Blog

  1. Watermarks

    Image result for victorian stamp watermarkWatermarks are a design that are put in paper by the manufacturer to identify the paper as their product. They are an outgrowth of the earliest paper which is called laid paper. Laid paper is produced by allowing the paper pulp particles to coagulate on a bed that is a screen made up of closely knit small parallel rods of metal. The pulp coalesces in a pattern of thickness and thinness that mimics the bed that it was made on. When paper technology advanced and paper was produced on a cloth bed (where the fibers had been woven-thus "wove" paper) paper had no thick-thin variance within the sheet. Paper makers found that they could put a pattern in the cloth bed that the

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  2. India

    Despite a substantial increase in the last several years, the stamps of India and States are still undervalued and under appreciated. As the economy of India has grown and as the Indian diaspora has become more financially successful in the many countries to which Indians have moved, the stamps of India and States have grown tremendously in popularity. But despite the ebb and flow of short term popularity, there is one component that will contribute to increasing prices for these stamps and that is their intrinsic scarcity. There are three hot countries now-China, Russia and India. The reasons for the vastly improved popularity of these count

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  3. Change

    Image result for living person on stamp usMost people are not very comfortable with change and certainly this feeling increases with age. So it is not surprising that the fact that the post office began featuring living people on postage stamps has been received suspiciously by the organized philatelic community. It's always a good idea when reflecting on a change to speculate what it would be like if the situation had always been what the change would take us to. Supppose the United States Post Office never had it's self imposed "ten years dead" rule? And also suppose that the new issues of the United States had continued to be responsible and used living persons

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  4. Is Anything Alright, Sir?

    Image result for duck and coverThis is the punch line to a rather sad joke. A waiter is waiting on a group of sour customers. Everything is a problem, nothing is good enough. At the conclusion of the meal the waiter, instead of asking if everything is alright, asks if anything is alright. We live in angry times or at least in times where it is acceptable to show just how angry you are. Political discourse is based on the principle of who can express the most hostility towards the other side. Some political commentators and politicians would have you believe that there has never been a worse time in America. But, really, are things worse today than they were in the 1950's? I remember Air Raid drills in elemen

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  5. Grading Evolution

    Image result for philatelic gradeOur hobby is just 170 years old, a mere babe by the standards of hobbies such as numismatics. But already the grading standards and the quality grades that collectors desire has undergone a profound metamorphosis, one which current generations of collectors have been spared. For the first collectors, any copy of a stamp from perfect to severely damaged would do and the earliest stamp price lists never mention quality because it didn't matter. One sees an entire genre of philatelic articles beginning about 1870 on soaking and how that is the preferred way of removing stamps from envelopes. This was the quality conscious successor to the earliest rem

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  6. Philatelic Vacations, 1930

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  7. Snow

    Image result for snowThe weather forecast in Philadelphia is for over 6" of snow beginning tonight and lasting through tomorrow morning. My first philatelic memory is suffused with snow. I was in the third grade and had just received my first stamp album from Santa for Christmas. It was a Harris Statesman Deluxe album and it came with a packet of a thousand different worldwide stamps, a pair of tongs, and a pack of Dennison hinges. For Christmas that year I had also gotten a small rocket launcher set so the stamp collection got opened and then laid on a shelf. We had a rule in our house when I was little that we weren't allowed out sleddi

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  8. Finland

    Image result for Finland PhilatelyThe classic stamps of Finland are unlike any of the other stamps of Europe. The first issues are very simple in design and have a crudeness that is only matched by the Cotton Reels of British Guiana or Indian Native States. The second issues are stamps picturing the Finnish Coat of Arms and have the most interesting roulettes of any philatelic issues ever. Roulettes are cuts in the paper to facilitate stamp separating and are used instead of perforations. The technology never caught on because it was hard to keep the cutting knives sharp and the rouletting process made it difficult to separate the stamps without tearing them. The Finnish roultettes are among the most str

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  9. Check Letters

    There were several concerns that were raised against issuing postage stamps when Rowland Hill advanced the idea in the late 1830's. Most of the objections were of the "not invented here" variety which is part of a normal human resistance to change. But three major objections -counterfeiting, reuse of postage stamps and accountancy issues- were solved or ameliorated with one simple innovation-check letters.

