Monthly Archives: November 2011

  1. TSA Postal History

    TSA Postal History

    Last weekend I spent some time with the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, the government agency that operates under the Department of Homeland Security to make our air travel safer. TSA has a variety of hard to understand rules about what you can and cannot take through security when you fly on a commercial airliner. The rules often seem arbitrary and changeable though to give TSA the benefit of the doubt, they are probably responding to Intelligence intercepts alerting them to dangers that would be counterproductive to inform the public of. If you are like me though, you have brought to security "forbidden items" by accident which you have to toss away or, in the case of a bottle of fine champagne I had to toss recently, donate to the TSA party fund. Several years ago I had my favorite pair of stamp tongs in my briefcase, a pair that I had had for over twenty years and which had the exact right tension and fit for me as well as having been my pair through thousands of hours

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  2. Apfelbaum's Corner

    Apfelbaum's Corner

    For over thirty years, from 1965 to 1987, my Grandfather, Earl Apfelbaum published a weekly column in Linns Stamp News, called Apfelbaum's Corner. In the very first article he said that his model for the articles were a series of car columns that had run in the Philadelphia Bulletin in the 1930's and 1940's called Rolling Wheels, which were written by a local car dealer. Their purpose was not overtly commercial. Rather, the intent was to create what was really the world's first blog, an intent to entertain and educate and create customer loyalty by telling stories and writing about matters of interest to collectors. Earl rarely tried to sell anything in his articles. He told stories about his early days in the hobby and how collecting changed during his lifetime. At one time in the late 1970's collectors voted Apfelbaum's Corner as Linns magazine's most popular feature and Linns even offered my Grandfather the option of having the column run for free (which if you knew the management

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  3. "Black Friday" name originated by Martin Apfelbaum

    "Black Friday" name originated by Martin Apfelbaum

    Here's something we didn't know

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  4. Cyber Monday

    Cyber Monday

    The Internet has become a huge sales tool and it is just a matter of time before online sales overtake walk in retail sales in gross volume. Some products, such as books and especially music, are already sold mainly on line and each year brings a higher proportion of sales in these fields away from brick and mortar businesses. Some industries, such as car sales seem like they will always resist the Internet as the point of sale device, but car and electronics salespeople say that most buyers seem to have done quite a bit of online homework before they come in. It's hard to remember that there was a stamp business before the Internet. Hundreds of retail stamp stores existed in major cities around the world and hundreds of stamp shows and bourses competed to bring collectors and dealers together. Now a few clicks of a mouse and literally millions of stamps are on offer instantaneously on the Internet from the comfort of your home or office. Apfelbaum is honoring cyber Monday by having a 40%

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  5. New Issues

    New Issues

    In the 1980's mint new issues from British Colonies and Western Europe were marketed extensively as good investments. The theory was that as the number of collectors rose the newer issues would rise in value similarly to the way that the issues of the 1950's had risen by 1980. What the people who bought and sold these new issue investment portfolios didn't realize was that the cause of the rise in price of the earlier material was because insufficient quantities of 1950's and earlier material had been saved and not that demand was so much greater and would continue to increase. The increase in price in 1950's material was not a demand pull increase but rather a supply push as, because of World War II most of Europe and Britain were unable to afford expensive new issues during the 1950's and were catching up in the 1970's and buying those issues then.

     The people who invested heavily in the 1970's new issues have done poorly. We just sold at Public Auction an investment

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  6. Wikipedia


    Wikipedia is one of the wonders of the Internet. Containing over 20 million encyclopedia style articles, Wikipedia has over 100,000 active contributors and is visited by tens of millions of readers each month. If you visit the "stamp collecting" and "philately" entries on Wikipedia  you will see how cursory and elementary the articles are. For the most part the discussions of the origins of collecting or postal history or the various collecting paradigms that have been developed are good. But largely they never go quite far enough. They seem to be written by contributors with a good but not deep knowledge of their subject. Perhaps this is because most Wikipedia contributors tend to be younger, as you need to be quite computer literate to figure out how to contribute (and most expert philatelists are older). Too, contributors must provide references for every factual assertion and this is off putting to many who know things but don't want to go running

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  7. No News is Not Good News

    No News is Not Good News

    One of the hardest jobs in the world probably has to be generating news articles for Linns stamp magazine or any of the other weekly philatelic news journals. Is there really enough news to fill 64 pages with stamp news every week? Probably not. But Linns could do a better job of trying. The November 14th issue has a headline article about die cuts missing from Scott #4478-82 and a sub lede of a German commemorative of a Berlin church. As you page through the magazine you see a number of newer issue news articles, none of which most collectors care about.  Now I know that Linns is a news weekly and I know the difference between news and commentary but there really are not that many people interested in the type of news stories that Linns is producing. A far better concept would mix news and commentary (sort of a Time Magazine format) and encourage discussion and exploration of philatelic topics. And get more new writers and jazz up the writing a bit. Several of the columnists

