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...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Which Stamp Album is best for WW collectors?

Turks and Caicos Islands Page
Minkus Supreme Global Album
Into the Deep Blue

It depends.

Do you have the ambition.. and funds.. of a Josiah Lilly, or would you rather rummage through a bankers box of castoff albums bought on the cheap?

How much time..and shelf space.. can you devote to the hobby?

Do you tend to be a completist, or do your eyes focus..and give pleasure.. on the stamps you have?

Truth be told, collecting the world is a crazy thing to do. Collecting a small corner of the world is where it's at. You can find a tidy little specialty, and you needn't read on.



..............Still here?

O.K. don't say I didn't warn you. ;-)

It occurred to me that the just posted "Turks and Caicos Islands" stamp country could serve as another "Yelp" review in the WW collectors quest to have the "perfect" WW stamp album.

(pssst...there is no "perfect" album, but one might be more right than the others based on one's own collecting desires.)

(and yes, one can use stock books or stock pages to house stamps and collections.....this approach is especially common in Europe and other parts of the world. Perhaps this may be the "perfect" choice for you. But I will limit the discussion here to album possibilities.)

For the U.S. based collector, especially, these are the albums that, in my opinion, work well for the WW collector.

(I base the choice on the "classical era 1840-1952", as that is what I collect.)

* Big Blue (Scott International Part I 1840-1940).  The Scott International albums continue, if one wishes, up to the present time. Yes, the color of the binder is blue.

* Minkus Supreme Global Album 1840-1952. The Minkus, now owned by Amos & Scott, also continues, if one wishes, to the present time.

* Steiner WW "classical package" pdf pages that can be printed out. Again, one can choose the year cut-off for any given country.

* The "Browns"- the original Scott International 1840-1938 (now -1940) comprehensive albums. Sold then by "Vintage", and now marketed by Subway stamp shop. Yes, the color of the binder was brown.

* Scott Specialty country albums- generally in a green binder- and marketed by Scott, especially after they were no longer adding to the "Browns" coverage.

All of the album spaces descriptions were based on the Scott catalogue, except the Minkus, which had their own (now defunct) numbers and catalogue.

I have compared/contrasted these albums in previous blog posts.

To refresh the memory...

A Three Album Shootout

Four Album "Hermes Head" Cagefight

"Goldilocks" Album for WW Classical Collectors?

(Note: I reviewed some of my previous musings, and "borrowed" some of the same wording for this post.)

Why did I choose to use "Turks and Caicos Islands" for this review? Well, I just finished with a post about these islands, and it is fresh in my memory.  And luckily, I have an essentially complete Turks and Caicos Islands collection from the classical era. I can therefore illustrate the album pages filled with stamps, rather than empty spaces. :-)

Big Blue 1840-1940  Part IA1, IA2, IB1, IB2
Big Blue
What do these admonishments have to do with Big Blue?

"Eyes bigger than one's stomach"

"Biting off more than one can chew"

"Be careful what one wishes for"

...and the opening blog post caution "Truth be told, collecting the world is a crazy thing to do."?

I liken collecting the world to attempting to sail in the chilly Pacific ocean- it is fraught with the probability of drowning time wise, money wise, and knowledge wise.

Yes, a lake would be so much easier and friendlier- and that is what Big Blue provides.

I think Big Blue tends to get short shrift when discussing WW album possibilities- all because its assets are rather seen as faults by many collectors.

* BB provides 35,000 spaces. (Why not 45,000 or 55,000 spaces grouses the collector, myself included. ;-)

* BB limits stamp spaces generally to the more affordable variety. (Why didn't BB include all the spaces for the issue set grouses the collector, myself included. ;-)

* BB telescopes stamp choices so one doesn't need to bother with watermarks or perforation varieties. (The completist and compulsive collector, myself included, has a need to parse, and sub-parse, and sub-sub-parse.)

From a previous post...

"We are familiar indeed with Big Blue, as much of the focus of this blog is taken up with the merits/demerits of this "representative" album.

Its more modest ambition is reflected in the purpose on the title page...

"Provides for a representative collection of the postage stamps of the world, 1840-1940, as well as blank spaces for additional stamps."

Nevertheless, 35,000 spaces is nothing to sneeze at, considering there are very few collectors that have successfully filled all the pages.

So despite its more modest aim, it still deserves the moniker "Big Blue" "

So, if one has come to the realization that perhaps it is not in the best self interest of the collector (and his family) to have an all consuming Ahab like quest to collect the world without limits, then Big Blue provides a friendly harbor indeed.

Big Blue- Page 1
From my previous post, I know that BB provides 51% coverage for Turks and Caicos Islands, and manages to not have any expensive ($10+) stamp spaces.

Here, on page 1, it provides the same coverage of the 1900-09 "Dependency's Badge" issue (5 spaces) and the 1909 "Edward VII" issue (4 spaces) as it's main "representational" rival, the Minkus Supreme Global. The Supreme does provide two spaces for the 1911 Scott 24 1/2p red "Turks-head Cactus" Wmk 3 stamp, and the 1921 Scott 1/2p red Wmk 4 stamp. BB telescopes the Wmk 3 and wmk 4 stamps into one space.

Big Blue- Page 2
Note: Click and enlarge for clarity
The 1913-21 "George V" issues have seven spaces, and telescopes the Wmk 3 and Wmk 4 stamps into one space. There is nothing wrong with that, as that is what BB does. The Supreme, OTOH, has three more spaces for the Wmk 3 stamps, and four more spaces for the Wmk 4 stamps, as the Supreme pays some attention to watermarks.  Along with the additional coverage by Minkus is more expense, as the additional  2sh red/blue green and the 3sh black/red are @ CV $10+.

BB's 1923-26 issue has eight spaces, the same as the Supreme. The 1928 issue (8 spaces) in BB is bested by one space in the Minkus.

Note the four space coverage for the War Tax stamps in the '47 edition (illustrated here). The war tax coverage was dropped in the '69 and later BB editions. Minkus includes nine spaces for the War Tax stamps, a big improvement.

Big Blue- Page 3
The 1938 BB issue has nine spaces, lacking the two 1945 issue stamps, as well as the three 2sh-10sh higher denominations. (Part II 1940-49+ Scott International has spaces for the two 1945 issue stamps.)

