Monthly Archives: June 2016

  1. John Luff

    Perhaps the greatest American philatelist was John N Luff. Born in 1860 and a collector from childhood, he was involved in US philately in its very earliest years. Luff became a professional philatelist in his twenties and was the President of the Scott Stamp and Coin Company and an editor of the Scott catalog. He was a founder of the Collector's Club in New York and had one of the great collections of United States stamps. His main contributions to philately were two. He was a tireless researcher and in 1902 published the book "The Postage Stamps of the United States" a detailed history of the earliest stamps that our country produced.


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  2. Sarawak stamps

    In the nineteenth century Malaysia was like India, an amalgam of independent states nominally aligned under a central government. One of the most interesting of these states was Sarawak. This was a country carved out of Borneo for Sir James Brooke, a British adventurer who helped the Sultan of Brunei against an insurrection. This was only 150 years ago, but it was a time and place so different from now as to almost seem science fiction rather than history.


    Brooke lived at a time and in such a place in which force was the only power. He had a war ship -

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  3. Another lesson From Charles Dickens

    Martin Chuzzlewit is one of Charles Dickens' earlier novels. Old Martin is a very unappealing character, avaricious and sneaky, and in speaking of him Dickens remarks that in some people there is a naivety or duplicity of cunning, by which he meant that often cunning people believe that they are the only ones who operate that way and are often tripped up by the very people they think they are outwitting. Thus, Martin is ruined by a shyster who he, Martin, thinks he is taking advantage of.


    I thought of this last week when a customer of mine was lamenting to me a very poor transaction that he had gotten himself into. He wanted to sell off a large group of US postage from his holdings

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  4. F. Burton Sellers

    In 2012, F.Burton Sellers was one of the winners of the American Philatelic Society's Hall of Fame award for that year. Unlike baseball's Hall of Fame which is for the living and dead alike, the APS's Hall of Fame is only for deceased philatelists who have had a measurable impact on our hobby. 

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  5. Continue To Grow in Your Hobby

    Life us a series of developmental stages and how we progress through them has a great deal to do with how happy we are with our lives. Philately too has developmental stages and how collectors progress through them is important in increasing the joy that we derive from our hobby. The earliest stage in stamp collecting is learning to use the tools of our hobby, the catalogs, albums, mounts and other physical tools that collectors need to be familiar with in order to make stamp collecting possible. The next step is grading, learning how to use the watermark tray as an x-ray machine to determine stamp faults and repairs and how to tell quality and even simple counterfeit detection. Additional developmental steps

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  6. Varro Tyler

    There are few philatelists of the last few decades that have had more impact on our hobby than Varro Tyler. Tyler, who died in 2001, was tireless researcher and philatelic writer. Accomplished in both his professional field (botanical pharmacology, where he was a professor for many years at Perdue) and in the philately, Tyler’s main contribution to our hobby was what I would call social philately (and by this I don’t mean attending

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  7. Minkus's Better Way of Collecting Never Cought On

    Film and philately share a golden era with personalities larger than life, from a time that is quite different than our own. Jacques Minkus was such a personality. Minkus's method of selling stamps was to open concessions in major department stores and at its most extensive he had over 35 different shops in many of the largest department stores in the United States including Gimbels in New York. Until about 1960 when retailing trends changed and department stores began to rethink the concept of carrying everything under the sun, more collectors were introduced to our hobby by Minkus stores than any other retail source in the nation.

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  8. A Good US Stamp Investment

    Offices Abroad stamps are stamps that are issued for use in a foreign post office under a treaty with a foreign government. It allows the first country the right to maintain one of its own post offices on the territory of the second. Offices Abroad are usually the result of powerful commercial interests in the occupying country obtaining a treaty from a weakened central government and are seen primarily in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in two main areas-the faltering Turkish Empire and China.

     Offices Abroad stamps for China were issued

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  9. How Specialists Used to Collect

    Specialization in philately is defined as restricting your collecting from the general mass of issues to one specific area or stamp issue. Before WW II, most collectors were generalists. They collected the world. But then, a collector could afford to. There were only tens of thousands of stamp issues that a collector needed to acquire before WW Ii, not the millions that exist now. An album or two, a few hours a week, and a few hundred dollars and a collector, before 1940, could assemble a pretty decent worldwide collection. That is impossible now and collectors quickly become specialized and limit their collecting interest to one or a few countries.


