Sunday, July 5, 2009

Official Blackbook Price Guide to United States Postage Stamps

(Note: This review refers to the 2010 edition)

Should you buy the guide?

Yes. The Official Blackbook Price Guide to United States Postage Stamps is a valuable addition to any stamp collector’s library, especially that of a beginner or intermediate collector. This paperback is a fast and convenient portable reference that you can always keep handy. It also makes a great gift for the stamp collector in your family.

What I Liked

  • Prices – Like most price guides, this guide has prices for used, unused, plateblock and coil strips. It also includes prices for other more specialized areas such as Federal Duck stamps, First Day Covers, and mint sheets. Keep in mind that the prices in the guide are retail and represent what you would pay a dealer for the stamp, and not what a dealer would pay you.
  • Complete Listing by Scott # – The guide has a listing for every stamp issued along with photos to help you with quick identification of your stamp. It also makes a great check-list to keep track of your collection.
  • Beginner Articles – The guide is full of excellent “how-to” articles on grading, buying and selling stamps, and equipment to help you view and keep your stamps safe. There are two articles with tips on helping a beginner learn where to acquire stamps at a low cost and what to do with them once you have them.
  • Color Photos for 2008 Issues - Although most of the photos are black and white, there is a color photo section for the most recent complete year of 2008. It is a great way to quickly see what’s new since the previous year.
  • Glossary – There are actually two glossaries in this guide, one for First Day Cover collectors and one for stamp collectors in general. Both glossaries had terms that I didn’t know after many years of collecting.
  • Cost – At under $10, this is one of the best aspects of the guide and a good reason to buy the guide each year.
What I Didn’t Like

  • Black and white photos – These photos are helpful for quick identification, but lack the necessary detail for comparing minute differences. Fixing this problem would probably add greatly to the cost of the guide. In that case, I would prefer to keep the cost lower instead of having more detailed photos.
  • Linn’s Look at the New Stamp Issues – This is the first chapter in the guide and the chapter most likely to make a first impression on the reader. Therefore, I was disappointed that the new issues being discussed in this chapter were for stamps issued in 2007 with comparisons to stamps issued in 2006. For a 2010 guide released during June 2009, I would expect this chapter to discuss new issues from the latest complete year, 2008. After all, the guide’s listings, the color photo section, and the stamp on the cover of the book all include 2008 issues.
  • Date Errors – Being a collector that likes to browse stamp listings for specific years, I was surprised to find errors with the year displayed in the headings. The most obvious errors were the stamps issued in 2008 being listed under 2009 (pg 477), 2007 stamps listed under 2008 (pg 461), and 2006 stamps listed under 2007 (pgs 449, 450, 453). Other errors include the years 2003 (pg 423), 2004 (pg 431), and 2005 (pg 441) being completely missing from the headings. Finally the headings for 2001 and 2002 start one or two pages too late. 2001 should start on page 397, and 2002 should start on page 411.
Bottom Line

I am always surprised when errors make it to publication. However, the errors I found in this guide were minor and easily fixed with a pencil as I did in my copy of the guide. They do not detract from the overall value of this guide. All the things I like about this guide heavily outweigh the things I disliked. Personally, I plan to keep my copy close at hand to use as a quick reference when I need it.

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