Catalogo Especializado de las Estampillas de Venezuela
By Prof. Juan Jose Valera. In Spanish, 345 pages (1974 edition), medium soft cover. Published by Filatelica Tematica L.T. (Colombia). 4th edition (1974). Second-hand only.
Reviewer: Nick Salter
APRL Locator: [G5280 .A1 V162c 1985]
It’s not easy to get hold of, but the book you need is the specialized Venezuelan catalog compiled by Juan Jose Valera. It was first published in 1964 and was updated every few years until the final edition in 1982. My copy is the fourth edition from 1974. As would be expected, there is plenty of detail not encountered in the mainstream publications. Venezuela’s 1859-62 Coat of Arms issue, for example, has 24 varieties listed in the Scott Classic Specialized, against Valera’s altogether more comprehensive 71 entries. The 1871-6 Escuelas and subsequent postal fiscals have their own dedicated chapters, rather than being integrated into the body of the work. There is also a very useful section on the Venezuelan local posts, an area that is treated somewhat haphazardly in the major catalogs. Valera sold the rights to his catalog to Aurelio Blanco who last published his own specialized catalog in 2009 (and is somewhat easier to find). But my preference is for the older Valera editions. Look out for a brand new, digital Venezuelan catalog by Carlos Romero from ASOFILCA (the Caracas Philatelic Association), due to be published sometime in 2022.
General Information about Latin America catalogs: Most of the twenty Latin American republics have produced specialized stamp catalogs at some stage. For the Central and South America collector that has relied on simplified listings, the specialized catalogs offer up a huge range of new possibilities, with a significant numbers of varieties to collect that have never made it into the mainstream publications.
Before we look at each country individually, it is worth noting that both Scott and Stanley Gibbons have published “semi specialized” listings that cover all Latin American countries and go into a greater level of depth than is found in their simplified catalogs. Scott’s listings are incorporated into their Classic Specialized whereas Gibbons has separate volumes for both Central and South America. These were last published in 2007 and 2008 respectively, with no prospect of an update on the horizon. SG has sold through their existing stock so your only option is the second-hand market, unless the publisher decides to add them to their growing digital collection.
Michel has a single volume dedicated to Central America (Mittelamerika 2019 is the latest edition) and a two volume catalog (Sudamerika 2020/2021) covering South America. One of the biggest benefits of a specialized catalog is that they usually contain information on print volumes per issue, an excellent indicator of comparative rarity (and thus price or value). A quick tip: the older Michel catalogs used to include print volumes in their listings and can be picked up second-hand for very little. My copy from 1988 contains print quantities although I’m not sure in which year they were dropped from the catalog.
Finally, Yvert has two volumes dedicated to Central America (latest edition 2016/17) and a single volume dedicated to South America (published 2019).
However, for the truly specialized listings, we need to look at the individual countries themselves. Availability
Unlike the larger publishers that tend to have more frequent publication schedules, Latin American specialized catalogs are usually published very intermittently, often with long gaps between revisions or new editions coming to market. As such, many of these catalogs can no longer be purchased “off the shelf” and you will need to scour online marketplaces, auctions and specialist philatelic book dealers to secure a copy.
Where a catalog is only available second hand, I have indicated the latest edition I am aware of, although earlier editions should certainly not be discounted as they will often contain most of the useful information you are after. Catalog values are usually in the local currency. Time and currency exchange rates will have played havoc with these numbers but, alongside print volumes, they still play an important part in helping you to understand which varieties have the higher levels of scarcity and to establish your own feeling for what a fair market value may be.