Monthly Archives: May 2016

  1. Stamp Investment and Stanley Gibbons

    Stamp Investment and Stanley Gibbons

    Imagine a company, which like the Scott publishing company, (so dominant in United States philately) is preeminent as its national stamp publisher. As well as issuing a general worldwide catalog, they are especially known as the publisher of the national specialty catalog which is used by nearly all native philatelists and millions of foreign ones. But in addition to this, they also sell stamps (Scott stopped selling stamps and concentrated only on publishing over 70 years ago), are among the largest stamp sellers in the world, have an investment arm, actively promote stamps as an investment, are beginning to make inroads into the American market, have bought Bid Start—a weakish EBay competitor—with

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  2. Cover Collecting

    Cover Collecting

    Cover collecting did not begin at the same time as did stamp collecting. Philately had its start in earnest about 1860, and, really, until about 1910, cover collecting was something collectors did when they didn't have the time to wash the stamps they needed for their collections off the envelopes on which they had bought them (this is why so many earlier stamps are so much rarer on cover than off). In a few cases, such as Pony Express covers or Civil War Patriotics, much of the collecting interest had to do with the cachet on the envelope and the usage that the cover received (rather than the stamp) so that there were a few early cover savers. But serious postal history collecting had to wait until the efforts of Henry Gibson, Sr. Gibson

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  3. Why Don't More Women Collect Stamps

    Why Don't More Women Collect Stamps

    Several years ago, President Obama made a gaffe and was widely criticized for his statement regarding the appearance the Attorney-General of California, Kamala Harris. Most philatelists are middle aged men (in fact over 90% of serious collectors are male) and most of us no doubt don't see what the fuss is all about. The President described Harris as the most attractive Attorney-General in the country, a statement that he certainly meant as praise and with respectful admiration. But the latent sexism in his remarks is instructive to us philatelists, especially as we wonder why we haven't attracted more women to our hobby and to organized philately.

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  4. Ken Whittle

    Ken Whittle

    When I was an annoying teenager helping out at the Apfelbaum stamp store in the 1960s, every Saturday brought in the fascinating Ken Whittle. Ken was the kind of philatelist that you saw a lot of then. Ken was the archetype of the "solitudinous collector" (or SC). SCs are people for whom philately is very important and who are putting together very important collections which they rarely talk about.  Mr. Whittle was extremely well educated and worked as an engineer for Dupont in Wilmington (doing something with fractions of petroleum), was unmarried and lived, full time, at a small residential hotel in Wilmington. When I knew him in 1960's, he was always neat as a pin, with a well-groomed little mustache. He came in, took off his hat and coat, and to my "Good Morning, Mr Whittle" would always (and I mean always) respond "Greetings and salutations, young man".

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  5. Germany


    In 1948 Germany was in ruins. Destruction caused by the war was nearly total and even three years after the war many Germans were hungry. The United States government put forward the Marshal Plan and the United States pumped the current day equivalent of $500 billion into Europe to rebuild that continent. Republicans and Democrats both coalesced around a plan to "win the peace" and it’s fair to say that without the Marshall Plan the history of the latter half of the last century would have been very different. When the German Posthorn set of definitives was issued in 1951 the face value was a bit more than 4 1/2 marks but even this was more than most struggling German collectors

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  6. Aden Stamps

    Aden Stamps

    What Can Be Done: Aden is an excellent country to collect for many reasons. First, Aden’s stamp issues are few. The first stamps were not issued until 1937 and the last issues were in 1965. Scott lists only 75 stamps and even including the issues of the Aden States of Kathiri and Quaiti there are barely 150 stamps. Second, Aden was (and is) a crossroads near the Persian Gulf. Aden was a way point for shipping and before Aden issued its own stamps, the stamps of India were used in Aden (these can be told by Indian stamps that have Aden cancellations). Such usages are scarce but easily obtainable. Such Forerunners (as the stamps of one country used in another before that country issued its

