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Canada Specialized Books - Feedback, Reviews, Awards
Updated: Apr 15, 1999

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Feedback (comments)

  • I wish to thank you for your diligent work in compiling all the information on Canadian Definitives. I am happy that the info is in one book...Keep up the excellent work. Thornhill, Ontario
  • Your catalogs will be great help to me. You deserve the thanks of all collectors of Canada for the time and the scholarship you have put into the catalogs. Westerville, Ohio
  • Thanks for all the research and congratulations for the fine pieces of work. via Internet
  • I have just received copies of your excellent books from Peter Harris of Lowestoft in the UK. I must congratulate you on producing such useful books on modern Canadian issues.Coventry, UK via Internet
  • Thank you for a very good series of new publications you have produced. You have managed to put it all very straightforward and easy to read and understand.South Glamorgan, UK

Reviews

[ CSN, Linn's, ESC, BNA Topics ESC]
[ Karsh, Wilding, Cameo: CSN, Maple Leaves ]

  • Canadian Stamp News, June 10, 1997; review of ORAPEX '97 literature exhibition: It was Robin Harris' Specialized Catalogue - Canadian definitives in five volumes, however, that got even greater attention. Seen as a significant development in cataloguing modern Canadian stamps, it was awarded Vermeil and a Special Prize. Harris' meticulous research, which will get more detailed treatment in a future column of "Philatelic Bookshelf," is outstanding.
  • Canadian Stamp News, June 24, 1997; Philatelic Bookshelf by Michael O. Nowlan: Five-volume series on Canadian definitives issued over the last 25 years, sure to hit a market hungry for organized information.

    ...what the marketplace needed was a catalogue that would be exclusive and user-friendly.

    D. Robin Harris' new five-volume series fills that need in a manner not seen for definitives in this country or perhaps any other country with the exception of the British Machins. Harris takes all the definitives from 1972, and, after much research and careful documentation, sets out a catalogue that is second to none.

    For each volume, Harris introduces the topic and illustrates it with a time line diagram. He also presents a "Series at a Glance" feature which will assist collectors with a checklist and to set goals for their collection. His background information continues with a 'standard' listing for each of the subjects that includes a specific release date schedule, postal strikes, usage, withdrawal dates, pane layouts, imprints, tagging, and much more.

    Robin Harris then takes each stamp in one page, sometimes two, and gives it thorough treatment with all the known information on the stamp. In other words, this five-volume work makes modern definitives exciting and collectible.

    ...

    Collectors of Canadiana have long been restricted to the standard catalogues for too long. Robin Harris' Canadian Definitives Series, already a high award winner (Vermeil at C4NPLE 1997) will change all that...

    No collector can boast of the thoroughness of a collection of contemporary definitives without consulting Harris' work. Moreover, Harris shows collecting modern definitives can be fun and not too expensive.

    ...

    [see the Canadian Stamp News, June 24, 1997, page 14 edition for a full review.]

  • Linn's Stamp News, July 28, 1997; Collecting Canada by John Burnett: Series details modern Canadian definitives

    Kudos to D. Robin Harris for his new five-part series of books on Canadian definitive stamps of the last quarter century - five 8 1/2 by 11 inch monographs priced so that collectors should be able to afford the entire set.

    ...

    I am impressed that Harris called upon recognized experts in various fields, such as Canadian perfins and booklets, to help in making these books the best tools possible...

    ...

    As most collectors of Canadian stamps from the current reign are amply aware, there has been very little support (including worthwhile philatelic literature) for the last four decades of Canadian issues. The Harris series represents a major contribution to the available literature for this vital, dynamic period, and I recommend it highly.

    [see the Linn's Stamp News, July 28, 1997, page 32 edition for a full review.]

  • Edmonton Stamp Club Bulletin, Vol 86, No 9, by Peter F R Kirchmeir: Demon Definitives: Books on Canadian Definitives, 1972-1996

    Definitives are the poor relations of the stamp collecting world. Yes, there are several well known definitives that are specialized to the utmost limit, such as the Transportation series in the USA, with its Coil Plate Number Study Group, or the Machins in the UK. Generally, though, definitives are barely mentioned at club meetings, except when a spectacular error is found or a freak misperf or miscut shows up on an envelope.

    The first stamps that the young people usually notice are these very definitives. They depict patriotic or natural symbols of the country. They are colourfull or repetitive as the case may be, but that is still nearly always the first philatelic contact. When a commemorative appears, it is noticed because it is different. Try and get acquaintances to keep stamps for you and they will throw out the definitives, because "they are the ordinary ones, you don't want them, do you, there are so many of them?" It is this very abundance that intrigues and can be a source of endless searching and delight.

