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  1. Great Britain Departmental Officials

    Departmental Official Stamps
    The first country to issue Official stamps was Great Britain. It did so at the same time that it issued the first stamp, the Penny Black. But Great Britain was scooped in one major aspect of Official stamps by the United States Post Office, and that was in the issuance of Departmental Officials— Officials for use by individual government departments. The United States issued its first Departmental Official in 1870 and Great Britain followed some ten years later.
     
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  2. It's Still Difficult to Become a Stamp Dealer

    The stamp business used to have what economists call high barriers to entry. It took a lot of knowledge, a lot of capital, and years of advertising and satisfying customers to build a good mailing list and a good stamp business. When the Internet became the preferred method of buying and selling in philately, there was considerable worry that old time stamp dealers would lose their competitive edge and that eBay and Stampwants would, overnight, make any seller a competitor of dealers who had spent decades building their sales networks.
     
    It has worked out somewhat differently. It is true that today anyone can be a seller with immediate access to the worldwide ph
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  3. Postal History vs Stamps

    Most philatelists, and especially most stamp dealers, see a dichotomy between traditional stamp collecting and the collecting of stamps on covers, which has come to be called postal history. Years ago, the best dealers and collectors of covers and postal history came up from the ranks of traditional philately. It was only after someone knew the stamps of a particular area and had collected and studied them for years that they would begin to study the use of those stamps and add covers to their collections. This fundamental way that most collectors began their hobby began to change around 1970 when collectors and dealers started to specialize in covers without any real knowledge of the stamps that franked their covers. This change occurred because increasing philatelic popularity had made prices so high that creating traditional stamp collections was too daunting for many collect
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  4. Size Matters

     
     
    There are four tiny EuropeanImage result for liechtenstein stamps states that maintained independence into modern times, more as an historic quirk than for any other reason. As Europe progressed through the centuries, hundreds of principalities and smaller sovereign units that had existed were merged into the German, Austro-Hungarian and Italian Empires at the end of the Nineteenth Century. This consolidation produced the geopolitical borders that we have today. Four tiny countries didn't join (or weren't forced to join) larger units, mostly because their isolation made them not worth the trouble. Now, they continue to e
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  5. Plate Blocks

    Each Country has quirky collecting habits related to how their stamps were printed and to the marginal markings that originally contained printer's information or advertising. Israeli collectors collect their stamps with tabs, which are inscriptions that appear in the margins and which are collected attached to the stamps themselves. French collectors collect milliseme pairs, which are margin pairs with plate numbers between the two stamps. These pairs are from large sheets that were later cut into panes to be sold at the Post Office. British collectors collect gutter pairs with color registration markings-these are
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  6. Specialized Modern United States

    One of the more ironic things about specialized philately is that collectors are far more likely to collect older issues in a highly specialized degree than they are to collect more modern stamps in the same degree of detail. Penny Blacks are specialized by plate number. There were 12 plates- each of which can only be told by detailed examination against known plated stamps) and 240  positions on each sheet (one for each set of check letters) making 2880 collectible stamps of the first postage stamp alone. Of the Penny Red of 1841, the second GB stamp, there are tens of thousands of different collectible varieties. Coll
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  7. Revenue Stamped Paper

    The specialty area of United States Revenues may be the most fertile collecting specialty for collectors. Scott lists the general issue revenues which are interesting enough. But it is in the field of the specialty revenues where collectors have had the most fun. There are specialty Revenues for everything from Perfume Tax Stamps to Consular Office Revenues (which paid the tax on things like passports and visas), to even Marijuana Tax Stamps (which paid a tax on the illegal drug). Incidentally, Marijuana Tax Stamps were declared unconstitutional by the the Supreme Court as a form of self incrimination sin
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  8. American Philatelist

    Image result for american philatelist

    Probably the best philatelic magazine that is published anywhere in the world is the "The American Philatelist", which is the monthly journal of the American Philatelic Society. Over eighty pages each month, the magazine serves partly as a member bulletin. But the real interest each month is the numerous detailed articles written by members,  mostly about their collections and collecting interests.
     
    Philatelic scholars
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  9. Manchukuo

    Look for stories about the deteriorating relationship between Japan and China to be in the news over the next year. The two countries have a dispute over some islands in the China Sea, and the Japanese recently elected a far more aggressive government to deal with the perceived Chinese threat to Japanese interests. The Chinese are reacting to the feeling that the Japanese have long taken advantage of them. The chances are that this dispute will simmer along below the boiling point, mostly because both countries do so much business together, and they have so much to lose if the confrontations go beyond the verbal stage. But face mu
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  10. Booklets vs Booklet Panes

    Image result for earliest stamp bookletsThe original format in which stamps were issued was full sheets. As time went on, postal authorities began to produce stamps for sale in more convenient formats for postal users. In the era before postage meters (and now, pre-printed postage indices), coil stamps were issued as the preferred method of stamp purchases for large mailing houses. Issued in rolls (sometimes up to as many as 10,000 in a single roll), the mailing houses could place these large rolls in their mailing machines and lower their labor costs as these stamps were automatically affixed. Individuals could buy coils, too (and some countries, such as Sweden largely had coils as their preferred method of stamp production), but for the most part coils were produced mainly fo
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  11. National Symbols On Stamps


