________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 16. . . .December 18, 2009


Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalog Commonwealth & British Empire Stamps 1840-1970. 112th ed.

Hugh Jefferies, ed.
Ringwood, Hampshire: UK: Stanley Gibbons Publications (www.stanleygibbons.co.uk), 2009.
696 pp., hardcover, £72.50 (British pounds).
ISBN 978-0-85259-731-6.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Aileen Wortley.

*** /4



It scarcely needs emphasizing that the Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue has a very long history and that the vast quantity of information it contains has been carefully built up by successive generations, through the work of countless individuals. Philately is never static and the Catalogue has evolved and developed over the years.

So begins the preface to the Guidelines to the Scope of the 2010 edition of the Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth and British Empire Stamps Catalogue 1840-1970. The guidelines cover the criteria used in the book regarding, pricing, condition, printing varieties, perforations, watermarks, colors, and other technical matters.

     This is a large hardcover volume of amazing scholarship, containing over 640 finely printed pages of detailed information, reflecting not only the history of postage stamps but also a history of each country in the Commonwealth. Countries are listed in alphabetical order, with the exception of Great Britain which appears as the first entry. Where countries have undergone a name change, the latest name is used, and all stamps from previous appellations appear under this heading. For instance, the Canadian section begins with stamps from British Columbia & Vancouver Island, the Colony of Canada, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island before they became part of the Dominion of Canada. and then it goes on to list the stamps of Canada as it was in 1970. Stamps are listed in date order with any special features and variations included. Gibbons includes a more comprehensive array of these variances and specificities than any other catalogue, including the listing of all watermark varieties, an inverted watermark list, all perforation varieties, as well as all discernable color shades and overprinted varieties. Most of the huge array of stamp illustrations appears in full color. Prices are listed in pounds and pence sterling. The volume also contains a list of specialist philatelic societies across the world, and a select bibliography about the stamps of each country is included in the volume. There are also a number of advertisements for large International stamp sellers from India to the USA.

     The Catalogue is reviewed every year to take account of new research and discoveries. This year, extensive revision occurred in the areas covering Asian and African Commonwealth countries, as well as for Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Also, the prices are individually checked and revised in line with the current market to ensure values are kept up to date. While it is Scott’s numbering system, rather than Gibbons, that is used worldwide, it is the prices quoted by Gibbons, due to their meticulous pricing guidelines, that are used as the final word with various international auction houses.

     The current editor, Hugh Jefferies, a stamp collector for over 50 years, has been the editor of the Gibbons Stamp Monthly since 1988 and the editor of the Stanley Gibbons Catalogue since 2003. The Gibbons Company has been producing stamp catalogues since November 1865, and the Commonwealth volume was first conceived just before the end of the 19th Century. There is no doubt as to this volume’s authority and reputation for excellence, and some consider it the premier catalogue for Commonwealth stamp collectors. Local stamp enthusiasts and retailers with whom I spoke all recognized its scholarship and authenticity.

     However those I spoke with also felt that for the average collector’s needs in North America, Scott’s Catalogues, which carry less detail, are usually adequate, are more easily available and are priced in U.S. dollars. Stamp catalogues are notoriously and understandably expensive, and the price of this volume may preclude individuals or libraries from purchasing it in addition to those traditionally purchased in North America despite the extra information it can provide a specialist. Therefore, my only reservation about this title relates to the additional cost of purchase in an environment where alternative reliable and authoritative sources are available. However, I would recommend it for purchase by all large public libraries and suggest that it be considered as an extra title in areas where local stamp clubs exist.


Aileen Wortley, a retired librarian, lives in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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