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 hobby from collecting pre-existing rare and unusual philatelic material to the collecting of philatelically manufactured and promoted items. The St Pierre and Miquelon WW II inspired government in exile overprints are a perfect example of both this change and of Bileski’s genius. Bileski induced the French government of St Pierre and Miquelon to issue many non required overprints during the German Occupation of France. He bought up the total print runs of many of these stamps and controlled the supply on most others, guaranteeing their provenance by signing his initials “K.B.” on the reverse. So far so good. It is what happened after this that is instructive. Initially, collectors reacted to these stamps with disdain. They were felt to be philatelically manipulated material and many collectors wouldn’t have them in their collections. But whether they were necessary or not, or whether Bileski had a sweetheart deal to obtain them or not, they were legitimate issues and the catalogs listed them.

 No memories are shorter that philatelic memories and now 60 years later these stamps are among the most popular and esteemed in our hobby. Bileski’s lessons were not lost on other philatelic promoters and over the last four decades a cascading array of philatelically inspired collectibles has been the norm. But the origins were with one of the world’s most successful stamp dealers-K. Bileski.

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