Monthly Archives: May 2015

  1. Bill Welch

    Bill Welch

    A little more than

    Read more »
  2. Germany


    Much of the history of stamp collecting is really the history of stamp collecting in the German speaking part of Europe. Deutschophones collect stamps at a far greater rate than any other cultural unit. At one time in Germany nearly everyone had a stamp collection with collectors numbering in the millions. This was from an innate philatelic drive (more about that in another post) and from the experiences of Weimar period inflation and WW II period devastation when stamps held their value in real terms in the first and could be bartered for food in the second. Nothing spurs a hobby more than the fact that it can help you and your family in real life. Currently, the business of German speaking stamp dealers probably equals all the rest of the world combined. The ten major stamp auctions in Switzerland and Germany (and yes there are ten major stamp auctioneers) account for over $300 million in stamp business, whereas the ten major US auctioneers ( and we're scraping the bottom of the barrel

    Read more »
  3. Collecting Trends Past

    Collecting Trends Past

    Fifty years ago, if you had to draw a picture of the average stamp collector, he (and it was a "he") was an older white male who had a general world wide collection, maybe a US mint collection and definitely a collection of US Plate Blocks and First Day Covers. Today if you were to do the same thing it would be a somewhat younger male who collects one country(or British Commonwealth) usually mint. The change to a somewhat younger collector has been brought about by the Internet, where access to philatelic information is just a click away. Fifty years ago a person interested in stamps had to subscribe to a stamp publication or join the APS or go to a stamp exhibition. To those of us fiercely involved in the hobby, this is no big deal. But to a person who has a moderate interest, this is a large barrier to entry. Younger people are more time constrained and the ease of access to areas of interest that the Internet provides has made for a younger face among our buyers. It's still an overwhelmingly

    Read more »
  4. NC-"Never Collected"

    NC-"Never Collected"

    I recently came across an old box of early US stamps that had been assembled in the 1920's by an attorney. I questioned the family carefully. Had their Grandfather been a stamp collector? Not to their knowledge. Good. Why did he throw 1920s mint commemoratives in this box? The reply was that he sent out a lot of mail and it was easier to put postage on the envelopes if you applied stamps in strips. Good. When he got down to one or a pair, he threw them in the box and started with a strip again when he had a new batch of letters. My next question to the family was the important one-Did he intend to use the stamps in the box and did he just forget about them or had he intended on putting them in an album and collecting them. They answered that he definitely intended to use them and must have forgotten as Grandpa was tight as a drum and thought philately was silly. Eureka! For years I have wondered where the next quality craze would lead us after Never Hinged. And here it was- "Never Collected"-

    Read more »
  5. Philately and the Movies

    Philately and the Movies

    Over the weekend my wife and I went to see an Indie called "Get Low" starring Robert Duvall. It was a good movie if you like character driven films with most of the action happening in inner space. At one point there was a scene where one of the characters is shown working on his stamp collection. A few seconds of close up shows us the 1/2c 1923 Hale (Scott#551). Now, I am a confirmed stamp snob. Whenever I see a stamp in a movie my first thought is "Is the stamp appropriate for the period and place?" "Get Low" was supposed to take place in the late 1920's, so the selection of stamp was appropriate. But (and this is where I get to feel "stampier than thou") the way the "collector" held the stamp tongs was wrong. He held them a bit like barbecue tongs in a way that was awkward and uncomfortable. He held the magnifying glass like it was a microscope and the entire process of examining the stamp felt more like an ordeal than a pleasure. Further, who looks for several moments rhapsodically

    Read more »
  6. Pen Pals

    Pen Pals

    An old cousin contacted me this week. She had been researching the play "Mauritius" which has a stamp component in its plot for her husband's amateur theatrical group and she came upon my name on the Internet. We had not been in touch in many years. She's a bit older than I am and had estranged herself from the family. When I was in college she was in grad school at the same university and we were friendly. We are currently reminiscing about old family dinners and how crazy our different family members were (us excluded, of course). All this is done electronically. We could phone if we liked but I think each of us cherishes the slight protection that emailing gives us, the chance to carefully craft our stories and reactions and to present ourselves in just the way we wish. Letters offer that. Phones and videoconferencing do not. I often have wondered just what it was that hooked the first generations of stamp collectors into the hobby of philately. After all revenue stamp collecting

    Read more »
  7. Falkland Islands

    Falkland Islands

    One of the most popular stamp issuing areas is the Falkland Islands. This popularity must be the result of the charm and the mystery of the place as with an average population over the last 150 years of under two thousand residents, the stamps are not valuable as a result of domestic demand. The stamps are well engraved and depart in attractive ways from the standard Crown Colonies philatelic agent issues that make much British Colony philately seem like clone collecting. Perhaps the prettiest set in our hobby is the 1933 Centenary set with the 5 shilling value being one of my favorite stamps. As luck would have it, we are offering Falkland Islands complete
    Read more »
  8. Stamp Periodicals