    Check letters are simple a way of indicating where in the sheet a stamp was printed. Beginning at the top of the sheet all of the first horizontal row of stamps was g

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  10. Stamp Survival

    Image result for 19th century printingThe problem of what quantities exist of different classic stamps has been one of the great difficulties of philatelic research. Before the days of the Internet nearly all classic stamps that were sold were not illustrated so it was impossible for any census taker to know if he had counted a given specimen before. Counts of stamps such as United States 5c and 10c 1847 tend to be little more than guesses. We know that approximately 3.8 million 5c and 900,000 10c stamps were sold over the postal counters (that is delivered to post offices and not returned as unsold). But how many have survived the ensuing 160 years and still exist in collectors hands? Such numbers are important for anyone pondering

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  11. Guessing The Next Best Philatelic Area

    Image result for PakistanMost collectors collect what they like for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the popularity of the area or the potential for financial growth in what they collect. Others collect whatever is the "hot" area hoping to ride the train of popularity to make their collecting not only fun but profitable. Both are fine ways to go about your hobby. But many want to collect an area that is fun, challenging and currently inexpensive and that has the potential for price growth greater than the hobby as a whole.

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  12. Stamp Theft

    Image result for crookRobberies of stamp collections used to be a real problem. In the 1970's a large ring of stamp thieves were caught. They had an APS membership directory with them that they were using to figure out who to knock off next. When I was on the Board of Directors of the APS in the early 1980s, my home was burglarized, as were the homes of several other board members. But, stamp thefts have decreased in recent years and usually when philatelic materials are stolen it is part of a general burglary and not stamp specific. Insurance rates for stamps have dropped dramatically in real terms over the last thirty years. The reasons for the decrease in stamp theft are three. First, stamp prices have declined relative to the value of most other things. A mint US #C18

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  13. Some Characteristics of a Successful Hobby

    Image result for hobbyHobbies are successful when they allow a diverse group of participants to engage in an activity where they can find enjoyment. Over the last 150 years, philately has been one of the world's most successful hobbies, having millions of devotees. To be successful a hobby has to offer many things. It must have differing levels of appreciation- novices must find it immediately appealing on a visceral (or in the case of philately, visual) level and it must offer increasing pleasures and rewards to participants as they become more involved. If the hobby never gets more serious or involved more intelligent people soon tire of it. Philately is wonderful on this count. From the preliterate child sorting stamps by design

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  14. Philatelic Vacations 1930

    Image result for american air mail catalogueJohn Nicklin was one of the most prominent philatelists of his time. He edited the American Airmail catalog, was an editor of the Scott catalog and was president of the Society of Philatelic Americans a group that rivaled the American Philatelic Society in influence but was badly mismanaged in the 1970s and is now out of business. His biography shows us how much we have changed as a hobby and a culture in the last eighty years.

    Nicklin was an active philatelic writer in the 1930s. He tells us that his favorite way of spending his vacation was as follows: He would research the older banks and bankrupt trading houses in a geogra

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  15. Philatelic Opinions vs Guarantees

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  16. A Theory on Collecting

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  17. Postal Pricing

    Image result for wells fargo post officeElectronic communication has little variable cost. Once the lines are laid, or the satellite launched, electrons fly for free. Not so postal communications where distance travelled matters. Sending a letter from Philadelphia to one of its suburbs costs far less than mail from Philly to Nome, Alaska. World wide postal services began eliminating distance surcharges in 1840 with Rowland Hill's revolution in cheap postage. Before that, letter charges were based on how far the envelope had to go. In the United States,

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  18. Super Specialization

    Image result for #33 specialized collectionThere are very few areas of philately that can't be specialized to the max. Take the early postage dues of Romania for instance. Most collectors have just a single example of each of these common stamps but they are known with many perf varieties and especially scarce compound perfs (perforated say 14 at side by 12 at top), some of which are very rare. To specialize in this kind of area one has to know that such varieties in fact exist and then have enough of the material to sift through so as to both find enough material to actually have a collection and also to feel satisfied that you have accomplished something as a collector. This is just an example. Such specialization exists, though, on hundreds of micro areas in our hobby. But for the most part i

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  19. Universal Postal Union

    Image result for u.p.uBy 1874 the system of international carriage of letters was a mess. Countries had to negotiate postal treaties with each other and most treaties called for cross payments where part of the postage of a letter was remitted by the sending post office to the receiving post office. This was confusing and difficult to keep tabs of but of further complexity was the cross payments to transit countries (say when a letter from the United States landed in England, was sent to Poland and then across land to Russia). Nearly thirty five years after the Penny Black, with world commerce rising, the system of cross payments just wasn't working. It was slowing down communication and as postage rates dropped it was becoming more expensive to account for the letters than to carr

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  20. Production Values

    Perhaps the greatest change in our hobby in the last 80 years has been in the quality of the product that we collect. Stamps have gone from miniature pieces of art that reflect the skill and technological prowess of the nation that issued them to being little more than a chit indicating payment of postage, usually with a theme to appeal to collectors. The change is not only cultural-taste and artistic standards are lower now than they used to be- but also reflect the diminished roll that letters, and consequently postage stamps, play in our society. Until about 1950 telecommunication was difficult and expensive and was only used for the most important communications. Co

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