    Off-centre printings and colour misregistrations are easy to spot. As are the many 'ickies, donuts', and other printing aberrations that are confused with printing errors. Though these are nice to put into a collection with headings that reflect their position, such as 'Moon over the Library', how is one to discover what is deemed a desirable variation or just a nice printing bubble freak?

    The piles and heaps can be searched for the straight edge combinations. The next step is to reconstruct a booklet. But where is one to find the combinations? Canadian and many other countries' definitives have tagging and all their attendant variations. Not to mention the paper types and the phosphorescence that impregnates the paper or ink or is superposed on the design. Then, again, have these definitives been forged? Faked? Coils turned into imperf varieties? Most general catalogues do not give this information for the post WW II era. Study Groups have their own publications. Specialized catalogues are hard to find, and usually are too narrow for the neophyte or general collector.

    Canada has long missed a publication that combines all this information on a definitive series into one book. Despair no more: the need is alleviated.

    It is with great pleasure then that D. Robin Harris' five books on the latest five definitive series of Canada have come to my attention. The historical notes and background are very thorough. Each stamp is given its due, even unto the more esoteric perforation varieties, partial tagging from 'bleeding' in booklets, booklet covers, labels, etc. The pictorial elements are clear, the diagrams have just enough detail without confusing the reader (except, perhaps some of the timelines showing postal usage). Specialized and general lists are provided and are appealing. For a specialized catalogue, the format breaks new ground in presentation and in the amount and type of information contained. Some readers may cavil at the large size, which does not easily fit in with the other Canadian specialized catalogues, but this is more than compensated for by the thoughtful comprehensive combination of information on each page.

    In fact, they cover all you thought you knew and them some. Read these tomes and have fun looking through those mountains of 'ordinary' stamps for the varieties listed... They were deservedly awarded vermeil medals at Orapex, 1997 and at the APS Stampshow in Milwaukee, August 1997.

  • BNA Topics, Jan-Feb-Mar 1998, by John D. Arn Modern Canada Definitives: Five New Books by Robin Harris

    The May - June 1996 issue of Corgi Times, the Elizabethan II Study Group newsletter, announced "there are important happenings about to occur in the Elizabethan period. Robin Harris is planning five comprehensive handbooks covering each of the definitive series subsequent to the Centennial definitive issues." A year later, the May - June 1997 issue of the newsletter reported "the five books were released three months ago. I have now had an opportunity to review the entire set and can only reaffirm my previous reports that they are excellent and a set should be in every members library."

    Timing permitted the entire set of books to be entered in Canada's 4th National Philatelic Literature Exhibition held during ORAPEX'97. The set received a Vermeil award - an outstanding accomplishment.

    Eight months later (this is being written in February, 1998) my original assessment has not changed and reports I receive continue to confirm the excellence of the books. While marketed as five individual books I believe they should be referred to as handbooks. A handbook has the connotation of being the definitive works on a specific subject. A book is whatever the author decides to include between the covers. Here we have five high quality handbooks:

    • 1972-78 Caricature and Landscape
    • 1977-89 Environment
    • 1982-89 Artifact & Parliament
    • 1987-96 Wildlife & Architecture
    • 1989-96 Fruit & Flag

    The objective in preparing this series was to assemble all of the information needed to form an in-depth collection of each definitive series. This meant including background data, historical notes, series and specific period time lines, rates and usage, perfins, and complete booklet coverage including pane layouts. Terminology and abbreviations are explained, significant errors are listed, tagging is explained and illustrated, catalogue numbers, values, checklist capability for both mint and used, quantity information, withdrawal dates and more are all provided.

    Several years ago while mounting my Caricature and Landscape material for exhibiting, I had at least ten different catalogues and special subject books in constant use as I worked my way through the project. I still experienced a great deal of frustration over missing information. Now, virtually all aspects of each series is available in Robin Harris's handbooks.

    Anyone who has avoided modern Canada definitive stamps because of lack of knowledge need do so no longer. With a bit of study, these handbooks quickly prepare the reader to participate in modern Canada philately.

    Another facet of the project was bringing the complete package to market at one time. All five handbooks were immediately available either coil bound or 3-hole punched. For anyone specializing in a series or the entire series the 3 hole punched system is a super offering since it facilitates a number of aspects: pages may be rearranged to fit your own specific objectives (for example I am fairly deep in the Environment Series but I assemble the series differently); the 3-ring binder permits adding supplementary material such as personal notes, findings, photocopies, other articles as well as future revisions or additions.

    Finally, for those preferring prepared album pages as well those who carefully restrict the erosion of their hobby time from undue intrusion of the computer Mr. Harris has available a set of album pages for each Series. For prices contact Saskatoon Stamp Centre (Mr. Harris joined the Saskatoon Stamp Centre on 1 Sept.1997).

