IA Cost Comparison – Worldwide

Tools

Broad IAs:  Mint (#)Mint (%)Used (#)Used (%)
Detailed IAs:  Mint (#)Mint (%)Used (#)Used (%)

Background

Several decades ago, Michel Bégin, a collector from Québec, Canada, put together a study of worldwide collecting areas to determine which were the most cost-effective collecting areas.  He did this by plowing through a 1997 Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue, compiling data on all mint issues from 1840-1940.  He then quantified his finding through a simple formula that allowed him to capture which collecting areas had a low percentage of high-CV issues, and no issues with a really high CV.

He published his findings on his website, where they sat until several years later, when the site lapsed and disappeared.  It is currently only available through Internet archives.

The Current Project

In November 2016, a user on a popular stamp forum brought it to the community’s attention that the site was still available, though only insofar as the Internet archive maintained a copy.  Upon hearing this, I decided to tackle the task of rebuilding something of comparable design.

About the Data

When Mr. Bégin undertook his study, he manually paged through a Scott catalog to assemble his data.  I was not about to attempt that.  I had the benefit of having access to data from the Michel catalog in electronic format, so that is the catalog I chose to use in assembling the current data.

Data in the Worldwide tables is from the 2015-2016 Michel catalog, with the exception of Germany data, which is from Michel’s 2015 Deutschland-Spezial.

The Table Types

Due to page-width limitations, each type (Mint & Used) is broken down into 2 tables.  Additionally, there are two versions of the tables — a broad version and a detailed version.  The detailed version contains many sub-areas for the various collecting areas (ex., USA, USA Officials, USA Postmaster Provisionals, etc.), while the broad version has the sub-areas grouped under broader collecting areas (ex., USA).  They can be accessed from the buttons at top right of each page.

Broad IAs:  Mint (#)Mint (%)Used (#)Used (%)
Detailed IAs:  Mint (#)Mint (%)Used (#)Used (%)

  • Mint (#) — Mint issues by price range
  • Mint (%) — Mint percentage of total issues within the price ranges
  • Used (#) — Used issues by price range
  • Used (%) — Used percentage of total issues within the price ranges

For many issues, Michel lists catalog values for multiple mint conditions (MNH, MH, and/or MNG).  The data used for this analysis follows an order of precedence — if there’s a MNH CV, that value is used.  If no MNH CV is given, the analysis looks for a MH CV.  Finally, if neither MNH nor MH is available, the analysis looks to MNG CV. A similar system is used for Used — Used CV first, but if none is available, CTO CV is used.

Using the Tables

The table headers are across the top of the table, with filter boxes immediately below.  Each header can be clicked to change the sort order to ascending or descending.  The filter boxes allow you to search for text (“IA” filter), or set a range of values to display (all others columns).

IACC Table HeaderThe Columns

  • IA —  Issuing Authority
  • < €10  — Number of issues (#) or percentage of total issues (%) with a CV < €10.
  • €10-€50 — Number of issues (#) or percentage of total issues (%) with a CV of €10-€50.
  • €50-€100  — Number of issues (#) or percentage of total issues (%) with a CV of €50-€100.
  • > €100  — Number of issues (#) or percentage of total issues (%) with a CV > €100.
  • CV TBD — The Michel catalog has certain issues for which copies are known to exist, but there’s insufficient data for the catalog publisher to set a catalog value.  This doesn’t mean the stamp is necessarily rare or valuable, but simply that there isn’t sufficient data to set a CV.  This is denoted by “—,—” in the catalog, and is reflected here as CV TBD.
  • No CV — This is to denote those issues for which no catalog value is given (IOW, the space is blank in the catalog, not “—,—“).
  • Total — Total number of issues.
  • Total CV — Total CV of all issues for this IA and condition.
  • Max CV — Maximum individual CV for this IA and condition.
  • AQ — The Affordability Quotient, a variant of Mr. Bégin’s attempt to quantify which collecting areas are best on a budget.  The AQ formula considers the number of issues in each price range as a weighted percentage of the total number of issues, as well as the maximum CV.  The lower the AQ, the more affordable the collecting area (however, see note below).

A Few Notes & Tips

  • There may be some translation errors in the IA names.  The originals were in German, and I’m not fluent.
  • I have not attempted to verify the accuracy of the data at an individual stamp level, as there were almost a million individual stamps in the data.  I suspect there may be slight errors in places, as Michel sometimes lists set prices in addition to or in lieu of individual stamp CVs, which can lead to some duplication in the pricing data.
  • I didn’t have access to unspecialized Michel data on the German areas, so the data from German areas is from the Specialized catalog, whereas the remaining Worldwide data is from unspecialized catalogs.  Keep this in mind if comparing German collecting areas to non-German ones, as the German ones will contain far more listings than you’d find in an unspecialized catalog, including many rare varieties which can skew the pricing data.
  • Finally, be aware that the AQ can be skewed by CV TBD and No CV.  For mathematical purposes, CV TBD and No CV are treated as having a CV of zero in the database.  This should not be mistaken for an actual CV of zero.  For example, if an entire collecting area is only available Mint, there will be no Used values (No CV will be 100% of issues), and the Used AQ will therefore equal zero.  If there is even a single issue with a CV in one of the given price ranges (€0-€10, €10-€50, €50-€100, >€100), the AQ will be larger than zero, so the easy way to exclude these outliers is to set the “From” filter in the AQ column to “.01”.

To the Tables!

Broad IAs:  Mint (#)Mint (%)Used (#)Used (%)
Detailed IAs:  Mint (#)Mint (%)Used (#)Used (%)