Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise Stamp Catalogue 2011 by Hugh Jefferies
|Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise Stamp Catalogue 2011 by Hugh Jefferies|
|Category: Business and Finance|
|Reviewer: John Van der Kiste|
|Summary: The standard fully illustrated and priced catalogue of British stamp issues from 1840 to 2011, 26th edition.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 396||Date: April 2011|
|Publisher: Stanley Gibbons|
|External links: Author's website|
Such are the complexity, the sheer variety and number of permutations possible of postage stamp issues in the 21st century, that any catalogue compiler is faced with an almost impossible task. Producing a genuinely concise book is largely a matter of what to include and what to leave out.
Within these 370-odd pages, therefore, you will find much more than a mere listing of the basic issues, including date, illustration and price. The definitive, commemorative and special issues listings are the bedrock, but there is much more besides – special first day of issue postmarks, which became a regular feature from the Christmas 1970 issue onwards, miniature sheets, Royal Mail Post & Go stamps, and postage labels, to name but a few. It is sometimes tempting to ask where the boundary between postage stamps and labels starts or ends. Distinctions are increasingly blurred, with the advantage that the collector can choose what he or she wants to have in the album, but at the same time the disadvantage in that what was once a clearcut hobby has become increasingly complicated.
The variations in the standard definitive stamps, first issued in 1967 with just the Queen's head alongside the face value in the bottom left-hand corner, have likewise become increasingly complex. For some years the values have been little in evidence, now generally replaced by '1st', '2nd', 'E' for the standard European rate, or 'Large' for use on larger envelopes. Add to those all the different permutations of booklet panes, different phosphor bands, and it looks ever more complicated.
But it is up to the collector to make the choice, and however that choice is made, this catalogue is as indispensable as ever. As a work of reference for knowing what was issued in what field, and on what particular date, it has carved its own niche on the philatelic reference shelf which is unlikely to be surpassed by its rivals. Every design is reproduced in colour, slightly smaller than original size. The prices, as opposed to what are the generally accepted market values (in other words, divide the Gibbons price by about one-third), for mint and used specimens, and in the case of Victorian issues, used on cover as well, are also given If you're looking for an instant Gibbons price for the 1840 1d black in good condition, this year it is £300 used in good condition, an increase of £25 on last year. Edwardian and George V stamps are priced for unmounted and mounted or previously hinged mint, and Edward VII to the present day unmounted mint and lightly used only. It is surly a sign of the times that the lowest face value of certain commemorative sets from the 1960s to the 1980s, used, is often priced at 10p, while the 1st class values from more recent issues are often priced at £1 or so, indicating their comparative scarcity. I'm probably not the only one who finds such stamps on my regular post quite a rarity these days.
The most expensive item (probably – regret time does not permit an exhaustive check through every page) must be the 2d Tyrian plum Edward VII stamp which was prepared for use but cancelled because of the King's death on the planned date of issue, £100,000. That amount in pounds, by the way, is the estimated number of sheets produced. A few exist in private hands or in the National Postal Museum, but the vast majority were destroyed. The preface records significant price increases in several areas, notably in varieties and errors from the present reign, and in King George V watermark variations.
The Commemorative Design Index at the front is a boon as ever, saving us the time of leafing through every issue if we want to identify subjects such as Ice Age Animals, Kipling's Just So Stories, Soldiers of the Crimean War, or David Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust' album and the relevant issue.
At first glance it might look expensive, but it really is the No. 1 work in its field, and the wealth of detail cannot be faulted. In certain fields the internet might be a good short cut for finding out the required information, but it would take hours of surfing to glean everything readily available between the two covers of this publication.
Our thanks to Stanley Gibbons Ltd for sending Bookbag a review copy.
For further reading and reference, may we also mention the sister publication, Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue Commonwealth & Empire Stamps 1840-1970; and the self-explanatory Stamps of the World 2011. Of parallel interest are Collect Autographs: An Illustrated Guide to Collecting and Investing in Autographs by Fraser's Autographs; and a relevant work of fiction from the late Victorian era, The Stamp King by G. De Beauregard and H. De Gorsse, translated by Edith C. Phillips.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise Stamp Catalogue 2011 by Hugh Jefferies at Amazon.com.
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