Monthly Archives: July 2011

  1. Society of Friends

    The Society of Friends are a small religious group many of whom settled in the Philadelphia area in the 1680's and today run many of the better secondary schools here. Better known as Quakers, they believe that "there is that of God in every man", in nonviolence, and in the inherent good in every person. They have a novel way of governing themselves, their schools and their religious assemblies. They never vote and every decision requires unanimity. From the outside, it would appear that such a system would make it impossible to get anything done. An obstreperous minority, or even a single fierce dissenter, could make any decision impossible. But the system works because of the good will of the men and women who practice it. Everyone's goal is for the welfare and harmony of the group. Sure, most people (even Quakers) feel that their position is the correct one. But Quakers teach humility and none are so vain as to be certain that their position in any negotiation is the best one. Durin

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  2. Dominican Republic


    One of the most interesting countries to collect is the Dominican Republic. The first issues are crudely printed from domestically produced plates and the major varieties of the first thirty or so stamps are not design types but paper varieties. Philatelist have traditionally treated major paper types as grounds for a major catalog number. The early stamps of the Dominican Republic are printed on ordinary wove paper (the paper type on which over 99% of the world's stamps have been produced), on laid paper (a paper type where the paper pulp is laid on a mesh bed producing a paper that has lined ridges in it. Today, this paper type is mainly used on wedding invitations and fancy stationery)
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  3. Cognitive Dissonance

    Cognitive dissonance is a concept in psychology which states among other things, that the disconnect between what we do and what we believe creates discomfort and to deal with that internal discomfort we alter our perceptions of what we do to be more in line with what we want to believe about ourselves (that is, in plain-speak, we lie to ourselves). Surveys consistently show that Americans report attendance at church at twice the rates that it actually occurs and we report drinking only a third of the amount of alcohol that is actually produced and purchased (making us a very wasteful party nation). In philately, this plays out in the Never Hinged and quality fetish that pervades our hobby. Few collectors ever admit to buying medium quality stamps let alone defective ones and yet, wonder of wonders, they exist in all of the collections that we buy and see. Perhaps collectors damage them after buying them as perfect, or more likely we tend

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  4. Collection Profiles

    Apfelbaum buys over 500 collections a year from collectors-that's 500 intact collections as they are made by their owners over a period of (usually) decades of collecting. So we get to see first hand what people actually have and what they actually collect, not what they say they have and what they wished they had collected. Here are a few observations about these collections. First, most collections are almost overwhelmingly composed of lower value stamps, often tens of thousands of them which it appears the owner was going to put in albums but which usually he never got to and are lying in glassines and in stock books. Second, most collectors continue to spend a high proportion of their collecting budget on mint new issues from the post office. This week we bought a collection from a man who had purchased Liechtenstein new issues. From 2005-2010 he had spent over $3000 in face value with the post office. Liechtenstein postage has a very limited market and I doubt we can sell it for $

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  5. Martin Chuzzlewit

    Martin Chuzzlewit is one of Charles Dickens' earlier novels. Old Martin is a very unappealing character, avaricious and sneaky, and in speaking of him Dickens remarks that in some people there is a naivety or duplicity of cunning, by which he meant that often cunning people believe that they are the only ones who operate that way and are often tripped up by the very people they think they are outwitting. Thus, Martin is ruined by a shyster who he, Martin, thinks he is taking advantage of.

     I thought of this last week when a customer of mine was lamenting to me a very poor transaction that he had gotten himself into. He wanted to sell off a large group of US postage from his holdings and prepared an inventory. He found a dealer who promised to pay 90% of the face value of the postage. Now, alarm bells should have gone off in my friend's mind, questioning why someone in the field would pay 90% for something that he could buy in almost unlimited quantities for 70%. Bu

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  6. Time

    Recently we bought a collection from a life long collector that wasn't the greatest we ever have handled in terms of value, though it was worth quite a bit. It wasn't the most scholarly collection we have ever bought, though the collector was a very good philatelist. And it wasn't the most aesthetically appealing collection we have ever sold, though parts of it were neatly laid out and artistic and beautiful. But where this collector had every other beaten we believe is in the amount of time that he spent in his life on his stamps. He was a bachelor, with little close family and a few philatelic friends. He collected the world and soaked off envelopes all the stamps from all the mail that had ever come his way and the way of everyone he knew. He subscribed to every stamp magazine and had for the last sixty years before he died at the age of 82

    . He collected world wide stamps and had a sub specialty of cancellations for just about every country (we never even knew that Serbi

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  7. Shades



    Another area of catalog inconsistency concerns shades. Generally speaking, Scott lists all shades of a stamp as minor (that is "a") numbers. If a stamp is issued in rose, the major catalog listing is for rose and all of the shades of rose from dark rose to scarlet are listed as minor numbers. Only when a color is truly changed, say from red to blue, does the catalog give that stamp a different major number. This is a pretty good system as it lets general collectors concentrate on getting the major different stamps while allowing specialists to concentrate on shade varieties. In a few are
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  8. Spousal Honesty

