Questions and Answers

CSA Qustions & Answers

9 OCT 2001

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Q 9 - I would like to start a Collection of CSA Stamps and Covers. Can you give some advice as to how one goes about starting such a collection?

A 9 - The above question in various forms has become quite common lately. It seems that there are more and more people interested in the History of the Civil War Period and are looking to begin collecting Civil War related (Confederate) Philatelic material. Starting a collection of CSA Stamps and/or Covers is not easy. It does require careful study and the accumulation of some knowledge. Also, CSA collecting is by and large not cheap. So a financial commitment must be made as well. But Confederate stamps and covers have held their value well and are appreciating. A well formed and thought out collection will have significant value when it comes time to resell the collection.

Most individuals who move into Confederate Collecting are already experienced collectors. Many have collected clasic USA stamps and/or postal history for years and move into the Confederate area because perhaps they are looking for something different, something more challanging, or are just interested in the history. But whether you are already an experienced collector or a brand new collector looking with interest at CSA material, you may find these remarks useful.

Many CSA Collectors collect both off-cover stamps and postal history. But some collect only the stamps, and others collect only the covers. A decision must be made eventually to collect either stamps, covers, or both. I generally recommend for the beginning collector to start with the stamps. A Type Set of the General Issue Confederate Stamps consists of only 17 stamps and can be completed by the average collector for a total estimated cost at this time of approximately $3,000.00. These estimates assume sound stamps in fine or better condition. But you cannot just contact a dealer and ask him to send you a complete Type Set of CSA Stamps all at once. It does not work that way as it takes some diligent searching to complete the set.

The Type Set Collection would necessaily be a mixture of mint and used stamps. One stamp (#14) was printed but never issued and therefore exits only as an unused stamp. Two stamps (#8, #13) have a much higher value in used condition than they do in unused condition (this apparent paradox is addressed in another question in this section of the website). But it is basically not possible to complete a Type Set with all unused stamps because the Frame-Line Stamp (#10) in unused condition is extremely rare and usually sells in the $4,000.00+ range at auction whenever one comes up for sale. It is also not practical to complete a Type Set in larger multiples. Although some stamps are quire common in multiples, others are very scarce and out of reach for the average collector. Also, forget about the CSA gum. Most of the gum was so bad that it could and did damage the stamp. Many of the unused CSA stamps have long since had their gum soaked off. Stamps still with original gum must be very carefully cared for. If all the collector wants is Mint Never Hinged Original Gum stamps, then CSA stamps is not the area for such a collector.

If one wished, the General Issue collection can be easily expanded into a more detailed collection taking into account the many color varieties, plate and printing varieties, the addition of multiples, and also collecting various postmarks and usages. The collecting of the CSA General Issue Stamps can become very complex and very detailed if the collector wishes to eventually pursue the subject in depth.

Many times I have beens asked about album pages. There are only really two commercially made CSA Album Pages that I know of. The Scott USA National Album has a section for the CSA General Issue Stamps, and White Ace also makes CSA Album Pages which are quite nice. But the drawback of both these sets is that they contain spaces for only the 14 Scott listed stamps and not the 17 stamps which make up the complete Type Set. Many collectors either make their own pages or use stockbooks or stock pages to house their collection. I have in response to a number of requests designed a more complete set of CSA Stamp Album Pages for those who like pre-printed pages but do not wish to make their own. Just click the preceding link to review my pages.

I have purposefully omitted from this discussion the CSA Provisional Stamps. This is a very highly specialized area of CSA Collecting. I do not recommend beginning with the Provisional Stamps. It is an area to consider, in my opinion, only after the collector has gained some CSA philatelic knowledge and experience.

Now we come to the Postal History (Covers). If you read my Introduction Section near the top of the website, you will have seen that there are a great many catagories of CSA Postal History. How does one get started in the field? I recommend just beginning by obtaining a few general covers. Something that you like and that catches your eye. CSA Postal History, though, tends to be expensive. But some very nice covers with the more common usages of Richmond, Va or Charleston SC or Columbia SC can still be obtained in the $50.00 - $75.00 price range. After you have sampled the postal history and perhaps formed a small general collection, that is the time to think about specializing in one area -- it could be only covers from a particular state or city, or perhaps only Handstamp PAID covers, or other specific usages. Military related CSA Postal History is currently very popular. But specializing in a certain area is not absolutely necessary. There are many collectors who still prefer a more generalized collection. But most good quality CSA Covers now run $100.00 and up. So the expense is significant. It is true that there are many low quality and damaged CSA covers that sell for much less. The new collector will simply have to decide what level of condition and quality is acceptable for his or her collection. Just remember that Poor Quality Material will always be Poor Quality Material, and that will make a significant difference when it comes time to resell the collection.

Here are my General Recommendations for beginning a CSA Collection --

A word needs to be said about acquiring CSA material through Internet Auctions, particularly E-Bay -- E-Bay can be a very good source of material. But be cautioned that a great many of the E-Bay sellers know very little about the CSA material they are trying to sell. Descriptions are very often inaccurate, much of the material may be of a very low quality and also may either be outright fake or bogus, and starting bid prices in many cases may be much higher than the true market value of the item. Another way of saying this is that much higher quality CSA material can very often be purchased directly from a reputable dealer for the same or even a lower price than low qualty items sell for on E-Bay. There is no regulation of any significance on E-Bay, so you have to know what you are doing. You can buy good decent material on E-Bay at a fair or even a bargain price from very honest sellers. But you really must have a good amount of knowledge, and also it helps to really know the seller in order to do this.

I cannot reiterate strongly enough that the beginning CSA collector must gain knowledge in the field. Knowledge is contained in books. Begin immediately to build a CSA Philatelic Library. I have listed below a number of books that I feel are important for a CSA collector to have at hand.

The above listing of recommended books is by no means complete. But it can be used as a core around which to build your library. There are also many other books, pamphlets, monographs, and journals which deal with various aspects of Confederate Philately. One of these is the Confederate Philatelist which is the bi-monthly journal of the Confederate Stamp Alliance. I recommend that all who are interested in Confederate Philately consider joining the Confederate Stamp Alliance (CSA). You can learn more about the CSA by reviewing the Confederate Stamp Alliance section of this website or by visiting the Confederate Stamp Alliance Home Page.

The major philatelic booksellers with websites on the Internet are: James Lee, Phil Bansner, and Leonard Hartmann.

This certainly has been a long answer to what appears to be on the surface a simple question. But embarking on a course of Confederate Collecting is a serious endeavor. But one that I believe the collector will find to be most rewarding.

John L. Kimbrough MD

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jlkcsa@aol.com