________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 22 . . . . February 10, 2012


Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue Commonwealth & British Empire Stamps 1840-1970. 114th ed.

Hugh Jefferies, ed.
Ringwood, Hampshire: UK: Stanley Gibbons Publications (www.stanleygibbons.co.uk), 2011.
600 pp., hardcover, 77.50 (British pounds).
ISBN 978-0-85259-813-9.

Subject Headings:
Postage stamps-Catalogs-Periodicals.
Postage stamps-Commonwealth countries-Catalogs-Periodicals.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Aileen Wortley.

***½ /4



One of the main reasons stamp collecting has been so popular for so long is its ability to adapt to meet the changing needs of the time. 50 years ago - even 25 years ago - the vast majority of collectors had wide interests; collecting the whole, or a large part of the Commonwealth, for example.

But times have changed. The desire to dig deeper, exhibit, display, research - combined with the fact that post offices were issuing so many stamps that it was no longer possible to collect a large number of countries - has led a great many collectors along the paths of specialization and, again, the hobby has found ways of meeting the needs of all by creating many paths to follow: thematics, social philately and postal history; as well as pure stamp collecting.

To be honest these changes have provided a considerable challenge to philatelic publishers who have had to adapt themselves in order to meet the changing requirements of the collector.

With its reputable scholarship, built, layer by layer, over generations, Stanley Gibbons Company adds yet another strata to the history of stamp collecting in this fascinating volume. Now in its 114th edition, it specializes in stamps issued within Great Britain and Commonwealth countries between 1840 and 1970. A large hardcover book, containing over 700 finely printed pages of detailed information, it provides not only a wonderful insight into the history of postage stamps but also a parallel and indirect history of each country in the Commonwealth.

      In addition to the existing features that collectors have come to rely upon, this edition includes useful in-depth information showing all the complex considerations involved in designating a stamp "fine" (and thus more valuable). There is also a variety of new and extended notes covering such subtleties as the first Bahamas "Special delivery" overprints and the high value King George V1 official reprints of Pakistan, to name but two, which will help accuracy of identification. This edition is also groundbreaking in that it features for the first time stamps that are now worth a million pounds sterling or over, with particular growth in the price of many Indian stamps. As usual, new research and discoveries are added, and prices are individually checked and revised in line with current market values.

      Extensive guidelines cover the criteria used regarding pricing, condition, printing varieties, perforations, watermarks, colors, and other technical matters. 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 goes on to list all Canadian stamps from that time period until 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 colour shades and overprinted varieties. Most of the vast array of stamp illustrations is in full colour. 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 of books about the stamps of many country. There are also a number of advertisements for large International stamp sellers.

      The current editor, Hugh Jefferies, himself 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 Company has been producing stamp catalogues since November 1865 and the Commonwealth volume for over 100 years. While it is Scott's numbering system, rather than Gibbons, that is used worldwide, it is the prices quoted by Gibbons that are used as the final word with various international auction houses, due to their meticulous pricing guidelines. Many specialists believe this to be the premier catalogue for Commonwealth collectors.

      My only reservation about this title relates to the additional cost of purchase in an environment where alternative reliable and authoritative sources are available and which are priced in U.S dollars. However, where budgets allow, this volume will enrich and balance existing collections and will be appreciated by both beginner and specialist collectors. With its sound foundations, no matter the challenging times, there is no doubt that the Stanley Gibbons company will continue to adapt to the changing needs of collectors.

Highly Recommended.

Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian from Toronto, ON.

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

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