The Minkus includes the entire 14 stamp issue. That does add expense, as the 2sh rose carmine is @ CV $10+, and the 5sh green is @ $25.

Finally, even the most ardent Minkus Supreme owner has to acknowledge that Big Blue, especially in the modern four part version housed in four binders, is elegant indeed in terms of the more leisured layout. The wonderfully hued cream colored thick paper does nothing to dissuade one from a most favorable impression.

Several years ago, I elected to go with the classical era Steiner pages for my collection, as I found myself too frustrated with the number of stamps with no spaces in Big Blue. I have continued to fill a "virtual" Big Blue, by using the BB checklists.  But, as many of you are aware, the stamps are now put into Deep Blue (Steiner).

Though truth be told, every time I open the (still empty) four part 1991-92 edition Big Blue, housed in four blue binders, I have an urge to fill the cozy pages for real!

Minkus Logo
Minkus Supreme Global
 The MSG is an overall great "representational" WW album that provides 76,000+ spaces for 1840-1952+.  For a more in depth look, check out my "Goldilocks" blog post.

I'm convinced that, if the MSG was originally a Scott album, it's usage and popularity would be 2-3 times as much as it is now. But it is hampered by a now defunct Minkus numbering system for the spaces. Not impossible to use, but does require greater "energy of activation" than a nominal Scott product.

Nevertheless, I like it- a lot.

I also used to be turned off by the "crowding" of the pages. But now I rather like the look. The white pages simply glisten with stamps

Minkus Supreme Global- Page 1
Click to enlarge for study
A full MSG stamp page is a sight to see. ! True, if one wishes to use mounts, it will be a challenge. But it can be done.

As I am committed to Steiner for the 1840-1940 (-1952 British Commonwealth), I use the thick paper (as now sold by Amos) MSG as my album for "extras", as well as for the 1940-1952 era. (I also have the thick paper 1953-1963 MSG pages. I have been too busy with the 1840-1952 period to do much with them, however. ;-)

Minkus Supreme Global- Page 2
The middle section of stamps here comprise a separate Steiner page!

One concern I've heard is that Minkus stamp pages seem to not command the same level of $ sale as a similar Scott collection.

A 32,900 stamp filled BB , broken down into country lots, recently sold for $35,000 on e-bay. I'm not aware of a comparable Minkus Supreme Global sale.

Minkus Supreme Global- Page 3
The 1950 George VI issue here is a nice reminder that the MSG covers all countries up to 1952+. Many collectors now agree that pre-1950 is the new pre-1940. In other words, "classic".

Deep Blue (Steiner) Pages housed in Vario F
and Vario G Binders
Steiner (Deep Blue)
We now turn to the comprehensive WW albums- Steiner, the "Browns", and the Scott green country specialty albums. Each have their strong points.

But a word of caution is in order.

As stamp collectors, many of us tend to want to be "completists". That might be alright for a several country specialty, but for the world? No, really?

That is why, even if we tend to be obsessive completists, a "representative" album (BB, MSG) may be the better... and saner...choice.

Frankly, to do WW comprehensive albums justice, a 20,000+ stamp 1840-1940 collection is about the minimum, unless one wishes to stare at a lot of empty spaces. ;-)

Steiner- Page 1
A WW collection housed on Steiner pages for 1840-1940 (-1952 British Commonwealth) will take up some 44 1 1/4" binders (or some 60+ Vario F Binders), about 6,500 pages. 
Steiner- Page 2
But it is not that difficult. I've done it, and I only really started on the WW collection in 2011.

Recently, I have been acquiring Vario F and Vario G Lighthouse binders to house the Steiner pages. They look nice indeed!

Steiner- Page 3
I have some 45,000+ stamps in Deep Blue (Steiner), and, with a capacity of 83,000 spaces, many pages are reasonably full.

Steiner- Page 4
I initially began by using Big Blue as my album in 2011. The first country was Aden (as was the blog post), and by the time I reached Ethiopia, I realized, that for me, this wasn't going to work. 

Steiner- Page 5
Big Blue is most satisfying if one "collects to the album". I started a checklist (which is an ongoing project), and tried to limit my acquisitions to what would "fit".

Steiner- Page 6
Then it struck me that I could have my cake and eat it also. ;-) By putting the stamps into Deep Blue (my affectionate name for the Steiner pages), I could have a space for every stamp. Yes!

Steiner- Page 7
Rather, I now had a "Virtual Big Blue", as, with the checklist, I was aware of Big Blue's inventory and possibilities.

Steiner- Page 8
Presently, I have some 29,000+ stamps in my virtual Big Blue. I continue to target my acquisitions to those that will be found in the BB album, which, fortunately, tend to be the more affordable stamps. I stay in the lake and safe harbor (economically speaking), although my ship (Deep Blue) is capable of ocean travel.

Steiner- Page 9
And a good thing too that the collection is housed in Steiner. Because, despite my intentions to look for Big Blue stamps, I have some 16,000 stamps that have no space in that album.

Lord, what a mess that could be!

(Not quite as bad as it appears. The reality is most of my 1940-1952 British Commonwealth stamps in Deep Blue (I don't know the specific number) at least would be able to find a home in the 1940-49+ or 1950-55 Scott Internationals.)

(And Bud's approach - putting the extra stamps without spaces in BB on supplementary pages successfully works for him.)

Steiner- Page 10
And, as one can see from the Turks and Caicos Islands collection illustrated here, Deep Blue (Steiner) does a very nice job with it indeed. 

Volume I (Nineteenth Century) of The Browns
The Browns
The Browns (Vintage version- six volumes) covers the world from 1840-1940, and "Contains spaces for every principal variety of Postage Stamp issued by any Government in the World"

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 fair amount of shelf space, specifically 12-19 binders. 

One disadvantage for the "Browns" are the fossilized stamp descriptions and spaces, reflecting, specifically for the Nineteenth Century volume, a Scott 1919 catalogue.

But the "Browns", for many countries where there has not been major changes within the catalogue, presents a very elegant and attractive package for the WW collector.

The "Browns" have a septia toned aura about them that reminds one of the days when world wide classical stamp collecting was the norm.

The advantage is one can order the pages on good paper -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.