    Looking ahead, two additional handbooks are planned: the Karsh/Wilding[/Cameo] Series and the Centennial Series. Timing for these has not been announced, but both are expected later this year.

    Should anything have been included or changed? I think not. Small nit-picks are always possible but not significant. While the handbooks are very readable a larger font size would have been nice. Realistically, to have done so would have introduced massive complexities in the layout let alone added costs of production.

  • Canadian Stamp News, March 2, 1999; review of Karsh, Wilding, Cameo book: For a long time, definitives were often scoffed at or dismissed, but collectors today have many reasons and opportunities to compile a collection of definitives. They are often organized into wonderful exhibits that get attention at major stamp shows. Robin Harris' Canadian Definitive Series will encourage many to pursue collections with accuracy and very informed content.

    Mr. Harris' latest, Karsh, Wilding, Cameo Definitives examines definitives issued during 1952-53, 1954-62, and 1962-66 respectively in a format similar to the first five volumes.

    The author clearly infers collecting modern definitives is a challenge, and his theory supports this. Among the three definitive series in the new volume are 29 face-different designs that "have produced over 120 'major' varieties, plus nearly 600 perfins, plus over 100 errors and plate varieties. Throw in the booklets and over 300 stationery items", and there are at least 1,000 collectibles. That was for a 14 year period when Canada did not issue many stamps.

    As other titles in this series have already denoted, the later definitives, especially after 1978, are much more complicated and, therefore, have many more combinations.

    Harris uses a special "time line" scheme that makes sense in order to understand the dates and the issues.

    He uses diagrams, charts, and hundreds of illustrations to enable users to locate information and enhance their collections. He includes all definitives, not only those issued with the Queen's head or the flag, and he writes on dates of issue, rates and usage, cancellations, pane layouts, control numbers, pre-cancel warning strips, officials, and several other common characteristics.

    The illustrations alone are worth the price of admission to this new volume. Some, the author admits, may not be great reproductions, but they serve to give a respectable impression of the stamps in question. His arrangement, including covers and booklets, defines very precise data.

    What makes Harris' work significant and user friendly is his consistency with a standard layout. It may be a little early to predict, but this definitive series is setting a pattern that will have lasting influence.

    An inescapable fact or in books on contemporary stamps is the new information that is certain to come to light. Harris has included a six-page addendum at the back of Karsh, Wilding, Cameo Definitives which lists new finds, catalogue number changes, and other corrections for the first five volumes. A list is available free if you have those volumes.

    I take marks away from this book because its cover is both cover and title page while the first page of the book is the table of contents. I will not belabour this matter since it is an all too common fault among many philatelic titles.

    Format aside, Karsh, Wilding, Cameo Definitives adds another significant volume to this remarkable series of catalogues on modern Canadian definitives. Harris calls it an on-going series, so the next volume will be welcome.

  • Maples Leaves, April 1999 (Journal of Canadian Philatelic Society of Great Britain); review of Karsh, Wilding, Cameo book: This is Robin Harris' sixth book on Elizabethan definitives and takes us back to the beginning of the era with the Karsh, Wilding and Cameo issues 1952-66. The previous five each covered a specific issue: Caricatures, Environment, Artifacts, Wildlife and Fruit; readers familiar with these previous volumes will know what to expect and will not be disappointed. Not only that but the latest volume contains a six-page listing of additions and corrections to those previous works. The updates can also be obtained as separate leaflets and are free to owners of any of the previous volumes who may not want the latest book.

    Anyone coming to the series for the first time will be staggered by the amount of information and analysis therein and yet the layout is such that reference is simple and one can collect to the depth that one wishes, using the handbooks as a basis.

    Apart from the basic priced listings of stamps and stationery, each value is examined individually as to paper, tagging, perfins, varieties etc. and every aspect is priced. Dates of issue, imprints, postal rates, cancellations, precancels; its all there. It may seem trivial but, for instance, there are four clear illustrations of the variations of the official 'G' overprint: not so trivial when one notes that a 'flying G' on the 5O Textile of the Karsh series is listed at $6, the 'blunt G' at $250 and the 'fishhook G' at $500 mint. All prices are in Canadian dollars by the way.

    It is well known that reviewers love to find errors and omissions so I searched for reference to the postal forgery of the 4 Cameo. To my chagrin it was there, both on and off cover. Any disappointment at being thwarted was much ameliorated by a very satisfying price!

    The author himself makes some apology for lack of quality in some of the illustrations and gives reasons therefor; the quality of the paper may also have some bearing on this aspect but don't be put off; what needs to be illustrated can clearly be seen. For many years, for many people, the Centennial series was perceived as the only Elizabethan stamps of Canada worthy of study. Robin Harris has gone a very long way to disproving that belief.


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