- Read more »Foreign 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).
- Read more »The 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.
- Read more »The 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
- Read more »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.
- Read more »There are three things that every collector should do to maximize the return that they receive for their stamps when they go to sell, and I will address them in ascending order of importance. First, it is very important to have some figures on your stamp collection. Do you have records of how much you spent? If so, add them up. If not, make a fair estimate based on the amount you felt like you spent per year over the years, making allowance for the years that your collecting was dormant. Most collectors won't get back the full amount that they spent, but at least this will give you some basis to judge how much your collection is worth. If you can catalog the collection by a recent year of the Scott catalog, it is a good idea to do so. Collections generally sell at low percentages of Scott value but they do sell at percentages, and this is a way to evaluate the offers that you receive. Fur
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The degree of difficulty of a philatelic specialty is determined by three components. First is the intrinsic scarcity of the material, second the cost involved, and third the number of specialized striations into which the field has been separated. Scarcity and cost are related. Scarcity is an intrinsic value related to the amount of material that is available to collectors. It is derived from the numbers that were printed and more importantly the numbers that were saved and have been passed down to stamp collectors. Cost relates to how that intrinsic scarcity interacts with demand. Honduras has many very rare stamps that sell for only a few dollars. Great Britain have many relatively common stamps (such as
- Posted June 08, 2018Read more »Coin 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
- Posted June 07, 2018Read more »
Book 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 collec
- Posted June 05, 2018Read more »
Aerophilately 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 w
- Posted June 04, 2018Read more »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?Printer’s Waste is a fairly amorpho
- Posted June 01, 2018Read more »
Today 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 probabl
- Posted May 31, 2018Read more »
Philately 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 cou
- Posted May 29, 2018Read more »
Many 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.
- Posted May 29, 2018Read more »
It 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 n
- Posted May 25, 2018Read more »
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 mea
- Posted May 24, 2018Read more »Until 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 verti
- Posted May 22, 2018Read more »
In 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
- Posted May 22, 2018Read more »
One 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
- Posted May 18, 2018Read more »
Until 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 dol
- Posted May 17, 2018Read more »
Traditionally, 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 c