Monthly Archives: December 2010

  1. This Was The Year That Was

    After a tepid 2009, the stamp market was pretty good this last year. Our EBay selling customers reported good activity for the most part. Business was not great week after week, but there were very strong weeks for EBay sellers and the market for commercial grade stamps from popular, well collected countries improved. The auction market for better grade stamps to serious collectors was very strong. British Commonwealth was especially good, Canada was definitely improving after a weak 2009, and German speaking area philately was much better than it had been. Serious collecting areas where there are no dealer stocks (such diverse areas as Mexico or Confederate States) never showed any weakness during the recession and so continued to be rapid and firm sellers. Scandinavia was soft as it has been for years. As we move forward toward 2011, it seems that the Great Recession is over in stamps. Activity is improving and price levels for US stamps are beginning to edge upwards after falling mo

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  2. Stamp Theft

    Robberies 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 sold for $200 in 1980. It sells for $40 today and at the price levels for most stamp collections the risk of stealing them is not worth the reward. (Crooks are among the most rational economists around). Second, stamps are hard to fence. T

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  3. The One Cent British Guiana

    Those of us who came of philatelic age in the post WWII era always dreamed of owning the one cent Magenta British Guiana #13. It had panache. The rarest stamp in the great Ferrary collection that was sold in Paris after WWI to help pay for Germany's war reparations, the stamp had the highest realization of any stamp in that auction. It ended up in the collection of an American, Arthur Hind. The stamp had been purchased at the Ferrary auction in 1922 for $30,000 which was ten time the price another unique stamp realized-the error of color of Sweden #1. The stamp was sold in 1980 to John E DuPont, heir to the chemical fortune and here the story of the stamp changes from interesting to macabre. DuPont was not only a prominent stamp collector, he was a gun nut and paramilitary wannabe. He would tool around his Pennsylvania estate in a modified tank and flak jacket, often with the rarest stamp in the world in his pocket. He also had homoerotic attachments for young male wrestlers who he wou

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  4. Confederate States


    One of the most interesting philatelic areas is Confederate States. When the Southern States seceded from the Union in 1861 over the issue of whether they would be allowed to continue to own human beings as slaves, the eleven seceding states (Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas,and Missouri) quickly set up a postal system and issued their own stamps. The philately of the Confederate States has always been popular as there are so many things that a collector can do with this area. There are the stamps of the union that were used in the south after secession but be
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  5. Some Good Stamp Offers

    We have a great Buy it Now sale up. You can find it on our website. Listed are over 6300 lots of fine philatelic material of all categories and descriptions. There is wonderful US and British and all sorts of Foreign specialty items and well its hard to imagine any philatelist not being able to find something of interest. The Apfelbaum family has been selling stamps to collectors for over 100 years and we offer the same money back guarantee of satisfaction and lifetime guarantee on our descriptions that we always have.

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  6. On Goodness

    Few people today understand the technical revolution that the invention of the postage stamp produced. In many ways, stamp invention had as great an effect on 19th Century communication and commerce as computers and electronic communication has had on ours. Ease of contact facilitated business and social interaction. Business was enhanced. Newspapers and book readership increased as it became cheaper to deliver texts to readers. Social barriers fell as the lower classes could communicate with relatives and have access to employment and commercial opportunities that had been denied them. And the inventor of the postage stamp was fully aware of the social benefits of his ingenuity. Rowland Hill was a passionate progressive who fought for the betterment of the middle classes throughout his life. Opposed to slavery (and remember a prominent part of the Conservative agenda in the pre-1860 period was the rights of private property which included the right to own other human beings) and dedic

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  7. Howard Ryan

    Howard Ryan was an old collector when I first entered the stamp business forty years ago. He collected line engraved stamps of the nineteenth century which meant the first issues of Great Britain, all of United States and a few issues of a few European and foreign countries. Line engraving was the most secure form of printing and engraved stamps were very difficult and expensive to forge. Countries used them to discourage counterfeiting and to a large extent it worked. There are no decent counterfeits of nineteenth century US stamps and hundreds of forgeries of nineteenth century German States stamps, most of which were printed by typography, a simpler and far less secure printing method. Howard only collected line engraved and he only collected them in the highest gem like quality. So he was after a 120 year old paper product that had been cut from a sheet, placed on an envelope, delivered hundreds if not thousands of miles distant, removed from the envelope and placed in a succession

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  8. Modern US Philately

    One of the most interesting aspects of US philately over the last twenty years has been the number of unusual collecting varieties that are issued as part of the ordinary postal issues of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Modern technology seems to produce more printing varieties rather than fewer and in the future many of these varieties could turn out to be very rare. Compare two regular issue first class postage rate stamps- the 37c regular issue stamp of 2002 to the 6c regular issue stamp of 1970. There are over 100 listed varieties of the 2002 issue in the Scott specialized compared to only about 20 of the 6c stamp. And specialists identify many more varieties than these. What traditionally happens in philately is that at the onset only a few collectors search out newer varieties. Look at early plate blocks. Plate Block collectors in the 1920's were looked at as kind of nutty but over the years their prescience paid off. It is impossible to predict that the thousands of variet

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  9. A holiday Offer

    We bought a collection yesterday that I want to offer to my blog readers before we offer it for general sale. It is a worldwide collection of approximately 40000 different stamps in 18 Scott International Albums. All countries are represented and the collection goes up to about 1970. Strongest areas include British Commonwealth especially Oceania and Asia, regular Asia, France and Colonies, Europe, Portuguese Colonies and Latin America. In fact the collection shows a marked strength in 20th Century with hundreds of mint sets. The collector made this collection lovingly over a period of many years and cataloged it carefully in 2008 using the 2008 Scott catalog. He carefully noted the catalog value of each page at the bottom of the page in pencil so anyone wanting to sell the different countries individually would only have to remove the pages and add up the values on the pages. The total 2008 Scott value is over $95,000 so figure the 2011 would be at least $110,000. There are no 19th Ce

