Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 11, NO. 3 / MARCH 1985 / PAGE 118

Keeping track of your stamp collection the easy way. (evaluation) William F. Sharpe.

The personal computer is an ideal tool for a stamp collector who wants to keep track of his or her collection. Consider the variety of items collected. Several hundred countries issue stamps. Of these, most offer a bewildering array of stamps--standard issue, commemorative, airmail, semi-postal, parcel post, postage due, official, hunting, special delivery, and certified mail. There are mint stamps, used stamps, blocks of four, plate blocks, zip code blocks, coils, and booklet panes. There are se-tenant stamps (two adjacent stamps of different designs, even sheets of 50 stamps, all with different designs). There are subtle variations in color and design, perforation differences, gum varieties, watermarked and unwatermarked stamps.

Many collectors don't segregate their stamps by country but rather by topic. Specialized collection topics include space, dogs, cats, flags, maps, computers and even "stamps on stamps."

Most serious collectors have developed their own systems to keep track of their holdings, duplicates, and want lists. These methods range from complete loose-leaf albums with pre-printed forms which allow the collector to check off his holdings as simple a method as checking off entries in a catalog or price list to show ownership.

Collectors who want to keep track of the value of their stamps have an added problem in that prices fluctuate. Values as published in annual catalogs go up or down-- often on an annual basis.

A computer won't eliminate the drudgery of creating an initial inventory list, but it will permit quick updates and changes and manipulation of existing information in a variety of formats.

Essentially, there are three approaches a collector can take in setting up a computerized inventory program. The first offers the greatest flexibility, but is at the same time open to the fewest collectors: you can write your own program. The advantage of this method is that the program can be tailored exactly to your needs, but before you can even consider this approach, you must be familiar with Basic or some other programming language. Even then, you will spend a great deal of time debugging and refining the program so it does exactly what you want.

The second approach is to use an existing spreadsheet, file management, or database management program to handle your lists. A spreadsheet can be easily adapted to a stamp inventory and offers the additional advantage of being able to calculate the number of stamps held and their value. It is also easy to use the "what-if" features of a spreadsheet to estimate, for example, what the value of a collection would be if, say, mint stamps appreciated 10% a year and used stamps went up 5% annually.

A simple file management program or a complete database can also be set up to handle a collection to whatever depth of detail the collector desires. Using dBase III to keep track of stamps may be considered overkill, but if you are using such a program for some other purpose, there is no reason you couldn't set up a stamp inventory with it.

Finally, there are specialized programs designed especially for collectors. In most cases, the setup is vastly simplified so that you can begin entering your inventory information with a minimum of preparation. Programs of this sort range in price from $14.95 to $299.95. Specialized programs for dealers and auction houses are also available--some at even higher prices. Philatelic Management System

SoftStyle provides the most complete inventory program I have come across. Their Philatelic Management System (PMS) is available for Apple and IBM PC-compatible machines. The package includes more than 40 programs with many listing and reporting capabilities.

PMS is versatile because of the integration of the individual programs. As in any inventory system you must enter information about your stamps, but the system makes entry very easy--as simple as filling out an on-screen form. The form permits entry of the following information about any catalog item or set: quantity, unit value, total value, pricing date, lot number, acquisition information including purchase price, sales information, condition, type of stamp, description, and up to four lines of remarks. You may skip any of these entry items but they are available as needed.

Normally stamps are sequenced by catalog number, but it is possible to sort them by year of issue, topic, denomination, or any other way that is useful to you.

The system includes six key files:

* The album list file is the master index of all the albums or holders fro your philatelic items. The file contains one record for each album in your collection.

* The album contents files hold the inventories of all the items you have in a specific album. For each album you set up a file to hold the records for each stamp, set, series, or other grouping in that particular album. The number of items you can record is unlimited, as you can add more disks at will.

* The catalog list file contains a list of all the catalogs and price lists you use. It is similar to the album list file in that it contains one record for each catalog or price list you use.

* The catalog contents files hold your price lists. You can enter the latest catalog values in one of these files and the system will, with one command, automatically place the current catalog values into the various album contents files that contain those stamps.

* The address file is a master name and address list of all the companies and people with whom you deal.

* The transaction file keeps track of all additions to and dispositions from your collection. You can analyze this file in a variety of useful ways.

It isn't necessary to know much about files or disk formatting to use PMS as the program provides special menus with options in plain English. U.S. Stamp Inventory Management System

Crockett Software provides a reasonably complete and inexpensive program for the Radio Shack line of computers, including the Color Computer 2. The price is $39.95 for the cassette version and $44.95 for a disk version.

Crockett's program includes three modules: MODIFY, which creates an inventory file and permits additions, deletions, and changes; INVENTORY, which lists, updates, computes total or partial values, and allows results to be displayed either on the screen or by printout; and RETUP, which provides a quick and easy way to update retail prices.