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  7. James Farley

    James Farley

    Some of the most popular US philatelic issues of the twentieth century are the Farley issues. They are Scott #753-771, and though avidly collected today, like many popular stamps, they had a checkered past. James A. Farley was a New York party politician who was instrumental in Franklin Roosevelt's rise to the Democratic Party nomination for President in 1932. Farley was rewarded for his help by being made Postmaster General. In the days before the Commerce Department, the Postmaster Generalship was the greatest patronage package in the President's gift box. Before the Postal Service was independent, the Postmaster general had great control over the building of Post Offices and postal

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  8. Ulrich Ferchenbauer

    Ulrich Ferchenbauer

    There is no country that is collected in a more specialized way than are the stamps of Austria. Most specialists of other countries seek cancels and covers and blocks and all kinds of specialty items. But Austrian specialists go way further. Austrian specialty catalogs list paper varieties along with varieties listed by thickness as measured by a micrometer. Machine made and hand made paper types of the first issues are listed (the only country that I know of that does this) as are various ribbing and laid papers. Throughout, the philately of Austria is an obsessive-compulsive dream.
    This degree of Austrian specialization is part of the tradition of Austrian collecting. Beginning in the early part of
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  9. Hiram Deats

    Hiram Deats

    About forty years ago (as one of the first stamp tasks I was involved in professionally), we consulted with the Philadelphia Library over their philatelic collection. Philadelphia had been the recipient of the Hiram Deats library which was donated to them in 1952. It still laid in cartons in the enormous main library basement when I examined it in 1971. The library consisted of nearly 1200 cartons and my job was to sort through it with two goals in mind - first, to sort out duplicates that Deats had himself and which duplicated each other and, second, to integrate the Deats donation into the Philadelphia Library's main

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  10. Claude Jaeger

    Claude Jaeger

    In the 1960’s and 1970’s a fixture at stamp auctions in the United States was Claude Jaeger. Claude ran a small stamp business that dealt in Western Europe mint sets, and he was always at our auctions to bid on these stamps. Claude's history was an interesting one. Claude was Haitian and had been born to one of the ruling Creole families in Haiti. Haiti in those days (and probably today too, though it is a different group) was owned by only a handful of families. It had basically a medieval economic system- less than 1% of the country was owners, and the balance were serfs or subsistence wage slaves. It was a fine system if you were part of the 1% as Claude's family had been, but Claude was born at the wrong time. While he was in the US at NYU studying Plutocracy (so as to carry on the family business), Papa Doc Duvalier fomented a revolution, and one set of oligarchs was replaced
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  11. Nudes on Stamps

    Nudes on Stamps

    We like to think of philately as a sophisticated and intellectual hobby. Little known, however, is the boost that stamp collecting got gratifying the interests and fantasies of adolescent boys. We live, today, in a world of pervasive nudity, but in the period of greatest philatelic interest (the 1930’s) there wasn’t even Playboy magazine.


    In 1930, Spain issued a set of stamps commemorating the famous painter Francisco Goya. The story of why the set was issued in 1930, which was no obvious anniversary

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  12. Tasmania Stamps

    Tasmania Stamps

    What Can Be Done: Tasmania is one of the most interesting of the Australian States. The early engraved stamps are amongst the finest in all of philately. The first two issues of Tasmania are very different from most of the British Commonwealth issues, all of which share a common design feel. The later nineteenth century issues provide interesting plate and perforation study. In general, collectors sort out into two broad groups. The majority prefer to collect different stamps and grudgingly take up their watermark trays and perf gauges when the catalogs tell them that they need to in order to distinguish the issues that they are working on. Specialists, true specialists, relish the arcanae that make one fairly indistinguishable printing different from another. For this

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  13. Scott Stamp Albums

    Scott Stamp Albums

    Scott is the name that is synonymous with stamp collecting in the United States. J. Walter Scott was one of America’s first stamp dealers. When he started his stamp business around 1870, he was a full service dealer selling stamps via extensive price lists. The lists became more detailed and he began to list stamps that he didn’t have in stock so that collectors could know what stamps there were from each country and what stamps they needed. From this it was a short jump to the first US produced stamp catalog for United States and Foreign stamps.


