Notes from the Past

Early Postage Stamp Catalogs

Since postage stamp catalogs occupy such an important part in the philatelic hobby, readers may be interested in learning something of their early origin, from a study made some years ago by the late Fred J. Melville.

The first catalog of postage stamps was a small pamphlet published by Alfred Potiquet, of Paris, December 21, 1861.  He was an amateur collector, not a dealer, and his list was largely a compilation from lists previously privately distributed among collectors by another amateur, Francois George Oscar Berger-Levrault of Strasbourg.  Potiquet's catalog was notable in that he attempted to distinguish the various method of printing used in the production of the stamps he listed, and he even mentioned those which were perforated, varieties then much in the minority. His catalog listed 1,080 different adhesive stamps and 132 envelopes.

Another edition of the Potiquet catalog carries the imprint of E. De LaPlante, a Paris stamp dealer, probably the earliest dealer in France.  This De LaPlante edition was protested by Potiquet's printer and publisher, Eugene LaCroix, as pirated from Potiquet.

The next catalog was published by J. B. Moens, of Brussels, in January, 1862.  This also was protested by LaCroix as a lift from the Potiquet catalog.  Moens, in his second edition, later in 1862, replied that his first edition was not a copy of Potiquet but one of his own compilation and that he had advertised its contents as early as June, 1861, but the publication had been delayed.  None of these catalogs priced the stamps, -- the coupling of the listings with dealers' quotations did not materialize until some years later.

Beginning with 1862, a number of catalogs appeared both in Europe and the United States, as the hobby gained momentum.  The first English catalog was published in London, by Frederick Booty, April, 1862.  A few months later Booty turned out another edition which was the first illustrated catalog, the various stamps being crudely pictured by lithography.  Two other London catalogs followed, one by Mount Brown, May, 1862, and another by Dr. John Edward Gray, in December 1862.

The first American stamp catalog, "The Stamp Collector's Manual," was published sometime in 1862, by A. C. Kline, a Philadelphia dealer.  Kline's catalog, except for a longer listing of the U.S. stamps, is generally regarded as the theft of Mount Brown's London catalog.  Many other catalogs followed before J. W. Scott got underway in New York, first with single-sheet price lists in 1867, and a pamphlet sized catalog in 1868 which he called his "16th Edition."

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
July 13, 1946

Posted July 21, 1999

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

Note:  If the link isn't returned the first try, try again.

Comments? Send me an e-mail
Please include a reference to this item.