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Michel Online Catalogue

Review by Daniel Piazza

Created and maintained by Schwaneberger Verlag GmbH, Unterschleissheim, Germany. Annual subscription fees 58.80 (standard) or 94.68 (premium). Accessed 11 July 2006.

Schwaneberger Verlag GmbH, the premier German-language philatelic publisher, has launched an online version of their Michel line of stamp catalogues. At present, the electronic edition comprises all 4 volumes of the Europe catalogue and all 10 volumes of the Overseas catalogue. Curiously, the Germany Specialized catalogue (2 volumes in the print version) is only complete from 1945 to the present; the publisher promises to begin adding pre-1945 listings "this winter." In all, subscribers have access to 580,000 listings, 1.5 million catalogue values, and 275,000 illustrations.

The most innovative feature of the online catalogueue is that listings can be searched by topic as well as by country, year of issue, and catalogue number. All non-numeric search terms must be entered in German, however, so if you collect chess on stamps, for example, you will need to search for "schach" (returns 358 results). If you don't have an English-German dictionary lying around, online translators such as Babelfish work well for one- or two-word phrases. Topical collectors will find this level of searchability most welcome!

The poor quality of the stamp images available to standard users is frustrating. Fewer than half of the listings are illustrated, and those that are often show only a single stamp in the set. The clarity is abysmal: most images are fewer than 100 square pixels and some appear to be black-and-white scans from the paper catalogues. A few are barely recognizable as stamps!

Annual fees are 58.80 (approx. $75) for a standard subscription, which includes access to all of the content described above, or 94.68 (approx $121) for premium, which includes higher resolution images, the ability to query the catalogue by ranges of dates and catalogue numbers, and a "sticky note" tool that lets the user annotate catalogue listings for their own use.

A significant drawback is that month-to-month subscriptions are not available; users must pay for an entire year up front. Moreover, a close reading of the Web site's terms and conditions reveals that two months' notice is required to cancel a subscription. Still, the price is less than one-tenth that of a complete set of the paper catalogues, which can easily run to well over $1000.

A demo version that lets visitors view 25 randomly selected online catalogue entries, is available by pointing your Web browser to http://www.michel.de and then clicking Online-Katalog > Demo > Anmelden.

So why is Scott still monkeying around with those clunky and not-very-useful CD-ROMs?

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