Monthly Archives: August 2012

  1. Legend of the Zeppelins

    The most sought after set in US philately is the 1930 Graf Zeppelin set of 1930 (Scott # C13-C15). For the last eighty years it has been the alpha and omega of stamps- the set every young collector always wanted. Ironically, acquisition of the set has been one of the great killers of collectors. So many people get back into the hobby and effectively end their stamp buying when they finally purchase a Graf Zeppelin set because they have now gotten the set of their dreams.
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  2. ReVitalized Countries

    No people are more cognizant of political and geographic changes than philatelists. Take Danzig-the Polish city of Gedansk where the Solidarity movement began. During the early stamp period, Danzig was part of Prussia and then Germany after Confederation. After WW I, Danzig was a quasi independent country that issued its own stamps and after WW II Danzig became part of Poland to which it was geographically contiguous. Numerous countries have had short philatelic lives and one of the cottage industries among philatelic professionals was speculating on which country, that used to issue stamps and was absorbed, would later achieve political independence and issue their own stamps again. The reason was simple. When a country achieves independence there is great interest in their new postage stamps. If a country is a reVitalized philatelic entity, this interest extends back to the previous stamps that had been issued and the price of these older stamps tends
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  3. Sales Tax Changes

    Since the founding of our republic, sales of products and services that took place across state lines have been exempt from state sales tax as long as the seller did not have a physical presence in the state in which the the product was delivered. This is about to change and we can expect the change to occur later this year or next. The pervasiveness of on-line purchasing has so deprived states of revenue that they are cutting private deals with merchants like Amazon to collect tax. And without the Amazons of the interstate world lobbying Congress to keep this sales tax exemption for out-of -state sales it is only a matter of time that Congress sets up a plan to force smaller mail order merchants to collect sales tax. This should happen in the next year or two.

    This change will have profound impact on stamp collecting and the stamp business and so collectors and dealers
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  4. Quality Paradox

    Collectors collect in widely different qualities. Some are happy with faulty off center stamps (especially at steep discounts from catalog value). Some want only very nice stamps and a few want only the finest quality that money can buy. Every collector's choice is his own but there is an interesting corollary that we have found between the quality that a collector desires and their personality.

    First, most collectors are very comfortable with traditional "Very Fine" for most of the stamps. There are only a small percentage of collectors that collect at the fringes of the quality ranges-both at the "quality doesn't matter" end and the "I only want perfect" end. And ironically, both of these extremes often share similar personality characteristics even though they want very different types of stamps. They tend to be messy, iconoclastic and want to play by their own rules.
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  5. Selling Stamps in September

    Stamp dealers get the product that they sell from buying and consigning the stamp collections of their clients and of people who have tired of the hobby. There is great periodicity about when people contact us with stamps to sell. As you would expect, things are a bit slow for us in this area around Christmas time- when people are preoccupied with the holidays and their family- and during the summer, when vacations and extra daylight mean less time for philately. But in recent years we have seen a spike in seller interest in August and it seems that many collectors often consider selling to help pay college tuition bills. I went to a large private university, graduating in 1975. The last year in school my tuition was a shade under $3000. Today that same university is over $40,000, more than three times as much money adjusted for inflation and relative to incomes as it was thirty-five years ago. So what was affordable out of savings and income years ago
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  6. Captain Tim

    The greatest publicity push that stamp collecting ever received was in 1933. Ivory soap promoted a radio show that featured stamp collecting. Called "The Ivory Stamp Club with Captain Tim" the show was a radio stamp club where kids followed along as Captain Tim, for fifteen minutes at a time, three times a week, regaled his listeners with stories about stamp collectors. This was the perfect year for philately. A new President, an avid stamp collector, was in the White House. And there was a prime time radio show devoted to promoting our hobby.

    Ivory Soap created a show where kids could buy low
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  7. Hoarding

    Hoarding is not yet a certified psychological condition though its symptoms are well known and follow consistent patterns. Like most psychological orientations, hoarding exists along a spectrum, from someone who simply likes to save things to a person who is unable to get rid of anything. Most philatelists tend to be in the lower range of the hoarding spectrum, enjoying keeping things but perfectly capable of pruning their holdings as needed.