The Browns- Page 1 in the 19th Century Volume
For Turks and Caicos Islands coverage specifically, one will find spaces spread out over five of the six volumes ( 19th century: 1 page; 1901-1920- 2 pages; 1920-29- 2 pages; 1934-38+ - 1 page). The good news is that the coverage is up to modern catalogue standards, and should pose no problem, as all the major numbers have a space.

Well, how easy are the "Browns" to use in 2016?

Definitely not as easy as the Steiner.

But,  considering that Scott has not updated the "Browns" for well nigh 75-95 years, it is amazing indeed - and speaks to their pedigree- that the "Browns" are often the choice of collectors even today.

Scott Green Specialized Album for Greece
Scott Country Specialized Albums
I am not going to show example pages of the green Scott Specialty country pages because, at least, most U.S. collectors are familiar with them. Generally, collectors consider them the "Gold Standard". albeit a bit tarnished, for housing a Scott based collection.

They, of course, have spaces for all the major Scott descriptive numbers. They are on fine thick paper, and the binders are substantial.

An advantage is a country can be collected up to any date the collector wishes by adding year supplements to the album.

Both the on-line  Antonius Ra WW collection and the Cheng Chang WW collection tend to use Scott green country albums for their stamps. Many great WW collections that reach the major stamp auctions are found in the Scott green albums.

One approach would be to obtain various Scott country albums by buying collections housed in them. Often, the album itself is then valued nominally, or even only valued for the stamps inside. One could accumulate a number of the green country Scott albums, and use them as a basis for the WW collection. As necessary, Steiner pages could be added in separate binders for those countries/areas that are not covered by the collector's Scott green albums.

Actually, one doesn't have to be limited to the Scott green country albums with this approach. Any reasonably comprehensive country album in good shape (Minkus Country, Lighthouse, Palo, Schaubeck, Ka-Be, Davo etc) can serve as a basis for expanding the collection in that area.

If I knew then what I know now, this approach might very well have been the best choice. Without even trying, I have accumulated a number of Scott green country albums (and other brand albums) as feeder albums. But I have put the stamps into Steiner, and it is too late to change strategies now. ;-)

A caveat is the album pages, if bought new, are expensive, and many countries are no longer actively printed or available. And Steiner actually is easier to follow with the modern Scott catalogue, as many of these Scott green albums reflect an older Scott catalogue naming and descriptive set.

And let's face it. This is Big Boy (Girl) collecting.

One Binder (original) to Two Binders (Interleaving) to Four Binders ('97 edition)
Big Blue 1840-1940
Out of the Blue
Is this the end of the discussion on the best way to house a WW collection?

Of course not.

The answers are as varied as the situations collectors find themselves.

Note: "Moby Dick" print scan appears to be in the public domain.

Comments appreciated!


  1. Just curious... How common / uncommon are European worldwide albums (of the yesteryear), say Schaubeck or SG New Ideal, in the US markets? The reason I ask that in Europe coming up with Scott or Minkus is pretty unusual whereas the 'European and local brands' are much more common (especially if you know what to look for). I guess this falls down to which catalog the collectors in specific area use/favor.

    1. Old Schaubecks are definitely seen. When I bought my first (non childhood) WW album with lots of stamps in it from a dealer back in the early 1970s, it was a Schaubeck. It was huge, and had been published circa 1920. It was one of my first "feeder" albums when I began the BB quest in 2011.

      A "New Ideal" l've never seen personally! I'm sure they exist among the more fastidious Commonwealth collector.

  2. Hi Jim,

    First of all, many congratulations on your web site - absolutely superb. You and Antonius Ra (Mitchell Ward) occupy a large proportion of my browsing time nowadays!

    I am also a WW collector, but based in the UK. Your site is wonderfully "US centric" (as I'm sure you are aware!) and, as the previous post implies, there are other possibilities out there.

    One of the best of these is Stanley Gibbon's "New Ideal" range (presently going through a bit of a re-think). I am lucky enough to own a now discontinued 3 volume set. Volume 1 is "British Empire" (spaces for 11,000+ stamps) and Volumes 2 and 3 are "Foreign" (spaces for 19,250+ and 18,500+ stamps respectively). That would give a WW collection of nearly 50,000 stamps (- more complete than Scott Junior / Part 1) - albeit the cut-off date for all 3 volumes is 1936, the date King George V died.

    These are great albums - and have spaces for all denominations issued (- doesn't do annoying "short sets" like Scott Junior). The only drawbacks are (1) they are fast bound albums (- you can't insert extra pages) and (2) there is no back-of-the-book (- officials, post dues, etc) which I rather like to collect.

    I also own Scott Part 1 (Junior) and Scott Part 2 - mine are 1947 editions, I think. I paid extortionate courier fees to have them delivered to the UK!!
    Part 1 is a great "single volume" album, but what I don't like is it's treatment of pre-1914 issues (which is my particular interest). You really cannot get a 'representative collection' of early issues in Part 1.

    I also have Steiner (or rather access rights to it!). Bill has done a fantastic job (- a great service to collectors) but... frankly I'm unlikely to fill 80,000+ spaces and not sure I can bear looking at all those blank pages for many years to come! One possibility is to "print as you go" (eluded to in one of your other posts) but that strikes me as a bit of an ordeal (continuously printing out as you acquire more stamps) and in the mean time one would have a very 'disjointed' album.

    But you know, there is another problem with all these albums (SG, Scott, Steiner, etc)... can we WW collectors really afford to place these old (sometimes rare and valuable) stamps on loose pages with little hinges!? This causes me major worries... many of my stamps are more than 100 years old and I feel so bad about placing bits of sticky wet gum on the back and then leaving them exposed to 'flap around' on unguarded pages...

    And ultimately, this is now what dictates my collecting habits. I have abandoned SG, Scott and Steiner. My classic collection is now on Hanger or Prinz pages. I collect to the same scope as the Scott Classic Catalogue (1840-1940 or 1952 for British colonies) and endeavour to get all major catalogue numbers(!) but I simply set them out on Hanger and Prinz pages. I know you will object to the idea of not being able to "fill spaces", but there is a simple solution: just insert a piece of stamp-sized paper (with details of the stamp and Scott number, if you wish) for the missing stamp - and when you obtain it, replace the 'marker' with your stamp. This enables you to have the sense of 'filling spaces' and allows you to see how your collection is progressing. The other great advantage of this approach is you can insert minor numbers - and anything else of interest (unusual postmarks, pairs, etc) alongside your major numbers!

