Bad Reputations

There are collecting areas and stamp issues in philately with bad reputations. These are stamp issues that have had negative stories about their being issued. Such stories have influenced collector demand and made these issues less popular than they would be if these stamps hadn’t had their integrity impugned.  But reputations in philately seldom last longer than a single generation.

Probably the best example of these “bad rep” issues would be the French Colony general issues that were issued between 1890-1910. As I’ve written before, the period just after 1890 was one of great philatelic interest and popularity. Stamps collecting, then only forty years old, became a mainstream hobby, and many articles were published on stamp rarities and the crazy high prices that philatelists were paying for stamps. The effect was to bring many new collectors into the hobby. Many countries responded with new issues designed to appeal to these collectors (the 1893 Columbians of the United States was the US bid to sell high value stamps to collectors. In fact, the history of the Columbian issue, from being highly criticized by collectors to being highly prized, is another example of the point of this article).

There are many other examples of stamps going from rags to riches in terms of philatelic reputation. Over fifteen different Portuguese Colonial countries, representing areas over which Portugal exercised extremely limited political control, issued hundreds of new issue stamps between 1890-1910. These issues had no postal purpose, were often not even available in native post offices, and were highly criticized in the philatelic press of the time. But, in philately at least, bad reputations passed as new generations of collectors entered the hobby. These new collectors, not being aware of the tenuous reason for the criticized stamps at all, looked at the low prices for these long and interesting sets from places like Timor and St. Thomas and Prince, and couldn’t wait to put them in their albums.

There are numerous other examples of bad reputations turning to good. The Allied Military Government stamps of Trieste (now listed after Italy) were highly specialized in and promoted by one stamp dealer who was stationed there after WWII and was able to find many varieties on which collectors looked askance. Now, seventy years later, AMGs are a highly respectable specialty. The WWII era “FNLP” overprints of St. Pierre and Miquelon were controlled by two stamp dealers who seemed to be able to buy up most of the supply. At the time, many serious collectors insisted that they would never have these dubious issues in their collections. Today, collectors have forgotten the story and desire the stamps. The same is true of Canadian High Bright phosphors, 1960s and 1970s mint African Independent country stamps, and many other areas. In stamps, the most illegitimate birth is never bar to enduring popularity.

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