Facit Norden. By Facit. In English and Swedish, 880 pages (2017 edition). Published by Facit Förlags AB, Malmö.
Reviewer: Jay Smith
APRL Locator: [G6910 .A1 F142n 2017]
The Facit Scandinavian Specialized catalog, now in two parts, is the most widely used all-Scandinavia/Nordic specialized catalog, plus Facit’s two other Sweden-only catalogs with different content. In a simpler time, there was just one edition of the Facit Catalog. However, there are now four different Facit Catalogs published on a regular basis. Published in Sweden, the catalogs' text is in Swedish, with virtually all text also presented fully in English. The prices are in Swedish kroner (Sweden is not part of the EU). The catalogs are hardbound with the illustrations in color. In North America, the catalogs are available from a Facit distributor in the United States. What was once the single "Facit Specialized" catalog is, starting in 2017, now published in two parts. The publication schedule is still settling in, but the plan seems to be to publish the two parts in alternating years. The division into two parts was made to lessen spikes in the editing workload, to accommodate binding equipment thickness limitations, and at the same time to allow space for additional content and special articles. As does every different catalog publisher, Facit uses its own numbering system. As of this writing, the exchange rate for the Swedish kroner (SEK) is U.S. $0.12 (12 cents) or about 9 SEK to the U.S. $1. In the last few years, the exchange rate has been in a range of one Swedish kroner equaling 11 to 14 U.S. cents. The order of presentation of the countries in the Classic and Special Norden catalogs is: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Slesvig, Faroe, Greenland, Danish West Indies, Iceland; and in the Finnish realm, Finland, Aunus, Karelia and Eastern Karelia, North Ingermanland, and Åland. Every different stamp design is clearly illustrated in color; this is very helpful in the modern issues which are often sets containing several different, but sometimes similar, stamp designs. All the usual categories of postage and special stamps are listed: commemoratives and definitives, semi-postals, airmails, postage dues, military, official, newspaper, parcel post, vending machine (i.e., Frama and all other brands), etc. There are also lesser-known categories such as postage paid, book mail, stamps printed in newspapers for public use, etc. The listings of commemorative, definitive, semi-postal, and airmail stamps are all comingled, in order by date. However, definitive stamps are organized BOTH in groups of stamps all having the same design, and with individual listings by date that are pointers to the location of the group listing. Tourist stamps are listed under Sweden. These special stamps were used by Nordic tourists in other parts of the world (Canary Islands and such similarly warm vacation spots). The mail was transported back to Sweden on tourist charter planes and turned over to the Swedish post office for onward distribution by normal postal methods within Sweden and the other Nordic countries. A notable quirk in Facit's numbering system is that if a stamp has sub-numbers, the main number is a generic listing, that includes the sub-numbers, but has the price of the most common of the sub-numbers. This is a different approach than many other catalogs. For example, in the case of #329, 329a, and 329b, there are actually only two different stamps (329a and 329b); 329 is just a generic all-inclusive number for collectors who are not interested in further differences (such as color shade or engraving type). Because Facit originally started out as a catalog of Swedish stamps and because Sweden, since 1938, has mostly coil or booklet stamps — often both formats of the same stamp design — the Facit catalog numbering system uses capital-letter suffix to represent coil VS booklet stamps, where both exist. Traditional (1938 onward) Swedish booklet stamps are usually perforated only on three sides, configured in booklets as pairs with straight edges on the opposite sides. In the Scandinavian countries, if a booklet stamp is perforated on only three sides but exists straight edge right AND left (or top AND bottom), BOTH stamps are collected — and usually as a pair if that is physically possible. The perforation identification suffixes Facit uses (if more than one format exits) are: A = perforated on two opposite sides (coil stamp); B = perforated on three sides, one side straight edge (traditional Swedish booklet stamp); C = perforated on all four sides (traditional sheet stamp); D = perforated only on two adjacent sides, thus straight edges on two adjacent sides — typically a "corner cut" stamp from a machine-vended booklet. BB represents