Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Managing my collection

Tracking what I have and even more importantly what I need is an increasingly difficult task. I try and keep an accurate inventory of my collection. To do this, I have an MS Access database with over 9500 records listing all the items I have. This doesn't mean I have only 9500 items. For example, the Doar Ivri low values (1-6) counts as one item in my database. I have 7 sub-items of this record, including 4 FDC's, 1 set of mint Tabs, 1 cover, and 1 error. In total, there are 13,100 sub items in my list. The majority of the sub items (over 8500) have been scanned in to JPEG form so that I can easily look through them.

I have found that MS Access is really not adept at handling scanned images however. So, I decided to right my own program to take an exported Access database with links to the scanned images and displaying them in a user friendly interface. OK, so maybe it is only user friendly if the user happens to be the developer, but it works for me. I call my program the Ultimate Israel catalog, and have been working on it for a few years. My goal is to have it be a complete Israel catalog. I have taken data from multiple sources and combined it into one place. So far, I have the majority of the Bale catalog (missing errors and interim period mostly), as well as the 4 volume set of special, slogan and post office cancels. Parts of the Wallach definitive catalog has also been added, along with parts of the revenue catalog. I have also pulled show card information from the Carmel catalog. Also added items not in any catalog that I can find, such as the bulletins, maximum cards, remembrance letters, and Duck stamps.
The best part of writing my own program is that I was able to add a simple want list generator. At the click of a button, I know what I am missing. Or, at least that is the theory. The problem is I have boxes of material that are not inventoried yet. The single biggest category that I haven't inventoried yet are the Post Office Opening cancellations. Out of 10,254 items in my simple want list, 7,815 are cancellations. Over half of these, 3,986, are post office openings, and the majority should come off my want list once I catch up with my inventory. The rest are Slogan Cancels or Special cancels. The second largest area is FDC Bulletins. As discussed previously, I am missing very few of the bulletins in mint condition, but I also have a fair amount that have the stamp attached and cancelled as a FDC. Still, i show that I am missing over 1200 FDC bulletins, including both formats, and the Hebrew and English versions.
Other than these categories, my want list is pretty manageable. IRC's, private MAX cards, Egypt and Jordan overprinted Palestine are the next biggest gaps in my collection, and none of these are over 100 items. Of course, my want list is only as good as the source data I have entered into the database. If I don't know if something exists, I can't add it to my want list. For example, I have yet to add plate blocks to the want list generation logic. There are 2 reasons for this. First, I have not had a chance to scan and inventory the plate blocks I have (~10 albums worth, from 3 different collections I bought on E-bay), so any want list would be inaccurate. Second, I am not sure how to account for issues with multiple plate blocks. Most definitive issues have multiple printing dates and plate block varieties, and the earlier commemoratives also have different perforation varieties in the plate blocks (imperf corners, fully perforated corners, partially perforated corners), left vs right plate blocks, and even different plate #'s (for example, the second coin issue has plate 1 and plate 2, and the first festivals issue has 6 different plate positions). I have yet to find a catalog that has a comprehensive list of plate blocks. Anyone out there know of one?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Not in my album 2

In 1991, another imperf souvenir sheet was issued. This time, instead of being a free gift to subscribers, the souvenir sheet was sold in order to raise money for The Postal and Philatelic Museum. Subscribers were able to buy both Mint and FD cancelled souvenir sheets through the philatelic service. As you can see, the imperf souvenir sheets are also individually numbered. I don't recall if there were any limits to the number of souvenir sheets you could order, but there was a hefty premium on the sheets over the normal perforated variety. Once again, there are no spots in the majority of albums for this issue.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bulletins part 2

There is a second format of bulletins that I have been collecting. I call these "W Bulletins", where the W stands for White. These are single page bulletins printed on plain pieces of white paper.

The early ones are available in both English and Hebrew. This same format was used from Bulletin #1 to Bulletin #151. I have seen several varieties of paper used, from a thin, almost transparent paper to normal typing paper, to a thicker more glossy paper. For these bulletins, I am missing only a handful of the English ones, including #1, 2, 4, 6, 11, 14, 20, 23, and 31. For the Hebrew version, I am missing more, a total of 92 of the issues. If you have extras for trade, let me know. I do know that #11 is the Negev camel stamp, #14 is the UPU issue, #20 is the New Years issue of 1950, and #23 is the official stamps. These bulletins cover many more issues than the bulletins in part 1 of this blog, since there are bulletins for several Tete-Beche issues separate from the general stamps, as well as bulletins for both the Flag envelope and the Camel envelope.