    But perhaps the best advantage is you can put everything in great-looking Lighthouse binders (or similar) and sleep well at night knowing your beloved ancient stamps are safe and secure and living in the best possible conditions!

    Just an idea...

    Thanks again for a brilliant web site and keep up the great work. Really enjoying everything you post.

    Best regards,

    Ashley Freeman (Mr)

    1. Hello Ashley

      Thanks foe the nice words- appreciate that!

      I think your idea of using Hanger/Printz pages is a great one! It is just not for me. ;-)

      As far as mounts/hinges, my stamps in the Steiner are in mounts. I can then easily swap them out if a better copy comes along, and no further damage is done - admittedly small- with attaching hinges.

      The stamps in the Minkus are in mounts giving that classic look. ;-) However, I do use mounts for selective stamps. I use the classic Dennison hinges.

    2. I meant to say the stamps in the Minkus are in hinges...

    3. Thanks Jim,

      I must admit I have agonised over the 'correct way' to do this for many years(!) - and have sadly had a few changes of heart along the way (saying 'let me mount them like this' and then, 2 weeks, later 'no, let me mount them like that') - very frustrating, especially for my poor stamps being shunted back and forth into different albums!

      If I was ever to do a 'white album sheet' classic WW collection, I would certainly do it the way you do it Jim = Steiner and black mounts.
      I did consider this option, but for me there were two concerns:-

      1. Too many blank spaces - I think you are just over 50% complete (40+k out of 80+k) - but I'm probably more at the 25% mark, which means 75% of my album would be blank! At least with Hagner / Prinz, I can close-up some of those blanks spaces!

      2. I wanted a double-sided album (stamps on both sides like Scott Junior and SG). It's difficult to do this with Steiner and I experimented putting two Steiner sheets back-to-back in a polystyrene sheet protector - but that made adding new stamps too cumbersome!

      Ultimately, I'm come to a few conclusions:-

      1. Scott Junior and SG restrict me too much (and will probably damage my stamps in the long run)
      2. Steiner is an ocean in which my collection will drown...
      3. Hagner / Prinz is dead easy - design as you wish, super safe, and those classic stamps look great against a black background!

      But maybe the best realisation is this:

      There simply isn't a 'correct' way to do this! Everyone has their preferences, likes and dislikes. And everyone their own favourite way of collecting. And this is what makes ours a truly great hobby.

      Good luck Jim - and all WW classic collectors. May you fill those spaces quicker than you ever imagined! ;)


    4. Ashley

      I really like your decision making about how to house the collection, and some of your conclusions are similar to mine.

      My Steiner has mounts, but clear, as I like the focus on the stamps themselves.

      I too would perhaps prefer if Steiner was double sided, but I have that with the Minkus. I think I am trying to recreate my childhood memories with my old Harris Statesman album and the 10,000 WW stamps I begged my parents to get me for my birthday. ;-)

    5. Yes, and actually this is a very interesting subject in itself... "The psychology of the WW classic collector!"

      There are two distinct themes here (which I think you and me both share):

      1. "Completionism" - the desire to be as absolute as possible (hence a preference for Steiner)

      2. "Recreationism" - the desire to recreate an aesthetically pleasing bygone era (old-style albums, old-style pages - and ultimately, old stamps!)

      I still remember my first visit to the British Museum as a 10 year old to see the famous Tapling collection (WW pre-1890) and it still influences a lot of my stamp collecting preferences & prejudices today...!!!

      I think I'd better conclude this discussion here(!), but thanks again... ;)

  3. Excellent post as always, Jim, and it seems like your journey, now about 90% complete, has helped you form more substantial opinions regarding options for WW collectors.

    For me, as you know, there is that extra little issue of being very much into acquiring specialized catalogs, especially from the nation of origin for the stamps. As a result, for me the only real solution is to use Lighthouse stock pages since they are about the most flexible solution available without having to take up the numerous hours of time to create my own custom pages. For even as deep in coverage that Steiner is, his album is simply not going to cover things such as all the shade varieties listed in the Brusden-White Australia specialized catalogues (never mind all the plate varieties which even I find overkill!).

    In the end collecting Worldwide is a journey of discovery that require a willingness to try different storage solutions for our collections until we finally hit on that Goldilocks "Just Right" solution that fits our collecting interests. I may not ever acquire all the varieties listed in the various specialized catalogues in my collection, but for me I would feel "constricted" if I didn't have a place to put a variety I might chance discover misidentified in a dealer stock or large accumulation.

    You are almost at the finish line with your journey through the Classical Era, and I just want to say it has been an enjoyable experience sharing your journey.

  4. Gene - thanks for the kind comments. :-)

    In your case, with your emphasis on diving into the specific regional/country albums and collecting as such, it clearly makes sense to form your own path which the Lighthouse stock pages provide. !!!

    Also, for those who enjoy forming their own path through a country, it also is a great solution.

  5. Hello, Jim! I don't know if I ever dare to start a ww collection, but I'm glad I can be a philatelist on my own way, but benefiting of the valuable support of great projects such as Big Blue, Antonius Ra, or Cheng Chang ww collections, when I look for any useful information. Good luck in your hard (but wonderful) journey! Catalin

    1. Well, your own wonderful stamp journey is there for all to see with your blog posts. Best to you too!

  6. Each to their own. These are hobbies and every collector must do what appeals best.

    As for me, I really need my collection "mounted" on actual pages made of paper in the classic manner. That way, I can write numbers underneath each stamp, if I want, or add a small penciled note next to it. Most albums have some identifying information printed for stamps or sets of stamps which makes the presentation look professional and "complete".

    As for which albums to use, that also is anyone's choice, but I've settled on a combination that suits me. Instead of worrying about Big Brown vs. Big Blue vs. Steiner (vs. stock pages) vs. Minkus too much, I collect some countries in depth and the rest of the world in less depth. I've gradually bought many Davo and Scott Specialty albums covering dozens of countries. Scott's Specialty albums "are" Big Brown albums printed country by country. So, for me, no need to use Brown pages at all since I already have them for dozens of countries just in Scott green binders or Davo binders.