a traditional booklet pair and DD a pair of two corner-cut booklet stamps. SX (and SX1, SX2, etc.) represents a pair of two stamps of different designs, potentially with their different orientations (if they alternate). Alternating designs are found in both coil and booklet Swedish stamp issues. [Interestingly, Swedish and Scandinavian collectors usually do not collect coil stamps in pairs as do many collectors of U.S. stamps, though from 1920-1936 Sweden used the same model of Stickney printing press as was used in the United States.] Complete booklets are noted, and usually priced, at the stamp listings, but are also listed and priced in a more detailed, specialized section of complete booklets. First day covers, official maximum cards, etc., each have their own section. The priced listings for classic stamps often include several different colors / printings; such differences are given distinct sub-numbers. For all issues, any watermark differences (inverted watermarks, reversed watermarks, papermaker watermarks), major type or plate differences, imperforates, and many prominent plate varieties are listed, priced and assigned sub-numbers. (This is different, and preferable in my opinion, compared to some catalogs such as Scott which often do not assign sub-numbers to varieties or color shades. Facit's use of sub-numbers for everything allows for more convenient to communication about items by using numbers instead of longer phrases.). In some cases, for classic stamps, the largest known multiples are documented, and 4-blocks are often listed and priced. Especially in the Swedish listings, the user may be quite surprised at the depth and breadth of the listed varieties, including "EFO" types of items such as pre-printing paper folds and offsets of the design as mirror images on the reverse of stamps. Price columns for Mint Never Hinged (NH) shown as 2-stars, Mint Hinged shown as 1-star, and Used shown as a circle with dot in center, are present at least through 1937 and as late as 1945, varying by country. After that, pricing is only present for NH and Used. Pricing for each stamp on postally used cover is provided at least through 1949 and in some countries running as recent as 1996. For post-1930s issues, the on-cover pricing is, at best, a relative value that is most useful in determining if one stamp issue is scarcer on cover than another; I consider those to be "rarity factors" rather than actual prices. In many cases, the values shown for modern covers are far too low to represent a practical price at which a dealer can handle a cover; however, the values do provide a useful context. The Classic and Norden catalogs do not attempt to break out cover pricing by specific use or postal rates, etc. In the Swedish section of the Classic, there is a comprehensive, but only somewhat detailed, listing of proofs and essays with price ranges indicated. Also in the Classic, in recent years, there have been ground-breaking articles about various aspects of classic Swedish stamps. This volume also contains (a section also in the "Postal") priced listings for Swedish covers by postal rate, franking / combinations, and country destination — an extraordinary resource simply not available in the specialized national catalogs for most countries of the world. In addition to Sweden, each country in the Facit Special Classic includes important special sections; some appear regularly, others only occasionally. Some of the special-section highlights of the 2022 edition include the following. All-Scandinavia: return-to-sender labels, the first such comprehensive listings of its kind. Sweden: lines printed in stamp margins; printings of the 1855 4 skilling stamp. Norway: pre-stamp cancellations and mail; cancellations on Norway #1. Denmark: "Rarity ranking of Danish franked covers to and from abroad 1851-1905", a tremendous resource; advertising pairs, panes, and booklets, a highly specialized illustrated listing with varieties. Slesvig / Schleswig: important major article on the stamps and postal history. Greenland: new articles/sections on cancellations on Pakke-Porto (parcel post) stamps; postal history before 1939; uses of Pakke-Porto stamps; 1945 "Danmark Befriet" (aka the "American Issue") overprints; cancellations on postage stamps from 1938 onward. Danish West Indies: postal stationery; shipping company stamps. Iceland: cancellations: town provincial and bridge types, crown and posthorn, numeral; British military mail during WWII; and an extraordinary new section with fresh research "The postal History [and Postmarks] of American Forces in Iceland in World War II"; "Icelandic Skilling Covers in Private Hands"; revenue stamps; holiday savings ("Orlof") stamps; and postal stationery. Finland: early stamped covers by