Entries are made by catalog number. You can include a want list within the program by entering zero as the quantity for a stamp listing. The program doesn't sort, but additions to the catalog list can be placed in their correct numerical locations. The inventory is maintained in up to 91 allocated files which you can activate/deactivate as necessary. The initial menu display allows you to enter values in any one of the following classes: general issues, revenues, stationery, postage dues, official, and confederate.

Screen prompts guide you in entering the correct information for each stamp, such as Scott catalog number, classification, quantity, condition code, price paid, and retail price. Help is available by pressing the H key--a fairly sophisticated aid for such an inexpensive program.

The manual that comes with the program is fan all uppercase printout on 8 1/2 by 11 sheets, but it is quite readable, complete, and easy to follow. Setting up the activation of files initially is a little tricky, but you really have to do it only once, with perhaps a few modifications later on. The program allows printouts which can be complete reproductions of all the information put in, total cost and retail value summaries, or selected listings, such as plate blocks only. Stamp Inventory

Another straightforward inventory program, this time for the Commodore 64 computer, is provided by Robert B. Gear. It is not quite as versatile as the Crockett program, but it is available for $25 in either tape or disk format.

Gear's program allows 750 catalog items to be stored in each of eight available file categories. The main menu provides eight options, including adding, deleting, or changing inventory; listing inventory by stamp type or catalog number; reading or saving data from or to tape or disk; print options; and a dollar total of your investment.

The eight file categories include four for regular issues; one for airmail and back of book; one for envelopes, postal cards, and revenue; one for U.S. Administration and United Nations stamps; and one as a stock book category. Instructions with the program explain how to set your own file categories for other countries or sepcialized collections. A want list program is also included with the package. It has the same features as the inventory program and can hold up to 1000 catalog items. The Stamp Program

William E. Rudd has developed a program for the Texas Instruments 99/4A computer, which requires TI's Extended Basic, a 32K memory expansion, a single disk drive system, and an optional printer. The Stamp Program lets you name the country and catalog you wish to use.

The program lets you add stamps to your list, search for a particular stamp, display all the stamps in a file from first to last, showing catalog number, quantity, condition, and price, three stamps at a time. Entries can be set up in proper order. If you get rid of stamp, it is easy to delete the record from your file.

Rudd is a stamp collector and claims that the program is completely user-friendly. You don't have to know how to program, he says, all you have to be able to do is read. The program sells for $39.95. The Collector

The Collector inventory program is available from CNC Galleries for Apple II computers. The program requires one disk drive, Applesoft Basic, and an optional printer.

Collector allows you to enter new information about your stamps, print this information on the screen or the printer, modify an entry, and delete information from your files. Sorting by Scott (or whatever catalog numbering system you care to use) is automatic.

Collector requires no computer experience, but if you are familiar with Basic you can modify the program to suit your special needs. At least 344 items can be placed in any single file designation, and five or more files can be stored on one disk. An unlimited inventory can be accumulated by using multiple disks for storage.

Individual files can be printed as want lists, auction lists, etc. or can be grouped by countries, grades, types, or other category. The program is available on disk for $29.95. Custom Business Series

Custom Business Systems has introduced a collection of computer systems designed primarily for dealers but also interest to advanced collectors. The system is designed to use a database reflecting industry-accepted catalogs. The most novel feature is the use of coded catalog disks available for major countries of interest. The stamp database is maintained on floppy disks, storing up to 1800 stamp numbers per disk side. Data consist of the stamp number, the latest catalog price, the number of stamps in the inventory, the dealer purchase price, and the total number of sales for the particular stamp.

All stamp numbers, including extensions, are contained in the database regardless of whether there are any in the inventory. This arrangement provides a truly automated complete catalog of existing stamp numbers independent of the dealer's inventory. The programs are available in three levels at prices ranging from $199.50 to $499.50 for the TRS-80, Atari, Apple, IBM PC, and CP/M systems. Ben Franklin Stamp Collector

The Ben Franklin Stamp Collector series for the IBM Personal Computer is available for $59.95 from 1Step Software, Inc. The program requires at least one disk drive, 64K of memory, an 80-column display, and a printer. The inventory information for each stamp entry includes the catalog number, quantity, condition of stamp, price paid, and date purchased. The program will store up to 4500 entries on a single-sided disk, 9000 on a double-sided disk, and 300,000 on a 10 Mb hard disk.

The command menu, which is displayed on the screen after loading the program disk, permits adding stamps to your collection, correcting information about your stamps, deleting stamps, and listing the collection. An instruction screen is available for each of these menu selections. For example, if you want to add stamps, the instruction screen tells you what information must be entered, the permissible range of values for that information, and the condition code numbers (1-9).

