Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise Stamp Catalogue. Edition 37, 6¾ by 9½ inches, 579 pages; published by Stanley Gibbons, Ltd., London, England, 2022. ISBN: 978-1-911304-95-1; $48.75 softcover ($34.11 digital), plus shipping, from https://www.stanleygibbons.com/ or your favorite philatelic bookseller.
If you are a collector of Great Britain stamps, which Stanley Gibbons catalog will best suit your needs?
There is no easy answer to this, as “best” depends upon one’s personal style of collecting. But in this review, we examine the Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise Stamp Catalogue to assist you in your selection. Also in this issue, we review the 2022 edition of the SG publication Collect British Stamps, which has a rather different purpose.
Reviewing a stamp catalog published by Stanley Gibbons is both a delight and a challenge. A delight because each catalog always meets the needs of its target readership. A challenge because, however cogent the presentation, the magnitude of material can overwhelm the reader. How, for example, can the Great Britain Concise be “concise” while containing more than 600 pages? As it happens, concise is relative to other SG catalogs in the Great Britain series.
The Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Specialized Stamp Catalogue is a six-volume compendium that begins with two volumes on Queen Victoria (see our review in the September 2021 issue, page 830). There is a volume for the four kings and three volumes for Queen Elizabeth II. Taken together, the Specialized totals more than 2,000 pages. For the expert in one of the British sovereigns, the Specialized volumes might be the right choice.
The stamps of Great Britain are also cataloged in lesser detail (about 50 pages) in the Commonwealth & British Empire Stamps 1840-1970, 2022 Edition Stamp Catalogue (see our review here). This might be a sufficient catalog for the collector of the broader British empire.
The Concise is consistent in structure and format to most of the other SG catalogs. The 23 pages of front matter are followed by chapters for each of the monarchs and separate chapters for specialized areas such as postage labels, Post and Go stamps, regional issues, fiscal stamps, postage due stamps, booklets, and others. Among country collectors, recent material is difficult to keep abreast of, and SG ensures that new issues are thoroughly covered in each annual edition. Actually, in recent years, the most significant changes have been the addition of new issues. Thus, if you are already familiar with the earlier editions, this Concise will be a familiar friend.
To give you a sense of balance, the Concise has 19 pages devoted to Victoria, five to Edward VII, seven to George V, a half page to Edward VIII, and four pages to George VI. In contrast, there are 280 pages devoted to Queen Elizabeth, plus a separate section of 50 pages devoted to the decimal-denominated Machins.
As in my previous catalog reviews, I emphasize the importance of consulting the front matter when using this catalog. The 10-page Philatelic Information chapter tells you all that you need to know about the “Stanley Gibbons paradigm” of British philately and how it defines the layout of the Concise. That, plus the preceding General Information chapter, gives the user all they need to know to simplify their use of the catalog.
In addition to the front matter, I also suggest that readers consult the beginning of each chapter, whether the monarchs or the specialized sections. There is chapter introductory matter that provides insight into the stamps of a particular reign. Moreover, for the very lengthy QE II chapters, SG adds the year of coverage to the page headers. This is a lovely and useful touch that speeds one’s ability to locate stamps if the year of issue is known. Indeed, this is a feature that would improve the reference expedience of many catalogs, including Scott Specialized Catalog of U.S. Stamps & Covers.
I want to single out one topic within this catalog that is especially useful, albeit challenging to master. Collecting the British Machin stamps is equally an enticing and a formidable undertaking. The stamps are at once elegant and complex. The specialization can require both technical knowledge and an organized approach to collecting and mounting. For example, one specialized Machin album consists of more than 370 pages.
The challenge for the novice is how to begin. There are some wonderful resources available to Machin specialists. A fine example is the Connoisseur Catalog of Machin Stamps (http://www.connoisseurcatalogue.net/). Its introductory material will provide a solid grounding for those new to the Machins. Yet, the more advanced material might be, well, too advanced for most country collectors. A less daunting approach is to consult the various Concise sections on the Machins. Here, the listings are both comprehensive and comprehensible.
The Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise Stamp Catalogue is the workhorse of catalogs for the Great Britain collector. As your collection grows, you take detours into the minutiae of British philately that will require supplemental research volumes. But start with the Concise; it will remain a core asset in your philatelic library.
Collect British Stamps (A Stanley Gibbons checklist of the stamps of Great Britain). Edition 73, 6¾ by 9½ inches, 326 pages. Published by Stanley Gibbons, Ltd., London, England, 2022. ISBN: 978-1-911304-87-6; $24.35 softcover ($17.02 digital), plus shipping, from https://www.stanleygibbons.com/ or your favorite philatelic bookseller.
