Out In The Universe... Stamps -- Using Your Resources

Michael O. Nowlan - April 17, 2000
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Are you are wondering how close you are to completing your hologram stamps and postal stationery collection? There are 32 distinctive issues from nations around the world. How many joint issues has the United States made with other nations? If you said 40, take top prize. The list includes four each with Canada and four with Italy. This is a mere sampling of the information found in a new book that is a must for every collector's bookshelf.

Thorough, general reference works for the stamp collector are difficult to find. There are various sources scattered among the literature, but most collectors like to consult one source for much of their information. That is now possible with the rebirth of Linn's World Stamp Almanac. Last published in 1990, the Linn's tome will be welcomed throughout the stamp collecting community.

An almanac provides general and statistical information, and no one will accuse Linn's World Stamp Almanac of failing these characteristics. The book's 1064 pages are crammed with an enormous number of topics and an incredible amount of information. In 27 chapters, the editors at Linn's and specialist collector/writers explore the philatelic globe. A major accent in Linn's World Stamp Almanac focuses on the United States. That, however, is acceptable because there is also plenty of world information.

I want to tease you with some specific bits of information and to whet your appetite with an overview of all that awaits you in this book.

Dates for the first stamp issue of each of the nations of the world can be useful information. Linn's World Stamp Almanac has both alphabetical and chronological lists. Unless you read the Stamp Universe Trivia Quiz, you may be surprised to learn the second stamp-issuing nation was Brazil whose first stamp appeared August 1, 1843, three years after Britain's Penny Black. If your research requires an up-to-date list of members of the Universal Postal Union or an explanation of the once popular UPU color codes, this new book has it.

Former country names can be a problem because the globe has changed so much. Ghana, Georgia, Burkina Faso, Belize, Tuvalu, and Zambia, for example, all had other names under previous commonwealth or territorial claims. Linn's World Stamp Almanac has an extensive listing, including all the nations that took on separate status with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the restructuring of much of the rest of Eastern Europe. 

A very dramatic listing (over 100 pages) features thumbnail sketches all of the stamp-issuing entities of the world whether they are active today or not. Collectors of worldwide stamps will love this feature.  A related section presents all the existing worldwide postal agencies with addresses. For some, there are web sites. The latter is invaluable to those who collect exotic material from far flung places that are often difficult to contact.

As I said above, Linn's World Stamp Almanac features extensive information on the United States stamps and stamp-issuing policies. There is a complete listing of all U.S. stamps from the beginning in 1847 until November 1999. There are also chapters on the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, Postage Stamp Production, Postage Rates, Postage Regulations, First Days, State Duck Stamps, and Plate Blocks and Numbers. 

The section on stamp 'firsts' is informative. It gives me an opportunity to update material I used in a recent "Out in the Universe" column. When I wrote about stamp shapes, I said Great Britain had never ventured beyond the squares and rectangles for its stamps. Britain issued the first hexagon, an eight-sided stamp in 1847. Sierra Leone "introduced free form stamps and self-adhesives in 1964. The first stamp was shaped like a map of the country. Other stamps under 'firsts' depict gold-foil, aluminum-foil, plastic, and cedar wood images. 

Additional features in Linn's World Stamp Almanac cite the major stamp auctions, philatelic expertizing services, famous stamp personalities, infamous forgers, and the philatelic honor role for many awards and distinctions - American and international. World philatelic museums and libraries as well as stamp periodicals are well listed. A great range of stamp organizations for collectors as well as organizations for dealers gets fair treatment. 

Chapter 16, which examines stamp collection basics, is an old-fashioned gallery of staple information. Stamp condition terms, terms and abbreviations, a foreign stamp identifier, computers and collecting, and stamp albums are all part of the dialogue. Stamp exhibiting and law and philately are two singular chapters whose topics enhance seldom-written-about-aspects of the hobby. Linn's reserves the last chapter for the final word extolling Linn's customer services. It is nicely done and properly placed.

Among the philatelic writers whose expertise Linn's called upon are past president of the American Philatelic Society and prominent stamp journalist John Hotchner, prominent Linn's columnist Les Winnick, law and philately expert Howard Petschel, and Steve Bahnsen and Anthony Wawrukiewicz on postal regulations and rates. Michael Lawrence, editor-publisher and Donna O'Keefe Houseman, book editor at Linn's were the driving forces in compiling Linn's World Stamp Almanac - the Millennium edition.

I won't speak for the philatelic community, but I like Linn's World Stamp Almanac. This is an amazing compendium of information. It will have a spot on my shelf where I can reach it when I am working at my albums or composing columns on the computer. I know it will soon look like my dictionary which is the most consulted book on the shelf. It may get a little dog-eared or show wear and tear, but it will be a companion and guide. No collector can ask for more in a publication. 

There may be omissions in Linn's World Stamp Almanac or someone's pet little entry may not be there, but the overall content is superb. 

One of the down sides to a publication like Linn's World Stamp Almanac is its infrequency in updates. Nonetheless, after 10 years it is a welcome addition to the literature. In price, it is also a great buy. 

The staff at Linn's deserves applause for the millennium edition of Linn's World Stamp Almanac. It is a job that far surpasses any previous volume or similar titles in philatelic literature. It is available in a limited-edition hardcover and a regular soft cover format.



Michael O. Nowlan was born in Chatham, New Brunswick Canada. He grew up on a nearby farm, was educated, and became a teacher. In retirement, he follows his life-long avocation of writing. His credits include 16 books (four books of poems, two children's titles, and anthologies for schools). In recent years, he has written extensively about stamp collecting for CANADIAN STAMP NEWS, GIBBONS INTERNATIONAL STAMP NEWS, and other philatelic publications.


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