In The Spotlight
GBCC Past President interviews David Aggersberg,
Editor of the Stanley Gibbons Catalogues
Published in the October 2001 issue of The Chronicle, the journal of the Great Britain Collectors Club. Reprinted by permission.
Milne: Thank you, first of all, Mr Aggersberg, for generously having agreed to donate your time to answer my questions for this interview.
I’ll start off with an easy one! How long have you been with Gibbons? And what preceded that?
Aggersberg: I have been working in the Catalogue Department at Stanley Gibbons for 34 years and have been Catalogue Editor for 17. I am the eighth Editor of the Stanley Gibbons Catalogue, seventh in line since Edward Stanley Gibbons.
Portrait of Edward Stanley Gibbons, taken from the GB £4 “Story of Stanley Gibbons” prestige booklet, issued in 1982 (Scott BK146, Gibbons DX3).
Milne: Wow! That is some honour and achievement, and I commend you, on behalf of all of our members, for it.
Aggersberg: I have worked with 4 of my 7 predecessors. Before joining Stanley Gibbons, I worked as a describer for a now defunct provincial auction firm.
Milne: For those America-based collectors who are, perhaps, more familiar with Scott, can you please list the hard-copy catalogues that Gibbons currently publishes and for which you are the Editor.
Aggersberg: Regular titles are:
COLLECT BRITISH STAMPS
GREAT BRITAIN CONCISE
PART 1 : (BRITISH COMMONWEALTH)
PARTS 2-22 (Foreign)
STAMPS OF THE WORLD
GREAT BRITAIN SPECIALISED (Volumes 1 to 5)
THEMATICS (Aircraft, Birds, Chess, Fish, Fungi, Railways, Shells, Ships)
COLLECT CHANNEL ISLANDS AND ISLE OF MAN STAMPS
Milne: Quite a list! Which of these currently has the largest circulation?
Aggersberg: The most popular seller, as you would expect, is COLLECT BRITISH STAMPS.
Milne: Actually, it surprises me a little since CBS is a very basic (but excellent) catalogue for the beginner. My money would have been on the Concise, but I’m biased since it has been my personal favourite from day one of its life.
Gibbons Concise Great Britain Catalogue Collect British Stamps catalogue
Milne: Are there any catalogues in the current Gibbons stable that the Company is planning to phase out in the foreseeable future? If so, which and why?
Aggersberg: Under the SG system, established catalogues are not usually deleted from the range, but instead receive less frequent editions. Exceptions to this are “experimental titles” such as COLLECT IRISH STAMPS, and the various thematics, whose existence depends on the availability of an “outside” compiler with specialist knowledge of the subject concerned.
Milne: Although in my personal philatelic library I am proud to have a broad range of Gibbons’ catalogues from the Specialiseds through the Commonwealth, my personal favourite, as I said above, is the Concise. This I have recommended over the years – and still do! – to all general collectors of GB since every facet of GB collecting is contained therein – stamps, FDCs, booklets, PHQs, the Packs, etc.
Taking this catalogue as an example, can you please describe for me (and our membership) the steps that you and your team take to update it in each and every respect from revising the values to adding data on things like new issues and discovered varieties, etc.
Aggersberg: The GB listings with the standard numbers (i.e., not the GB SPECIALISED) tend to operate on a rolling system which is updated three times a year for the PART 1, the CONCISE and COLLECT BRITISH STAMPS.
In this, the GB listings differ from those of other countries which are only updated on an annual or less frequent basis.
To compile each new edition of the GB CONCISE, we would transfer and update material from the previous listings in the sequence of COLLECT BRITISH STAMPS and PART 1, add further varieties which have come to light in recent months, reprice once again, add further new issues, proof, and then send to the printer.
Milne: How long does this updating effort take on the CONCISE? And is that a typical time period for the other catalogues for which you have responsibility?
Aggersberg: The sequence up to the point where the proofs are passed to press would take roughly ten weeks, although this would extend over the Christmas holiday period.
This timescale is certainly shorter than the major catalogues with the PART 1, for example, taking roughly 8 months to put the two volumes together.