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  8. Thanksgiving Thematics

    Thanksgiving Thematics

    As you sit around this Thanksgiving with family and friends waiting for the turkey dinner no doubt you have been wondering which American holidays are collected thematically and which aren't. There are five main work holidays in the United States-Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Presidents Day has probably the most number of thematic stamp collections with Lincoln Philately having a very long history in our hobby. Lincoln was on numerous stamps in the late Nineteenth century and on many more esoteric revenues as well. And because of his popularity as President you saw good collections of thematic Lincoln material even before topical collecting was it's own subset of philately. Memorial Day commemorates the end of the Civil War and Civil War Philately in one form or another is probably the first thematic collecting that existed. Independence Day has had no shortage of active philatelic followers with the American Revolution Bicentennial being marketed

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  9. United States First Issue Revenues

    United States First Issue Revenues

    The first issue revenues of the United States are some of the world's most attractive stamps and would be far more popular among US collectors if it wasn't for the perf, imperf, part perf problem. These stamps were issued to pay taxes on everything from bills of sale to stock and property transfers and the initial plan was to issue revenue stamps for each type of transaction. But from the first this proved impractical and any of these revenues could be used to pay any kind of tax (I've seen regular issues stamps too-specifically #65, 68 and 73- used on documents to pay taxes). In the rush to get these stamps to users at the start of the Civil War they were sent imperforate or sometimes part perforated
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  10. Philatelic Misnomers

    Philatelic Misnomers

    The world of philately is replete with euphemisms and misnomers. Some of them are deceptive. Most of them are silly. The American Philatelic Experization Service (the expert group of the APS) for many years marketed themselves under their acronym APES, never cognizant that in the competitive world of expertizing services one shouldn't voluntarily place oneself lower on the evolutionary tree. And perhaps the height of  tastelessness is the euphemism "Closed Albums" for philatelic obituaries. I mean really! But this phraseology, though tacky, is harmless compared to the assault on language made by philatelists in minimizing faults and exaggerating quality. "Expertly Restored" is favored when the seller is attempting to foist off a repair as a genuine item.  A repaired stamp is considered damaged and must be sold as such, usually at a great discount from the perfect price. But oddly, "restored" covers are acceptable in the postal

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  11. The Leaf Blower Index

    The Leaf Blower Index

     The value of most United States stamps have been falling over the last twenty years. And the CPI has been rising. Critics have claimed that the CPI overemphasizes increases in food, fuel and housing (until the last few years at least). We have not understood that price increases have been commodity driven and that many existing goods and non commodity goods have remained stable in price or even declined, just as stamps have. I refer of course to the economic metric known as the Lawn Blower Index ( the "LBI"), a personal index of prices and inflation which I compiled yesterday. Specifically, it was time to blow some leaves and clean out my garage yesterday and my gas powered leaf blower was broken. About twenty years ago I bought this low end gas blower for $149. Home Depot had one yesterday at $99 and it is about ten times easier to use, lighter and which blows more leaves per gallon.

     A US #1

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  12. "TEN" and The Frameline

    "TEN" and The Frameline

    Confederate States regular issues consist of fourteen Scott issued stamps that were issued over a period of four years during which the Civil War was fought. There are only two scarce stamps and both of these issues occurred when the Confederate States Post Office decided to change issues in 1863 . The new stamps were originally printed with the denomination in letters rather than in numerals. The history of having the denomination of stamps written in letters rather than numerals is one of generally short issues and low press runs. Postal workers hate them. Post office work has always combined high volume with stress and monotony which can be an unpleasant combination. Not being able to readily determine the denomination on the stamps on the envelopes presented to them slows postal workers down. It was for this reason that the denomination was changed to numerals and the TEN variety had a short press run. The "Frameline" varieties were varieties where framelines were

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  13. Kennedy Thematic Collecting

    Kennedy Thematic Collecting

     Presidential topical collections in general are not very popular largely because there is so little philatelic
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  14. First Stamp Albums

    First Stamp Albums

    The kids today didn't invent status symbols. Even nerdy stamp collectors have their hierarchies and when I was a young collector in the 1960's status in collecting was acted out in the kind of stamp album that you had (or that your parents bought for you). We all had Harris albums in my stamp club. Scott albums were out of the question-sort of a high power rifle when we all wanted BB guns. The question was what Harris album did you have. The Chevrolet of albums was the Harris Ambassador with room for 15,000 or so stamps. The upscale but still middle class line was taken by the Statesman Deluxe album (which I am proud to say was my first album) and, for showoffs, there was the Citation album boasting space for over 50,000 stamps. Of course we all had to bring our albums to our club meetings and to Cub Scouts and to each others houses to trade. The Ambassador and Statesman Deluxe kids had light weight, easily managed albums that even a youth could comfortably carry

