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New Member

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Posted 01/07/2020   6:05 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add Hilarion to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Salutations to all! I hope I'm putting this post in the correct place.

A few years ago I discovered discount postage lots, so I've been sending all my mail with cheap old stamps for a while now. But I find that it's also a lot of fun to look at and sort and organize all these old stamps I've got. Long story short, I'm afraid I may be turning into a collector.

So recently I've been trying to find out more about my stamps. It turns out to be unexpectedly difficult. I've looked at several different stamp reference books at the library and the bookstore, but they all seem to be long lists of catalog numbers and prices and very little else.

I don't need a book to tell me what my stamps are worth--I know they're worth sticking on an envelope, because I bought them for less than face value. I want to know things like when they were issued, and why somebody decided to print a stamp honoring "Pharmacy" or "Homemakers" or some such unexpected thing. I'd also like to know what the stamps were originally for. Most of them are the first-class letter rate, of course, but some of them have random-looking face values, and none of the books I saw commented on these. Why is there an 8c Rotary stamp in the middle of the 3c listings, for example, or a 13c puppy snuggled into the 20c era?

I tried Google as well, but I just got sites trying to sell me stamps and sites trying to sell me books. But I'm admittedly not very good at Google.

Can anybody recommend a good reference book, or website, that's not just a glorified price guide?

Thanks much! Oh, and, nice to meet you!
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Posted 01/07/2020   6:20 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add floortrader to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
You need the Scott's U.S. Specialized Catalogue it is a gold mine to answer all your questions .
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United States
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Posted 01/07/2020   6:24 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add floortrader to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
also .....Welcome to this website .......we have a lot of people here who can help and answer any questions you may have . Never be afraid to ask .
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United States
70 Posts
Posted 01/07/2020   6:38 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mestephil to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Welcome to the Forum!

You know, you can make this hobby as simple or complex as it suits you. On-line resources can include Stamp Smarter that is a great resource and associated with this forum. Others are Swedish Tiger and Stamp World. You can Google for the links.

For catalogues floortrader already recommended the Scott's US Specialized Catalogue. A simpler (i.e., cheaper) version is the pocket edition, but others will quickly point out you can buy older catalogs inexpensively and they do just fine.

If you are a joiner, consider the American Philatelic Society. There are pros and cons, but they are the largest. Or simply the Virtual Stamp Club - no membership needed. there are lots others.

The hobby is addicting.... you can make it as consuming as you wish.

Ken
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Posted 01/07/2020   6:44 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add revcollector to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
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Posted 01/07/2020   7:12 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I interpret one of your questions as "Why are there non-standard denominations mixed in?"

I would contend that most stamps are issued with a denomination to match a purpose. Thus the answer is a rate chart. The best compilation of rate charts is Beecher & Wawrukiewicz's book "U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-...", in several editions.

The rates in this incredibly useful book above are pulled from various postal service sources. One simplified rate flier is Notice 59, shown here from June 1985, the 22 cent letter rate era. The excerpted table notes the second ounce stamp is 0.17 (thus Scott 2135 dogsled coil), combined for 2 ounces at 0.39 (Scott 1867 Grenville Clark), and 0.56 for 3 ounces (Scott 2190 John Harvard). The post card rate is 0.14, which is the parallel reason for the 0.13 puppy in the 20 cent era.



Similarly, an excerpt from Notice 59, April 1988 edition, the 25 cent rate era, note the 2nd and 3rd ounce rates of 0.45 and 0.65 corresponding to Scott 2188 (Harvey Cushing) and Scott 2191 (Hap Arnold).


Unfortunately, Scott does not group the transportation coils or the Great Americans definitives very well by rate changes, or it might be more obvious.

Add: The 8 cent 1955 Rotary stamp corresponded to the UPU international surface rate for a letter at that time.
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Edited by John Becker - 01/07/2020 7:22 pm
New Member
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Posted 01/08/2020   2:00 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Hilarion to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for the helpful replies!

One of my problems was that I got a Scott Pocket Catalog from the library, and I didn't realize it wasn't the "real" Scott catalog. Neither my library nor my bookstore has the Scott U.S. Specialized Catalog, and the price of a new copy is a bit off-putting anyway. I'll look for a few-years-old copy online.

The Stamp Smarter site looks useful, though I'm still finding my way around it. The "Popup U.S. Stamp Finder" tool seems to have a lot of good information, but I'd still prefer a book where I don't have to look at just one stamp at a time. By the way, I tried to use that tool to look up the 13c puppy stamp; searching for "puppy" brought me straight to the desired #2025, but it's listed as a 20c stamp! If somebody here runs that site, they might want to make a correction there.

The postal rate charts are very helpful--I figured there were good reasons for the unexpected stamp values, I just didn't know how to find out what they were. I was hoping there was a resource that had already done the work of identifying the relevant rate for each stamp, but if that doesn't exist, then being able to look them up myself is progress. Are past rate charts like those you posted available online somewhere, or will I need to obtain the B&W book to get the data?

Yes, I had noticed that the organization of the (pocket) Scott catalog wasn't very clear. It appears to be chronological except when it isn't, without much warning of the exceptions. But if the full Scott, or the Stamp Smarter tool, can give me the issue dates for the stamps, then that's another thing I can work out myself if I have to.

And I clearly need to learn more terminology to understand things like "UPU international surface rate". Is that equivalent to today's $1.15 rate, or is it more complicated than that? It's probably more complicated than that.