Although this program permits a good control of records, the printing option is limited to a columnar listing of record number, catalog number, quantity, condition code, and price. There is no option to print out more detail or selected portions of your stamp inventory. Philasoft

Boca Raton Stamps has issued a set of Philasoft programs for the Commodore 64. Boca Raton provides a most helpful feature: a set of sample files to manipulate so that you can gain experience before creating your own files.

Philasoft-V is the main inventory program. It allow you to create a new file or access an already created file, add a new catalog number, change any field in a category, change the quantity of each stamp or set, delete any catalog number, and provide a screen display of any valid catalog number.

Philasoft-IV offers searching by description or condition and can produce a full 80-column output to your printer. Philasoft-II is the main report generator, which allows printing of full or annotated reports. Stamp Collector

MicroClear provides the Stamp Collector program for the Commodore Vic 20 and C64 computers, on tape or disk for $29.95. There are three modules on the disk: EDIT, REPORT and BACKUP.

The EDIT program controls the type of information to be stored about each stamp issue. In this mode you can enter up to two catalog numbers for each issue, the face denomination of the stamp, color, physical condition, mint or used, catalog value, perforation, watermark, physical size, gum information, year od issue, and remarks. There is also a provision to indicate whether or not a particular issue is actually in your collection.

The REPORT program generates an 80-column hard copy report of your collection. It will print out the entered categories and also report the total number of stamps, used or mint, total number of issues, and total dollar value for each category.

The BACKUP program is an unusual module that permits you to make additional copies of your files to be stored somewhere other than where your stamps are located or where your primary files are kept. Note that the Vic 20 version of this program requires an 8K expansion memory cartridge. Stamps

Gordon T. Trotter has developed Stamps, the Stamp Collector's Inventory and Want List program, on disk for the Apple II + computer. The program allows storing information about each stamp, block, set or other item, including catalog numbers, mint or used, value, notes, and number of copies in the collection.

It is easy to change catalog values listed for stamps when new catalogs are issued. You can also produce an inventory list or want list, tailored as desired with maximum or minimum values. Stamps prompts you in clear, concise English, so it is simple to "put your stamp collection on the computer." The price is $50. Collector's Database

Collector's Database from Munroe Software is a general-purpose program for keeping track of almost any type of collectible. It runs on a 32K Atari 400/800 disk system. Each data disk can hold up to 700 records, each of which can be up to 120 characters long. Additional data disks can be sued to extend the file capacity.

Data records are entered and edited interactively; moreover, the order of fields and field sorting can be changed. For example, you could scan a list by catalog number or by price. Furthermore, you can search records on any number of fields to get, for example, all imperforates prior to 1930 with a catalog value over $10. Numeric fields can be totaled to get a total value for the collection or total cost to fill in the holes. This is a very versatile program at a surprisingly modest price ($21.95 postpaid). Stamps

A second program called Stamps is in the Home Organizer series from Batteries Included. The program runs on a Commodore 64 disk system.

The format of a record is fixed and includes country, demoniation, number in set, size, shape, condition, color, and value. To some collectors this fixed format may be somewhat restrictive as it does not easily allow for plate blocks or FDCs, nor, astoundingly, does it include a catalog number or issue date in the record!

Data are easily entered and edited. Searching is done by entering a character string (say, "F-VF" in the condition field) or character(s) plus question marks for a wild card search. Search variables can be logically combined to search for, say, all U.S. red 3-cent stamps. The program can sort on any field, total the values, and print reports. StampMasstore

StampMasstore from SoftShore Enterprises is a menu-driven program for an Apple II disk system with a printer. From the menu, you can browse through the data file: create want, inventory, and price lists; add or delete items; and open and close files. A sample data file is included on the disk.

The file format is partially fixed and partially open. Each entry (stamp, block, cover, etc.) must be described in 40 characters or less. Since this field is used for sorting, it should start out with a four-digit Scott number; leading zeroes must be filled in or numbers below 999. The fixed part of the format is the 14 (!) grades (or conditions). You enter the number of stamps you have in each grade and the value of each.

The list is always kept on the disk in Scott number order. You can, however, request three different types of lists to be printed: total inventory, inventory by dollar value, and want list (those with quantity 0 in the database). There is not provision for specifying several conditionals.

Products: Ben Franklin Stamp Collector (computer program)
Collector's Database (computer program)
The Collector (computer program)
Custome Business Series (computer program)
Philatelic Management Systems (computer program)
Stamp Collector (computer program)
Stamp Inventory (computer program)
Stamp Masstore (computer program)
The Stamp Program (computer program)
Stamps (computer program)
U.S. Stamp Inventory Management System (computer program)