It is now ten years since Stanley Gibbons printed the fourth and current edition of their ‘Part 20’ South America stamp catalogue. And the separate ‘Part 15’ that covers Central America was last published in 2007.
It looks like these are the final editions of these heavily referenced catalogues.
Stanley Gibbons business has gone through well- documented turmoil in recent years with a misguided focus on concentrating its efforts in selling ‘investment grade’ material to a small but wealthy group of spenders.
Combined with a ridiculous vision of attempting to beat eBay at its own game by spending (read “wasting”) over £10,000,000 on a technology platform that never delivered, the company has gone through an extensive period of mismanagement.
Is an updated catalogue still viable?
To produce new versions of the Latin American catalogues would need:
- Resource, both human and monetary
- Knowledge – an in-depth knowledge of Latin American philately
- Access to reliable prices from which to update the existing figures. And after ten plus years, a comprehensive review would be necessary
I discussed this with Hugh Jefferies, SG’s highly regarded catalogue editor during this month’s Stampex in London and although sympathetic, realistically there is no real prospect of a replacement pair of catalogues on the horizon. Gibbons needs to reconnect with its core base of British and Commonwealth collectors and focus efforts on those parts of the business that will clearly generate a profit.
Thankfully, it looks like it is now on that path.
But perhaps it’s no great deal.
Catalogue prices are always contentious, not least in Latin America where demand, supply and ‘value’ can frequently be out of synch with one another.
The core of the catalogue remains the data, the information that allows identification and catagorization. Sure, this can change as new information comes to light but on the whole, the listings data remains fairly stable. As for new issues (a.k.a wallpaper), well, that’s no great loss in my book.
The existing catalogues still imply comparative value, even if the pricing is somewhat questionable. Relying on them as a firm base for value though is steadily becoming outdated.
How long before existing users switch to other catalogues?
How long will dealers continue to use these prices as indicators of value? Five more years, ten more years? There becomes a point where the prices stated are too detached from reality to be used in day-to-day transactions.
Which is why I have a copy of the Scott Classic Specialized on hand which is updated on an annual basis and bears a closer resemblance to market prices. Just.
The irony, of course, is that in an age when actual selling prices, whether via eBay or auction houses, are freely available to all, catalogue prices become less and less important other than as approximations of value.
Price transparency has never been quite so, er, transparent as it is today.
Gibbons appears to have now sold through all copies of both these catalogues (they are not advertised on their website) so your only source is secondhand. I noticed that some chancer had put a copy up on eBay for £140 recently. Or you could try the example for sale at Abe Books at £309.
Perhaps those investors that SG was courting ought to start investing in their catalogues instead.
Tim Walsh says
I have a copy of the Part 20 1989 (third) edition – now thirty one years old! – and was looking for an updated edition.
Totally gobsmacked to find two for sale (no edition specified at £500+ and one at £956!!!!
Then I found your article. Wow!
I have a Part 15 Central America 3rd Edition which will now be treasured along with the other.
O.K. They are still fine for reference purposes but where o where can the market values of these stamps be found?
P.S. I live just 10 miles away from Ringwood, where SG publish their catalogues but shall not drop in for a chat. Almost a year ago now I submitted an item to them, as invited to do in “CONTACTING THE CATALOGUE EDITOR” which appears at the beginning of all of their catalogues. Three replies to my chase-up letters, the last from Sir Hugh himself, all stalling, stalling, stalling. I am not holding my breath that I shall ever see that item again.
Nick Salter says
As expected, there is no sign that Gibbons will update their Latin American catalogues. They are still fantastic reference tools however and can be picked up on eBay from time to time, without having to defer to the ridiculous prices being attempted by some of the online bookshops.
Scott is adding new data each year to its Classic Specialized catalogue and Michel still produces dedicated volumes for South and Central America.
http://www.stampmarketindex.com is also excellent in finding out what collectors have been prepared to pay on eBay. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, it is still full of technical glitches so you do have to persevere to get the answers you need.