Commentary No. 33 - 17 May, 2002
The New 2003 Scott catalogue
The new 2003 Scott catalogue containing the prices for Canada is now available by CD over the Internet. We understand from discussions with local dealers that the published version will be available to Canadian collectors later this month. The promotional material for the catalogue was upbeat. It stated:
"Scott Catalogue Volume 2 - 2003(Countries C - F):
There are almost 7,500 value changes in Volume 2, which covers the countries of the world C-F. The stamps of Canada lead the way with almost 500 value changes…."
It was a new experience for us to obtain a copy of the catalogue over the Internet. We logged into the Scott catalogue website at www.amosadvantage.com/scottonline on May 6. It took us about half an hour to answer all the questions that had to be answered before the order could be placed but eventually we succeeded in satisfying the computer. We thought that ordering a catalogue over the Internet might be a bargain but quickly learned this was wishful thinking. As you may recall, last year when we purchased the published version of this catalogue, we paid $64 Cdn, including taxes. The Scott catalogue ordered over the Internet had a basic price of $29 U.S. One then adds to this $10 U.S. for shipping, giving a total purchase price of $39.99 U.S. When this is converted to Canadian dollars at $1.57, the total purchase price becomes $62.70 Cdn.
The CD ordered on May 6 arrived at our office in Canada on May 14. The 8-day delivery time took longer than we expected, which we attribute to the probability that Scott is receiving a large number of orders. It did not take us long to figure out how to view the catalogue on our computer using the CD, but, we must admit, it is not straightforward. We hope that Scott will keep working on its product to make it more user-friendly. The big advantage in obtaining the catalogue this way, of course, is that this is the earliest we have ever been able to obtain a new Scott catalogue. We also note that the images are excellent.
Canadian Stamp Prices are down
Scott may have indicated in its promotional material that there were 500 value changes in the Canadian section of its catalogue, but what it did not indicate was that 95% of these changes were down. Looking back, we can remember how excited we were when we received the 2001 catalogue with its many price increases. This was followed by the 2002 catalogue with very few changes. In the latest catalogue, we have identified approximately 25 increases that are listed below. This must mean that if there are only 25 increases, there must be 475 decreases. The decreases begin in the Admiral set (Scott 104-122) and continue through to the War issue (Scott 249-262). There are further decreases found in a number of the modern dollar issues. Almost all of the decreases are relatively minor.
We must admit we are surprised by this latest trend. Most of the Canadian stamp prices that we follow on our website are not the ones found in the Scott catalogue. That is because the types of stamps that are sold in the auctions we follow are of a very fine quality. We understand that the prices in the catalogue are not for very fine stamps, but rather for stamps of a slightly lesser quality. Nonetheless, the trends we have seen in the prices for Canadian stamps since the upturn of 1999 has been generally positive. That is why we are surprised at this development in the latest Scott catalogue.
One can go back to the declines that took place in the mid-1980s in the Scott catalogue prices for Canadian stamps, and for the stamps of many other countries, for that matter. During the previous decade, stamp prices had been at an all-time high and there were many reasons why the values of stamps as well as those for many other collectibles began to fall. Governments around the world were struggling with the effects of inflation and they were taking steps to make sure that inflation did not reappear by introducing high interest rates and by reducing the amount of liquidity in the system. This is the opposite of what appears to be happening today. For over a year now, our central banks have been flooding the system with liquidity through historically low interest rates. It is not clear whether they are more concerned about inflation or deflation. We are not aware of any speculation in the stamp market, which was one of the big factors that led to the decline in prices in the 1980s. Thus we are at a loss to understand the latest declines in the Scott catalogue. We wonder if it is only Canada that has been affected this way. We also wonder if it has something to do perhaps with the decline in the value of the Canadian dollar. Since we do not have any answers, we invite comments from our viewers and would be pleased to pass these on in our future commentaries.
