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Listing Minor Varieties In Catalogues

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Posted 06/10/2018   1:04 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add Scottamer to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I am constantly perplexed by the many often negative comments that appear in this forum about stamp catalogues not listing particular varieties or even all constant varieties. This is not a weakness of the catalogues. Minor stamp varieties such as dots, scratches, or other small lines are unbelievably common. For Canadian stamps they exist across all periods and all printing methods. If they were all listed in catalogues, even specialised catalogues, then the catalogues would become unwieldy and unusable for most collectors. The Unitrade specialised catalogue is a gem of Canadian philatelic information in mind opinion, but it is already quite a heavy tome to carry around. If it listed every dot and scratch, it would not even fit in a briefcase or backpack and would cost considerably more to print and to purchase. It would also make the catalogue less user-friendly for looking up more standard stamps and variations.

The editors of catalogues usually strive to list varieties that are particularly prominent or naked-eye varieties. Other reasons for listing them would be that they have a strong historical legacy or that they alter the stamp in an interesting way, such as suggesting an accent on a letter or making a portrait look different. Many such lines and dots that are listed now in catalogues would not be listed if they were not close to a letter or to a King's moustache or eye.

Another consideration is that it would be next to impossible to assign a price for many of these varieties. Many such constant varieties exist on all printed panes such that they appear in one out of every 50 or 100 stamps. Imagine trying to assign a price to every small dot or line that appears on each pane of a particular issue. Remember that many, if not most, collectors actually do not care about these types of varieties. Assigning a value based on rarity alone would not be appropriate.

To illustrate just how common minor varieties actually are, take for example the 1935 George V Silver Jubilee issue. This attractive issue includes six stamps. Most catalogues mention two significant varieties associated with this issue. There is the "weeping princess" variety on the 1c which is essentially a small dig on Princess Elizabeth's cheek that appears as a tear to the naked eye. There is also the "shilling mark" variety that appears as a small stroke near the right value on the 13c stamp and is reminiscent of the larger stroke that was normally used to separate shillings from pence before the introduction of decimal currency in Britain and Canada. Both of these varieties are easily visible to the naked eye, were known about when the stamps were in current use, and have even been saved by non-collectors who read about them in the newspaper and thought they might be valuable one day. But this is not even close to being the full story on this issue. Hans Reiche's small 1982 book on constant plate varieties lists no less than 140 different varieties on this issue including 53 on the 1c value alone!

Imagine if all of these varieties were listed in a catalogue with images. For some stamps, more that an entire page would be required to document everything. If they were listed without images, then it would be extremely frustrating for variety hunters to identify these little treasures.

The same scenario goes for re-entries. I cannot count the number of times I have seen posters on this forum provide an image of a tiny area of doubling that they have found on a 2400dpi scan of an old Victoria stamp, with the mention that they are going to send this to the Unitrade catalogue editor for inclusion in the next issue. Many of Canada's early stamps have had the entire sheet re-entered and almost every position will exhibit some kind of doubling if blown up big enough and examined carefully. It should also be noted that many or most of these types of minor re-entries have already been documented in philatelic journals or specialised literature and websites. However, this does not mean that they belong in a catalogue where they would be almost impossible to illustrate or assign a price to.

Philatelic journals, websites, and forums like this one are the ideal place to share and discuss these types of varieties. As anyone who has visited my FlySpecker.com website knows, I am particularly enamoured with these types of varieties. However, collectors who notice these little abnormalities in their stamps need to recognise that many of them have already been documented by specialists and they do not belong in a mainstream catalogue that is used by dealers and collectors to price their stamps for trading or purchase.