    For everything else -- the other 100 or 150 countries I don't collect in much depth -- I just put them into my Big Blue Scott International. Where I run into some frustration that some stamps aren't provided for, I just add a blank page (or perhaps put the extra stamps in the margins). Since these are the countries I don't intend to complete, I'm not bothered by this. Those countries where I want complete sets and serious depth are the Davo and Scott Specialty albums.

    It's not wrong to collect everything in Big Blue or Minkus or some other single approach album. But it is a bit limiting and less flexible than combining different albums by different publishers. I find this is more flexible.

    As to Steiner, I like his pages very much and have debated using them either for individual countries (in place of Davo or Scott single country albums) or for the "entire world" approach. My frustration includes not only the enormous number of pages to print (is it 6,000?) but also the "look" of what I'd end up with. Most Steiner pages go on 8.5 x 11" pages into 3-ring binders. Lighthouse F and G 3-ring binders with slipcases are perhaps the best of that type, but no matter how much I try (and I have!) I just do not like the look of 3-ring binders compared to the elegance and quality of traditional stamp album pages. It's just a preference, not a judgement, but I need my collection to look that way.

    There is an alternative which would allow use of Steiner pages, but it would cost some money. This is to print Steiner's pages onto larger traditional album pages and bind them in traditional albums. Either get a wide-bed computer printer and print them yourself on blank paper of the appropriate size for whatever binder you are using. Or to have the pages printed by the online "partner" who Steiner recommends for doing such printing.

    What you end up with are Minkus or Scott Specialty sized pages printed with the Steiner page layouts.

    1. Drew - you give a lot of good advice based on experience with various Album approaches. Mixing and matching does indeed work very well, as that works especially with collecting some countries in depth, others not so much.

  7. I said I wouldn't comment again, but this is interesting Drew! I like the idea of collecting WW in a series of single country albums (and this is something Jim also eluded to if he was to 'do it all again')

    May I ask two questions?

    1. Which layout of single country pages do you prefer - Davo or Scott Speciality?

    2. Approximately how many single country collections gave you the sense of being a WW collector (before putting the remainder in Scott Junior)?

    I appreciate that these are subjective personal choices, but I'm interested in your views in the context of your other comments.
    Thank you!


    1. Never let it be said that I ignored a question (for more than six months, anyway). I just saw Ashley's questions and a little embarassed to not have answered yet.
      1. I like Scott's page layouts better but not so much because of "layout" alone but because of the somewhat more elegant look to Scott pages. It's the cream colored Scott page vs. the (somewhat too) bright white Davo page and the classic Scott page border vs. the plain lines of the Davo page borders. And it seems Scott gets a few more stamps on its pages than Davo, but the difference isn't much.

      Then there's the weight of the pages. For Scott, there's only the one medium weight, and it's a good relatively sturdy page that should last. For Davo, you choose between light "regular" pages or "Luxe" heavyweight pages. In the long run, the heavier pages will hold up better, but I kind of like the lighter weight Davo pages because they allow more pages to fit in an album, and they're decently sturdy. The Luxe pages are really the weight of card stock which is pretty heavy stuff. I still have my first Davo album, purchased in Brussels in 1970, and it's the "regular" version with lighter pages, and it's lasted just fine over the last almost 50 years. Now I feel really old.

      2. How many single country albums is a moving target. I've recently just purchased three new country albums (Italy, San Marino, Vatican). I purchased a few months ago a Germany Scott album and a Greece album. I have six or seen more Scott single country albums so far with more to come (Czech, Denmark, Austria, Japan, Russia . . . ). Most were purchased "used" but in very good condition. That way I got some stamps along with an album all ready to go.

      As for Davo, a few years ago I went whole hog and nearly bought out an online dealer who was selling off volumes of Davo albums. After a few months, when the dust settled, I ended up with 40 or more albums from him and elsewhere. These covered 15-20 different countries and many were incomplete (one or two volumes only when a country required three or four) The problem, besides Davo albums just generally being much more expensive than Scott albums, is that Davo country albums -- at least in the "Luxe" variety with larger pages and nicer binders -- often come in two, three, four, or more volumes. A few countries take up seven or eight separate binders. This makes the price of a single country in a Davo album very expensive. I'm not very happy with that. What I bought was incomplete, at best, so now I'm facing the question of whether to buy the other Davo volumes or not to finish these countries. I'm starting to think it's too expensive to do that. I'll probably keep only some countries in Davo albums and move gradually more into Scott which is more affordable -- and I like the look of Scott albums and pages just a little better.

      Scott albums can handle many entire countries typically in 1-3 volumes because they're thicker binders and pages are less heavy than Davo's "Luxe" fancier pages. I have only a few three-volume Scott albums, and these are the countries that issue large numbers of stamps and are in medium sized Scott binders. I use 2-post Scott binders. Today Scott only sells the large sized 2-post binder, unfortunately, but they would hold even more pages (even if the resulting album is much too heavy for my taste). I never use Scott ring binders which I find clunky, awkward, page-ripping, too large (what else do I dislike about them?).

      Hope this helps a little.

  8. I'm a relative newcomer to WW collecting. I stayed in a small lake for a few years but decided I couldn't resist the allure of the ocean. I'm currently collecting the world-to-date, although I really don't care how complete my collection ever becomes for most of it. I'm still pretty serious about the countries in my original lake, most of the rest of the world is casual.

    The album/storage conundrum is something every WW collector faces at some point, and one that I'm not exactly sure I've resolved myself. There is no "perfect" balance of affordability, comprehensiveness, presentation, shelf-space economy, and ease of use. Ultimately it's whatever works best for the individual collector, and most of us find out by trial and error.

    I use a mixture of Steiner, stockbooks and Vario pages. I use Steiner for the countries I'm collecting more in depth, stockbooks and Vario pages for the rest. If I ever start approaching completion (say, at least 50-60%) in one of "the rest", I'd consider printing Steiner pages for that country or area, depending on how much MNH material I have. If I have a lot of MNH I'd probably leave them in stockbooks so as to forego the cost and trouble of using mounts.

    1. Steven

      If I was collecting the world to date, I would probably follow your model. The problem is, if one wishes to use Steiner, than it would require 80,000 pages! I simply can't imagine that. Vario pages or stockbooks offer a more compact solution.

