Issuing Authority Cost Comparison – Worldwide
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 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.
I initially published this study using 2015/2016 catalog data. In 2020, I updated it to use 2018/2019 catalog data.
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 2018/2019 Michel catalog. A large caveat, however — Michel doesn’t update its Worldwide catalogs on an annual basis. Rather, they’re generally done on a rolling 2- to 3-year schedule, with certain areas (particularly in Europe) updated more frequently. Because of this, despite the data being pulled from the 2018/2019 version of the electronic catalog, some areas are only current through 2017, while others are current through mid-2019.
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 the top of each page.
- 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
Beginning with the 2018/2019 version of this study, I have added the ability to filter by date range. To use the date filter, you must enter those dates and hit the date “Submit” button prior to using the other filters. The dates are determined by the set dates. Because of this, and the fact that some unissued stamps have no date in the catalog, the dates may not be 100% accurate.
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).
Number of issues (#) or percentage of total issues (%) with a catalog value < €10.
Number of issues (#) or percentage of total issues (%) with a catalog value of €10-€50.
Number of issues (#) or percentage of total issues (%) with a catalog value of €50-€100.
Number of issues (#) or percentage of total issues (%) with a catalog value > €100.
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 catalog value. This is denoted by “—,—” in the catalog, and is reflected here as CV TBD.
This is to denote those issues for which no catalog value is given (In other words, the space is blank in the catalog, not “—,—“).
Total number of issues.
Total catalog value of all issues for this IA and condition.
Maximum individual catalog value for this IA and condition.
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 catalog value. 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 know there are errors, as I did find quite a few as I pulled the data. I attempted to correct the errors, but it’s impossible to catch them all due to the volume of data.
- With the 2015/2016 version, there was a great deal of duplicate data because Michel often lists not only singles, but also pairs, strips, sheets, souvenir sheets, FDCs, etc. I attempted to avoid that to a greater degree in the 2018/2019 version, and the data now includes only singles and souvenir sheets (in Michel, Blocks). The souvenir sheets are included because for many IAs, particularly those that are prolific with modern postage, Michel only prices them as souvenir sheets, not as singles. Unfortunately this may lead to minor duplication on other areas where the singles and souvenir sheets are priced separately.
- With the 2018/2019 update, the Germany data is from Michel’s basic, non-specialized Germany catalog. It is, however, still far more specialized than other areas, so use caution with comparing non-German areas to German ones.
- 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”.