Friday, November 13, 2015

From Dallay to Spink through zombie Maury, a story of the best catalogue of France

Last May 2015, a British auction house stroke the sky of the French philatelic pond with an unpreviewed announcement: Spink bought the Maury catalogue from the Maury firm of Paris. Last week, at Paris Autumn Show, the first edition of the new "Spink | Maury" catalogue was presented with ten new monographies added.

The Spink | Maury 2016 catalogue that I hope will lose the "Maury" sooner rather than later (
Surely the time of Yvert et Tellier being the only known catalogue of France outside France is counted. But where did it begin?

In the recent era some tried to compete against the Yvert supremacy. At the time our story begins, Cérès shop is the only that succeeds to publish one catalogue every year ; all other dealer's book-catalogues disappeared in the 1980s.

The last major try was the Marianne Encyclopedic Catalogue during the 1980s, long regretted as philatelists spoke of it when the Dallay appeared. It was written by Messieurs Brun, Françon and Storch, three important men of the French and European philately[1], and published by Timbropresse, editor of Timbroscopie magazine (Timbres Magazine nowadays).
The first edition of the Dallay catalogue, 2001.
In 2001, at the same time the euro currency becomes a reality in European Union's pockets - but for a little village accross a channel of sea..., two philatelists and computer experts, Luc Dartois and Jean-Bernard Pillet, launched a new catalogue by hearing the wishes of some collectors and dealers: the Dallay catalogue. The name summarizes their names: DArtois-piLLET.

The success was immediate: the new competitor adds a lot of intelligence compared to both his competitors. Explanatory texts, dates of issue, artist's names, quotes a little bit higher than the market but lesser than other publications. The numbering ended in a law battle and in 2004 the Yvert numbers were recognized as Yvert's property. For some editions Dallay bought the right to publish a conversion table to Yvert.

The principalities, colonies and oversea territories catalogues (four in total) received the same encyclopedic treatment and welcome by the public. Yvert and Cérès lowered their price ; the former added a cd-rom to his France catalogue by 2007. A fresh wind was blowing on the frog pond...
The first Maury edition of the France catalogue in two tomes, a huge work never to be republished (
But as in every carol, my generation and the older ones know - but the younger knows it thanks to The Disney Channel and dvds - that generally came problems in the disguised form of the witch with a red tasty apple. Yes, my very young youth memory remembers Disney's Snow White rescreening at Christmas in a movie house in Montpellier.

French U.S.-based entrepreneur Armand Rousso was coming back to France to make Philately reach a new era: he bought in 2007 the Dallay and the Cérès catalogues, the Maury store including the rights to its 1864-1880 catalogue's number system that looks like Yvert's... and Lutèce Diffusion, a mail order company specialised in collectibles.

And in 2009, the big read apple looks like a double volume France catalogue fusioning the best of the three catalogues with extensive quotes for stamps on envelopes before 1900. After that, the catalogue came back to one volume, but the event succeeded to put definitively the catalogue in the French philately.

The witch part of the story are only whispered as rumors between people at stamp shows or dealer's shops in Paris... Try a deep search in an U.S. based forum and Google.

Let's see it positively: we get a strong encyclopedic reference catalogue even if we have to support - in the French definition of the verb: endure because we can not avoid it - monthly ads about how important a legend was dead Arthur Maury who created the catalogue you were holding - and not republished since 1880... - and that the French post recognised that genious by issuing him a stamp in 2010 ad libidum... Hence my zombie Maury in the title.

That's why I am very happy that a British Charming Prince - but did not all Disney's Prince speak with an Oxford accent? - is putting some conservative"Glorious Revolution style" seriousness behind the French catalogue and already show with the 2016 additions that it means business.

For now, it seems to my small knowledge that only Stanley Gibbons did something: the France & Colonies (Part 6) catalogue was cut this year, officially to allow collectors to buy only the France part at a lower price.

Will Yvert finally put some encyclopedic in its catalogues? Will there be a translation in English? What will be the content of the Spink France, Colonies and Overseas catalogues in a few years?

And will Spink finally let the name of Maury rest in peace by letting it down? If their catalogue need a two part name: Spink-Dallay's the one!

1 : Robert Françon and Jean-François Storch are founding members of the European Academy of Philately. Jean-François Brun RDP, son of a famous dealer, is one of the most important philatelic expert and publisher in France.

One year after (23 November 2016):
Publicly for Yvert (even here), very (too) discreetly for Spink, their 2017 catalogues get a lot of technical both classic and modern philately added if you love all the nuances of pre-1900 stamps or the phosphorescent bands of recent definitives.

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