    2. @Jim... Now, that is not so bad. That's only about 160 reams of paper (I guess you'd get home delivery if buying such amount, LOL).... I must say that there are times when I am tempted by Steiner, but then I take a look of all those different varieties, efos etc. I come up if not daily then weekly, and go sigh. Maybe if I was collecting the world 'simplified' (or on Scott-level), then Steiner might be a good option. But the larger the scale, the more flexible the display/storage solution has also got to be.


    3. Keijo-
      Yes, scaling up from a classical era collection (6,500 Steiner pages- very do-able) to an up to date collection (80,000 pages- Yikes! Wouldn't get past my spouse for starters) creates massive space issues. A stockbook or stock page approach offers the best compact solution.

  9. No way I'd ever print every Steiner page. I can't imagine ever needing over half of them, at any rate. There has to be thousands of Steiner pages just for all the miscellaneous pop culture souvenir sheets issued by the likes of Grenada, Sierra Leone or St. Thomas & Prince, etc. Not only would I never deliberately purchase those issues (for real money, anyway), I would never buy the large sized mounts necessary to mount them. Any I come across by chance will stay in stockbooks, or even just plain old cheap page protectors.

    When I say I collect the world to date, I more or less mean that I don't exclude anything. I buy almost exclusively mixed bulk lots and I'll save at least one copy of any stamp I come across, regardless of country or era. I have no plans on working towards completion of any area except the German sphere (all of it), which forms the core of the "lake" I inhabited for a few years. My German-area acquisitions are becoming more infrequent and more expensive, and it's somewhat harder to maintain my interest as a result. I'll continue to plug away at the German sphere but I don't think I'll ever run out of worldwide stamps to collect. I could (and probably will) add 1000 stamps a month to my collection for the rest of my life (I'm 46 and healthy) without running out of new stamps. Somewhere along the line, I'll probably find a few more areas I'd like to specialize in as well.

  10. In 1994 I went worldwide by buying a small but hungry up to 1960 starter collection and feeding it with country collections over time. By now there are no countries left to start (okay, Kionga and Saseno) and I'm at a little over 75% Scott catalogue coverage until 1960, which I kept as a (very fluid) limit. According to Jim's beautiful tally of Big Blue that album would have been filled 93.8% (up to the letter U), though the great bulk of the value would have had to be tucked away somewhere else.
    In 1994 Steiner's pages had just come online. Besides the affordability and my wish to have a space for "everything", there were a few more reasons I picked that option. Since my collection expanded by country, the ability to just print out the pages when needed was appealing. In 1995 Steiner didn't have that many countries done yet and could still be influenced. For example, on my request he included both the p15x14 and p 12 Ceres stamps, issued decades apart after all, in the Portuguese pages. (Before you attack me, I'm not responsible for him including the nigh indiscernible normal and chalky paper issues;-) I'd like to think -though seriously doubt- that that eventually (20 years later) pushed Scott to do the same. As I'm mostly sticking to pre-1960 issues the number of pages is manageable (25 Lighthouse Vario-G binders; admittedly, I have a number of countries in hingeless albums).
    Another reason is that you can modify the PDFs to fit your aesthetics and needs (I use OpenOffice). This is both fun (for me at least) and there are many reasons for it. 1) Steiner uses too much white space for my taste. Some back of the book pages have just one or two stamps on it... While keeping his layout rules, I've compressed some of the more bothersome pages. For example, all Tete stamps easily fits on 2 instead of 4 pages and all Italian offices stamps look much nicer on 15 instead of 27 pages. 2) Sometimes the size for a stamp isn't quite right. He corrects them if requested, but it's easier to fix it oneself. 3) As you mentioned in an earlier blog, a lot of early pages are excessively detailed. Stamps of which both known copies are in a museum do not need to have a space. Nor do those that Scott admits to probably only have been used for revenue (£100 postage from Kenya in 1922?). Nor do the infinite number of perforation varieties for some early British colonial stamps, I bet caused by primitive equipment rather than by choice. You get the drift. As you mentioned, the US pages' porridge is definitely "too hot", and I reduced those to what I guess would have been major numbers if it was any foreign country. 4) On the other hand, I have expanded other pages, e.g. when perforation or color variations are blatant and/or coincide with a different date of issue. It's also nice to create that extra space for that upside down error that you happen to have.
    This ability to adjust the pages may be the major advantage of having PDFs over having just printed pages. It does imply that you have to transfer the stamps again once you adjust a page, but moving perforated pieces of paper to their designated spots is what we like to do, isn't it;-)

    who's google account apparently doesn't let him sign in here

    1. Arian,
      So you are the one responsible for Portugal and colonies Ceres major number expansion recently foisted on us by Scott? ;-)

      Actually, I think it is a good idea, and Scott will now agree with the Ceres parsing that exists presently in the Portuguese catalogues. Although, among other reasons, it does mean I will need to upgrade my Scott 1840-1940 catalogue to the 2017 version this fall.

      Arian, your WW stamp story is so interesting, I had to read it twice! I must say, you seem to have made very good choices with your WW collecting habits. And if you are at 75% Scott coverage to 1960, your albums have to be a sight to behold!

      Thanks for sharing, and please feel free to participate with comments even if the google thing isn't working.


  11. Hi all,

    Thought I'd put in my 2-cents. I ultimately decided to go with the Vintage Reproductions (Browns) for my classic WW collection. I found them to be a good "middle of the road" between the "too cold" BigBlue and "too hot" Steiner. I think they have a nice layout (not as spread out as Steiner; same as Scott Specialty albums). Plus, they don’t bother with perf varieties, which I like. Also, I get around the (immediate) need of having to have 12+ large Scott binders full of pages that would be mostly empty by 3-hole punching the pages and putting only pages which I have stamps for into 3-ring binders of my choosing. This way, my albums (and shelf space) grow as my collection grows and ideally each page would have at least one stamp on it.

    Of course, modifying Steiner’s PDFs is a good way to go too, which I have done in the past too, but it is A LOT of work.

    1. Chris - appreciate the input and your experience with the Browns. I like the fact your shelf space only grows when you add stamps!

