Monthly Archives: March 2011

  1. Antigua


    Antigua was one of the first islands discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. For over 150 years after that native Caribs resisted colonization from the Spanish and as the island was small and had little to offer in the way of gold and silver, the Spanish left it alone. By the mid seventeenth century, the British were colonizing most of the West Indian islands, turning them into slave plantations for the production of tobacco and sugar. The purpose of these islands and what went on in Antigua was well known in Great Britain and it was the treatment of the African slaves in these island that created the British abolitionist movement. But the acceptance o
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  2. Edward VII


    The philately of the British Commonwealth is characterized by specialization by reigns. Some collectors attempt it all but most collectors specialize either by country or by the issues of the differing reigning monarchs which is another way of collecting by era. Queen Victoria was on the first postage stamps and reigned (philatelically) from 1840-1901. King Edward VII followed (1901-1910), then George V (1910-1936), Edward VIII (a philatelic nonentity), George VI (1936-1952), and Queen Elizabeth II (1952-current). 2013 will celebrate Elizabeth's 61st philatelic year matching Queen Victoria. To have had only five monarchs on your stamps in 170 years is a monument
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  3. Consistency

    Great stamp collections are made by people who share one trait-consistency. Sure, money helps make a great collection. It would be hard to have rare stamps without some monetary outlay. And good fortune (when it happens to you-luck when it happens to someone else-and dumb luck when to a person who you don't like) plays a role too. One has to be lucky sometimes to find the just right item for a specialized collection. But consistency is the overriding feature that the most successful philatelists share. First, collectors need consistency of approach. They need to define their collecting carefully and be aware of the items that they need in their specialized area. They do the study and the research to determine what is available and what the approximate price level will be. They are realistic with their resources. A collector with modest resources can assemble a wonderful collection in a field where the price points are more modest and the amount of material less vast-Guam comes to mind.

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  4. Baseball and Philately


    For the first 92 years that the United States issued postage stamps the themes were either famous politicians or historical events. In 1939 that changed and the United States issued its first stamp with a nonpolitical theme-baseball. The origins of baseball are not well known. The Abner Doubleday myth was created in the early part of the twentieth century but the truth is that baseball is an American rendering of the English game of rounders and it grew up in an informal way during the early to mid nineteenth century. By about 1880 the rules looked pretty much like they do today. In the days before active professional football and basketball, baseball reig
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  5. A Find



    If you like stamps it can be a lot of fun being a stamp dealer. You spend all day going over stamp collections- cataloging, grading and researching philatelic material. Day in and day out, like most jobs, much of what we do is routine. The classic stamps where most of the value and interest of our hobby lies have been around for a
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  6. Austria First Issues


    Of all the first issue imperfs of all the major countries, Austrian first issues are among the most interesting and certainly among the most inexpensive. The first stamp in yellow and the second stamp in black are the scarcest, selling for about $20 each (and the balance of the set (Scott #3-5) can be had for about $5). A similar set was issued for the Austrian administered province of Lombardy-Venetia which includes the large portion of Northern Italy which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at this period.

    The first issues of Austria may be the most minutely specialized in the world and this is helped by the fact that the stamps are so modestly priced that they are the
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  7. Ceres Issue of France


    The first stamp issued in the world portrayed the ruling monarch of the issuing country (Great Britain Penny black). After that it became protocol to use the portrait of the ruler of a country on postage stamps or in the case of the United Sates to use a deceased president or statesman. Some countries without a strong national ruler might use a national symbol as in the case of the first issues of Canada which show a beaver. Many European countries, such as Russia and many of the German States showed the Coat of Arms of the ruling family. But France began what what was to be a tradition on most of her nineteenth century stamps by using a allegorical image, which on the first stamps was
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  8. Washington Franklins