Starting with bulletin #152, the format changed. A single bulletin now was printed in 4 languages, and a colored background was added to the central portion of the bulletin. The bulletin orientation also changed from portrait to landscape. This design was used through bulletin #286. One thing to note, however, is that the numbers are no longer strictly integers, as several a and b suffixes were added over the years.

Bulletin #287 started the use of a new format. The paper was cut approximately in half, and the bulletin was now printed on both sides, with the front having only a picture of the stamps, and the information being printed on the back. This format was discontinued after only a brief usage, with bulletin #308 being the last one printed in this format.

The next format, shown here on the right, is the last one I have seen used. Once again, these were single sided bulletins, with the color now restricted to the title. The stamps and descriptions are printed in a single color, but it is no longer limited to just the black ink used previously. I believe each bulletin was printed in only a single color, since I have yet to see multiple color versions of a single bulletin, but there are ones printed in black, brown, blue, and green. This last format was printed in strips of 3 consecutively numbered bulletins, I have several uncut strips of 3 in my collection. I have shown one below. Of these, I am once again missing a few, #401, 437, 442, and 460. The last bulletin I have is number #498, the 40th anniversary souvenir sheet issued in 1988. If anyone knows of ones issued later, please let me know.


One of the most fun areas to collect has been the stamp bulletins. These came out in several different formats over the years, and they are numbered, so it is relatively easy to tell what is missing.

The first format I started collecting was like this one to the left. It is a color folder that has pictures of the stamps on the front, and some description and issue details inside and on the back. These were issued starting in 1959, and appear to start only with #4. There are 3 issues with no number on the front, and I assume those were #1-3. I have not found any documentation to back this up, but no one I have talked to has ever seen #1-3. There is also a fourth issue with no number, that I believe is supposed to be #19.

There are also some varieties of these bulletins. Later issues came with both a blank front, and printed with the agency name, like this example here. I have several different agency names, not just the philatelic services one shown here.
These bulletins currently go through number 780, which was the August 2007 issues.
There are also a few errors that I have seen in these notices. Here is one such example:

Between the printing of the bulletin and the printing of the stamp, the value changed. Rather than issue a new bulletin with a new number, the same number was re-used. Thus, there are 2 bulletin #375's.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Not in my album

I decided that I would revisit stamps that are not included in a typical album. These are not issues that I consider back of the book (BOB), these are what I would characterize as supplemental issues.

The first example I know of is shown here.

This is the set of souvenir sheets issued for the Israphil 85 stamp show. These stamps were overprinted by the FIP and sold at the show. My album has spaces for the normal souvenir sheets, but not the overprinted version. These are listed in Bale, and I have even seen them on some dealer price sheets, but they are absent from the albums.

Another example of this is the Ardon Windows souvenir sheet issued at Stamp World London in 1990. As a special gift to new issue subscribers, the philatelic service sent an imperf version of the souvenir sheet out. The fact that it is a gift is printed on the back. It is a great addition to my collection, but why did the album makers not give me a place to put it?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Uncommon stamps

There are some relatively new stamps that are fairly scarce. Some are valuable, others go for next to nothing. Why the difference? My theory is it comes down to the basic tenets of economics. Supply and demand. While most of these scarce issues have a low supply, the demand is just not enough to drive up the value of the stamps.
One example of this is the stamp shown here. This stamp shown here was one drawn by someone who attended the Telabul stamp show in May 2004 in Tel Aviv. A few months later, the postal service issued a similar stamp with a different drawing in the center. Examples of the stamp with different drawings in the center are fairly scarce, as I believe the only way to get the stamps was at the show, and each design was limited to 2 sheets, and each sheet had only 3 tabs. In theory, there are only 5 other tabs that look like the one example I have. When I bought the stamp, I was told that there were only 10,000 sheets printed total, which would imply 5,000 different designs, and 30,000 tabs. So, if demand were the same for this issue as it is for the early issues of Israel tabs, this stamp should have the same value as the early tabs. But the demand is just not the same. Why? One reason is the album makers do not have a place in the album for this variety. It does get mention in the 2006 edition of the Bale Catalog (1587a/b, IRS 71), but it is not mentioned in the more mainstream Scott catalog. If it had a spot in a standard album, I believe demand would go up. No one likes a blank space in an album, but it is easy to ignore, or to not even be aware of stamps that have no spots in the album.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Best buys on the net?

Over the years, I have made some terrific finds on the Internet. I made my first purchase of a stamp collection over the Internet while still in college. I responded to an add posted on the Usenet group rec.collecting.stamps. This was in the days before the Internet became the world wide web, when it was all text based interaction, and there was no such thing as E-bay. There was a post to the newsgroup by a gentleman selling a bunch of Israel stamps he had inherited. I think the whole collection cost me $50. Out of this collection, there were some really nice items. There were 2 of the early booklets (B3 and 3a, I believe) exploded with all interleaves mounted on presentation sheets. Additionally, there were some nice FDC's, including an FDC of #55 with a half tab. Not bad for $50.

