Blog

  1. Why and When

    Image result for repairsOne often sees discussions concerning repairs on lower priced stamps. While collectors do need to be careful about repairs and alterations it is important to remember that stamps are repaired for a reason and that reason is so they can be sold as non damaged items at higher prices than they would be otherwise. Thus repairing a stamp is an economic act, not someone engaging in an esoteric activity. I say this so that you'll keep in mind the two questions that reasonable philatelists ask when they are examining an item for repairs; Why, and when? If a stamp has been in a collection for thirty years and was thought to be a cheap stamp thirty years ago why would anybody waste th

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  2. Iceland Parliment

    Image result for Iceland flagThe Althing is the parliament of Iceland and is considered to be the oldest Parliament in the world (though whether this is "continuous" or not is subject to some dispute). But the Icelanders are rightfully proud of their Parliament's longevity and have publicized it on two 1930 sets which commemorated the one thousandth anniversary of the Althings founding in 930. These sets have always been popular not only among Iceland philatelists and Scandinavian collectors but among all stamp collectors who like well designed and printed stamps and who like good value for their money. Iceland has always been one of those countries that has enjoyed great philatelic popularity despite limited internal demand for their

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  3. When Collectors Buy Stamps

    Image result for information ageRemember how you organized your day in 1970? Your clock radio alarm went off and you listened to a bit of news or some music while the percolator made coffee. The morning newspaper was at the front door and you read that before going off to work. At your office you did your professional tasks while looking forward to a date later that night with your Apfelbaum Auction catalog, or Linns, or whatever philatelic item would come in the mail that day. People's lives were compartmentalized and the change in this aspect of our lives is probably why you hear so little about conversations around the water cooler anymore. They no longer exist, as the Information Age has allowed us access to who and what we like, whenever we want. No more waiting to go home to read the news

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  4. Part Time Stamp Dealing

    Image result for auctionHaving a small business going into retirement can be a very nice part time activity. Using your collection duplicates and carefully adding to your stock can help you build an inventory that is salable and desireable. Here are few ground rules for making it work. First, stick to selling the stamps of one country or topic. Success in stamp dealing depends on repeat business and, since most collectors collect one or two countries, by only selling one country you maximize your chances of establishing a continuing business relationship with each customer. Second, have a presence on eBay. It's hard to overemphasize what a boon eBay has been to the casual and newer dealer. In the years before the Internet it could take decades to have the market penetration in stamp dealing tha

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  5. Stamp Sparking

    Image result for heartsAngie was in her early forties and had began collecting in a serious way after her husband died. She was in social service work, comfortable financial circumstances, and was an interesting and attractive woman. Will was a few years older, a widower, attorney and also an avid collector. Both would come to our office every couple of months and it took a bit of time for me to put together what a great a match this would be. Here were two serious collectors, each well educated, interesting and fun, of the same religious background and in similar places with their kids. What's more they both collected the same area-Butterflies on Stamps. It seemed like a match made in heaven and one afternoon when they were both at my o

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  6. Pink

    One area where the Scott catalog is inconsistent and unreliable concerns shades. Most stamps of the Nineteenth Century exist in numerous shades. The reason is simple. Ink colors were hard to match and when different printings of the same stamps were made, while the printers attempted to match the inks, there was no foolproof way of matching the color exactly from one printing to the next. The Scott catalog on US stamps attempts to list most of the major shades and usually they are listed as minor varieties which is what they are. But sometimes the shades are a bit more startling or glamorous and the early catalog editors made them into entirely

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  7. Quality

    Image result for pse gradeOver the course of the history of our hobby, collector attitudes towards quality have changed significantly. In the early days of our hobby little attention was paid to even the most rudimentary principles of quality. Any stamp, no matter how damaged, was collectible and we see early collections that have items in them that are little more than just pieces of stamps. Collectors today usually collect with a consistency of quality. If a collector is a VF collector most of his stamps are of this high grade. But old time collections often have VF stamps next to very defective items. As the Twentieth Century evolved, collectors became more and more quality conscious to where, by 1970, many collectors were purchasing only the be

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  8. Stamp Differences

    Stamp differences, the characteristics that determine which stamp is which, can be quantified into two types-the visually apparent and the equipment driven. Image result for philatelic watermarkVisually apparent differences-design difference, shades, perfs (or imperf) appeal to nearly all collectors whereas equipment driven differences such as watermarks and fluorescent varieties appeal to more limited numbers. US collectors are quite spoiled in this regard. US stamps were only watermarked for thirty years (out of  165 years of US stamps) and there are only two watermark types to recognize. But areas where watermark varieties are significant ha

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  9. Are Forgeries Still a Problem?

    Almost from the very day that Philately began as a serious hobby, stamp collectors were plagued by forgeries. Forgeries exist in two types; those made for philatelic consumption and those produced to defraud the postal service of revenue (called postal forgeries). These postal forgeries are in nearly all cases not only very rare but highly collectible and desired as examples of postal history. But philatelic forgeries are rarely scarce, and seldom desired by stamp collectors. But they do turn up unwanted in many stamp albums and though detailed counterfeit detection is work for experts, there are many things even a casual stamp collector can know that can help spot a forgery or at least arouse suspicion.
    Most philatelic forgeries were n
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  10. Cancellations

    Image result for Rowland hillOne of the earliest objections to Rowland Hill's idea for a gummed label that indicated prepayment of postage was the fear that such a label could be soaked off and reused. A postage stamp is one of the simplest examples of a bearer certificate-anyone who possesses it can use it to mail a letter and the fear of reuse was very real. Postage of a British penny in 1840, when wages of a pound a week would support a family of four with ease, was the equivalent of perhaps $5 today so such fear had a real basis in fact. The first stamps were cancelled with Maltese cross cancellations which provided a sometimes disfiguring obliteration and the town from which the letter was