    Stamp Periodicals

    There are three main stamp magazines in the United States. Linns Stamp News is a weekly, and the American Philatelist and the American Stamp Dealer and Collector are monthlies. Linns has been around nearly 100 years. It is published weekly and in the days before EBAY and the Internet, it was an ad rag, often boasting hundreds of pages of advertising price lists around a core of news that seemed there mainly to meet postal regulations to qualify for the preferred second class newspaper postage rate. In my first year out of school (1975) Linns had a subscriber base of over 100,000. Today it is closer to 30,000 as the Internet has eaten in to its market. Linns runs some lightweight columns and has new issue and show news. It was once indispensable if you were a stamp professional. Today it is still useful to keep tabs on the daily and weekly happenings in the hobby. The American Philatelist is the current dean of philatelic publications. It has been published for over 120 years and its

    Read more »
  9. United States #1

    United States #1

    Much has been written on the first United States Postage Stamp. Most of the important modern information has been posted by Scott Trepel of the Siegal Auction Galleries and it makes great reading.  While research on use of this stamp has been intense, what hasn't seen much print (pixels?) is the history of the collecting of the 5c 1847.

    Scott number one has never been a rare stamp. Like the Penny Black of Great Britain (which actually is a fairly common stamp), its high price (about $200 for VF) relates more to its popularity and cachet as America's first postal issue than to intrinsic scarcity. Brookman states that 3,700,000 were issued and sent to post offices for sale. Published estimates put surviving copies at about 100,000. I typically use the 1% rule for stamp survival in the prephilatelic period (that is stamps issued before stamp collecting became mainstream with dealers and literature- say about

    Read more »
  10. India and States

    India and States

    One of the most fascinating collecting areas is India and States. Part British Colony, part Third World nation, part of the developing world, the philately of India has much to offer. And, an added bonus for Americans is that most of the good philatelic literature and writing about this area is in English.352355a

    Indian philately breaks down into five main areas with numerous additional sub specialties. First there is the period of British occupation-the stamps from 1860 to 1948. These are the main general issues for India and contain many interesting Victoria issues as well as the better long Edward and George definitive sets that British Commonwealth philately is known for. The early issues are interesting and difficult and the Officials are fascinating.

    Read more »
  11. Philatelic Demograhics

    Philatelic Demograhics

    As a young stamp dealer I left every APS convention amazed at how old the average attendee was. I felt as if I had been working in a geriatric ward. It's nice to report that the membership doesn't seem to be getting any older. Most people now seem to be about my age. Cynics have always pointed to the demise of philately because of the age of its devotees. The question of where the next generation of collectors were coming from has been a mainstay of philatelic disaster writing for as long as there has been philatelic publications. But, the age of the average member of the APS has always been above 60 and its hasn't gone up appreciably. Serious philately has always been a hobby of older men. It attracts some women and some younger people and certainly we should direct recruitment efforts in that direction. But the bulk of serious collectors are men, 60-80 years old. It always was that way and it still is. As the baby boomers enter the prime collecting age, it would be a pity if we can't

    Read more »
  12. Linns and the Scott Monthly Journal

    Linns and the Scott Monthly Journal

    All businesses have been affected by the Internet and modern technology but none more so than the trade press. For over 100 years thousands of weekly and monthly trade journals were printed to keep people in each field up to date with the latest news, views and gossip in their field. Some trade papers such as The Wall Street Journal went national and attracted an audience outside their trade. But in most fields, magazines like Linns kept its readers abreast with arcane field specific news. The Internet has changed all that and trade publications have been dying at a rapid rate. Fifteen years ago, philately had over ten weekly and monthly stamp publications. Until yesterday it had three, when it was announced that Amos Press the publisher of Linns and the Scott Monthly Journal (SMJ) would be combining the two magazines which essentially means the end of the Scott Monthly Journal. The Internet has opened up a new world to us all. Information once virtually impossible to obtain is now at

    Read more »
  13. Saving The APS

    Saving The APS

    Let's start with a postulate: The American Philatelic Society is worth saving and membership in the APS is worth having and worth the $45 or so that it costs. The question then is how to save the society because certainly the membership losses, the demographic makeup of the society, and the declining revenues don't bode well for APS long term viability. Over the next few weeks, in a series of posts, I'll discuss some ideas for growing the society and insuring its economic viability. The APS membership has slipped to about 32000 from a high of over 60000. There are plenty of reasons for this-the Internet, the economy, the decline in stamp collecting interest and more. Membership levels are now as low as they can be for the Society to offer the level of service it is now offering. If membership continues to decrease, cuts in service will be required, making membership even less appealing. You will see a death spiral. Once someone joins the APS they are usually very loyal members, with