A few price increases
There were, as mentioned above, a few price increases. For the most part they were scattered over the various sections of the catalogue with no perceptible trend. We set out a list of the increases below:
30e 15¢ script watermark 8000 9000 39b 6¢ yellow brown, perf 11½x12 500 550 39c 6¢ yellow brown, imperf pair n/l 2000 40c 10¢ dull rose, perf 11½x12 750 800 45c 10¢ brown red, imperf pair 375 400 135 3¢ brown, NH 80 85 159 $1 Parliament 175 190 209 10¢ Loyalist 17 19 341c 5¢ Wilding, part imperf 3000 4000 405c 5¢ Cameo, imperf pair 3000 3250 405d 5¢ Cameo, imperf horiz 3000 3750 586d 1¢ Definitive, printed on gum 475 500 614a 15¢ RCMP, imperf pair 300 350 714a 12¢ Definitive, printed on gum 175 225 1292d 39¢ Legendary Beasts, block of 4 20 23 1441a 42¢ Anik, silver omitted 1750 1800 1764b 45¢ Christmas, perf 13x13½ 1 125 C2 5¢ Airport 40 42 C4 6¢ Air post overprint 17 20 E1 10¢ Special Delivery, NH 180 190 E3 20¢ Special Delivery, NH 30 35
Unlike other years, there were very few new listings in the catalogue. This also surprised as. Last November, we were very impressed by all the work the people at Unitrade had done to reorganize the listings in their specialized catalogue of Canadian stamps. We would have thought the Scott people would have noticed these changes and reflected some of them in their latest catalogue. However such was not the case. We have only been able to identify six new listings:
Scott No. Description 39c
6¢ Small Queen, yellow brown, imperf pair 1359f 43¢ Flag, vertical pair, imperf between 1800a 95¢ Art, silver omitted 1878a 47¢ Maple Leaf, inscriptions omitted 1883a 47¢ Year of the Snake, gold omitted 1867b 46¢ Petro Canada, die cutting inverted
While we have not had much time to reflect on the changes in the latest catalogue, we do have an uneasy feeling. When trends change without a clear reason, even in a small way as has happened in this catalogue, one wonders whether one is missing something. This is the feeling we have from looking at the changes. We will keep our mind open as we follow the trends in the Canadian stamp market in future months to see what further indications there are that support the direction the Scott people took in this year's catalogue. Any comments you would care to send us would be more than welcome.
A Tip of the Hat to Charles Verge
Many of us receive the auction catalogues of Brigham Auctions Ltd. At the beginning of each catalogue there is a page of comments by Charles J.G.Verge that we always read with great interest called The Philatelic Bulletin Board. We know of no other auction house that has this type of feature. In the catalogue for Brigham's most recent sale on April 10, 2002, we found two comments that were of particular interest that we reproduce below, with the kind permission of Mr. Brigham and Mr. Verge:
Spotlight on Vance Carmichael, a Brigham Auction Supporter from the StartWe received many mail, fax or e-mail bids for our auctions and the number keeps growing from one auction to another. One thing that remains constant is the large turnout of bidders on the date of the sale. One of our dealer colleagues has attended all of our auctions. Vance Carmichael, of Vance Auctions has been a supporter of our auction house since we began it. His family is in its third generation trading stamps. First there was his father, who ran a stamp store at the Bloor and Yonge subway station and now his son Chris. In fact, Ron Brigham tells me that thanks are due to the Carmichael family for his exhibiting successes. They were there at the beginning of his collecting life.
Her Excellency the Governor General's Congratulations:The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, wrote to Ron Brigham on Oct. 11 2001, on the occasion of his World Championship win in Belgium last June. In her letter, she writes that 'being the first Canadian to attain this honour is quite remarkable. This is a testimony of the level of excellence you have attained in the philatelic field. Your collection entitled The Province of Canada: the Pence and Cents, 1851-1868 is an example of the exceptional talent you have in conveying to philatelic admirers and to the wider general public Canada's rich postal history. Yours is a truly impressive achievement, one that all Canadians can be proud of '
©2002, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada