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Botanical Postage Stamp Collection at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library: Home

About the Collection

Stamp from Guatemala featuring yellow orchidsThe Botanical Postage Stamp Collection at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden was established in 2008 with the donation of a large collection of botanically-related philatelic material by James Luteyn.  This collection consists of stamps from around the world, housed in archival quality philatelic stock sheets, arranged by country and held in 13 large 3-ring binders. The collection was amassed over approximately 30 years between 1970 and 2000.  A subsequent donation was received from William Burk in 2011. This gift consists of two smaller volumes of stamps and related material, picturing mushrooms, again issued by countries from around the world.  These collections were supplemented by a small amount of miscellaneous philatelic material obtained from various sources, generally individuals.

NYBG Library staff worked with NYBG Volunteer and Philatelist Alan Steinfeld who was the primary cataloger of the collection.

Cataloging Decisions

Cataloging the collection was accomplished using a spreadsheet with columns for each of several defining elements for each item. Each stamp is described in the spreadsheet using information taken directly from the stamp such as the country or other issuing entity. The name of the issuing entity is standardized to the description of that entity in the 2006 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.  When the stamp was not found in the Scott catalogue, it was assigned a number from another catalog, e.g. Yvert et Tellier, Stanley Gibbons, etc.  In a few cases, material was found not to be of philatelic origin and while it is retained in the collection, no catalog number was assigned. To be able to quickly and easily locate an individual stamp in the collection each item is given a number corresponding to its location in the collection. The elements of the identification number are designated using the donor name & binder volume number, page in the volume, row on the page and position along the row.  

Stamps are further described by the predominant color of the plant or flower depicted.  The genus, species and/or common name are also recorded.  This information is obtained from the stamp itself or from the catalog listing.  In some cases, the spelling of the scientific plant name as it appeared on the stamp or in the catalog is at odds with the name as it appears in the International Plant Names Index (IPNI.)  In these cases, the IPNI name is used.  Some stamps featured plants in the background where the main feature of the stamp is an animal, insect or place.  In these instances, the genus and species of the animal or insect is used.  A notes column in the spreadsheet allows for the recording of additional information (e.g. non-philatelic item, unofficial issue, etc.)

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