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  10. Buy Ads

    One of the several indices that I use to predict future stamp market strength is the ratio of the number of advertisements in Linns wanting to buy stamps to the number of ads wanting to sell. From 1975 (when I began tracking this) to about 2000, the ratio would vary from about 40% Buy ads in weaker market periods to over 60% in stronger periods. The Internet has changed the raw ratios as now a far greater proportion of selling is done on the Internet than in print ads. The reason is that quicker lead times and lower costs make the Internet ideal for selling. But stamp dealers who wish to buy stamps are trying to troll for customers who may not be as web savvy and who are not part of their normal customer base. Thus, traditional print advertising is the vehicle most stamp dealers use when they are trying to reach potential sellers of their collections. The latest Linns (Dec 13 edition) had nine full page advertisements, not counting the publishers ads for their own products. Of these ei

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  11. Philatelic Year 2010

    The stamp market has ended the year on an up note. The year started strongly and had some weakness mid year but has come back quite well towards the end. Since the recession began three years ago prices for most material has come down 20-30%. This was a large decrease to absorb (though less than the housing market) and it kept many collectors from selling over the last few years. It is hard to know where prices are going to go in the next few years but most buyers and sellers have adjusted to the new price levels and we are seeing much more fresh new material on the market than we have seen in quite a while. Fresh material spurs collector interest which increases buying of all sorts of philatelic material so it is a market positive at all levels. A market negative is EBay. Its increasing fees and difficulty to do business with is pushing many of its sellers to the brink. One of the prominant growth engines in the stamp market over the last ten years has been the increase of sellers on

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  12. Specialization

    Philately differs country to country in the degree of specialization with which it is pursued. For many Latin American countries a specialist will want only the classic stamp, perhaps a few multiples, and a cover or two. Mexico has the district overprints which offer a delight of minutiae but among Latin American philately this is rare. For old world collectors, probably no country is more specialized than Austria. Austrian collectors use the Ferchanbauer and Mueller catalogs and for the classic issues collect their stamps by mint and used, multiples, color varieties, usages, first day cancels and early usages and paper thickness (measured in millimeters) and more. The far greater specialization and attention to detail is prevalent in all the German speaking countries and in Scandinavia and is in marked difference to the philately of the rest of the world. It's not that differences in paper thickness don't exist on classic US or GB stamps, it's that the collectors don't care much. This

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  13. The Collecting Gene

    Increasingly, matters that used to be explained by personality and temperament are being shown to have a genetic base. The theory is not that one's genetic makeup forces him to be a hypocrite or a republican (not that they are the same) but that genetics plays a prominent role in psychology and personality development. This adds a bit of weight to the nature side of the nature-nurture fulcrum. It isn't an excuse for cheating on your wife, but it does help explain why people raised in the same environment often differ so much in temperament. But the human gene pool doesn't change all that quickly. Rather, basic instinctual drives get acted upon in different ways. Witness the genetic predisposition for tearing your rivals with your teeth which civilization has tempered into using ridicule and sarcasm to achieve the same ends. But what has the collecting impulse, which in our childhood got us into philately, been morphed into. Collecting satisfies a need for order. That need hasn't change

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  14. Canada


    A wonderful country to collect is Canada. The stamps are beautifully printed and more affordable than most major countries. You can complete the entire country with the exception of #3 for under $10000 which considering the scarcity of the stamps is remarkable. It probably relates to the relative size of the home market. There are 35 million Canadians (about 10% of the population of the United States) and probably only about 10% of the collectors of Canadian stamps. Look at this as an opportunity. Canadian stamps of the classic period are line engraved and far more attractive than the stamps of the United States and Great Britain.
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  15. Michel de Montaigne

    Montaigne, who died in 1592, was one of the world's great essayists(you can buy his complete essays, which run to nearly 1400 pages of print, on Amazon Kindle for 89c-which has to be one of the great bargains of all time). He was reared as a minor French aristocrat by a pedantic father who raised him speaking only Latin. He didn't speak French, his native language, until he was a teen. By the time he was a young adult, he had read every book that was in print at the time (quite an accomplishment, even though the number of books by modern standards was quite low. Milton was said to have done the same thing). The beauty of Montaigne's essays are that not only are his insights into human nature sharp and poignant, but that his profound learning allows him to draw on 2000 years of classic and medieval writings to make his points. A modern reader not only reads Montaigne, but he feels like he is reading an explicative commentary on the great Greek and Roman writers who today no one has the

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  16. First Day Covers

    Lloyd De Vries has a good article in the November 29th edition of Linns in which he talks about the First Day cover market and specifically First Day cover prices. Each country has its own twist on collecting its own stamps. For example, the British collect (or did ) Traffic Light gutter pairs(pairs with the colored registration markings on the gutters between panes) and Israel collectors collect tabs. Americans have always saved plate blocks and FDCs. Even today, older people you meet who report being collectors when they were younger tell you that they collected plate blocks and First Day covers. But both these subspecialties of US philately are withering and for the same three reasons. First, there is a shortage of new collectors. When every young boy collected stamps, the subset of collectors who also collected plate blocks and FDCs was relatively large. Video games (or whatever is their latest incarnation) have replaced philately among young boys and so the pool of potential colle

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