    Another area in which the United States outspecializes any other philatelic country is the Washington Franklin series of 1910-1930. The series was in use as the main postage stamps of one of the most populous and commercial nations on earth for a period of years where postal communication was by far the most dominant form of communication. And yet for this entire period the definitive stamps were represented by only two design types with alternating portraits of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin as first President and first postmaster general respectively. The designs are simple but the philately is anything but! There are two different watermarks that were issued during
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  9. John Luff

    Perhaps the greatest American philatelist was John N Luff. Born in 1860 and a collector from childhood, he was involved in US philately in its very earliest years. Luff became a professional philatelist in his twenties and was the President of the Scott Stamp and Coin company and an editor of the Scott catalog. He was a founder of the Collector's Club in New York and had one of the great collections of United States stamps. His main contributions to philately were two. He was a tireless researcher and in 1902 published the book "The Postage Stamps of the United States" a detailed history of the earliest stamps that our country produced.

     Luff understood the problems facing the first historian who looks at a new area. Before 1890, American stamps were produced by private contractors. Many of these companies were out of business or no longer had their records so it was very difficult to piece together the story of what really happened. Luff combed through warehouse record

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  10. Favorite Stamps


    There are about two dozen stamps or sets that make everyone's short list of favorite stamps and for most US collectors this list is headed by the 1930 Graf Zeppelin set. Air travel technology has been static in our time. The commercial jet airliner first entered service in the 1950's and since then the technology has been tweaked but not changed. In the early days of airmail, though, it wasn't clear whether airplanes or dirigibles would win the competition to be the carrier of choice. Certainly airplanes were faster, often by 150 miles per hour or more. But before 1930, airplane travel was dodgy. Planes were small and unreliable and crashes were frequent.
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  11. Proofs

    Proofs are stamp impressions that the printers make usually before the stamps go to press to show to postal officials for final approval of the stamp design, color and printing quality. All printers produce proofs before they print stamps but not all countries release them to the stamp collecting public. The availability of proofs varies tremendously. At the most liberal end of the spectrum, France and the French Community are the most prolific sellers of their proofs. Die Proofs (proofs with one impression to the sheet which are made from the single die before the sheet is made up) and imperfs (which are really plate proofs) are readily available and are sold for many issues to subscribers to the new issue services. Proof collecting has always been part of mainstream France and Colonies collecting. Great Britain and Colonies are at the other end of the spectrum with Proofs not regularly issued, hard to find and often quite pricey. The United States, to my mind, is more or less the Gol

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  12. Stampless Covers


    For thousands of years before the introduction of the postage stamp in 1840, postal service existed on several levels. Originally, postal service was a private contractual affair-a merchant or a friend was traveling to another place and took your letters along. Later, private companies entered the market and provided service between locations that had a need for regular communication. The Roman Catholic church had an internal communication system-a post if you will- throughout its 2000 year history. This was needed to keep central control over the various dioceses.
       &
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  13. Canadian Beavers


    The first animal on stamps thematic, the first allegorical representation of a national identity and one of the finest engraved stamps of the nineteenth century are all found in the first issue of Canada. Canada was a somewhat late player in the early stamp game with its first stamp issued in 1851. The first issue of Canada was on laid paper. Laid paper is a paper produced by a process where the screen that the paper fibers are placed on has a vertical or horizontal mesh rather than a woven mesh. It is the way the earliest papers were made and is more difficult and hence more expensive to produce. It is the paper that today is used pretty much only for fancy wedding invitations and the l
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  14. Most Vauable Commodity by Price

    The New York Times reported in the March 13 issue on Col Ghadafi of Libya and how he has something like $12 billion in currency in his bank and how he keeps that much currency around just in case he needs to get away. Apparently, Ghadafi is smart enough to realize that as soon as he ceased being a head of state his deposits in foreign banks would be frozen so that cold hard cash would be the only way he could be sure that he could leave Libya with money. But cash, the article says, is not only cold and hard but heavy. A US bill weighs about one gram, so an ounce of $100s would be $2800. A pound of money would total about $40,000 a goodly sum for you or me but not one that would keep the Colonel and his cadre for very long. A hundred pounds of money would be $40 million, riches for most of us but still small change for a dictator. No, if Ghadafi wanted to cut and run with as much as possible in paper assets in a suitcase he had better start collecting stamps. He should buy 10c 1847s (Sc