    Read more »
  14. Famous Collectors

    Famous Collectors

    The pinnacle of philately's popularity was the 1930's. Stamp collecting was an inexpensive hobby and the Great Depression resulted in a lot of people with time on their hands. There was no television or Internet to compete as entertainment. And two of the world's most beloved and popular leaders, Franklin Roosevelt and King George VI were active and vocal stamp collectors. One of the unfortunate difficulties in promoting stamp collecting today is that we have no dynamic philatelic spokesperson. In the 1980's when then USPS did a philately promotion video they got Ernest Borgnine of McHale's Navy fame to be the narrator. Raymond Burr (Perry Mason) and Gary Burghoff (Radar Reilly) have also been philatelic spokespersons. Not only don't they exactly burn the charts for name recognition, Borgnine's and Burghoff's television characters are hardly role models- one is conniving, the other incompetent. Until recently, I hoped that Tiger Woods would be revealed to be a closet stamp collector,

    Read more »
  15. Earl Apfelbaum

    Earl Apfelbaum

    My grandfather, Earl P L Apfelbaum, was born in 1905 and died in 1985. He was born in Philadelphia and though he travelled extensively, at the time of his death his home was only a few miles from where he was born. He collected stamps from his earliest childhood and this was an interest he shared with his father, Maurice. Earl started his stamp business in 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression, by opening his little shop in downtown Philadelphia. Earl's interest in philately was different from what most people do today. He was a complete generalist, as happy sorting through a batch of mixed Nicaragua as researching a transatlantic cover. One country or era was pretty much the same to him and he was this way intellectually as well, being proud of belonging to a select group of people who had read the old Encyclopedia Britannica from Aardvark to Zygote( try doing that today with Wikipedia). He was politically progressive - a lifelong New Dealer. He believed that government had

    Read more »
  16. A Good Stamp Investment

    A Good Stamp Investment

    People are always wondering what stamps make good investments. I don't usually like to push our hobby this way but there is one area that I think will do well. I don't recommend sets like US Zeppelins or German Posthorns although these sets have performed well in the past and might do so in the future. What I think will do well in the future are modern mint varieties largely in the British Commonwealth area (not GB proper). I mean items like color varieties but especially all the watermark varieties of the various British areas of influence that have been issued in the last forty years. These sets are Scott listed and are very scarce not being included in most New Issue service sendings. Many sets catalog for under $20 and when the next generation of collectors start their hobby these will be nowhere to be found. In general I am keen on Queen Elizabeth in general. British collectors have always collected by what they call Reigns, that is the stamps issued during the reign of a monarch and

    Read more »
  17. German Inflation Period

    German Inflation Period

    rc5_0525_bigThe period 1922-1925 of the Weimar Republic in Germany is one of the most interesting in all of philately. Because of WWI debt and reparations that Germany was required to pay under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany began to inflate its currency in the early 1920's. The purpose of this was to make the debt and reparation payments more manageable as the debts were denominated in 1919 values and as the value of the German currency fell the effect of the debt on the German economy was to be lessened. Germany began to print money and inflation began.

    Read more »
  18. Canal Zone

    Canal Zone

    The Canal Zone was a tiny area and administrative district that was carved out of the Republic of Panama in the early years of the twentieth century for the purpose of building an canal across the isthmus of Panama. The political rationalization for the Canal Zone was that the United States was going to put up the money to build a canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and we wanted to be sure that we had administrative control over a region that had very little government indeed. The philately of the Canal Zone is among the most interesting in all of our hobby. The stamps are listed in the Scott United States Specialized catalog and comprise hundreds of major issues. But the real interest in this country is in the many varieties. As many of the stamps and overprints were locally produced,there are literally thousands of varieties listed by Scott and as many more that are not even in the catalog. And the great fun of this country is how inexpensive it is compared to rarity. Here

    Read more »
  19. US Postage

    US Postage

    Every United States stamp issued after 1861 is valid for use as postage. No one would use a $5 Columbian on a package but you could. Most of the hundreds of millions of dollars of mint postage stamps sold to collectors over the last fifty years is still around waiting to be used on mail. These stamps exist in quantities thousands of times greater than any possible collector demand. Such postage commonly is sold in the trade at a discount from postage as any prospective user could go to the post office to get as many current denomination stamps as he needed. Thus a discount makes such older postage stamps in odd denominations appealing to mailers. For the last fifty years older postage has typically traded at about a 20% discount from postage value. But a fallout from the recession has been weakness in the postage market to where postage now sells for about 40% off. The reasons for this is that US postage wholesalers are sated and have been reluctant buyers and computer tracking of packages

    Read more »
  20. Covers


    One of the most noticeable changes in philately in the last forty years has been the change in the importance of cover collecting. When I first started stamp dealing, First Day covers, Special Event covers, First Flights, Airmail covers, Space covers, and Zeppelin covers were all collected by far more people than they are today. Today, true postal history, that is stamps used for purely postal purposes in the manner in which they were intended, continues to enjoy popularity. But stamps used for philatelic purposes or for commemoration purposes are not popular with modern collectors.I think the reason for this is simple. In the year of my birth-1953-the United States issued just three postage stamps (that's not a typo-three). Now each year finds hundreds of new issues all of which can be bought in perfect condition and at face value at the post office. The novice collector imagines that his investment is safe-perfect stamps that will never go down in value. And as many new ones as any novice

    Read more »