    But even specialized collecting

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  10. Stellaland Stamps

    The political history of South Africa is fascinating. Originally settled by the Dutch in the sixteenth century, South African areas long bounced back and forth under control of the Boers (as the native Dutch decedents were called), the British, who added South Africa to their list of imperial ambitions in the eighteenth century, and native African nations who were displaced by the immigrants and wished for their land back. The Boer Wars of the late nineteenth century were the culmination of decades of strife and the philatelic result was a plethora of philatelic entities. One of the more interesting was Stellaland which issued its own stamps in 1882. It is not clear that anyone recognized Stellaland as an independent

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  11. Philatelic Magazines

    Philatelists of earlier generations grew up with a wealth of publications and literature that makes many of today's collectors envious. The Internet has meant that one can read about stamps any time for free, but the quality of what is written has diminished significantly with the decline of print publications. Forty years ago, stamp collectors had numerous active weekly publications all vying for subscribers. The best of them— Linn's and Western— had serious stamp articles, good gossip, investment articles, and interesting advertisements. The monthly magazines were more scholarly in format, and there were many of them too. The main difference between the older day with print magazines and newspapers and today with the internet

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  12. Famous Forgers III

    Philatelic scandals come in three sizes—small, medium, and large. The work of Francois Fournier, prolific forger from Switzerland, ranks as a major philatelic scandal. He made hundreds of thousands of reproductions of many of the most popular and collected stamps in the hobby and defrauded, either directly or indirectly, tens of thousands of collectors out of millions of dollars. That is a large scandal. Jean de Sperati was a far finer artisan in his forgery work than any other who ever lived. He made detailed engraved plates by hand and was careful in his use of paper and duplicated watermarks. A man with his artistic skill set could have made far more money (and certainly had legitimate fame) in fine arts restoration, even if he were not creative enough to be an artist himself. But Sperati played small ball. His production was limited in numbers of stamp types forged and quantities

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  13. Famous Forgers II

    While Francois Fournier was a philatelic facsimile maker whose work fools only novices or collectors who have never seen the real thing, Jean de Sperati spent his life creating forgeries designed to undermine the most knowledgeable philatelists. Even his book that he wrote Philatelie sans Experts (Philately without Experts) shows his prime motivation was the thrill of creating forgeries that even great experts couldn't tell. And Sperati's work is good, so good, in fact that until about 1920,
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  14. Famous Forgers I

    Philately lacks drama. Maybe that's why stamp collectors love a good scandal in our hobby. Though philatelists tend to differ in opinion on what constitutes a good stamp scandal, most will agree that a good scandal must be international in scope, affect thousands of collectors, and defraud collectors of large amounts of money. By these standards most of today's issues qualify as irritants or distractions. All will agree though that there have been three major philatelic frauds in the history of our hobby.


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  15. United States Coils

    United States coils have always presented a problem to stamp collectors. The first problem was whether they should be collected at all, at least as major numbers with spaces in all the stamp albums. US coils were some of the first worldwide coils to be issued and were done so at the behest of large businesses that did a great deal of mailing. In the days before postage meters, it was much easier to get a coil roll and place the stamps on envelopes without having to tear them into strips or singles first. Within a few years, large machines were affixing coils for mailing houses, and the Postal Service was issuing coils in rolls of up to 5,000 for their machines. The real issue for stamp catalogers at the time was how to list coils. They are

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  16. Trieste Stamps

    One of the constants in history is the malleability of political boundaries. In America, we have become a bit inured to this fact because our own geography has been so steady, adding only Hawaii and Alaska to our country in the last century. But Europe is used to change, and nowhere in Europe has there been more change than in the Balkan area. Trieste is a city that lies at the end of the Adriatic and has had many masters during its history.
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  17. Letter From A Collector

    Dear John,
            I'm now back from Vietnam and can provide some comments about how I acquired this collection of Vietnamese stamps. Essentially, stamp collecting exists in Vietnam, as it does worldwide, but at a low level. There are no retailers of stamps of which I'm aware, or auction houses, and most people live on a penny economy, so their ability to collect is limited. However, they do their best.
            My wife is Vietnamese, and I became interested in the stamps of modern-day Vietnam as a result of repeated visits to that country in the early 1990s. At that time, Cotevina, the Vietnamese stamp-issuing agency of the post

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