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  15. Ryukyu Islands

    Ryukyu Islands

    There is one entire country under the United States collecting umbrella that has issued hundreds of stamps, which is popular on two continents and which is completable by even collectors of modest means. The country is the Ryukyu Islands which were captured during WWII by the United States at an enormous loss of life and which were administered by us as a territory until 1972. The stamps of the Ryukyu Island have a Japanese flavor and are avidly collected in Japan. There is one great rarity Scott #17 which is a provisional that was issued due to a rate change. Considering its rarity and that the stamp is from a country that is popular in both Japan and the United States, it sells for far less than it should
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  16. The Apfelbaum Guarantee

    The Apfelbaum Guarantee

    The reason you should buy your stamps from Apfelbaum is not our prices (which are very attractive) or our service and shipping (which is not only free, but is also the fastest). You should buy your stamps from Apfelbaum because we are the only stamp company that assures your complete satisfaction and safety to this degree: buy any stamp or lot and you may return it for any reason within thirty days for a full refund. Further, we guarantee every stamp we sell as being genuine and as described without time limit. This means if you buy a stamp from us and it ever turns out not to be genuine or if it has an undescribed fault we will take it back for a full refund at any time in the future, even years later.

     We ship virtually every order within 48 hours, answer all emails within hours (actually usually within minutes) and immediately refund on any returns. Our descriptions and evaluations of the stamps we sell are clear, accurate and conservative. When

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  17. Post Office Loses $5Billion

    Post Office Loses $5Billion

    No normal business can lose $5 billion and have the management stay intact and have no cohesive plan for turning things around. But then the United States Post Office is no normal business. Actually, despite being dressed up in capitalist cloth, it really isn't a business at all. It is a government agency and as a government agency the USPS is subject to lots of rules and regulations and accounting procedures that private enterprise never encounters. For instance, what business would be required to deliver its service to every spot in the United States at the same cost. A letter from my office to the most isolated spot in the fifty states or a letter sent next door costs the same 44c. Package rules and rates and classes of service have to vetted through a postal rate commission and deny the USPS the nimbleness to respond to competitors. Postal accounting makes pension benefits to employees far more expensive in current years than would be the case for private business. Labor negotiations

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  18. The Danger of Ignorance

    The Danger of Ignorance

    There is probably no activity more of an antidote to ignorance than philately. Ignorance is more than stupidity or incuriousness. It is deliberately lacking respect for learning and understanding as being valuable activities in a complex world.  With every hour with his stamps and covers, a philatelist is cultivating curiosity. Just yesterday I was working with a wonderful specialized collection of Russian and Ukrainian local issues. Not the Zemstovs, though they are one of the more fascinating philatelic fields, but the locals that were created in the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1992. Many of the nation states that Russia had incorporated in the Soviet Union broke apart and became separate countries. Some tried to break away and were unable to. Other just saw the political turmoil as an opportunity to issue a few stamps and make a bit of money. Now an ignorant person might look at this collection (and it was in fifteen volumes comprising thousands of different

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  19. Hungary


    The stamps of many Eastern European countries have gained tremendously in popularity and price in the last ten years and Hungary has been at the top of the second tier in this regard. Philatelically, the most active Eastern European country has been Russia. Even despite a pull back in the last few years, Soviet period Russian stamps have enjoyed enormous price gains and have been in a class by themselves.The second tier has been made up of Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. These three countries have seen great increases in the popularity and price of their stamps due to economic growth fueled by the fall of communism. Romania and Bulgaria started from a much lower base than Hungary and these countries have benefited
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  20. Peace of Westphalia

    Peace of Westphalia

    Printing technology was sophisticated enough for stamps to have been issued hundreds of years before 1840. But, philatelists are fortunate that stamps have been around for only 150 years. As it is now we have issues from nearly 2000 different political-philatelic subdivisions as recognized by Scott (and hundreds of more that are listed by world wide specialty catalogs). Areas such as France-Offices in China (Canton) and Nicaragua-Province of Zelaya (Bluefields) are real areas that issued stamps for real postal needs. Imagine if stamps had been issued through the Middle Ages though the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia. Much of the history of Europe over the last 1500 years has been of changing borders and political entities. Thousands of political jurisdictions have existed since the fall of the western Roman Empire. Collectors are very fortunate that we only have the last 150 years to worry about geopolitically. The number of countries in our albums are already too many

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