Chapter 2 Catalogues [PREV] [NEXT] [HOME]

This chapter was last modified on [10-12-96 (Tue) at 07:48:12] . Please send all bug reports, additions etc. to the Editor, Gert Bultman.

Section 2.1 Intro

A list of catalogues is maintained by Barry Moss. His list lists the existing catalogues per country without a review of their quality.

It has recently (1993) become somewhat of a tradition to give away old editions of catalogues to fellow STAMPS list members --- keep this tradition alive!

The Scott catalogue is the most widely used catalogue among stampslist members, but this is be mainly due to the fact that most subscribers are from the USA (and Canada). Outside the USA the Yvert & Tellier & MICHEL catalogues are favoured, with the preference shifting from Yvert & Tellier to MICHEL. The Yvert & Tellier is more like a (good) price-list, while the MICHEL gives extensive descriptions & details about variations etc.

Section 2.2 The value of catalogue values

Opinions differ, but mostly people agree that catalogue values are too high. One must make a distinction between real values and so-called handling charges, which is a minimum price a dealer would charge for a common, otherwise worthless stamp. Even worthless stamps have to be soaked, sorted, put in albums etc. The price you pay for such stamps is dependent on that. Buying such stamps in bulk would usually be cheaper (less handling).
                 Minimum Values                  
| Scott (before 1992)            |      5c      |
| Scott (after 1992)             |     15c      |
| NVPH                           |  Dfl. 0,25   |
| Stanley Gibbons                |      5p      |
| MICHEL                         |     10pf     |

Section 2.3 Buying stamps

A guideline for people who visit fairs, markets etc.: Most dealers (professional and hobbyists) have so-called 'dubbeltjes-boeken', which are stockbooks containing stamps uniformly priced at Dfl. 0,10 (a dubbeltje) which is about (US), or (UK). The term used in the USA is 'penny-nickle stamps'.

Section 2.4 Scott pricing policy

Steven G. Anderson writes: In 1989 or 1990 Scott drastically reduced a lot of prices. Some dealers were really upset and still use 1988 prices. I don't buy from those dealers. IMHO the change was needed. When going through my inventory changing values, I found that most of the stamps that had been slashed were the junk items, i.e.~CTO's from Eastern Europe and a large number of the African nations such as Guinee which issue a large number of topical only stamps for sale to collectors. Most of the more popular countries stayed the same or dropped a little. In 1992 Scott changed the minimum value from 5c to 15c. I'm not as happy with that change since it artificially raises the value of collections, although set prices are more reasonable and are based on the old 5c minimum value.

Jeff Needleman writes: The net effect of the Scott retail pricing policy is to create a downward spiral in stamp pricing which will wipe out dealers, auctioneers, and collectors alike over the years. That's not entirely the fault of Scott, but a result of inertia among dealers and collectors---and the traditional ways in which Scott is used.

In theory, Scott reports the market---it does not create it. In practice, everyone uses Scott as a guide, and nearly all collectors expect in general to buy at a discount from Scott. So if Scott sets average retail price of a stamp this year, most dealers will take note and price the stamp .50--9.50 or so, reducing both their selling and buying prices accordingly so that they retain the patronage of customers who will not pay full Scott. Next year, with similar accuracy Scott reports an average price of , so once again dealers reduce buying/selling prices to say or so. And so on. In a weak or static market, price reductons are near automatic. The dropping of prices year to year encourages collectors to postpone buying (stamps will be cheaper next year), discourages dealers from buying (wait---prices will be lower---why buy today?). It's just a vicious cycle. In theory, retail pricing by Scott need not cause such behavior. But we've had this policy in effect for several years now, and the effects are pretty obvious. The circulation of Linn's fell below 70,000 this year. The average age of APS members is rising. Street-level stamp stores are disappearing. Stamp collecting as we know it seems on the way out. Perhaps its time has passed, much as cigar band collecting had its day and then disappeared...

Frank Anshen writes: The number of stamp collectors was decreasing and stamp stores were going out of business well before the crash of '88. In the case of the dealer I deal with mostly, the long range result of the new pricing policy is an adjustment of the percentage of charged from 10--15% for large collections to 25--30%. Even the old , if it had any validity was based upon actual sales prices, they were just treated to some secret adjustment factor (apparently varying by the country) there really is no other way to do it. You simply can't decide what, say a three margin copy of GB #1, should be worth and proclaim that as the price. At least not in a free market. If your catalog is to be of any use as a price guide, the price you list must have some definable relationship to the price at which the stamp is being sold.