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  11. Spikes in Stamp Popularity

    Image result for stamp collectingPhilately has been a pretty consistent hobby in terms of popularity since its earliest days. Stamp collecting is not for everyone. It appeals most to intelligent, reflective people and goes well with a splash of introversion. Philately began as a diversionary hobby, more of a game to see how many different stamps you could obtain, though by the 1880's stamp collecting had developed into the hobby that we have today, complete with catalogs and societies and literature. Slow and steady grow
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  12. Collecting Used High Value Columbians

    Image result for Columbian ExpositionThe story of the 1893 Columbian Exposition issue is well known. World's Fairs, which was what the Columbian Exposition was, were a big thing until the advent of television and theme parks (in fact the last great US World Fair, the 1964 World's fair in New York, had the first version of the "It's a Small World" ride that was incorporated into Disney world). World's fairs were a chance to see the latest innovations, and companies and nations vied with presentations to awe and impress. In 1893 the United States Post Office wanted to do just that, and as part of their exhibit they issued a new set of stamps commemorating Columbus' discovery of the new world. I

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  13. Free Postage and Handling

    Image result for just shipping and handlingOne of the great profit centers for mail order companies has always been their postage and handling charges. The idea is a good one for the business involved but not so great for the customer. Why mail order companies should be able to get away with charging for postage and handling is kind of odd. Traditional retailers don't have stocking fees or store rent and clerk fees. It always has felt like a business's attempt to pass on their cost of doing business to their customers.

    Apfelbaum has completely done away with postage and handling fees, (we are the first auctioneer to do this). Buy a lot from us, any lot from an individual stamp to a massive multi-carton lot, and it will be delivered free to your door anywhere in the continental United States. The evolutio
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  14. His and Hers

    Image result for stamp collectorMost stamp collectors are married men. In fact, if you had to pick the person who was at the exact center of the philatelic demographic in this country you would have a married man in his sixties with grown children. He would be more or less happily married. He and his wife share nearly everything together. They have children, and if they are lucky, grandchildren who they enjoy together. And they share and enjoy together friends, movies, even books. But the one thing our demographically perfect collector and his wife do not enjoy together is his stamps. Very few couples contain two stamp collectors. And when they do they always collect different areas, never together.
    Collecting is at its heart a so
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  15. Philatelic Literature

    Image result for libraryPeople began writing about stamps almost as soon as they began collecting them. The first stamp magazines, really little more than dealer price lists with articles, were issued before 1840 and by the 1890s the London Philatelist, the precursor journal of the Royal Society of London, was actively publishing monthly scholarly philatelic articles. By 1900, there had been hundreds of books published, though throughout the long tradition of philatelic publishing it has been periodicals,far more than books, that have had the most activity.
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  16. German States

    Image result for PrussiaAmong the most interesting stamps that exist in our hobby are the stamps of the German States. What we call Germany today is a very recent political invention. The area of Germany was never part of the Roman Empire, and so the various Germanic tribes that occupied and conquered that area were never unified. As the Middle Ages progressed the area was unified under Charlemagne and then under the political hodge-podge that was the Holy Roman Empire. But by the early Nineteenth Century the political climate of Germany was very diffuse with many principalities calming jurisdiction over the area.

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  17. Difficulty of Collecting US Banknotes

    Image result for american banknote companyForeign collectors believe that collecting United States stamps is the most difficult of all national collecting specialties. The reason is that we make too many major catalog numbers of stamps on which the differences are very hard to distinguish. It starts with the one cent 1851's of which there are seven major catalog numbers of a single design and color, but it really reaches its apotheosis with the Bank Note Issue beginning in 1870 (These issues are called the Bank Note issues because the the US Post Office changed its printing contract to award it to a printing company that also printed currency).
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  18. The Future of Central European Philately

    Image result for switzerlandThe engine of philatelic popularity and growth over the 170 or so years that philately has been a hobby has traditionally been the stamps of Central Europe-Germany and its numerous component areas, Switzerland, Austria and to a lesser extent Liechtenstein. In 1930 there were probably as many serious German collectors as there were in the rest of the world combined. The numbers are dwindling as young German Swiss and Austrian children are being drawn to their computer games and away from hobbies in general. This means there will be a vast and growing overhang of Central European stamps on the market in the coming years, and it is hard to see where there will be enough collectors to soak up the supply.
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  19. World War II

    Image result for shermanThe three great scourges of humanity have historically been war, famine, and pestilence. Modern technology though seems to have solved the problems of the devastation of two of these. In the last two centuries over 100 million people have died in famines. But fertilization, irrigation and genetic engineering have today made famine more of a byproduct of war than a primary killer. And infectious  disease, after killing hundreds of millions throughout history, has largely been defeated. But war still kills millions each decade, and in the nuclear age we are always just a few poor Pre
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  20. Moldavia

    Before 1859 Romania didn't exist in its current form and one of its component nations, Moldavia, was one of the first issuers of stamps. The famous Moldavia Bulls have been a favorite of philatelists since the beginning of our hobby. They combine the three characteristics that collectors most esteem-they were issued for purely postal purposes with no advance warning to collectors and no hoarding. They are primitive in design and execution. And they are, and always have been, rare. A short look at these three philatelic characteristics of popularity will help explain how our hobby developed and cast light on many aspects of philately that are still with us today.
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