On the other hand, finding a really prominent new variety or an interesting re-entry or constant mark on an issue that is not known for varieties might indeed warrant a listing in a catalogue. However, the discoverers of these little treasures need to temper their expectations of fame and glory.
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Posted 06/10/2018   1:30 pm  Show Profile Check jogil's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add jogil to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Isn't flyspecking about noting every minor variety no matter how small?
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Posted 06/10/2018   1:55 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Scottamer to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Yes that is exactly what flyspecking is. Also makes for great posts on this forum. But these finds do not all belong in stamp catalogues. That is the point of my post.
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Posted 06/10/2018   2:29 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I agree.
Studying a single stamp by pouring through thousands, or even tens of thousands, of examples has my full respect. It certainly has a place in our hobby and deserves recognition. But I have always struggled with the lack of any production printing specification that can be used to determine what was (and wasn't) considered acceptable to release stamp for shipment and distribution. For example, many US Back of Book stamp such as Postage Dues have very loose Quality specifications; the stamps were considered for 'internal use' and therefore the printing quality of the stamp that shipped were much lower than those which were meant for public sale.

This is very important, obviously it impacted what was considered a 'flaw' for the printers. Stamp quality which was bad enough to not ship and would get pulled would be much rarer as opposed to some tiny little inking flaw which needs a 1200 d.p.i scan to even see. Color shift tolerances are a good example, how much shift was considered acceptable? This spec (if one ever existed) seems to be very variable, on some stamps you can find all kinds of shifting that can easily been seen at arm's length. On other stamps, they seemed to hold a tight tolerance on the amount of shift allowed. But the point is, how much is 'normal' for a particular stamp issue? At what point would a shift NOT be shipped from the printers? This is a critical question for fly speccing; if you cannot determine what is and isn't acceptable then you may just collecting 'normal' stamps.

I would add that the practice of applying 'cute' name for such small flaws can also be questioned. When a person applies a 'cute' name to a minor inking flaw it can be perceived as an attempt to add marketing value or a way to add interest so that the stamp becomes worth more in the marketplace. By emulating significant plate variety naming, naming minor inking flaws could be perceived as a way to try to gain legitimacy.
Don
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Posted 06/10/2018   2:35 pm  Show Profile Check jogil's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add jogil to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Are there some varieties that you think should be in the catalogue but are not in it and are there some varieties that you think should not be in the catalogue but that are in it?

It appears that what gets listed or does not get listed in a catalogue is up to its editors. However, the editors of stamp catalogues should have a good working relationship with stamp specialists in their specific fields. Sometimes things are listed more specifically because of advertising dealer suggestion rather than from collector specialist input suggestion.

When one knows that certain information is incorrect or can be improved on in a catalogue and it gets ignored, this means that collectors and the catalogue lose out since it and any other different information that may also be helpful is not going to be pointed out anymore.
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Edited by jogil - 06/10/2018 2:56 pm
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Posted 06/10/2018   4:33 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Scottamer to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Please keep in mind that my initial post is not discussing what should be acceptable as flyspecking or what people should collect. My opinion here is only about what should be included in catalogues.

I could see a collector assembling a great exhibit of every known variety on the 1935 Silver Jubilee issue. I would love to see it, but even as a variety specialist, I do not believe this level of detail should be in a mainstream stamp catalogue.

I agree with 51studebaker that applying cute names to EFOs and other ink flaws is misleading. Named flaws are usually reserved for known constant varieties. I am not sure whether standards for printing can always be applied to validate what is and what is not a collectible variety. I think very minor flaws can sometimes be acceptable and worthy of listing in catalogues as varieties if they are one of very few that exist on a stamp or issue. A small scratch could be very interesting on some modern issues but of little interest on older issues where each stamp has marks that can be used to plate it. For modern printing methods, colour alignment and other issues do indeed make it very hard to determine what is normal and what is a variety. I always laugh when I see fairly normal colour shifts noted as a variety by dealers on the 1898 Map stamps. To me, a Map stamp without a prominent colour shift is much more rare and collectible.

I agree with Jogil that catalogues will always benefit from listening to collectors and their findings. But they do have to strike a balance between what constitutes valuable information to a large portion of the collecting community and what it only of interest to a very specific collector. I believe that there are certainly some listings that could be removed from a catalogue while there are other well-known varieties that have yet to be included.

Keep in mind that most catalogues are very restricted in what they can add to earlier listings. The addition of significant information on an issue could cause the pages breaks to change and a ripple effect that makes it necessary to reflow a major portion of the catalogue.

While I agree that there is definitely some dealer/advertiser influence on catalogues, it is my experience that they do listen to collectors and specialists as well. I have had a number of my suggested minor changes and additions implemented.
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Posted 06/10/2018   4:45 pm  Show Profile Check revenuecollector's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add revenuecollector to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I disagree with the OP's opinion as written, because it uses the broad sweeping term "catalogues". I would, however, agree that there's no need to include plate varieties in "generalist" catalogues, as separarate from "specialist" catalogues.

To make the broad sweeping statement, implies that there should not be any comprehensive references for these varieties, and I couldn't disagree more.

Unitrade is a specialist catalogue, akin to the Scott U.S. Specialized Catalogue, so IMO inclusion of varieties is appropriate.

In the Scott catalogue universe, for example, plate varieties are minimally included in the section for U.S. in volume 1A, but they are greatly expanded in the U.S. Specialized Catalogue, as it should be.

An even greater depth (complete itemization of plate states, positions, etc.) would be appropriate for a Plate Varieties Catalogue, should one be created.

In short: There is a place for these varieties in catalogues; the question is which catalogue?
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Posted 06/10/2018   4:58 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Petert4522 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I am totally in agreement with Revenuecollector. The field of varieties is so large that in my opinion several smaller variety catalogs
could be possible,

Peter
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Edited by Petert4522 - 06/10/2018 5:00 pm
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Posted 06/10/2018   5:11 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add angore to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I have no issue with having a simplified and specialized catalogue but drawing the line is subjective. Scott does even list modern visible differences.

If you take your premise to an extreme, there only be a small subset of issues listed for the Washington Franklin series.

A side aspect is that the US hobby does allow Scott to have a major influence on what is collectible or not and the same applies to putting spaces in my album. My example today asking about the DLR printing compared to the original printing. Scott does not list it.
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Al
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Posted 06/10/2018   5:28 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I assume that as time passes printed catalogs will become less and less relevant and digital catalogs will dominate; so the issues of space, weight, and cost may eventually no longer be applicable. So in that context, should the 'new' approach be totally inclusionary? Catalog numbers are free; so why not include every single variant possible? Perhaps it will become commonplace to assign hundreds of catalog numbers to each stamp design!

While this might be great for some folks; I wonder what the impact might be for the hobby. The complexity of the hobby already is daunting to new hobbyists.
Don
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Posted 06/10/2018   5:48 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add archerg to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
In my opinion, the attempted marriage of a catalogue and a price guide is the issue. Please bear with me...

A catalogue is supposed to be comprehensive, and list all known variants.

In truth, what we are calling a catalogue is a retail price guide. It always has been, too. Its purpose is to value the item based on many factors (rarity, condition, etc.). It serves a community of collectors, including a large group who don't value varieties. Unitrade, Scott, SG etc. are managed in the interests of dealers, who know the market for flyspecks is limited and have little interest to promote them.

The term "naked eye varieties" is apt, collectors wishing to specialize will compete for prominent plate flaws or variants. They are special, easily seen in exhibits or images. Collectors at all levels seek them, and dealers sell them at premium prices because the demand exceeds supply.

Highly specialized minor varieties are time-consuming to find, and the market for them is very small. That's why they're not "catalogued". I bet the market for three-volume flyspeck catalogues is small, too. That being said, specialized research at the grassroots level of a chatboard is the perfect place to share what you find. I understand the message of the OP, and agree with it, hope my two cents doesn't derail the discussion.
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Posted 06/10/2018   5:59 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add angore to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I see nothing wrong with listing blank values for varieties. There is too much estimating values already on mainstream issue.