Anyway, thanks for the guidance!
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Posted 01/08/2020   2:09 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
There are well over 2300 hundred pages on the Stamp Smarter site so it takes a while to come up to speed. The 1847usa section has plenty of visual identifiers http://stampsmarter.com/1847usa/1847Home.html which allow you to see many stamp on a single page. Also note the Illustrated Glossary and the 'How To' section for visual resources that might help.
Don
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United Kingdom
363 Posts
Posted 01/11/2020   08:19 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add steevh to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I suggest you buy an introductory book on stamp collecting.
I'm in UK, so not sure about the US, but here we had a guy called Stanley Phillips who wrote dozens of books about stamp collecting, many of them marketed through major dealers like Stanley Gibbons. He's long dead, but I'm sure his advice is eternal.
I'm sure there must have been some guys in US who wrote similar books, and you should be able to pick up something like that on eBay for a few dollars.
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Posted 01/11/2020   7:28 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rod222 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
This may also scratch your itch?

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Posted 01/11/2020   9:55 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
You can also download the "Postage Stamps of the United States 1847 -1961" here (it has details of every stamp issued)
http://stampsmarter.com/learning/Home_USPOD.html

US Rate Info is here (By Year)
http://stampsmarter.com/1847usa/184...eAnnual.html

Or there is a US rate tool 'pop-up' at the bottom of every page on Stamp Smarter

Don
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Posted 01/13/2020   11:46 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Hilarion, I do not have very many of the Notice 59 fliers, nor the similar "rate folds", nor do I know if they are posted online. No doubt the data are buried in various issues of the "Postal Bulletin" The best condensed source is the collective data in the B&W domestic and International rate books.

The "Stamps and Stories" gives a very lite taste of the stories.

The simplified domestic rate data on the stampsmarter site is just that, too simplified. To use your example from above, it does not provide an answer to your 8 cent Rotary stamp question.

Another way is to ask here.
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Canada
361 Posts
Posted 01/14/2020   12:16 am  Show Profile Check gportch's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add gportch to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Hilarion. I am assuming that you are an American referring to the stamps of the USA (otherwise this response is meaningless).
There is a series on annual publications issued by the US Bureau of Printing & Engraving that discusses the various US issues without reference to catalogue numbers or prices. I recently donated my copy of this book to a new collector of the US living here in Toronto.
When looking for philatelic books in the USA, you need look no further than the American Philatelic Research Library at the American Philatelic Society in Bellefonte, PA. If they don't have the book you want on American stamps then it doesn't exist. Phone Scott Tiffney (librarian) and I am sure he will be able to help you (and may even convince you to take a membership). Phone numbers and email addresses are on the APS website.
Best wishes
GJP
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Thailand
29 Posts
Posted 01/14/2020   03:17 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add PhuketMark to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Another useful site for information on U.S. stamps, why they were issued, etc. is the Arago site by the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum.

https:/arago.si.edu
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Posted 01/20/2020   10:08 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Hilarion to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi again. Thanks for the additional pointers. Yes, I'm in the USA, I should have said that! And I'm still working on understanding the logic of stamp values.

I obtained a cheap used copy of the Scott Specialized catalog. Using the Stamp Smarter site and the catalog, I typed up an Excel sheet listing a few decades' worth of stamps by issue date and face value. Then I marked the changing first class, additional ounce, multi-ounce, postcard, domestic airmail, and domestic airmail postcard rates on the sheet. That took care of most of the stamps. And most of what's left are low values and high round-number values that are probably meant to be used in combination to make up odd amounts.

(Looks like stamps printed especially for the 3-ounce rate started with the #2190 John Harvard 56c in 1986. Stamps for the 2-ounce rate go a lot farther back, until they get lost in the noise of ordinary low values. The #1398 Ernie Pyle 16c from 1971 might be the first specifically for this use, unless it had another purpose I don't know about.)

There are still a few odd values that look like they should be explainable, though. For example, in 1972-73 there are several sets of stamps that include values of 6c, 8c, 11c, and 15c. The first three are the postcard, first-class, and airmail rates. I don't see any reason for the 15c value (#1454, 1462, 1502), but there probably was one. Then in 1974-76 there are several unexplained 18c stamps (#1399, 1562, 1687)--probably whatever that 15c rate was, it went up to 18c. But I don't see any values in the next several years that would continue the pattern, so it might just be pareidolia.

Airmail stamps keep having oddly specific values (17c, 31c, and such) that were probably meant for particular uses, but I still haven't sprung for the cost of those B&W books and can't find another source that lists any postage rates so esoteric.

More recently, it's difficult to see the point of #2938, a 46c not-airmail stamp issued in 1995.

I fear I'm going to wear out my welcome very quickly if I keep asking people to look things up for me, but I'm hopeful that some of the above may turn out to be easy answers that every collector knows? Anyhow, thanks for any light y'all can shed.
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Posted 01/20/2020   10:42 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Yes, you are getting the hang of it.

I agree Ernie Pyle was most obviously a 2-ounce letter rate after the letter rate went to 8 cents, and less-obviously the 4 ounce rate for a 3rd class mailing. The more recent Scott Specialized catalog (I have a 2017), gives some clues. For example, Scott 1399 Elizabeth Blackwell notes use as single on international surface-rate cover, a single on international rate postcard, and single as double-weight 3rd class cover.

Yes, I agree, some of the higher-rate stamps you cite do match airmail stamps for their period, considering the complexity of domestic/international, card/letter, Canada/Mexico/Latin-America/Europe/Asia, some may have multiple applications.

A interesting pair are 1599 and 1605, issued in March and April 1978 respectively, when the PO was anticipating a rate increase to 16 cents (and 13 for the additional ounces), they got only 15 cents in May 1978, so the 16 and 29 cent stamps were too high by a penny and little-used.
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