    Though the underlying psychological reasons for hoarding are often not clear, I think the experience of our hobby in the last thirty years illustrates that hoarders can't part with things because they believe that the objects that they part with may someday be of value
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  8. A Call For Chicago

    The American Philatelic Society has long had an annual philatelic exhibition called STAMPSHOW. This annual get together is for the Board meetings and the Champion of Champion philatelic exhibition and houses what is probably the finest dealer's bourse at any show. The policy of the APS for many years has been to have this show travel around the country in a kind of geographic pinwheel-first on the East Coast and moving across the country. The geographic diversity is supposed to make a a STAMPSHOW convenient to most APS members throughout each decade and was begun in the democratic (small "d") feeling that shows should be equally convenient to all members.

    What seems like a good idea really hasn't worked out. Long lead times for good venues and high costs for one time rentals of decent exhibition space has meant that STAMPSHOW has graced many smaller towns that
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  9. Bi Colors

    Early Bi-colored stamps are among the most popular in philately. Several of the essays for the first postage stamp (the Penny black) were for bi-colored stamps but they were rejected as too expensive to produce and too hard to print with the speed and quality that was necessary for production runs that were as large as postage stamp runs needed to be. Postage stamps are essentially small scale bearer bonds or pieces of currency. Anyone who had one was entitled to the value of the service that it represented. The earliest objections to issuing stamps centered around counterfeiting and cleaning and re-usage of stamps. Because of this concern, early stamps were engraved,
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  10. Red Revenues

    James Quan and Harry Quill both had major collections of the Red Revenue series of China (Scott #78-86) back in the day when the stamps were expensive but not at the stratospheric levels that they are today. This was a great set to collect, lots of varieties, with the stamps being just scarce enough for any acquisition to be a bit costly and meaningful. Quan had started collecting these first about 1940 and already had a substantial collection of these stamps when Quill, who was a generation younger, came on the collecting scene in earnest about 1970.

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  11. Maurice's Stamp Album

    One of the great Apfelbaum family relics is the first stamp album of my Great grandfather Maurice Apfelbaum. Maurice was born in 1873 and this album is an old Scott world wide album inscribed on the inset-To Maur-on his 8th birthday/ Love gmom and gdad"  which makes it a gift from his grandparents in 1881. His maternal grandparents were born in the 1820s and had seen the first postage stamps issued and had encouraged young Maurice in philately because of the educational aspects of the hobby.

    Maurice took the hobby to heart and was an avid collector by his teen age years. My great grandmother, Sadie, who I knew until she died when I was a young teen, recalled with irritation that even when they were dating that Maurice would spend more time on his stamps than he did with her. Maurice listed on his 1910 US census form that his occupation was a stamp dealer, though this was a part time business for him as it was for most dealers of that time. Maurice

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  12. You Built That Collection

    Every decent stamp collection is a real accomplishment on the part of its owner and creator. You had to decide what to collect and carefully search for items for your collection over a period of years. You went to stamp shows and dealer shops, perused auction catalogs and surfed the Internet. You learned the language of the hobby, learned its history, language and arcanum. And you invested far more than time and effort. You have considerable money in your collection and it represents a real asset for you and your family, something you are justly very proud of.

    And yet, most collectors know that their collection is built on the work of thousands of serious philatelists who came before them-the men and women who wrote the catalogs and the literature that we use, without which stamp collecting would be no different than button collecting. We belong to philatelic societies created by others and subscribe to magazines that continue the 150 year tradition of philatelic journalism.

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  13. Dog Days of August

    Fifty years ago, philately took an annual summer vacation that began about Memorial Day and lasted until September. Before pervasive air conditioning, it was unpleasant to work on stamps during the summer heat. High humidity and temperature make stamps stick to your fingers when you handled them. And gum becomes tacky in the heat and humidity and easy to mar and damage with handling. Collectors usually put away their stamps for the summer months. Our company, in an attempt to maintain some summer business, use to offer a summer discount of 20%, but even so sales fell off quite dramatically.

    Freon was invented in 1928 and commercial air conditioning (to maintain cooler temperatures in the summer) began in earnest in the 1930s. Most people's first experience with air conditioning was at the movies as large movie theaters were among the first businesses to offer air conditioning to their customers to keep from having to close during the hot summer

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  14. Unusual Thematics

    Professional philatelists can become a bit jaded with all the stamps that they see. Because of this I am always on the look out for unusual collections. Most unusual collection in the major US and European specialty groups are very pricey and are therefore indulged in by only the 1%. Unusual thematic collections are different and even a few hundred dollars, combined with philatelic and historical skill, can make you a collection of great beauty and which is nearly unique.

    Most thematic collectors tread well worn ground, collecting omnibus or Churchill or Europa or any of the hundred or so common thematics. I worked today on a collection entitled "The Life of Christ", in six volumes with several thousand stamps. The creator of the collection told the story of the birth, ministry and death of Jesus as illustrated through postage stamps. The story was very complete and compelling and the narrative flowed and was illustrated through the use of the stamps. I

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  15. The Stamp Dealer's Dilemma

    I received this email recently:

     I am a small stamp dealer and would like to know if you could help me, telling me where I can stock quality, good price and in small quantities.
    I want to form a small stock of stamps MNH or "post office fresh," only VF, XF and SUP, from the period 1840-1940 with sets valued up to $ 30.00 the following countries:

    United States
    France and colonies
    Great Britain and the colonies
    Italy and colonies

    Could you help me?

    This email poses the most common dilemma facing a stamp dealer. The question boils down to this-I know I can sell a certain kind of stamps easily and I would like to know where I can find that type of stamp, and only that type of stamp, to sell. The most active part of the stamp market is the moderate price mint set market and it is in this part of the market that most sellers wish to compete. And that presents

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  16. A Great Collection

    Before 1940 everyone who collected stamps had a World Wide collection. They may have specialized in US or Great Britain but they maintained a general foreign collection that had been their starter collection and which, for most collectors, was still the major appeal that philately had for them. And there were many different types of world wide albums from Harris to Grossman to Minkus. But the Cadillac of world wide Albums was the Scott International Album, especially Volume I that contained the first century of philately, that is the stamps that were issued from 1840-1940.

    We purchased an wonderful old Volume I Scott International Album recently (that is expanded to two volumes because the number of stamps was too great for one volume). It has over 30,000 different stamps to 1940, all neatly mounted in a nice Scott International album and the collection is strong in just about all the areas-Latin America, British Commonwealth, France and Colonies, China (including #1,3,

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  17. Passions of Party

    Emotions are running pretty high over this election. Partisans on both sides are convinced that it will be the end of the world if the other side wins. Perhaps the reason so few Americans actually vote, though, is that beyond the partisan rancor most people have seen how much the parties are in agreement and how little they really differ. For instance, there is very little difference in the economic plans of the two major candidates beyond one wanting a modest tax increase on less that 2% of the population. On National Defense, despite months of trying to distinguish themselves, there is little space between both candidates policies and intentions. On social issues, there is a bit more room, but the reality is that little really changes for most Americans when parties change places at the top after elections.

    Imagine if people had the same passions in their hobbies-collectors
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  18. When to Invest

    There is famous story about a savvy investor in early 1929 who was getting his hair cut. Hearing his barber go on and on about how much money he (the barber) was making in the stock market and getting tips on what the barber thought were the best investments, the broker came back to his office and promptly sold out his entire portfolio. He missed the market peak by a few months but was all in government bonds when the market crashed in October. His theory was that when investment mania had gotten to the point where everyone who could conceivably be in the market was in the market, then there was nobody left to buy and prices had to come down.
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  19. John Mars

    John Mars was already an older man when I began working on stamps. He, as his father before him, had been a lifelong collector and loved his stamps. He collected France, just France, and collected the way the French do, by the Yvert and Tellier catalog. He collected classics in multiples and Twentieth century with all the trimmings, which means imperfs, millisiemes, precancels and much, much more. John was a professor of  French at a major university and as he got older, stamps became a more and more important part of his life.

    John's wife suffered from bi polar disorder, which in those days was called manic-depression and she was of the depressive type. She suffered terribly and would go days without being able to get out of bed. Religion became her one consolation and, once for Lent, she gave up speaking. John was a good husband, but getting little besides his care taking needs satisfied in his marriage, he increasingly turned to philately. He would buy quantities of Nineteenth

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  20. Escape From Totalitarianism

    For stamp dealers coming of age in the 1960s the stamp world was replete with Europeans who had escaped from Hitler and Stalin. Most were Jews, though looking back through the less opaque lens of our time, I know several were political escapees and at least one was fortunate enough to get out or he would have worn a pink star before he was exterminated. In 1965, the average philatelic refugee was about fifty, so in the prime of his professional life. And there were scores of them on the American philatelic scene.

    The reasons that refugees were overrepresented in the stamp world are several. First, it was easier for stamp dealers to get out of Europe than it was for many other "inferiors" whom the Nazis planned to exterminate as they moved across Europe. Many people who knew they were on the list of those whom the Germans would kill simply waited too long to leave and by the time came where they felt they had to go, they no longer could.

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