Stanley Gibbons publishes so many different catalogs for so many different types and levels of collectors that it is difficult to grasp the diversity of their offerings. It may be that, with over 4 million copies in print, Collect British Stamps (A Stanley Gibbons checklist of the stamps of Great Britain), is the best-selling of their product line. First published in 1967, the 2022 publication is the 73rd edition of Collect, indicating that in many years more than one edition was published. For a 350-page book, there is something of significance going on.
SG identifies the intent of Collect as “ideally suited to the newer collector, while at the same time providing a handy checklist for the more advanced philatelist …” I speculate that the book’s years-long popularity is more attributable to the former group than the latter. This is important because too often philatelic literature – catalogs and otherwise – is targeted to intermediate or advanced collectors. While novice collectors can successfully plod through some of the denser material, there is a need for reference books that effectively support the learning process for beginners.
In Collect, that learning process starts with a helpful preface that introduces the catalog and its surprisingly broad scope. “Collecting Stamps – the Basics” is an excellent primer on philately that might also serve as a helpful reminder to more experienced collectors. And the “Great Britain Stamp Collector’s Glossary” is a fine explication of the terminology that must be mastered by budding specialists.
A Guide to the Entries in the Collect catalog is an important page for anyone using the volume to study.
Stamp collectors at all levels need to be informed or reminded about the meaning of the pricing included in this catalog, and “Stamp Pricing” does just that. Keep in mind that SG is a stamp dealer, and its publications include the prices at which it is willing to sell stamps to customers. This is vastly different from the “catalog values” published by other major catalog publishers.
Of course, the stamp listings are the heart of any catalog, and SG goes to great lengths to make its listings clear and understandable. Every stamp is illustrated, the preponderance of them in full color. This is vital for stamp identification.
I do not imagine that many advanced collectors carry this 2½ pound checklist to stamp shows. But for the primarily novice audience of Collect, there is really no substitute for this valuable annual contribution to the philatelic literature.
There is another ramification of the continuing sales popularity of Collect British Stamps: it suggests that there is a steady flow of new collectors into the hobby. I hope the many philatelic societies that comprise “organized philately” will increase their attention to nurturing these neophytes. More and better programs for the novice collector are sorely needed to ensure the future of our hobby. Stanley Gibbons has made its contribution. It is time for organized philately to do the same.
Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Edition 31, 6¾ by 9½ inches, 568 pages. Published by Stanley Gibbons, Ltd., London, England, 2022. ISBN: 978-1-911304-89-0; $46.31 softcover ($32.89 digital), plus shipping, from https://www.stanleygibbons.com/ or your favorite philatelic bookseller.
Channel Islands and Isle of Man appears in its 37th edition this year. To clarify, the catalog was renamed in 2022 from its previous title, Collect Channel Islands and Isle of Man stamps. It is the third volume in Stanley Gibbons’ series of “Great Britain Catalogues.” The other two volumes are also reviewed in this issue.
This is a catalog for specialists in five entities: the Channel Islands, Guernsey, Alderney, Jersey and the Isle of Man.
SG dispenses with its usual helpful front matter and instead offers a perfunctory Introductory Notes. Clearly, the intended user of this catalog is an advanced collector with little need for the basics. Lacking, too, is a graphic representation explaining the Guide to Entries. In contrast, included here is a brief but very helpful International Philatelic Glossary, offering translations of English terms into French, German, Spanish and Italian. Google translate notwithstanding, this is a very helpful addition to a stamp catalog.
The geographical unit that is the Channel Islands leads off the catalog, although only two stamps were issued for that entity. The remainder of the catalog does a very deep dive into the three political units that are the islands of Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney plus the separate Isle of Man. The governing of these places is a subject unto itself and is not dealt with in the catalog, nor will it be here.
Suffice it to say that, for somewhat obscure stamp-issuing entities, there is substantial variety to be found in these issues (577 pages worth, to be precise). Channel Islands fully documents such detail as different printings and issue dates; quantities printed, sold, and withdrawn; cylinder and plate numbers; paper varieties; perforations; stamp dimensions; and sheet size and layout.
As with the other two volumes in the “Great Britain Catalogues” series, each stamp is illustrated, essentially all in full color. Detailed notes are appended to many of the entries, making this an unusually robust research tool for the catalog genre.
Those interested in exploring this fascinating philatelic specialty should visit the website of the Channel Islands Specialists’ Society (https://www.ciss.uk/). But for a solid specialty reference, the new edition of Channel Islands and Isle of Man is the preferred volume.