1. Graded United States Stamps

    Graded United States Stamps

    Image result for brilliant uncirculatedCoin collecting has been dominated over the last fifty years by third party grading issues to the point where few serious numismatists buy non-graded coins. Eager grading services have tried to push into philately hoping to enlarge their fee base. So far it hasn't worked. Some collectors have become enamored of graded stamps but most think that it is inconvenient and costly. There are several reasons why third party grading is popular for coins and why it has largely failed in philately, despite two separate, (one in the late 70's and the other a few years ago) highly promoted, and well funded grading service attempts to
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  2. Expanding Your Horizons

    Expanding Your Horizons

    Image result for Old libraryBook readers sort into two main groups: the first looks at each volume as a challenge to be surmounted. Starting on page one, this group reads page by page until they are done, stopping for other activities but only reading one book at a time. Other readers are more casual about reading, often reading many books simultaneously, alternating between fiction and non fiction as the mood hits and as time allows.

    Stamps collectors too fall into these broad categories. Many are one one country or one specialty collectors and they spend significant time and money creating fine collections of their area. The rewards for this kind of collecting

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  3. France Airmails

    France Airmails

    Image result for french aeroplane mailAerophilately has been a popular philatelic specialty for nearly a hundred years now. No country has as many interesting Airmails as does France, and indeed the Airmails of France cover many of the more esoteric aspects of our hobby. The first two Airmails are overprints and show that aspect of stamp issuance; an earlier issue receives an additional print that changes its purpose and often the postage that it was originally sold for. The second issue of the Airmails of France are the famed Ile de France Airmails. These Airmails are provisionals issued for just one flight and not available through the general philatelic agency. Like many of the rarest early worldwide

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  4. Printer's Waste

    Printer's Waste

    Philately has many collectibles. Stamps are obvious; covers are stamps on envelopes and are derivative from the stamps themselves. And Proofs and Essays are precursors, coming before (and sometimes instead of) the stamps that they are associated with. As all of these types of philatelic material are related to the official issuance and use of stamps, they have always been esteemed by collectors. But what about Printer's Waste?
    Image result for printers waste philatelyPrinter’s Waste is a fairly amorphous
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  5. A Stamp Dealer's Day

    A Stamp Dealer's Day

    Image result for lots of stampsToday was a more or less typical day. I had nine smaller collections to work on. These were stamp groups that had been sent to our office by collectors and which we had purchased. The first was a mixed quality United States group sent by a life long collector who was pruning some of the poorer quality stamps that he had bought when he was a younger collector to create funds to upgrade the quality of his stamps. The next group I worked on was some better US that the owner was selling to get some money for a vacation that he and his wife wanted to take. The third was a small group of French stampless covers that the owner didn't know where he had gotten, but they probably

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  6. A Winter's Tale

    A Winter's Tale

    Image result for Cozy winterPhilately has always been a cold weather hobby. Its popularity nation to nation and region to region has always increased south to north with the highest concentrations of serious collectors where it is the coldest and darkest. The reasons are clear- a warm cup of hot chocolate, a stamp album and some new additions to mount are a nice way to spend a cold a blustery winter's evening. There are other reasons too-paper doesn't keep so well in warm sticky climates and literacy and reading rates which are good predictors of philatelic interest are higher in northern countries. And we see collector rates getting higher and higher the further from the equator that we move. Philately has always been a major hobby in Scandinavia but even within countries

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  7. Rating the World's Great Collections

    Rating the World's Great Collections

    Image result for Alfred CasparyMany endeavors have disputes over who are the greats in the field. Baseball aficionados have argued for decades over the greatest players and teams. Complex statistical analyses have been devised that can be used to compare players from different generations to each other. Others statistics rate the comparative values to their teams of pitchers versus position players. Avid readers rate famous authors based not just on how much the reader likes the writing but on the writer's impact on literature. And similar evaluations exist in the field of arts criticism and music.

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  8. Love Of Stamps and Stamp dealing

    Love Of Stamps and Stamp dealing

    Image result for philatelyIt is a love of stamps that takes the collecting impulse that is found in many of us and transforms the person into an ardent philatelist. The collector reads all he can about the hobby and, in the typical trajectory, goes from a more general type of collecting to specializing. The philatelic experience involves searching (dealers stocks, Ebay, the internet, philatelic auctions) in the hopes of finding items that are just right for your collection within the structure that you have used to define your collection, (US Fancy Cancels, German Pneumatic Post, or whatever).

    Counterintuitively,  the very needs

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  9. The Cameos of Gambia

    The Cameos of Gambia

    The fear of the counterfeiting of postage stamps made for a large number of Nineteenth Century printers' trade offs. The gold standard of anti-counterfeiting technology was line engraved (called intaglio) printing, which, for a special anti-forgery bonus, usually included lathe work. This type of printing rose off the paper and produced a fineness of design that didn't make counterfeiting impossible but made it more difficult and raised the cost (both in time and expertise) to the forgers considerably. Producing line engraved stamps is similar to putting a burglar alarm sign on your front lawn or using the Club in your car. Raising the cost and risk to forgers or thieves means

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  10. Evolution of Stamp Mounts

    Evolution of Stamp Mounts

    Image result for Stamp hingeUntil about 1950, philatelists were quite content hinging their stamps. The first stamp mounts in the United Stateswere Crystal Mounts, marketed by the H E Harris Company. They were not created because collectors wanted (or could be convinced they wanted, which is they same thing) a better way to mount their stamps. Rather Crystal Mounts were really a pain to use and were marketed solely to add a non-stamp item to the Harris line. Harris found he made more money from albums and mounts than he could from stamps. Crystal Mounts were clear acetate strips that collectors wrapped around their stamps and then cut the mounts to the desired size. Stamp mounts have always had two problems- the problem of height and the problem of horizontal and vertical.
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  11. Lewis Shull