Milne: Although I am not a through and through “Machin maniac” myself, I did hear good positive feedback from other GBCCers who are (when I talked with them at the recent big APS show in Chicago) about your decision some time back to lump all the Machins together in the GB SPECIALISED Volume 4 in the summary that shows value, process, colour, phosphor type, catalogue number and sources.
All collectors, of course, always want that little bit extra to satisfy their own particular collecting need – and the “maniacs” are no exception!
The request I heard most commonly-vented was for the addition (to that already comprehensive table) of a First Day of Issue (for each basic Machin stamp) to satisfy the FDC collector. Have you ever thought of including this? If it was rejected, why did you do so? And if not, could it be added in future editions?
Aggersberg: I am glad that your members find the Machin list in the front of the GB SPECIALISED Volume 4 helpful. The first day of issue of each “basic” stamp could be added to the checklist without too much difficulty, and this will certainly be considered for the next edition.
Milne: The SPECIALISED Volume 4 (published in 2000) went to the loose-leaf format. What prompted this? How has it been received by your customers? And are any other catalogues likely to appear in this format in the period ahead?
Aggersberg: The GB SPECIALISED Volume 4 went loose-leaf when it was clear that it would be impossible to produce a useable fast-bound work in one volume. There is the usual problem with very thick books of persuading them to stay open! This problem obviously does not occur with loose-leaf!
Apart from GB SPECIALISED Volume 5, which has already gone loose-leaf, there are currently no plans to use this particular format for other catalogues.
Milne: I have no personal knowledge of the SPECIALISED Volume 4, so the following question stems purely from your website promotional material. This states – to my surprise – that this catalogue excludes a booklet section. Can you please explain the reasoning for this, and how are booklet collectors for this period best accommodated?
Aggersberg: The current (9th) edition of GB SPECIALISED Volume 4 is available with or without the large booklet appendix at the end. Collectors not interested in this aspect can buy the version with the stamp booklets omitted, but those who want the complete work take the other version.
Milne: My first reading of your website pages did not make that clear, but, having now gone back to it, I see that the 9th Edition complete costs £29.95, whereas excluding the booklet section it is £24.95. Thanks for clearing that up.
A specific question on booklets follows from our Machin guru, Larry Rosenblum. Larry tells me that the new self-adhesive booklets are listed as being composed of multiple singles rather than a booklet pane, the exception being the booklet that has the Queen Victoria label in it. That, he says, is called a booklet pane as well as a booklet. His request for clarification, through me, to you is, therefore: “How do you define a booklet pane in the self-stick world?”
Aggersberg: Self-adhesive booklets do, of course, also occur in other countries. As far as listings using standard numbers are concerned, we will only designate as booklet panes those self-adhesive issues where there are either different designs or values included or a label is also present, as in the example you quote. In the GB SPECIALISED volumes, using their own numbering system, all such booklets will be designated as panes.
Pane containing Cats and Dogs stamps with Machins
Self-adhesive booklet containing 10 Cats and Dogs stamps plus two Machin definitives. Because this format contains a mixture of special (commemorative) and definitive stamps, Gibbons classifies this as a booklet pane, 2187b, and a booklet, PM1. The format in which the 10 Cats and Dogs stamps were issued, a pane similar to this one but without the Machins, is considered a sheetlet, 2187a.
Milne: The publicity material I have seen for the most recent editions of the QUEEN VICTORIA and KINGS SPECIALISED catalogues indicates (not surprisingly) that these latest editions feature many price revisions and “new information.” Can you roughly indicate the extent of the former and examples and sources of the latter.
Aggersberg: Each new edition of a GB SPECIALISED volume is completely repriced using, as a basis, the latest prices from the “standard” catalogues. A number of people will be consulted as to prices for each new edition, and the results then collated.
New information comes from correspondence with collectors or is extracted from published research. Occasionally, complete new sections are added, as was the case with the current (12th) edition of the Volume 1, where the Circular Delivery Company issues from the late 1860s were covered for the first time.