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A grand Commonwealth Stamps project!

Every active stamp collection is a project of some type. Something to be expanded or otherwise improved upon, missing stamps located, new issues added, freshly displayed, widened or narrowed in its focus.

British Empire philately offers up one of its great projects in the shape of “The New Ideal Postage Stamp Album” produced in the late 1930s by Stanley Gibbons. The album is a reassuringly comfortable size and not too heavy to handle, it looks good on the shelf with its green binding and gold lettering which if treated gently over the generations acquires the comfortable wear of a much- loved tome.

Inside there are spaces for every stamp from 1840 to mid-1936 issued for Great Britain and her Empire. The album is interleaved to avoid facing stamps interfering with each other and each page is printed with spaces to match the 1937 SG catalogue for stamps to the end of the King George V reign.

There is a fascinating preface inside where Stanley Gibbons explain their reasons for creating it. The original “Ideal” album which combined both “Foreign” and “Empire” stamps had grown to six interleaved volumes and they could no longer add additional albums every few years as stamp issuance increased around the globe. They created the “New Ideal” album amongst many other albums - and at that time they probably didn’t realise that they were producing a classic!

It was certainly popular and we still see many collections housed in them. As there are spaces for all the great classic rarities such as the British Guiana 1c on magenta and the Mauritius “Post Offices” I’m sure that few collectors ever believed that they would fill every space, indeed the vast majority of these albums are less than 20% completed and then mostly with used stamps. Even those collections can be impressive containing as they do stamps from the greatest period of philately!

Lot 5001 in our current sale took us somewhat by surprise. Not only was the album around 60% completed but the stamps were all in nice fresh mint condition! As most “New Ideals” are less than 20% completed with used stamps this was certainly a beautiful album to behold! I took it home to show some non- collecting friends who were amazed (I declined the offer of swap for a nice car!)

Our first reaction was to divide the collection into around 100 different ‘country’ collections and perhaps even offer the 100 or so best stamps as individual lots which we could put on our colour catalogue photo plates… but NO! We shall offer it intact as just one lot; we are sure someone who loves British Empire mint stamps will want to continue this wonderful “Grand Project”!


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