Once e-bay came along, the number of interesting items available for sale increased dramatically. So to did the bargains. Up until recently, I think the best deal I made on e-bay was when I bought a lot that was only described in the title as "Israel Cover". The description was a little more helpful, and I purchased the cover shown here for the $5 minimum bid. This is a registered FDC for B7, which is worth a considerable bit more then my $5 investment.
Then, this week, I bought a rather large collection on e-bay. It was advertised as 2150 Israel covers and stamps. There were a handful of pictures included in the description, including one that showed a set of 7-9 singles. I must have been looking just minutes after the person posted the lot, because the lot was listed with a Buy It Now price of $195, and the 7-9 singles alone catalog for $400. I quickly bought the lot, and it came in the mail a few days ago. It was 4 large flat rate priority mail boxes stuffed to overflowing. I have just started looking at it, but in addition to the 7-9 set, there are 3 sets of 907-9a, 2 copies of the imperf version of the postal museum souvenir sheet, and 1 copy of the Ardon Windows imperf souvenir sheet included. Among the covers were about a dozen artist signed presentation folders (including 907-9 and 1041). Not to mention the 2000+ covers. Should take me another few weeks to decide what I need from the lot, and what I will break out and list back on e-bay. I think at a minimum, I will be able to get my $200 back, and add a bunch of nice items to my collection.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What next?

After completing as much of my tab collection as I could afford, I moved on to expand the breadth of my collection. So far, here are the areas I have expanded into:

  1. First Day Covers

  2. Maximimum Cards

  3. Postal Stationary (Pre-stamped envelopes, Air letter sheets, postcards, and reply cards)

  4. Vending Stamps

  5. New issue bulletins

  6. Revenues

  7. Booklets

  8. Artist signed presentation folders

  9. Plate blocks

  10. International Reply Coupons

  11. Duck Stamps

  12. New Years Cards

  13. Rememberence Letters

  14. Show Cards

  15. Tete-Beche Issues

  16. Palestinian Authority

  17. Egypt Occupied Palestine

  18. Jordan Occupied Palestine

  19. and just about anything else I can find

Crazy, huh?

Some of the areas were relatively easy and inexpensive to complete. Duck stamps, for example were only issues from 1995-1998. 4 stamps, and 4 FDC's later the collection was complete. Total cost was around $30. New Years cards were a bit tougher to complete, since they were only given free every year to new issue subscribers yearly since 1987, and I haven't subscribed directly to the new issue service. I was still able to buy them slowly and complete the collection for only $1-2 per card.

Maximum cards were very difficult to complete, even though the first set put out by the postal service only came out in 1988. Every issue from then on seems relatively common, and can easily be found from a specialized dealer or on e-bay. But, that first set (listed in the Bale 1992 catalog as MC1-3)was nearly impossible to find. I finally managed to put a set together from e-bay, but it took years. I actually thought I had bought a complete set at first, but it turned out to have only 2 of the 3 cards from the first set and 1 from the second. A few years later, I bought a lot (I suspect from the same person, but I can't be sure) that had the third card. Last year, I saw a set of 3 on e-bay and quickly purchased them (for $5) to have just in case the catalog ever catches up with there actual scarcity in the market.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Since everyone else is starting a blog, I figured it was time that I started my own. Since my wife and sister both have the family covered, I decided to go with my hobby instead. Since the Yankees are well covered on the web, stamp collecting becomes the obvious choice for me. I have been collecting Israeli stamps for nearly 20 years (since my Bar Mitzvah way back in 1987).
I started collecting with a White Ace tab album, and a subscription to new issues from the Israel Stamp Agency in North America. I was able to find a dealer in Linn's that offered low priced approvals, and my collection was started. My dad and I want to the local stamp shows regularly, and I slowly was able to fill in the empty spots in my album.
Looking back, if I were to start over now, I would have been better served (at least, financially) with buying a collection at an auction, but back then there was no E-bay, and bidding in a conventional auction was just too scary. Plus, it was much more fun to explore the offerings of the various dealers at the stamp shows, or open a new shipment from the approval dealer every few weeks.
Since when I started collecting Israel stamps there was just about 40 years worth to complete the collection, and the majority of those were under $1, it didn't take too long until I had gotten to the point in my collecting that I had every Israeli stamp I could afford (pretty much complete from 1952 on). I didn't want to start collecting another country, but buying 1 stamp every few months was also unappealing. So, the question became what to collect now? I will answer the question in future posts.