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As some know (or may have noticed from my earlier writings), I’m a great fan of Michel’s printed worldwide stamp catalogue series.   I use Michel as my primary source of generic information for worldwide stamps. The problem with printed catalogues however is, the price levels get out date rather fast and new catalogues cost huge sums of money. For example Michel Europe catalogue is currently 7 volumes, Übersee (outside Europe) is 11 or 12 volumes – all costs between 50 and 100 euro brand new, and even few years old used prints cost 20-30€ each.  That’s way more than I’m willing to spend for catalogues…  Luckily there’s Michel Online Catalogue for scrooges like me.

The good

It’s cheap. Or I wouldn’t call 72€/yearl 100-130€/year fee cheap for any (paid) website access, but it’s way less than the printed catalogues.

It’s constantly up-to-date.  Michel provides 2-3 data updates a year to bring in new issues, updated prices, fixes with details etc.

It’s pretty complete and sufficient for non-specialist use in most cases. I think all countries / areas listed in print catalogue can be found from the online version too.

The  bad

It’s simplified… If you are accustomed to fine level of detail, that ships with printed catalogue, then this product is not for you.  You will still find types, subtypes, watermark differences etc., but the “enlightening” footnotes etc. minor details, that accompany the printed catalogue are missing in large parts.

Summary tables are not available. For example getting a decend one page listing of issued Machin issues is impossible. Michel’s representative suggested using “Search”-functionality to get similar listing, but it fails miserably if one needs to differentiate printing methods etc. with one look.

Listing of Machin stamps

Pictures are occasionally of very poor quality or missing…And with very poor quality, I do mean images you can’t use for identification. With premium account, some of the images can be enlarged…. The other problem are missing images. For most countries these do not exist, but for others, like Ajman, missing stamp images are more a rule than exception.

A 1:1 screenshot that shows the problem with some of the stamp images

A 1:1 screenshot that shows the problem with some of the stamp images. Can you id the stamps based on this image?

User interface is very clumsy. Especially the “ads” are very irriting.. I hope they will make some improvements with the user interface and usability over time. There are also occasional issues with ordering of results (click image below to see full screen image, opens in new browser window).

Notice anything funny with this listing?

Notice anything funny with this listing?

The english interface is very limited though Michel markets the english edition as well.  I’d say that only 20-30% of stamp information is available in english, rest is german only.

The verdict

As overall verdict, Michel’s online catalogue is far from the quality of printed catalogues. However, it is still a work in progress (even after 3+ years) and there is hope that things will get better over time.

The main value of service is for printed catalogue owners, who will benefit from updated prices and new issue information. Without printed counterparts, I would not recommend this service to anyone.

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