By Michael Baadke
What do you want?
There are thousands and thousands of different stamps out there, and remembering which ones you want to have to fill the empty spaces on your stamp album pages can be quite a task.
Did you need the 3¢ Abraham Lincoln flat plate printing of 1923 (United States Scott 555) or the 3¢ Lincoln rotary press printing of 1925 (584)? Or was it the 3¢ Lincoln rotary press issue of 1927 (635)?
How about your collection of U.S. Celebrate the Century postally used singles? Are you missing the 33¢ Video Games stamp from the 1980s set (3190l) or the 33¢ Virtual Reality stamp from the 1990s set (3191j)?
Can't remember? Don't feel bad. There are so many different varieties of so many different stamps that keeping them all straight is darn near impossible.
What do you want? You probably want a want list.
Stamp collectors have created and used want lists since, well, probably since about the time the second postage stamp was issued in 1840.
A want list is simply a handy way to remember the stamps that you need, so you don't accidentally buy or trade for duplicates of stamps that you don't need.
Shown at right in Figure 1 are a couple of pages from a specialized want list of stamps sought for a United States collection.
A want list can be complete and actually list every stamp that is missing from your collection, or it can be abridged and list only a limited number of stamps that you want to look for right away.
For example, if you're collecting the stamps of Switzerland, you may be missing hundreds of stamps from the earliest cantonal issues of 1843 to the latest commemorative that was issued last week.
You can either create an extensive want list that shows every single stamp you need to complete your collection, or you can simply record only the stamps you need from a specific area, such as Swiss semipostals (all 650 of them), or your missing regular issues from, say, the 1934 definitive series onward.
A want list can be handwritten, typewritten, or created on a computer. It can consist of a simple list of catalog numbers or it can be created from the illustrated pages of a published stamp catalog.
The type of want list you need depends in part on the way you plan to use it. Let's say you are going to contact a certain stamp dealer for the first time, to ask if he carries the type of material you are looking for.
You can include with your inquiry a want list that gives him some idea of the stamps you want to buy. You may want to start out by sending a shorter list of the stamps you most want to find, but mention that you have a longer list if the dealer wants to take a look at it.
By the way, it's always a good idea to enclose an addressed, stamped envelope anytime you are writing someone for information. It shows that you are willing to help with the trouble and expense of the reply. After all, you're the one asking the person on the other end to devote some time to answering your question.
Your want list to the stamp dealer can be very simple. Print the words "WANT LIST" clearly across the top, and include the country name and catalog numbers of the stamps you need. If you're using the Scott catalog, mention that on your list as well.
And don't forget to neatly print your name and address at the top of every page of your list, just in case the pages get separated while the dealer is looking them over.
Don't send your original list away in the mail. Send a photocopy instead, to avoid extra work for you if the list gets lost or you never hear back from the dealer.
Any time you are sending a copy of your want list to someone, make sure it is neat and easy to read. No one wants to spend a lot of time trying to decipher illegible numbers scrawled on a sheet of paper. Besides, if the numbers are hard to read, the dealer may wind up sending you the wrong stamps.
Typing or computer-printing your want list will help reduce or eliminate the problems a dealer can have discerning what you want. A number of different computer programs are available that can help you create your want list.
The list shown in Figure 1 was created using the Scott U.S. Stamp Collector's Database 2000. This software package consists of a CD-ROM that installs easily on a Windows/DOS or Macintosh computer.
Figure 2 shows the CD package at top. At the bottom is an image of the actual computer screen graphic showing the listing for United States Scott 1744, the 13¢ Harriet Tubman commemorative of 1978.
At the lower right is a small box labeled "Click this box to add to Want List." One click of the mouse does the trick. After you've clicked on each of the stamps you are searching for, you can print your want list to send to dealers or to take with you on your next stamp shopping trip. It's a handy list to have along, for it also gives the catalog values, which you can compare to dealers' prices.
The Scott CD has a number of other features that stamp collectors will find useful.
Scott Publishing Co., like Linn's Stamp News, is a division of Amos Press. For additional information about Scott products, write to Scott Publishing Co., Box 828, Sidney, OH 45365, or visit its web site at www.scottonline.com.
If you're interested in using a computer to maintain your want list, you may be interested in the softcover book Linn's Guide to Stamp Collecting Software by William F. Sharpe. The book includes an overview of the types of computer software programs that are available for creating and maintaining stamp inventory listings.
However, you certainly don't have to use a computer to create a useful want list. Many collectors simply keep a pocket notebook with lists of the stamps they need.
A topical collector, for example, often learns about stamps relating to his collection while looking for other information in a stamp catalog. It's easy to keep an ongoing list of suitable stamps by jotting the new information in the notebook when it comes to light.
The next step is to remember to cross off the notation when the stamp is found and added to the collection. The same is true for computer-generated inventory lists, which generally can be updated with a few simple clicks and a revised printout of the information.
Collectors who enjoy looking through mixtures or inexpensive selections at stamp dealers' tables may find that a want list containing only catalog numbers is inadequate.
Many dealers may have large quantities of stamps they sell for about 5¢ or 10¢ each, often as mixtures, but they rarely bother to list and catalog such inexpensive stamps.
The collector may encounter an inexpensive stamp that he thinks he needs for his collection, but if the stamp is not identified by the dealer, looking at a long want list of catalog numbers alone probably won't be much help.
Some collectors carry with them a pocket catalog that is marked up to indicate the stamps the collector already has. Figure 3 shows an example, using the Scott U.S. Pocket Stamp Catalogue.
By carrying the catalog, the collector can refer to the illustrations to positively identify the stamp he finds at the dealer's counter.
Always remember to keep your want list up-to-date, or you could wind up with extra stamps that you don't need.
You'll find that your want list is something you'll take with you wherever you go looking for stamps: at the stamp shop, at a stamp show, at your local stamp club meeting, or browsing the ads.