The Great Specialty Sort

A customer wrote to us asking for Proofs and Essays of the United States Bank Note period to spice up his specialized collection of this area and was surprised that, since so many of the items only catalog a few dollars each, he was having such difficulty finding them. This got me thinking about what could only be called the “Great Specialty Sort” that occurred in our hobby between about 1925 and 1940. When you come across United States stamp collections that were made before say 1925, there is a totally different feel for what the collector was trying to accomplish than in collections made after that period. Earlier collectors used the Scott album as a guide, interspersing duplicates, better cancellations, Proofs, Essays, covers, even stamp articles with their collections to make it as complete and compelling as possible. After 1940, collectors mainly just tried to fill their Scott album spaces and where they had specialty issue collections, they made them in separate albums by issue. It was at this point, about 1940, that the Great Specialty Sort meant that specialty items (such as Proof and Essays) got separated and sold as specialty units when collections were sold so that most collectors no longer knew to look for them.

The reason for the Great Specialty Sort was  the increasing complexity of the hobby after 1940, especially the fact that the number of stamps that the United States had issued meant that collectors were about to have to expand to two Scott volumes (now with Revenues, we are nearing fifteen). Before 1940, all the US stamps, all the Airs,  Dues, special service stamps, Revenues, even Confederate States and Telegraphs fit in one neat volume. Collectors could easily add Proofs to their collection and still keep it very manageable. Now it is often very difficult to find inexpensive specialty and collateral material for different issues in your United States stamp collection. Such is progress.

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