One Way to Organize a EUROPA Collection

Updated and expanded from an article in EN380, Jul-Aug 2007;
revised to reflect changes described in EN404, Jul-Aug 2011

At the Washington 2006 meeting of the Europa Study Unit, Steve Luster (ESU president) suggested some of the many avenues a Europa collector could explore. One topic that drew a lot of conversation was the Europa Handbook. The first Europa handbook was almost a pamphlet by today’s standards -- a small booklet issued by the ATA in 1962. Still, that was enough to open my eyes to the many possibilities of Europa collecting. I began my collection in 1959, just in time to witness the mega-explosion of issues in the 1960s. It was, however, fairly easy (even for a teenager of limited means) to assemble a “complete” collection of what I now call the Annual Issues. I was using White Ace pages at the time, and that was all they provided spaces for.

Back in the early ‘60s there were a lot of little independent album makers. One of these was AYAL, who produced 3-ring album pages in a style similar to White Ace. AYAL was noted for its clever page layouts and an ad in Linn’s, showing a sample EUROPA page, really caught my eye. It showed the 1956 Northern Countries issue, and the layout captured the feeling of the stamps. I liked it so much, I’ve stuck with it on my present Lighthouse pages.

That got me thinking that there might be more than what White Ace was offering. Then came the ATA Europa handbook, which included agencies, forerunners and historical Europa, and I was on my way to beginning a very ambitious Europa collection.

The second handbook (called “Special Bulletin #3”, and the one still being offered today in hardcopy form), was much more ambitious. Begun in 1965 and updated through 1974, it was organized by then editor of the Europa News, Ms. Ruth Hellard. It expanded considerably on the original handbook, and the topics were extensively subdivided. The organization was a mixture of subject matter and historical timeline. The idea was to show the connection between the various issues, and to help the collector decide what he or she wanted to collect. The trap in doing this was that some issues can fall into multiple categories. Putting things in several places may be fine for a catalog, but do you really want to organize a collection that way? Unless you buy more than one copy of something, where do you decide to put it?

My solution to this problem was to organize my collection into 5 parts. I came up with this scheme shortly after the second Handbook was released, and it’s served me well. I computerized the listing in 1983 (my first real use of the IBM PC). The database has migrated from PC-File through dBase IV to Microsoft Access, but the layout hasn’t changed very much.

Category I is the core of most Europa collections – the annual issues.
  • Ia Related Stamps (e.g., the recent 50th anniversary issues)

  • Ib Northern Countries Issues
  • Over a decade after the "swan issue", the Nordic Countries began issuing stamps on a regular basis and have now settled into a bi-annual schedule. Every even-numbered year the Northern Countries issue a set of stamps with a common theme, much the same way as the annual Europa issues.
  • Ic SEPAC Issues
  • The small European postal aministrations formed SEPAC (Small European Postal Administrations Cooperation) in the 1990s and began issuing stamps with a common theme in 2007. The SEPAC stamps are issued every odd-numbered year, and many people collect these as another form of Europa.
Category II is the “Agencies of Europa”, including Council of Europe, ESA (European Space Agency), etc.
  • IIa is EU (European Union) proper, from the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) to the EU parliament
  • IIb is NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and other military alliances;
  • IIc is the ERP (European Recovery Program / Marshall Plan).
Category III is European Cooperation in general. Here is where all those issues that don’t fit neatly into the other categories go. I later subdivided this as follows:
  • IIIa is Cooperative efforts that are sponsored or affiliated in some way with an EU entity (e.g., European Conservation, European Heritage Days, European "Years")
  • IIIb is any other issue that is evocative of European cooperation
  • IIIc is European sporting issues

Each successive category thus becomes a bit more "fringe".

Category IV is Europa Forerunners:
  • IVa Prophets or advocates of unity (St. Benedict, Victor Hugo)
  • IVb Historical attempts at peaceful unity (Balkan Entente)
  • IVc Military attempts (Caesar, Charlemagne)
Collecting every stamp with Churchill or Hitler on it can get ridiculous. I just include enough to tell a story.

Category V is the Eastern Bloc.
  • Va KSZE (German for CSCE - Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe) issues
  • Vb Iron Curtain counterparts to Europa (Warsaw Pact - the Soviet Union counterpart to NATO, COMECON also CMEA - Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, INTERKOSMOS)

This last Category is a lot of fun to collect, as it is considered way off the beaten path by some. Steve suggested during our meeting that this would be a fascinating area to delve into, and I have found that to be the case. Lighthouse prepared a few printed pages for KSZE issues. These are still offered, but they are far from complete. I prepared a checklist of these in a previous EN years ago. Chuck Hall updated this, and it is available in the members' area.

Posted by Dana Roper