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For some time I’ve been thinking stamp catalogue index numbers (yes, those running numbers that stamp catalogues use to identify each stamps) and their purpose. I know it sounds a silly topic to bother the mind, but it’s actually very interesting one.

The thinking behind catalogue catalog numbering systems is simple – create a straightforward numbering system (that is preferrably consecutive) to identify different stamps of each country/area.

But alas, the numbering system should also be unique to avoid possible copyright contradicts with existing numbering systems. And in case of errors, it should have room for extension. And… It’s both amazing and absurd to see how differently the same stamps can be specified in different catalogs.

Without a doubt this is a bottleneck that many dealers, collectors and alike have learned to live with. I’m sure many readers of this blog are familiar with rules like “use Scott numbers for US stamps” or “Use Michel numbers for German (or any mid-European) stamps”… Some collectors try to go detour and seek cross-references (=Excel sheets) between various stamp catalog numbering systems. Here’s a newsflash: such cross-references do not exist legally (notice the bolding on last word).

But… Here’s a truly mind blowing thought I received last night. And above all, it’s a perfect and simple way to cross-reference between any stamp catalog.

What if we, collectors and dealers, simply abandon the use of stamp catalog index numbers when buying/selling/exchanging stamps?

And before you suggest that I’ve lost my marbles, please read on the following… Let’s take an example… Assume You are seeking a used copy of 1937 USA m/s commemorating the 43rd Annual Convention of Society of Philatelic Americans:

1937 USA - 43rd Annual Convention of Society of Philatelic Americans. Michel Block #8. Cat. value 1.00€

1937 USA - 43rd Annual Convention of Society of Philatelic Americans. Michel Block #8. Cat. value 1.00€

A textual description like this is pretty self-explaining. Year, country and issue. If anything else needs to be said, it’s pretty easy to add. The more complex the stamp, the more likely a textual description does only good for it.

But if you try to say the same with stamp catalog index numbers, it’s going to be one ugly mess you can’t translate without a specific stamp catalog. The US sheet above would be USA Block 8 in Michel. Or Scott #797. Or Yvert B7. Or Stanley Gibbons MS793… Digging up these numbers took me several minutes. And if you in weeks time ask me if I own US Yvert B7, very likely I will say no 😉

Just think about…The time anybody spends on seeking/translating specific catalogue number (and typing them), could very well be put on writing a textual inscription that anyone can understand. And everyone would benefit from it.

Now, tell me what do You think?

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