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  15. Kiauchau


    Throughout the late nineteenth century Germany was as involved as any European power in the fight to carve up China for political and commercial advantage. The United States, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, and France also issued stamps for their sovereign city states on the Chinese mainland. These city states were land ceded by the Chinese government on long term leases to European governments. These leases were negotiated by the Chinese from a position of political weakness and often were made literally at gun point. Hong Kong which reverted back to China when the lease expired in the 1990s was an example of one of these European imperial ventures that continued to our time. The P
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  16. Officials


    Another area in which United States philately differs from nearly all the rest of the world is in our Official Stamps. As an agency of the federal government (one of the powers our Constitution expressly designated as a federal power was control of the national post office) the US post Office always carried official mail for free. Congressmen and Senators had the Free frank and differing government agencies sent their mail for free often under the "penalty envelope" system which were preprinted to discourage private use by government workers. In 1873 the Post Office issued a series of stamps for the various government agencies that used stamps. A distincti
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  17. United States Stamps

    Because of its familiarity to most American philatelists, we tend not to appreciate just how difficult collecting United States stamps is compared to collecting the stamps of most other countries. The reason of course is the Scott catalog and the vast number of varieties and special issues that Americans collect that the collectors of other countries don't have to worry about. And we are not talking about varieties (every country has those) but about major catalog numbers that the major stamp albums have spaces for. Begin with the 1c 1851 issues (Scott #5-9). There are six major catalog numbers all of which are technical transfer varieties that exist because of the vagaries of itaglio printing and the difficulties that the printers of the stamps had in transferring the subject die to the sheets. In no other country do such varieties attain major number status even within the specialized catalogs of their own country. The 1857 issue repeats the 1c 1851 problem and adds major catalog num

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  18. The World of Stamps and Stamp Collecting

    Thirty years ago I wrote a book with David Lidman who was the stamp columnist of the New York Times. The book was called The World of Stamps and Stamp Collecting and it was published by Charles Scribners, Sons. The book was well received and we have now posted it on our website so that all collectors can now enjoy it. The book has a history of postal communications, discussion on printing techniques and lots of stories about famous stamps and famous philatelists. Philately is a fun field to write for and one of the reasons is that work never becomes dated. There are no new philatelic theories and the history behind the stamps is the same today as it was when I wrote the book. The stories are good ones and if you have enjoyed this blog, I think you will enjoy reading our book. You can find it
    here.

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  19. Montenegro


    Turkey today is a country with only moderate influence in areas that most often make headlines in American newspapers. But until World War I, Turkey was an important, often the important player in the European theater. Turkey, through Byzantium, later named Constantinople, was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and though Rome itself was sacked in the fifth century and the western Roman Empire formally ended at that time, the empire in the east continued until the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in the fifteenth century. The Ottomans continued to dominate the politics of Eastern and Southern Europe and nowhere was this more evident than in the Balkan area. The Balkans
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  20. Philatelic Entities

    The Scott Classic catalog lists over 2500 separate stamp issuing entities from Aden to Italian Offices in China-Peking. And this is only for stamps issued to 1940. Add in the different listings since 1940 and you probably have 4000 or so different counties/political subdivisions that have issued stamps. Some, like Russia are approaching 10,000 stamp issues. Some like France-Offices in Egypt-Port Lagos have a few. And others like the Indian native state of Jasdan have one. And these are only the geopolitical divisions that Scott lists. Add in the specialized catalogs, which often list locals and specialty items that are beyond the scope of the Scott catalog and the number of stamp issuing entities is over 7500. The United Nations has 194 members which means that currently there are less than 200 recognized nation states in the world. So stamp collectors recognize nearly forty times as many counties as the UN does. Now some of this is historical. Danzig is now part of Poland and no longe

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