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  14. George Wilson

    George Wilson

    In the 1950’s, the Dennis the Menace comic strip was a weekly feature in virtually every newspaper in America. The trop of the comic was a well meaning but mischievous boy, Dennis, who was always getting in some sort of trouble either unintentionally or because of some complicated set of circumstances that he created. His usual foil was his uptight gruff neighbor, Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson was your typical elderly man who wanted to enjoy his afternoons in peace. He was serious minded, and he was a stamp collector, and philately and Mr. Wilson' s love of his hobby and desire to pursue it without being driven crazy by Dennis was one of the central themes of the comic strip.

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  15. Kasimir Bileski

    Kasimir Bileski

    Kasimir Bileski, or as he was known professionally K. Bileski, was already a philatelic mainstay when I came into the stamp business in the 1960's. Born of Ukrainian immigrant parents in 1908, Bileski's philatelic career is in many ways instructive of how philately changed during the Twentieth Century. His biography is fascinating. He was truly a self made man. But his philatelic career heralded the change in our

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  16. Justin Lallier

    Justin Lallier

    Most fans of philatelic history— that is, the history of collecting stamps rather than the stamps themselves— have learned what they know through hands-on work with stamps. There are very few books that retell the evolution of our hobby. Largely, it is learned by reading old journals, looking at old auction catalogs, and stamp dealer price lists and general catalogs. By looking at subscription numbers and membership evaluations, by perusing older collections and seeing how collecting goals have changed over the years, by analyzing what was being offered and to whom, a person who wishes to gather some knowledge on this topic is able to piece together, from the physical historical record, some ideas on what the
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  17. Alfred Forbin

    Alfred Forbin

    The last comprehensive catalog of Revenue Stamps of the World was issued by the French dealer Forbin in the year 1915. After that date, the collecting of worldwide revenue stamps began to fall off in popularity. In a very few countries, the United States and France come to mind, the collecting of native revenue stamps continued to be popular. But for the vast majority of the world, by 1930, Revenues simply were not collected anymore. The reason was simple. By 1930 there were enough worldwide stamps (and even within countries enough specialized stamps) to keep all but the most ardent philatelists happy. So Revenues became less popular and in hobbies, less popularity breeds lesser popularity until, today, it is a very unusual collector,
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  18. Australian States Stamps

    Australian States Stamps

    In stamp collecting, there are four “… and States” areas that are collected as cohesive collecting specialties and that have always had tremendous philatelic cachet. They are German States, Italian States, Indian States, and Australian States. Each area is enormously popular and avidly collected as part of classic philately. Each has its own collecting peculiarities, and each can be specialized in by a collector of modest means or expanded into a seven figure international grand award collection. This week’s articles will be focused on each of these four States areas.


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  19. Morton Paul Goldfarb

    Morton Paul Goldfarb

    The stamp dealers of the older generation had a fair number of odd characters, but none were more odd than Morton Paul Goldfarb. Mort, as everyone called him, went to every auction, every stamp show and no matter where you went, you were sure to see him too. Mort specialized in the stamps of the United Nations and only UN. There aren't many better UN stamps in which to deal and Mort made a specialty out of buying and selling UN postage. The United Nations postal agency is really not a post office at all. UN stamps are souvenirs and the UN maintains a Post Office as kind of a postal fiction. All letters deposited at the UN Post Office are turned over to the United States Post Office which is required by Congress to

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  20. The Seven Beauties

    The Seven Beauties

    Traditional philatelic understanding is that there are three things that are required for a country to be a popular stamp collecting country - large population, high educational levels, and wealth. If you have those three things, which countries such as the United States, Germany, Japan and China have, you have a strong stamp collecting market. When you are missing one or two – like Brazil,which has a large population but only adequate education (and for philatelic purposes education means college level education) and moderate wealth, philatelic popularity is problematic. Then again if you have none of the three factors, say a country like Haiti which is poor, small, and poorly educated, the odds are that the stamps of that country

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