John Farrell writes:

>The net effect of the Scott retail pricing policy is to create a downward
>spiral in stamp pricing ... JeffNeedleman

I think this downward spiral in stamp prices is the best news I've heard in years... well at least since The Stamp Collector was invented. All I have to do is wait until prices spiral down to nothing, and I can pick up a few collections cheap. Great! As for dealers going bust, I think that is great too. That will mean that we can get kiloware direct from the companies that will no longer be selling to dealers, and no b*****d will have picked out all the good stuff. Oh, my idea of heaven! But seriously, a change in the way Scott is written must cause a change in the way it is used, and the people who won't buy except at a discount from Scott are obviously out of touch and will just have to suffer the high prices. Isn't it enough for them that prices are in general the same as they were before, regardless of what Scott says?

Steven G. Anderson writes: The stamp market was going down long before Scott decided to change its prices. It simply brought the prices in line with reality. The late 70's and early 80's saw rapid inflation in the stamp market that was driven by the investors and not by collectors. It inevitably peaked and is now back to where it would have been without the `boom'. Linns market index has been going up for the past year or so at a rate slightly above inflation.

I have a large WW collection that is all cataloged on cards. The 1990 changes have caused a lot of work for me because so many issues changed. I'm finally into volume 4 and the end is in sight. In watching how prices changed, a very curious thing happened. The CTO and abusive African/Caribbean nations took big hits. Sometimes as much as 80%, and in my opinion, it was well deserved. My French collection actually went up a little bit. The better material has always been more accurately priced than the cheap stuff because there is a real market for it, not just an automatic double the value for a mint stamp.

Steven G. Anderson writes:

> Am I correct in thinking that the catalog pricing policy was changed to make
> it more accurate instead of inflated?
Yes that is true, but a large number of dealers were upset because they could no longer say they were selling at 75% off Scott. 20--30% off Scott just doesn't sound as good. Also a number of auction catalogs still use 1988 Scott for their `values'. I refuse to bid in those auctions. Personally I believe the change to a 15c minimum value was partially motivated by the dealers wanting to offer large discounts. I can remember when the minimum value was 2c, and I don't think inflation has been over 700% in that period of time. A lot of dealers are just having a very tough time dealing with deflation in the stamp market. I think the overall changes in pricing, and in the catalogs themselves, are for the betterment of the hobby. No longer are those CTO Guinee stamps at superinflated prices, although I still think they are too high. The really good material was not seriously affected, probably because they are based on more real data than the cheap stuff which appears more based on quesswork.

Section 2.5 Catalogue independent numbering system

(Initiative by Martti Tolvanen and others)

Martti Tolvanen writes:

Rolf Nordhagen writes:
> Folks: I disagree with your efforts at creating an all inclusive list of
> catalog numbers for stamps, for two reasons. Primarily because I believe
> the task being enormous and futile. There are, gratefully and happily, too
> many quirks and specialities, and all catalogs differ in one way or the
> other. The prime purpose as I see it should be to easily refer to a number
> to identify a stamp. For finding spares to trade I dislike using catalog
> numbers. I sort my spares according to year, vaguely in cronological order.
> I never have so many spares to warrant, or finding use of, catalog numbers
> (as the stamp dealer does).

Rolf, we aim at listings that are far simpler than your level of Machin collecting, so the task will not be enormous. Making a listing of 1000--1500 issues of a country with reasonable issuing policies will take a couple of nights, that is in the same order of magnitude as writing your own wish list with verbal descriptions.

> So I would have to translate the numbers of most other foreign
> trading partners into mine. When I get numbers lists, I have to
> painstakingly sit down with the catalog of origin and write out, or
> continously compare with my spares, and I make mistakes all the time.
> However, if I get a list of years, and short a identifying description, and
> value, I can usually take the list and pick out any spares directly from my
> stockbook, without the additonal burden of constantly keeping track of the
> catalog number.

This is exactly the kind of work we'd like to avoid, too. If you get ready-made database templates from others, you can input your wants only by ticking the appropriate box in your database application (like `missing totally', `improve cancellation') and then you can have your want-list printed, with verbal descriptions taken directly from the listings. We're talking about saving lots of typing work by a collective effort.

Anybody interested in cat numbers can input his/her favorite numbers in his/her database and set up printing just numbers. And if two people share a numbering scheme, it'll be easy to exchange just lists of numbers, have a program eat them and spit out a list of verbal descriptions.

A concrete proposal for a format of such issue listings is almost ready and will be posted later today or tomorrow.

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