    Stamp design and messaging has changed over the course of the last one hundred years. For most of the  nineteenth century, stamp design was simple and rarely changed. New issues were uncommon and Commemoratives unheard of. Design was meant to identify the label quickly as an official government item, a bearer bond so to speak, which indicated a prepaid service of a certain amount. The denomination needed to be clearly indicated (and most countries used color coding to help with denomination recognition- on US stamps the first class (3c) rate was red and the transcontinental rate (10c) was green), and the design ne
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  12. Stamp Design As Part Of The Historical Record

     

     

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  13. Original Gum On 19th Century Stamps

    Image result for original gum stampsReaders of this blog are aware by now of how fashions change in philately. Used stamps were comparatively more popular fifty years ago than they are today. Covers and postal history were essentially uncollected until about 1920, had their peak around 1980, and have since fallen to a secure but niche collecting status. Blocks and multiples were once part of everyone's collection; today a single will do.
     
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  14. Brinkmanship

    Image result for elliot perry stampsIn the 1940s and 1950s, the terror of the philatelic world was Elliot Perry. Perry was a knowledgeable philatelist but a personal horror. Every philatelic dispute was to him a holy crusade. A suggestion that his opinion wasn't formed on Olympus enraged him to the point that he never forgave the miscreant who doubted him. He had a dispute with Harry Konwiser, another prominent philatelist, that may have started over a Confederate cover, but as was clear in their telling of it, neither retained much sense over what the dispute was originally about. The conflagration lasted decades and was public and acrimonious in the extreme. Perry made himself unassailable, not so much because he was so knowledgeable, but because he made the public price of dis
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  15. Philatelic Predictions

    Image result for predictionsThroughout philatelic history, writers have been predicting the next great philatelic area or specialty that will take off in price. Predictions are usually founded on one of two criteria that predict the supposed increase in  popularity that the stamps will undergo. Either the economy of the country will take off creating a pool of desperate collectors eager to buy the older issues that you should have put away (if only you had listened to the prognosticator), or there is some intrinsic not fully understood rarity factor that collectors will ultimately discover which will make them eager to buy stamps that you (had you listened to the prognosticator) should have put away in quantity. The problem with predictions is t

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  16. Our Shop

    Earl P.L. Apfelbaum opened for business full time in 1930 in downtown Philadelphia. He began his business during the Great Depression and started by selling out of his own stamp collection. His business and his stock grew and grew, and by 1950, the Apfelbaum stamp firm had opened a large office on South Penn Square, opposite Philadelphia's city hall in which we had one of the largest retail stamp stores in the United States. There were thousands of books of stamps neatly arranged by country and Scott number in the price range of 25 cents to several hundred dollars per item. There were hundreds of boxes of individually priced covers arranged by country. Clients from around the world would stop in and spend an afternoon or even a few days. Once a German fellow came in while on vacation and was so enamored of the thousands of items that he could peruse that he sent the rest

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  17. Certification

     

    Stamp certification never provides absolute certainty to stamp buyers. Expert committees in the United States are very clear that they offer only an opinion, not a guarantee. Their legal boilerplate, which every owner signs when he commits his stamps 
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  18. Stamp Writing

    Stamps have been written about since they first started being collected (for over 150 years now) so any avid philatelic reader has millions of philatelic words to brighten his cold winter evenings. Over time, readers have realized that stamp writing comes in four major types. Each collector has his favorite type and writers rarely write in more than one of these different philatelic genres.

    Image result for london philatelist 1892The first major type of stamp writing, the largest in terms of words written and books and articles published in the more high-bro

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  19. Those Pesky Grills

    Throughout the Nineteenth Century, postal officials around the globe had one paranoia in common: they feared that postal patrons were soaking used stamps off envelopes, washing the cancellations, and then reusing the stamps. Philatelists who have studied thousands of stamps from the period have found scant evidence of this fraud. But that didn't keep postal authorities from devising more and more detailed plans to discourage such illegal reuse. The anti-reuse hysteria reached its apex with the grilled issues of 1867.
     
    Grills are tiny cuts made in the paper of a stamp. The stamps were printed, gummed, and, before the perforation process, fed
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  20. Stamp Packets

    Image result for stamp packetsEvery kid in the 1950s and 1960s began collecting stamps the same way. We started with a Harris or Minkus worldwide album. Mine was the Statesman Deluxe, which had spaces for over 25,000 stamps. Next up the ladder was the Citation album, which had spaces for over 50,000 stamps, and to which I aspired. What made these albums interesting (and what made philately the social hobby that it was in the 1950s and 1960s for children) was the fact that these albums had illustrations; Harris and Minkus also marketed packets of 10,000 or 20,000 different stamps which contained many of the stamps that were illustrated in the album. Each packet contained not only many of the same stamps, but also many stamps that
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