Colin Rose

Awards, Press Listings and More

  • World's first online stamp catalogue (illustrated, numbered and priced): late 1996

  • Cool Site of the Month (May 1997).
  • An Apple a Day Site of the Day (November 1996).
  • Geek Site of the Day (October 1996).

  • Listed in Chess on the Web, Batsford, 1st edition (1999) and 2nd edition (2003).
  • Listed in New in Chess: Chess Note 2392, Edward de Winter (2000).
  • Philately Universe: Site of the Week (October 2000).
  • EN PASSANT: Link of the Month, Denmark (August 2000).
  • Australasian Stamps (September 1998, p.70)
  • cronaca filatelica: June 1997 - feature article on this site (June 1997, p.7)


This catalogue is a neat illustration of the amazing power of Apple's Hypercard ... and more generally ... of scripting. Hypercard is certainly one of the coolest programs to ever come out of 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino ... so it's very sad that Apple didn't port Hypercard over to OS X. Soooo .... as of late 2007, I've converted from Hypercard to Supercard. Although Supercard is much faster and more powerful, it somehow lacks the simple, clean elegance of Hypercard. Still, I'm delighted to have it!

The web site consists of over 700 pages of HTML, of which only 3 are done by hand (and this is one of them) - everything else is typeset and laid out automatically by computer! Here's how it works ...

The central data is entered into a custom HyperCard / Supercard 'data base' ... I then create master scripts to convert the raw data into the various 'menus' that people may wish to view — by time, country, artist, player, or any other parameter. My master script then numbers the stamps, formats the tables, creates the picture layouts to fit the page, writes up the frame control lists, and so on. Once the master script has been written, all it takes is one click of ze mouse, and a few seconds later, hundreds of HTML pages sit neatly in the appropriate folder (directory). Even better, the look and feel of the entire site can be changed by simply editing the master script - and so achieve in a few minutes what would otherwise take many days.

About each entry

  • - this symbol means the stamp has not been scanned yet.

  • Numbering - stamps are numbered chronologically. An orange number, such as 171, indicates that there is some special information to be gleaned by clicking on stamp 171 (or number 171). Varieties such as booklets and sheetlets are priced, but are not assigned separate numbers and are not currently illustrated.
    Miniature sheets are handled as follows:
    (i) if the MS contains new material (eg. a new stamp that is not available separately), the MS is numbered, illustrated and priced.
    (ii) if the MS does not contain new material, but is still of philatelic significance (eg a new se-tenant grouping), then it is listed as a variety and priced, but not numbered, nor illustrated.
    (iii) Finally, if the MS simply repeats previous material without variation (i.e. is not of philatelic significance), then it is not mentioned in any way at all.
    Like most printed catalogues, we do not list imperf issues, deluxe sheetlets, CTOs, FDCs, maximum cards or other revenue raising merchandise.

  • Zooming - click on any image to zoom in on it. The magnified image will appear in a new window. There is no need to close this window - the next time you zoom in on a stamp, it should appear in the same window.

  • Images - each catalogue image is scanned at 72% of its true size. After compression, file sizes are tiny - on average about 3K per image. The larger zoom images are scanned at 200% of their true size, with an average file size of about 12K after heftier compression.

  • Players - In order to be included in the Player's area, a player's picture or name must appear on the stamp. For minituare sheets, the name or picture must appear on the stamp component of the MS (and not on the selvage of the MS, as the latter has no postal validity).

  • Pricing - Prices are denominated in US dollars for mint never hinged (MNH) stamps in very fine condition. Traditional printed catalogues specify price on a 'per stamp' basis. We specify price on a 'per set' basis. In doing so, we acknowledge that stamp dealers normally refuse to break sets - even if you only need one stamp, you still have to buy the whole set. Catalogue values here should be interpreted as an estimate of likely cost, as distinct from real value which is usually a bit lower.
    Prices are not given for used stamps. Collecting used stamps is a far more challenging (and probably more noble) pursuit than collecting mint. However, in a tricky topic such as chess, it is difficult enough just collecting mint, so that used chess collections are relatively rare.

