at work that I only want to enter information once but use it multiple times). I find spreadsheets very limiting and prone to errors. Most collectors who track their inventory appear to attempt to input every possible option that they could own. I find this a herculean task. I only enter the information on the items I own. My thought is listing at many items per their editorial process is something that the Scotts Classic catalog has always done; so who am I to reinvent the wheel. The catalog is my constant companion on my shopping expeditions so I can refer to it for descriptive as well as pricing information. With Scott’s continuing expansion and updating of number; I find that have far fewer updates to do.
    My approach has been not to scan each item, but by page. It is easy using PDF format and basic tools included with most PC’S I have a record of all my items that can be easily be replaced as I complete a page.
    Thank you for this forum and keep the good work. Look forward to each new addition and to reading other users comments and suggestions.

  22. Thanks for your comments and your considered opinions- good stuff.

    I must say I've had a bit more experience with the Minkus Global Supreme country pages, as I've been removing stamps from them to the Steiner- and I've been even more impressed with how many stamp spaces are included. If I had to do it all over again and wanted a simple solution, I would seriously think about the Minkus Global Supreme 1849-1952 pages available from Amos/Scott.

    The Vintage/Browns is a nice choice, especially, as you said, you go into them knowing the fossilized catalogue shortcomings.

    I keep track of inventory by marking up the Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalogue- and then taking it with me. Analogue rather than Digital. ;-)

  23. Do you know if any Scott album, or any other album for that matter, printed the Scott catalog number with the stamp space?

    1. Yes, the Scott "Green Binder" Specialty country albums have the Scott numbers in the spaces.

  24. The loose-leaf version of the “Brown International” albums (currently sold as the Vintage Reproduction Pages), produced by Vintage and now sold by Subway Stamp Shop, are notoriously out-of-date. As they are not bound like the Scott originals, they can be updated.

    Needing spaces for some stamps I had and finding no one else undertaking this task, I am in the process of making update pages, with the following approximate priorities:

    (1) Provide spaces for major (bold) numbers in the current Scott Classic Specialized that are missing. I have begun with stamps I have for which there are no spaces.
    (2) Split pages that have more than one type of stamp on them. I have collated the six volumes of the Browns and having more than one type on a page makes it very difficult to find some stamps if they are on pages with other types of stamps.
    (3) Correct the types of stamps in some cases (postal tax stamps of some Latin American countries are indicated as semi-postals, for example), or the names of the country or sub-country that make putting the pages in the correct location hard.
    Some pages involve more than one of these problems.

    When the obvious instances of these problems have been fixed, I will be going through all the volumes and comparing them to the catalog number-by-number, fixing the above problems.

    While making new pages, I have also used the current names of countries (AbyssiniaEthiopia, etc.), removed delisted or demoted-to-minor-status stamps, corrected dates of issue, and arranged items in stricter chronological order, including moving stamps to pages for the correct volume. These lesser problems will NOT AT THIS TIME generally result in the issuance of new pages unless one of the above priority problems is also involved. I may at some later time go through the albums again to fix some or all of these lesser problems.

    Once I have gone thoroughly through the albums once, I intend to do so again every year (or two at most) to synchronize the pages with the current Scott Classic Specialized catalog.

    Documents with further info on how this is being done, a list of available pages (more than 600 as of 17 Jan 2018), and the PDF page images themselves are available FREE upon email request from: philpritchard@mindspring.com
    Pages can be printed on correctly sized and colored pages from: stampalbumpages.com (currently $0.30 each plus shipping)

    1. Wow, Phil, that is quite an updating project you have undertaken.

      Thank you!

      I’m sure you are aware that there are also problems with spaces for stamps that have now been de-listed in Scott such as for the Colombian States.

      Please keep me informed of your progress.

      If you haven’t already done so, you might also inform Bob Skinner of the Filling Spaces blog site, as he has an interest in the Browns also.


  25. Hello. I'm looking for some information on the old Scott "brown" albums, and also the Vintage reprints and hoping that you wouldn't mind answering a few questions, if you can. I really like the look of the Scott "brown" albums; the border on the page and the font used in descriptions, and of course their completeness. I have been able to buy two older browns, a "Nineteenth Century" and one for "1901-1920" but then I get stuck. I've seen old browns that cover 1920-1922, 1920-1926, 1920-1929, a "Part 3" covering 1928-1935 and a "Part 4" that doesn't say what it covers (these are on eBay). Do you know how the old browns were released?

    As for the new reprints, is the print quality as good as the originals? If possible, do you have the first page of Algeria I could view? It would help me make a decision.


  26. Hi Corbin

    Actually, four of the Brown volumes you mention should work*..

    * Nineteenth Century (You have this volume)
    * Twentieth Century 1901-1920 (You have this volume)
    * Twentieth Century 1920-1929 (One of the volumes offered on Ebay. It actually goes only to mid 1928)
    * Twentieth Century Part Three (Mid 1928 - mid 1934 - One of the volumes offered on Ebay.)

    You then need to find..
    Twentieth Century Part Four (mid 1934 to mid 1938 - says it is current through 1939 catalogue, but actually stops mid 1938 in coverage)

    That is the end of the formal "Brown" coverage. BUT Vintage put out a sixth volume actually covering mid 1938 to 1940 using the Brown format and design. As far as I know, you can only get this coverage through the Vintage "reprints".

    I only have the original "Browns" and not the Vintage reprints, although I have seen examples of them.

    I did upload a scan of the original 1920-1929 Brown page of Algeria. See this post and scroll down to the end.

    As far as the Vintage reprints, they offer much better paper, but the illustrations are not as clear as the original Browns.

    Good luck with your quest!


    1. Jim,
      Thanks so much for your quick reply. I am surprised to see that the Brown for Algeria didn't give a space for the 1/2c overprint. But then I didn't see that stamp receive a Scott number either. My Minkus album does include that stamp.
      Again, thanks so much for all your information. It's very helpful.