A few years back, I was given a couple of collections to add to my own. They both belonged to parents of friends of mine, and were given to me for free. Both of them date back to when they were children, so they are full of pre-1940 stamps from around the world. First thing I did was to add any U.S. stamps they contained to my own collection if I needed them, and I found some pretty good stuff. No real 'classics', but good stamps I didn't have. Lately, I've been looking through these albums again. I have 2 volumes of Scott International (big blue) from 1955, and another volume 1 from 1947. I'm guessing they were getting approvals back then, as there are many unused stamps...that were unfortunately hinged to the pages.
What has intrigue me, though, are the British commonwealth and empire stamps. I started a collection of Great Britain a year ago, and I'm now having fun finding all of these stamps from British colonies and possessions from the early 20th century. At least...I assume anything with a British monarch's head on it would be a British possession. I think I'd like to put these to an album of their own. Are there any albums out there that fit this bill? How about album pages that I could print? I'm interested in everyone's thoughts. Thanks!
Because the British Empire is so large, there are fewer album manufacturers that still produce a British Empire series, and as far as I know, nobody produces one in 1-volume. And it would be very very pricey! I think Palo is probably the cheapest for pre-printed (they follow SG Commonwealth and British Empire Stamps 1840-1970), but the entire set of pages only will run you close to $2K!!! SG has very comprehensive line, but also much more expensive. Scott Specialty is missing way too many sections now, and Scott International Series covers much more than BC.
Before you decide on an album, I would suggest you pick a time frame first. Common choices include each monarch period, or pre-QEII, or pre-decimal. SG does have a specialty series for some of the monarchs, but pricey. Other album printers to consider include Seahorse.
If you want convenience and low-budget, Steiner pages (based on Scott catalog) would be the way to go. You print your own pages as you need them, or as you expand your collecting area. Saves you a lot of space and money of empty album pages. Save more by buying your own off-the-shelf office supply binders. However, Steiner pages are based on country, so you would have to "fish" out your collecting time frame from the album files, and require an annual subscription for future downloads unless you buy a CD (convenient if you don't plan on collecting modern issues).
While it's fairly cheap to acquire used Scott Internationals (parts I-II will cover pre-QEII) and then fish out the BC pages, you will run into a problem with some stamps not having spaces as your collection grows because SI is not comprehensive. This is why I don't use the SI albums anymore. Nice to start, but quickly run into sticking stamps here/there because there is no pre-assigned space. If you want comprehensive, you need to with either Steiner or the Palo/SG/Seahorse specialty series.
Wow. Might be more to this than I suspected. How many countries, possessions, etc. are there still currently that would be under this umbrella? I assume there were more in the pre-QEII years? I'm tempted to say that I think I'd want to stick to pre-QEII era stamps, but I don't know.
EDIT: answering your first question -- look at the common design types listings at the beginning of the Scott catalogs. That will give you a rough idea of the number of "major" countries/areas involved over time.
It really depends on what you are interested in. This is my experience, which may or may not apply to you. I started off as a youngster collecting WW. Some well-intentioned seasoned collector suggested confining my collection a little better, so I said British Commonwealth. To which he replied, "Wow, that's still a really big area."
So for about 20 years, I specialized here and there, jumping from one specialized area to another. Last decade, I went back to my childhood joy of general WW collecting and have regained my simple enthusiasm for stamp collecting. I realized I had been miserable trying to meet other collectors' expectations of what/how I should collect.
But from a money and space perspective, I restarted my WW with pre-1940. Since then, slowly creeping forward in time.
I can tell you right now, the modern stuff I have easily takes 10x the space (shelf & general storage) than the pre-1940 stuff. That makes sense since the stamps are larger and stamps issued after 1940 are very roughly 10x the number issued before 1940. I've spent more money on the modern stamps. Contrary to popular belief, I would say the median price of pre-1940 stamps is actually lower than for modern stamps. One gets fooled by looking at the first 20-30 stamps of each country and think all the stamps through 1940 are that expensive. There are plenty of minimum catalog value pre-1940 stamps.
But for decimal-era BC, and assuming your would be collecting mint, you will be spending a LOT of money on albums/pages and most of the stamps will be face value (or below) postage. In other words, make sure you enjoy your stamps from a non-financial perspective. Because the recovery value of the albums will be <10% (mostly to attract buyers to your collection, rather than actual album value), and the recovery value of your stamps will be mostly <25% face value. For example, I recently bought a 6-volume Lindner hingeless (w/ binder & dustcases) collection of Channel Islands that is MNH, complete through 1980s and then spotty coverage through 2010, for just a few hundred dollars. It takes up more room than my Scott International Parts IA and IB (1840-1940). And if new, the Lindners would easily cost 2x+ than the Scott. And that's only Channel Islands -- not even including my GB, which are in 2-volume Lighthouse for pre-decimal.
Add in all the BC, then easily 50+ volumes for pre-printed albums. My Australia (pre-QEII/pre-decimal) is 2/3 volumes, Canada is 1/2 volumes... you get the idea.
From this perspective, Steiner, although not particularly pretty pages, are a huge financial and huge space savings.
Some collectors prefer to have the finest albums. No problem. SG Windsors and their other lines are lovely (I have a GB Windsor as well).
But for me, I prefer spending my money on stamps and , and if a good used album happens to fall into my lap -- great! I try to avoid spending a lot of money/space on empty album pages.
So, for me, I started pre-1940, moved to pre-QEII, then pre-decimal, and now pre-2000.
Just my personal opinion. I can only pass along what I've experienced.
Enjoy your collection and collecting method the way you want, because it's your collection and your enjoyment!
Interesting advice, and I thank you. I think what got me thinking about this was as I was looking through these albums I inherited, I found a lot of stamps commemorating the 1937 coronation...they are the same image with a different country name at the bottom, different values, and varied colors. I love the pre-1940 engraved stamps, too, so they struck my fancy.
What I'm considering is this...Just take the ones that I have, make my own pages for each country, and build an album of my own. I have an album page that I can print that allows me to add whatever country I want. I'm honestly not terribly concerned about boxes for each stamp, showing a space for every stamp, keeping them in precise chronological order, etc. I do this for all of my WW stamps, and I like what I've created for my own WW album. It's pretty loose and varied and I'm happy with it. No pages without stamps, so that's a good thing. I think I'll just do the same for any country that's a Commonwealth entity, and keep them separately. I don't really want to invest in a pricey album for this. And I can arrange them on a page however I choose.
Sounds good! I am also one who doesn't believe in investing big bucks in an album right off the bat. Get the basic collection started first and then decide what album suits your fancy.
BTW, there are specialized albums/pages for the omnibus series, if you are interested in those. And if you don't mind hinged stamps, those are quite cheap for many of the omnibus issues. I like the omnibus issues as well -- but I only go up to QEII coronation. I've got that one and the Peace issue completed.
I use the Steiner pages for most of my collection. I only need to print the pages as needed. This works extremely well for my Commonwealth countries . As others have noted, may not be the most attractive, but it works on my budget. Much rather spend on acquiring new stamps than books to put them in.
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