The Completeness Syndrome

Stamp collecting is somewhat analogous to overseas travel. Some countries excite the senses, while others are stupefyingly awful tourist traps; they mass produce clichéd shmutters not for themselves, but especially for the tourist.

A central component of collecting (anything) involves creating order from disorder. Stamp collectors not only struggle against entropy ... they also want to be complete. In order to raise revenue, some countries attempt to exploit the 'completeness syndrome' by issuing huge numbers of (usually oversized and gaudy) stamps covering every possible topic, in every possible format - perf, imperf, collective sheetlets, deluxe sheetlets, MS, proofs, FDCs, CTOs, and so on.

If these were legitimate stamps that could be bought over the counter at the local post office, then at the time of issue, the cost of the stamp would be exactly the same as the cost of the MS sharing the same face value. By contrast, agents for these countries often try to seIl the MS for many times the price of the stamp itself. This is a dead giveaway that the MS was not sold over the counter in normal quantities, and should be treated as a cinderella. Irrespecive of whether its St Thomas Island, or Fujeira, or the Central African Empire, these issues are not designed in country X, they are not printed there, they bear no relation to country X, and they are usually impossible to obtain there. Indeed, there exist uninhabited 'island nations' that issue chess 'stamps' - clearly not for usage in the post. Such issues are produced only to milk cows. An international agent serving both Mongolia and Guyana has produced gold and silver coloured foil 'stamps' that do not even have gum on them. To appeal to as many different collectors as possible, they contain pictograms of a baseball bat, a tiny chess piece, someone swimming, a scout and so on. Such material defiles the integrity of ones collection and is best avoided. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was right — less is more.

Who's In ? Who's Out ?

A chess stamp must be two things:

( a ) it must be a legitimate stamp created for postal use. This is an important distinction in an age when anyone with a colour laser printer can issue coloured pieces of paper that look like stamps - see for instance the myriad of so-called local issues emerging out of the old USSR states. At the very least, the issuing country must be a member of the UPU - the universal postal union. As a secondary requirement, the stamp must primarily have been issued for postage use. Stanley Gibbons, the highly respected English philatelic house, goes some way in making this distinction in their excellent catalogues, by placing 'cinderella' issues into special Appendix listings. They define such issues as 'stamps' which :

" have either been issued in excess of postal needs or
have not been made available to the public in
reasonable quantities at face value.

Many people enjoy collecting cinderellas. However, such material does not belong in a stamp catalogue, and is not listed here.

( b ) the stamp itself must be related to chess. This is a somewhat contentious issue. For instance, a stamp depicting a chess board (no pieces) would normally be considered to be a chess stamp. However, if that stamp also had draught pieces on the board, then it would generally not be considered a chess stamp. Further, note that the chess motif must be found on the stamp itself. We do not list items where the motif is located only on the selvage or margins of a MS. Margins / selvage are just coloured bits of paper - they are not stamps, and they have no postal validity. A similar argument applies to overprints: the overprint must appear on the stamp (not the selvage) in order to be worth noting.

Version History

  • b4 release (forthcoming later in 2008). Will add in (i) 1990-2000; (ii) new 'fun' section; (iii) more goodies :)
  • b3 release (January, 2008) ... yup – 11 years for an update! Carumbah!
    What's new? Donned my Indiana Jones hat and rummaged through dozens of medieval texts ... to source the original artworks from manuscripts such as the Codex Manesse, the Persian ‘Shah Nameh’, Alfonso X's Libros del Axedrez, Dados et Tablas etc;   added new 'view by artist' section;   filled in almost all missing pre-1990 holes + new discoveries;   and on the technology side ... converted from Hypercard to Supercard.
    Image count: 474 + approx 50 original artworks.
  • b2 release (April 7, 1997). Added in 1984-1989; filled in some pre-1983 holes; added in a counter for the Players section.
    Image count: 425
  • b1 release (February 8, 1997). Covered 1947-1983.
    Image count: 272