  12. Jim,

    A question I wanted to ask you. You say that you currently have 45,000+ stamps in Steiner and you have 29,000+ stamps in your “virtual Big Blue.” How much of that approximately 16,000 difference is the result of your Steiner going up thru 1952 and how much are 1840-1940 stamps that don’t have a space in the “real Big Blue”? A related question (that I know Bob has discussed over the years on his blog): are there stamps in Big Blue that you have just had a hard time finding over the years?

    In these days of internet shopping, I find it interesting that there could be common and inexpensive stamps in Big Blue that are simply hard to find.

    I would like to hear your experience with this (maybe a good topic for a future blog post?)


    1. Hi Chris
      I haven't done a formal count of the British Empire 1941-1952, but would say, I believe, it is only several thousand stamps, as the British Empire, in total, did not issue many stamps during the war years and aftermath. Most of the 16,000 stamps (12,000-14,000?) would be because there would not be a space in BB. Of course, BB does offer choices for a number of spaces, and once the space is filled, technically, I would not be able to put the other choices into BB, so that accounts for a number of the additionals.

      As far as looking for stamps that are hard to find for BB, I really haven't done that, or really looked into that, as I still have many spaces (~7,000) that are available. Of course the Syria 106a error is one that comes to mind, and that may be difficult indeed to locate.

      I do know that when Bud was down to several hundred stamps he needed for his BB collection, in the age of internet, he seemed to be able to locate them fairly quickly.

  13. This is a fascinating discussion. I have a 1947 edition of Big Blue and used a White Ace album for a side Netherlands collection and a Minkus album for U.S. stamps. After being out of the hobby for a number of years, I resumed collecting just over a year ago when I found a clearance Scott U.S. catalog at Barnes and Noble for less than 10% of cover price.
    I don't know if it is correct or not, but I now have the Netherlands collection in a Minkus album for older Netherlands and colony stamps. I have Davo albums for stamps between 1970 and 2000. That brought me to the idea that using country stamps for crowded pages in BB might be a good idea. I didn't like the way facing pages stamps in BB crashed into each other. I went with Schaubek for German stamps and Stanley Gibbons for UK stamps. I bought used album pages for both. The Schaubek also required buying a separate Schaubek album. In both cases the stamps display very well. The problem is, that they may not coordinate well with the Scott numbers. I am not sure if they would work better with a Michel catalog, though I don't have access to that.
    I am still sorting out how to best handle duplicates, non-album stamps and oddities. I think that is a big part of the hobby, trying to figure out how to best compose a collection. Fortunately, we have many opportunities to change out minds.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story about album selection.

      Yes, we all come to an individual decision that seems best for us- and then we find ourselves changing our approach!

    2. I have read this all with great interest. I have settled on a slightly different wrinkle, based upon my observation of an old Stanley Gibbons approach.

      I start with virtually unused and well preserved old, original Brown albums largely purchased on ebay. I like that these pages are printed on both sides on thin paper. (you will see why). I break down the albums and straight cut the binder edge and place each page in a scott specialty, 3 ring page protector. These then go into the newer Green Scott Specialty three ring binders with hidden metal hinges that don't wear out.

      However, I don't mount stamps on these beautifully preserved, sheet protected pages. Instead, I insert the appropriate vario, two sided, three ring black stock page between each of these two sided pages to place my stamps exactly opposite the description space on the opposite brown album page.

      I love filling spots, but I don't like mounting stamps. The stamps look great on the Vario pages, and the precise description (via the Scott Brown album page)is opposite. This does take a lot of shelf space, but I find the beautiful look of the exposed, library look of the green Scott binder back with my self applied gold lettering to be very satisfying.

      Anyway, that is my two cents worth, and I haven't come across this approach in any of my blog reading.

    3. What a wonderful idea! It must indeed look very nice, and you can have your cake and eat it too!

      I wasn't a fan of just using just Vario pages, as I like the way album page places stamps within a historical contex, but adding juxtaposed Big Brown pages solves that concern.

      If you would be interested in a blog post about this that we could do together, send me a message.

      I would need some pics of your album arrangement, and some introductory words..actually, what you have written here would work fine.


      ...And now some words so an email bot doesn't pick up my address...
      AT Comcast.net

      Hope to hear from you!

      Jim Jackson

    4. I would just like to say that it has been a delight working with Jim on an upcoming submission to Big Blue. I am more than honored to be making some small contribution to a blog that has given me so much pleasure and enjoyment upon re-entering this fascinating hobby.

    5. Brown Derby (Ron) - I see you now have a handle - Nice!

      Yes, on February 5, there will be a post submission from Brown Derby that will interest!

      Stay tuned..

  14. Jim,, What kind and weight of paper do you print your Steiner pages on? Where do you buy your paper?

    1. Hi Tom

      I purchase from a local paper specialty store in town, but I believe the paper (or equivalent) would be available nationally.

      Domitar Item 81077
      "Earthchoice Colors" Opaque Text
      8.5 X 11
      Grain long
      500 sheets in a Ream (I bought a box - 6 reams)
      70 lb./104g/m squared

  15. Jim, fantastic blog. You've really opened my mind to the possibility of collecting worldwide - something that I last did two decades ago as a grade-school kid with a very basic Harris album and a glue stick (no, I won't be using that this time around, but thankfully the stamps were mostly Eastern Bloc CTOs and the like - nothing valuable).

    Like yourself, I'm drawn to the idea of collecting BB as a way of limiting myself, and I especially enjoy the look of classic stamps, too. But I'm balking a bit at the cost of the BB albums new from Scott, and I'm not a fan of two-post albums. Do you think it'd be feasible to purchase the album pages from Scott, and then 3-hole punch them myself and put them in binders?

    1. Hi Tom

      Yes, WW collecting is quite do-able with planning. I agree that BB works well if "you collect to the album". Fortunately, BB tends to have spaces for interesting, but inexpensive stamps, so one can do it without breaking the bank.

      Yes, you can definitely three hole punch the pages. The pages are larger than the standard 8.5 X 11" pages in the U.S., so one will need a three hole punch that can handle larger paper (about 9 5/16" X 11 5/16"). Or, perhaps go to a paper stationary store, and have them three-hole punch for you. ;-)

      BB's pages JUST fit into a Staples heavy duty D-ring binder, if you want to go that route.

