General Philatelic Literature Reviews


The Collectors' Guide to Postal Stationery by Peter J Van Gelder

Enjoying our hobby is supposed to be a pleasurable recreation, isn't it.  So why, then, I wonder, do some people write books on the subject in such a dreadfully dry, deadly dull, boring, and extraordinarily serious tone?  :)

Here's a wonderful example of the way that all philatelic literature could and should be written.  This slim volume has 88 pages that measure about 6"x8", published in paperbook format but with high quality white gloss pages.  This in turn allows for the printing of high quality black and white illustrations, and the author generously sprinkles these throughout his book - I'd guess on average one per page.

This book is designed for a person with little of no knowledge on the broad field of postal stationery, and provides an excellent and comprehensive overview of the subject, including a history of interest in the hobby as well as, of course, a history of the evolution of the various items of postal stationery (of which there are many) that can be collected.

The author tells an interesting story about the evolution of the philatelic hobby in general.  He states that, initially, collectors would collect anything at all reasonably related to philately without preference, and shows a fascinating copy an advertisement for the 1890 7th edition of the Stanley Gibbons "Price Catalog of Postage Stamps" which goes on to say on the second line of the heading "Envelopes, Post Cards and Newspaper Bands" - all items that have completely dropped out of the SG and every other catalog.  The author contends that this was due to the growing profusion of stamp issues making it necessary for all collectors to refine and limit the areas of their collecting, and he goes on to say that due to the extra album space that postal stationery requires, the "inconvenience" of collecting such material was a major reason for its decline in popularity.  This decline has been reversed over the last thirty years or so, and indeed the earlier preference for mint postal stationery now seems to have been supplanted by a preference for used postal stationery.

Peter Van Gelder is British, and his book has a clear British/Commonwealth bias, although this can also be justified by the prominent role that Britain and its colonies has had with introducing new innovative postal products over the years.  It was published in 1997 by Squirrel Publishing in Shrewsbury; I don't remember where I purchased it, or how much it cost, but I'd strongly recommend everyone to get a copy as a likely inexpensive and very justifiable investment in extending their understanding into this essential aspect of philately as a whole.

One could wish that there were considerably more than 88 pages in the book, and it really does not have much detail in terms of specific issues of specific countries, but as an overview of the entire field, it is excellent.  A highly recommended publication accordingly.

Album Weeds - How to Detect Forged Stamps by Rev R B Earée

I purchased a copy of Part 6 of this series of books because it covered the countries from Norway through to St Christopher - including, therefore, Russia.

The book was originally published, I would estimate, in or not much after 1891 (the most recent issue of stamps he refers to were released in 1891), and most of the material he reports on dates from the 1850s and 1860s.  The copy I have is described as a "Third Edition Reprint" and was published by The Manuka Ainslie Press in Canberra, Australia (no publishing date given).  Part 6 comprises close on 200 pages of information, with each page being approx 5.5"x8.5" in size, in a paperback binding.  Although it is a reprint/copy of an earlier edition, the quality of the type and the small images is quite good and certainly much better than many other reprints of similar era publications.

Alas, my desire to get some fascinating information on Russian forgeries was not achieved.  The author includes not quite 1 page of information about Russia, and opens with the bold statement (that has notably failed to pass the test of time!) "The forgers do not seem to have tackled Russia at all; probably because most of the stamps are common, and require two printings.  I have only one miserable counterfeit, which would hardly deceive a blind man."  He then recounts some information on one only forgery - a single color (green!) imperf reproduction of what was probably intended to be Scott 3 or 9 or 17 or 24.

As such, the book is worthless to the Russian philatelic scholar, although if you collect other countries, it may well be very valuable to you (recognising that it discusses only stamps issued prior to 1891).

I don't recall what I paid for this book (I bought it on an eBay auction).  It has, however, zero value as a Russian reference piece.


This page last modified on May 15, 2010