Introduction to the Census
Considering the usefulness of a well-documented census, it is surprising that so few of them have been published.
From the massive amounts of data collected by census-takers, we have been able to count the number of recorded examples, categorize them in a meaningful way, determine patterns of survival and usage, establish some enlightening facts, and create some interesting theories based on the available data.
Some of the most useful philatelic research undertaken in recent years has been the comprehensive census work in various subject areas
Perhaps the greatest philatelic census ever assembled is the unpublished clipping compilation by Frank S. Levi, Jr., encompassing hundreds of volumes across almost every United States issue and many postal history categories. The Levi records were painstakingly assembled by clipping auction catalogue photographs and descriptions, covering sales over a forty-year period. The Levi notebooks were sold to various specialists, and we are fortunate to have acquired a large portion of the United States stamp notebooks for our library.
Others have updated the Levi census or have created their own databases. The Hart-McDonald survey of 1847 covers has been expanded and computerized by Thomas J. Alexander. The New York provisional census was substantially augmented by Philip T. Wall and Jeremiah Farrington these records are now in the hands of Donald Shearer, who is working on all of the provisionals. Dr. Richard M. Searing has kept up with Scott 30 and the high-value stamps issued from 1857 through the Bank Note era, and W. Wilson Hulme II recently published a census of the Chicago perforations. The 1869 Pictorial Research Associates (now part of the Classics Society) published a census of 1869 covers, and the compilers of this census have published part of their work on the 5c 1856 (Zuckerman) and 1869 Inverts (Trepel) in the Chronicle. Among the unpublished census work is a detailed survey of Scott 5 by Mal Brown, a broad survey of classics by Jerome S. Wagshal and a small but useful list of 10¢ 1855-57 blocks by Michael Perlman. The Crown book, which amalgamates various Confederate provisional surveys, is now outdated, but still very useful. We also have lists of earliest known usages and record-size multiples currently being published in Linns Stamp News and the Chronicle, a direct outgrowth of census work.
Art collectors and numismatists are far ahead of philatelists in assembling catalogues of an artists work or detailed surveys of coins, but at least we are moving in the right directionWith the availability of information, collectors and dealers should be better informed about the extant population of stamps. Much of the guesswork in determining rarity and relative condition can now be eliminated by referring to the published census data.
We have used the census data to establish rarity and relative quality. A few interesting observations were also drawn from the data, especially those related to the 1867-68 Grilled Issues. Publication of a photo (front and back) of the other known 1¢ ZGrill the New York Public Librarys stamp from the Miller collection is a noteworthy and welcome addition to the record.
Like any census, we have certainly not located every known example. However, through a diligent search of the Levi records, the Philatelic Foundations records, our own auction catalogues and consultation with other specialists, we have compiled a large body of data that we have no doubt will prove enlightening, Even if only judged only by the chagrin we feel looking back at certain past descriptions.
We regret every unjustified “finest known” and gross overstatement (or understatement) of rarity as a blemish on our record and hope this census partly exonerates us in the eyes of future philatelists. Our role is to sell stamps, and we believe that our credibility is enhanced by presenting accurate information. The more credibility we have, the better we will be at selling.