    Lewis Shull

    Image result for 1976 Stamp showIn the 1970’s and 1980’s the stamp business underwent a shift. The traditional stamp store began not to work very well as a philatelic sales model. At the time dealers thought this was because it didn't make sense to have a store front for which the vast majority of people who passed by had no interest, and rents in central locations had grown very high relative to sales. But looking back, what really ended the traditional stamp store was the rapid rise in stamp prices in the late 1970’s, and the consequent increase in philatelic liquidity. Better stamps became so easy to sell and in such demand that dealers flocked to stamp shows week after week to sell their purchases. Collectors soon followed

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  12. Nice Guys Don't Finish Last

    Nice Guys Don't Finish Last

    Image result for leo durocherOne of the worse views of humanity is summed up in Leo Durocher's famous line "Nice guys finish last". Durocher was a major league baseball shortstop and manager and its not clear what in his life led him to this philosophy. Durocher was famously not a nice guy. He was a drinker, passer of bad checks, womanizer and once said that if he was playing third base and his mother was rounding third base trying to score he would trip her. Its not clear at all that being so prickly helped Leo finish any better than being a bit kinder would have. He was a mediocre shortstop, never making the list of the top fifty

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  13. Stamp Prices and the Dollar

    Stamp Prices and the Dollar

    Image result for CurrencyUntil 1970 the stamp market in the United States was mostly determined by the domestic market alone. Virtually all stamps, both US and Foreign, that were sold in this country were sold to domestic buyers. International travel was unusual and expensive, there was no Internet, and American philatelic auctioneers didn't send many catalogs overseas. 1970 was a watershed year as it marked the period that the economic balance began to shift between Europe and the United States. Until 1970, Europe was still economically weak and recovering from the devastation of WW II. After 1970, the dollar

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  14. Mint United States

    Mint United States

    Image result for 1930 post officeTraditionally, most collectors of United States stamps have collected in a similar fashion. They collected the stamps after 1930 mint and in Very Fine NH condition. From 1900-1930 they collected mint as well but usually were content with hinged stamps and often lesser centering as well. Nineteenth Century was largely collected used by the vast majority of collectors. Collectors who collected this way were responding to two realities of US philately. First, prices for perfect mint stamps are reasonable in the modern period when most of the stocks of stamps are in perfect condition. But as collectors reach the earlier periods, the premium for perfect quality and gum begins to rise to levels that most collectors

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  15. The Kobans of Japan

    The Kobans of Japan

    One of the more unknown and interesting areas to collect is the Koban issues of Japan. Unlike the first two Japanese issues which have been extensively forged (actually faked #1-8 of Japan are about ten times more common than the genuine, and forgeries of the second Japanese issue, called the Cherry Blossoms, are ubiquitous too), the Kobans are nearly always genuine and very plentiful. They were the main stamp issue of Japan for the 1875-1910 period, which coincided with one of the most significant and rapid industrializations that any nation has undergone. In 1868, Japan had been a feudal state nearly cut off form the world. The Meiji
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  16. Boxes of Stamps

    Boxes of Stamps

    Image result for pile of stampsUntil about 1970 the vast majority of stamp collectors were world wide collectors. They often concentrated (mostly in this country in American and Canadian stamps) but the large majority of collectors in that generation maintained world wide collections as well, usually buying box lots. They sorted these box lots out over time adding to their world wide collections when obtaining items for their specialized collections slowed down or got too expensive. Most collectors of this earlier generation got as much joy and excitement form sorting out their box lots as they did from their more specialized collecting. The reason was

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  17. Classic Norway

    Classic Norway

    Image result for NorwayThe first two issues of Norway have always held great interest among serious philatelists. The First stamp, an imperf, is one of the most popular in philately. It was printed widely apart so nearly always comes with large margins. It is plateable, meaning that all one hundred of the positions in the sheet have been identified and can be told by examining subtle printing characteristics on each stamp. The cancellations types are plentiful and usually identifiable (most countries for their first issues mandated "killer" cancellations of the Maltese Cross type that were used on the Penny Black. Norway largely used the town
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  18. Care of Stamp Collections

    Care of Stamp Collections

    Image result for lighthouse stamp album

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  19. George VI

    George VI

    Image result for George VIThere are six different Monarchs of Great Britain who have ruled since stamps were issued. Five of them have left a very prominent philatelic footprint (Edward VIII was king for a bit less than a year and made no impact on stamp collecting). Certainly Elizabeth has had the largest number of stamps issued with her likeness on them, followed by her great grandmother Victoria, but it is in specializing on the three kings in between that has produced some of the most interesting areas to collect. Of these three kings, many philatelists consider George VI the most interesting

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  20. Philately and Charity

    Philately and Charity

    Image result for pro juventuteMany collectors choose what they collect so as to both maximize their philatelic pleasure and, at the same time benefit the charitable and political groups that they are interested in. This kind of collecting and stamp issuance has a long tradition. The first stamps that had a charitable component were issued by Switzerland in 1912. This began an annual series of "Pro Juventute-For the Children" and was the beginning of the thousands of charity stamps that our hobby has produced. The Scott catalog calls these stamps semi-postals. These stamps have postal values of a given amount and then a "charity surcharge" that the buyer pays in addition to the postage that is donated to the designated charity. These stamps are sold
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