      Buying the album pages from Scott means you will have thicker, fresher paper. But, if you want to limit costs, buying a BB album with pages that are in good condition would work too.

      Good luck, and have fun!

    2. Thanks, Jim! Great to know. Scott albums would look the best, but I'm doing my best to be budget-minded here (tough to do in this hobby!).

      As you have the 1997 and the 1969 editions of the Scott, could you tell me if the pages look the same? That is, same font, same borders, etc. Really like the way that the pages look!

    3. Yes, the 1969 and later editions are essentially the same content, style and font wise, although some sections (postage due etc) might be moved and headed on their own page.

      Just be aware that older BB binders can often be picked up for not much at stamp shows etc.

  16. Hi Jim

    I have always been attracted by the Minkus policy of including the airmails, semi-postals, etc among the regulars, in chronological order, abandoning for the most part, the back of the book approach. So many countries have broken sets in Scott's listings and (mostly after the classical era) some countries issued "airmails", primarily. Which arrangement do you prefer?

    My catalogs are all Scott and my pages are Deep Blue Steiners, so I am a bit stuck. But I have toyed with the idea of making a set of Big 'n' Deep pages, including all the stamps from Big Blue, plus many of the omitted commons, using the Minkus system. Will probably have to wait until retirement, though.

    1. Hi Dave

      I like the Minkus system with all the categories grouped together on a page. For my Minkus Supreme collection, it is nice. I think Scott went with the BOB approach because the US doesn’t really issue semi-postals. In Europe, in contrast, many issues are semi-postals. Minkus uses the European. approach.

  17. Hi Jim
    I really appreciate these interesting discussion about BB albums and others. In France those WW albums don't seem to exist, probably because there are very few WW collectors !

    For my own collection, I prefer small stockbooks (50+ to house my 24000 stamps collection) because of the liberty it gives me to organize each country as I wish according to my interests. For example, I have special interests which would not be contained in BB or DB albums : plate numbers for GB, fancy cancels for USA, district names for Mexico, LHH varieties for Greece, etc.

    1. Pascal - Thanks for the comments and the perspective from Europe (France). Stockbooks are clearly more popular in Europe for WW collecting (as well as country collecting).

      Of course one is not limited to the published pages (using DB- Steiner) either. For a more specialized portion of the collection, I use quadrilled pages or insert Vario stock pages.

  18. Do you know if the Big Blue has some stamps out-of-order as compared to the Scott catalog? I may have found an instance in Algeria, BB Part II, copyright 1950 (a bit out of your scope, I know) where #207 came between #197 and #197. Or would this be a case of #207 being renumbered?

    1. Hi cchutt..

      Yes, there are cases where a space with a Scott number higher than the numbers surrounding is placed. Sometimes the illustration dictates that. Yes, I think, in most cases, it is because of Scott renumbering.

  19. Thanks so much, Jim, for the information. I use your blog so much and really appreciate all your work! Also, I need to correct what I said; I meant Algeria #207 came between #196 and #197.

  20. Big Blue has spaces for about 35,000 stamps. I believe the Browns have about 90,000. I was wondering if you have a rough guess as to the percentage of the difference being expensive or uncommon.

    1. Hi cchutt.

      Actually, I think the Browns perhaps has ~75,000 - 80,000 spaces tops, as they only go to 1940, and I count 83,000 spaces (in the Scott catalogue) for 1840-1940 AND for British Commonwealth countries to 1952.

      As far as common vs expensive count, I believe (guess!) that about 55,000 stamps are fairly inexpensive, and the rest are more expensive/uncommon. In other words, about 55,000 stamps are within reach by the collector with average means, and the rest (~20,000) for the 1840-1940 era are "expensive"/"uncommon". Of interest, I currently have 50,000+ stamps in the classical era, and it is getting more difficult to obtain additional stamps because of expense and being uncommon.

  21. Jim, I'm planning on 'building' a new Big Blue: order new album pages, then take the deleted countries from earlier (e.g. '38) editions, scan them, and then print them out on fresh, blank pages and insert them into my new Big Blue. I have a few (picked over!) feeder albums to assist with the task, but was wondering if you happened to have a list here of countries that were stricken from the '69 and later editions? No worries if not, just wasn't sure if I had missed it somewhere.

    On a separate note: Big Blue seems to be backordered on the Amos website! Perhaps both a nod to the current surge of interest in the hobby amongst housebound collectors *and*, of course, rightful, growing interest in BB too!

  22. Hi Tom
    Great! You should have fun with this.

    I know my good friend Bob over at "Filling Spaces" Stamp blog ( http://globalstamps.blogspot.com/ ) has a list of what was cut out of the '69 edition compared to the '47 edition.

    1. Jim, I found the list - many thanks for the head's up. Very useful link indeed. Based on a thread I found over on the SC forum, where you mentioned that the new printings of BB have each subsection (e.g. BoB) start on a new page, I think that my task is much easier - most of the deleted sections are particular BoB sections, so scanning in deleted sections and printing them on blank Scott pages should be relatively straightforward. (Not sure if it's legal to do so, but I'd be happy to share the results of my labors when finished, in case others are interested.)

      I'm also trying to determine if it's possible to go with thinner binders for BB: I'm guessing that would be quite the custom project in and of itself. I could always hole punch the pages and insert into a thinner 3-ring, but I would like to know if it's possible to find a thinner (say, 2") two-post binders that align with BB. Would be more pleasant to view/work with the front/back sections of each binder that way.

      As I calculate the 'real estate' needed (if the binder for each section is 4" wide, then 16" total, or eight 2" binders), I'd be curious to hear from some of your other readers if a fully stuffed BB causes the binder to go over capacity? And does the glassine interleaving add much width? I suppose that having a larger number of thinner binders allows for infinite flexibility, so worrying about overstuffing isn't a problem. (A tad presumptuous to be talking about a fully stuffed BB, but it's good to have a goal in mind!)

  23. I'd like to point out a newly published stamp article on different approaches to Collecting the World in Linn’s (now online, with printed copies being mailed to subscribers). The title is:

    “If you want to collect the world, find a way to make it work for you” in Linn’s Stamp News, September 20, 2021 (monthly issue) pages 103-106. The subtitle for the article is “a representative collection of stamps from around the world might help you discover intriguing new collecting areas to pursue.”

    Best Regards,