Do I Need A Stamp Catalogue?
A stamp catalogue (or stamp catalog) is an essential book for stamp collecting. It helps with identifying any stamps you have, helps you to determine the stamps you may want to buy, gives you a price for different conditions of a particular stamp including rare stamps, and small amounts of information about the stamp.
A stamp catalogue uses a numbering system to reference the stamps. If you have a pre-printed stamp album issued by the same publisher it will probably have the same numbering system used in their stamp catalogue to help in organizing your stamps and in selecting your next stamp to buy. Many dealers and online stamp auctions use the references from stamp catalogues to identify the stamp they are selling.
The stamp catalogue you need depends on the stamps you are collecting. It depends on the country you are looking for, or if you are a topical stamp collector it will depend on your topic. For example, you might collect bird stamps, space stamps, Princess Diana stamps, or etc.
Stamp Catalogue History
21 years after the penny black was issued in 1840, the first stamp catalogue was published by Oscar Berger Lev-Rault in France. It did not have pictures of the stamps. This followed in December 1861. It has evolved from being a list of stamps for dealers to use to including additional information, like how it was printed, when it was first printed, color variations, and which are useful for all stamp collectors.
Each year more stamps are issued, so the catalogues have become large endeavors. The stamp catalogue has continued to evolve, so there are now on-line stamp catalogues of off-line publications and others that are only available on-line to meet this challenge.
Stamp Catalogue Publications
Some of the most well-known stamp catalogues are:
The Scott Specialized Stamp Catalogue for United Stamps is the best stamp catalogue to use for USA stamps. It is comprehensive, is used by dealers in the U.S.A., and quoted on online stamp auctions.
The Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogues are published by Stanley Gibbons. A large British stamp dealer. The prices quoted in a Stanley Gibbons are the actual price they would sell a stamp for if they had it in stock, which is different than most other catalogues which quote an estimated market price.
The Michel stamp catalogue is the best known catalogue in the German speaking parts of the world. Yvert et Tellier stamp catalog is for French speaking stamp collectors. Each of the stamp catalogue publishers above publish catalogues that cover the world as well as their own countries. They have other specialized catalogues as well.
A Stamp Catalogue Alternative
If you are getting started in the hobby of stamp collecting and don't want to go to the expense of a stamp catalogue, a useful and well priced handbook is The Official Blackbook Price Guide to United States Postage Stamps that has hundreds of photos of stamps for ease of identification. One more alternative I prefer to use as an add-on is LignUp Stamp Search application - a visual stamps identification software. A stamp catalogue is an important tool for a stamp collector to identify stamps, learn about stamps, and be armed with a price when looking to buy stamps.