franking, postal rate, and destination — a tremendous resource with much new information; pre-stamp mail and postmarks; postal stationery envelopes 1845-1858 (with similar/same printing cliches as first stamp issue); Russian stamps and postal stationery used in Finland 1891-1918; Private local post and semi-official local post stamps — the best listing I know of. While that may cover many of the high points, it really only scratches the surface. A remarkable feature of the Facit Norden 2020 is a 6-page heavily illustrated and detailed section (with full English text, as usual) titled "Forged modern Swedish stamps 2004-2015". While the problem in Sweden with modern postal forgeries (to defraud the post office) continues, as it does in the U.S., the problem in Sweden was especially serious in those years. Another notable feature in this edition is a detailed, 13-page section on the Danish machine-vended stamps (FRAMA and later makers). As just one example of a special, illustrated article in the Norden, the 2020 edition includes “Affixing [Norwegian] roll stamps from 2007 until April 2019.” This article is about the special formats of Norwegian self-adhesive stamps created for machine-affixing to philatelic items such first day covers. It also covers the format differences between mint roll (coil) stamps purchased at post offices versus the formats of the same mint stamps found in year packs and presentation packs. This article nicely explains why modern Norwegian self-adhesive stamps can be found in two different formats, spacings, or orientations. For all the countries, the usual specialized listings are stable from edition to edition, but they have grown and matured over time. However, there have been a variety of special sections which have been presented either one-time or in a few editions with progressive significant improvements resulting from user feedback. Because of the constant improvements and special articles, many collectors of Scandinavian / Nordic stamps wish to have every new edition. The introductory sections of each catalog provides, including full English text, explanations of the abbreviations and symbols used in the catalog. For the most part, however, the listings in the catalogs fully stand on their own. The introduction goes on to extensively discuss aspects of grading / condition and quality. A two-page concordance of terms encountered in the catalog is presented for five languages: English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish — but interestingly not in Swedish (though the English words are in the catalog text). Each Facit catalog, edition and type, includes an excellent table of contents. The Classic and Norden specialized catalogs include an index of the (most recent occurrences of) special sections that have appeared in previous editions. The pricing in the catalogs is done in consultation with both collectors who are subject matter experts and dealers who are expert in the market conditions. The catalogs' publisher is not a stamp dealer and does not sell stamps as dealers do but is owned by a major stamp auction firm in Sweden. While some catalogs purport to have "collector to collector trading reference values" and others seem to be "dealer price lists", the Facit catalogs attempt to provide prices that represent actual market prices. Like all such catalogs, the prices are just a guide and are heavily influenced by differences in quality of the items and the participants in a transaction. The chief editor is responsive to suggestions and corrections and coordinates the work of an excellent editorial committee. I was asked to include in this article "what is not included in the catalog". That is harder to list than I expected. Speaking only in regard to the pair of specialized catalogs (the Classic and Norden), these are not postmark catalogs — but yet they are for Greenland and Iceland. They are not postal history catalogs, but yet they are for several or many aspects of Sweden, Norway, Greenland, Iceland, and Finland. They are not catalogs for local post stamps, but yet they are for Finland and Danish West Indies. They are not catalogs for revenue stamps, yet they are for Iceland. My suggestion is that the collector interested in these countries who does not yet have a specialized catalog will do well to start with the Facit catalogs and then branch out from there to the wealth of Scandinavian / Nordic philatelic literature that is available. The author's company is the North American distributor for the Facit Catalogs, as well as a dealer in Scandinavian (and U.S. and worldwide) philately and philatelic literature. Jay Smith & Associates, P.O. Box 650, Snow Camp, NC 27349-0650. Phone: 336-376-9991. Email: [email protected] Website: https://www.JaySmith.com