As for being challenging for a new collector, the problem is not the catalogue makers but the issuing policies by postal entities. I was going through an album I purchased and around 1975 to 1980 some countries, many British colonies, went wild with topicals and souvenir sheets.
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Al
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Posted 06/10/2018   6:40 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Scottamer to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
This thread is quickly shifting to some other areas of what should go into a catalogue and opinions on different types of catalogues. That is fine, but I just want to clarify some things about my original post.

First, although I refer to catalogues in the plural, I am a Canadian stamp collector of Canadian stamps. To me the only catalogue that really counts for anything significant in my market is the Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps. My comments are meant to refer to this and other country specific catalogues. I am not referring to very general international catalogues like Scott or Gibbons or to smaller catalogues that are written specifically for plate varieties.

Second, the Unitrade catalogue includes many hundreds of varieties including constant plate varieties. Many casual collectors of plate varieties consider it to be quite adequate. I am in no way suggesting that these plate varieties should not be there. All I am saying is that every single known dot and scratch cannot possibly be there. This would make this or any other similar country catalogue unwieldy and prohibitively expensive.

So my original statement of being perplexed was referring to when posters here suggest that every known variety should be in a specialized country catalogue like Unitrade.

As a final example, a few months ago there was a discussion about a very tiny relief break on a Canadian Admiral stamp being in the catalogue. In his classic book on these stamps, George Marler uses these tiny relief breaks to classify these stamps into specific types. He then further describes the plate varieties for each type. This book has hundreds of types and often many varieties for each of them. Less than one tenth of these varieties are illustrated and the book is still well over 500 pages in length. To suggest that these relief breaks be included in the Unitrade catalogue is absurd, in my opinion. I would further suggest that even a catalogue specialising entirely in Canadian plate varieties could not include this level of detail for all of Canada's stamps.

This is the reason why there are many books specialising in particular issues or even specific individual Canadian stamps.

So my main concern is posters in the "Canadian Stamps and Covers" section of this forum insisting that all such plate varieties be included in the Unitrade catalogue, or the suggestion that this catalogue is somehow incomplete or that it leaves "a lot out" because they are not there.
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Posted 06/10/2018   10:42 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add BlackJag to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I appreciate seeing all varieties posted on this forum and realizing that any valuation of non-constants is questionable, I do not expect to see them listed in any catalogue.

I am a flyspecker for the joy of seeing something unusual.

I happily mount them in my own collection and often give them cute names.
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Posted 06/11/2018   07:57 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add wert to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I agree lot and I mean a lot of oddities posted by people will not make the variety criteria needed to be recognized as a true constant variety.(That includes myself)

But that should not be by any means be a deterrent to the flyspeckers out there..These are the collectors that do bring to the attention to people, organizations that new varieties can and will always be found.

Take for example my Newfoundland Scott 56a and 58 "Dog Scratch" variety now recognized by Unitrade as a constant variety...There ARE more possible varieties to come forward.

Look at BNAPS "Dots and Scratches" produced by Mike Smith..A well written gold mine of knowledge for those interested in oddities.

Never stop looking/posting any finds and maybe you might get lucky enough like I did..The fun of the hunt is a wonderful part of stamp collecting.

Be kind with your replies to these posters..We as a community have a responsibility to enhance this great hobby...Lets not scare anyone away.

Robert



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Posted 06/11/2018   08:01 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add watermark to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I think a visual affect might be helpful in this discussion so here are just two books in my reference library. One is Unitrade 2018 with 751 numbered pages. The other is a specialized book on the varieties of numbers 85 and 86 which encompasses all the varieties on the 1898 Christmas Map Stamp. One page is used for this issue in Unitrade but the specialized book is comprised of four volumes and is much bigger than Unitrade and only covers two stamps. This is just one example of a specialized book there are many available.




Unitrade is a specialized general catalogue. But if you specialize in collecting varieties and plate flaws there are volumes out there written for various issues or even single stamps to build a library of information with.

Enjoy collecting them but don't expect anyone to put them all into a Catalogue.
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Edited by watermark - 06/11/2018 08:15 am
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