    About twenty years ago I had an appointment to see a widow. Her husband had died a few months before and had told her that his stamp collection was worth very little but that she should call me and have me look at it during my next trip to her area. When I offered her a bit more than $20,000 for the collection her jaw dropped. Her husband had never told her he had any good stamps and she had thought the collection was worth a few hundred dollars. Conversely, one of our staff members was out to see a collection recently where the widow knew that her husband had spent as she said resentfully "a small fortune" on the stamps. When we got to her home, none of the better stamps were there, no doubt sold to finance some life style that he wished to keep secret from his family. Most collectors are not duplicitous in this way. They neither hide what they spend nor ferret out family assets to spend on gambling or girlfriends. The duplicity we most often see is more of the egotistical variety-the

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  9. Scott's Inconsistancy


    When it is found in family and friends, inconsistency can make make a person's life miserable. But when found in our hobby, it adds spice and interest. Pictured above is one of my favorite stamps because of what it tells us about our hobby and the mercurialness of the editors of the Scott catalog. It is Scott #211 of Mexico and it catalogs about $200. It has the design, denomination and color of the 25c catalog value stamp of the previous issue set but the reason that it is valuable is that it has a compound perf of 12x6 (compound perfs are when the sides are perforated differently than the top and bottom.
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  10. Road Trip

    In the 1930s, Earl Apfelbaum spent two days in his office in Philadelphia each week and four days driving through the small towns in mid and upstate Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware. He would visit customers, bringing stamps to sell and would always be on the lookout for collections to buy. Apfelbaum has maintained this tradition of travel. We have four members of our staff who travel extensively throughout the United States and Canada looking at and buying stamp collections. Many collections are too large for their owner's to ship comfortably. Apfelbaum will send a representative to you to look at and evaluate your holdings. Apfelbaum representatives have years of experience in both philately and visiting clients. They are respectful and thorough and will evaluate your holdings at no charge to you. If you are like most collectors, the idea of selling your stamps is full of anxiety. But if you are thinking of doing it, or even just want to discuss it, call or write me to

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  11. Netherlands


    Philatelists want several things in an area in which they decide to specialize. They want availability. It is no fun to collect a country or sub specialty where there is little material available and the game is all search and no find. They want affordability. Unless you are Midas (and he lived in the pre-stamp period) constantly coming up against wallet bashing numbers when you find an item you need soon gets stale. And they want high production values-attractive well produced stamps by a responsible post office. Netherlands philately combines all of these factors. Their stamps are well designed and handsomely printed. The issuing policy of The Netherland
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  12. Spain


    The philately of Spain breaks down into three main phases. The Nineteenth Century stamps are more of a distinct specialty than they are in most countries stamps because there are so many of them and so many are rare. There are nearly 300 face and denomination different stamps to 1900 not counting varieties and while many are easy to find, nearly twenty sell for $1000 or more. No other European country has anywhere near the number of different nineteenth century postage stamps that Spain does and the reason is forgeries. Unlike other European countries, throughout the Nineteenth Century, Spain had an inefficient central government and postal forgeries were
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  13. The Scarcest US Commemorative


    The scarcest US commemorative in mint condition is the 10c orange perf 10 #404. Fewer of the higher value dollar denomination Columbian and Trans-Mississippi were issued than #404 but far more of the 10c were used on commercial mail and thus used and lost to collectors. Here's the story: For many years leading up to the issuance of #404 the Post Office had been receiving complaints about the perforations on United States postage stamps. The perforation gauge that was used was perf 12 and this was just too close resulting in many sheets of stamps separating on their own often even in the postal clerk's drawer. The simplest solution for this was to change th
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  14. Souvenir Sheets


    Philately is an irrational pursuit. Serious collectors generally eschew philatelic items that are produced intentionally for their collecting. Thus, many serious collectors ignore First Day Covers, intentionally issued errors and imperfs, Souvenir cards and similar items. But one area that is an exception to this is Souvenir Sheets. Souvenir Sheets were originally issued mostly for philatelic exhibitions and the first souvenir sheet was issued by Luxembourg in 1923. By 1930, many Post Offices were issuing souvenir sheets to commemorate exhibitions and these became avidly collected by collectors. Perhaps this was because the earliest serious collectors were p
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  15. Debt Reduction and The Stamp Business

    Many ideas have been floating around about the deal Republicans and Democrats will hash out over the debt ceiling limit but it appears that some kind of grand plan to both cut government expenditures and raise taxes (by whatever name they call it) is in the works. And really, such a solution is probably fairest. Any compromise in which both sides think that the other side got the better deal is probably a just one and judging by the outrage being generated on both sides it looks like such a deal will be fair indeed. The effect on our clients' stamp businesses of such a deal will be positive. Any increase in taxes and tax rates or decrease in personal deductions increases the value of having a business as small businesses are excellent ways of sheltering income and of business driven tax preferences. Take health care for instance. It seems likely that any deal will involve seniors paying an increased premium for their health insurance. Retired seniors must pay this out of their social s

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  16. Government Service

    Government has a pervasive impact on modern life. We awaken to a radio alarm where the signal is sent over regulated airwaves. We shower with water provided by the water agency which in most areas is at least quasi governmental. We ride to work on government regulated roads and go to government paid for (or subsidized) schools. You get the point. Many people think that government is too involved in our lives but their goal is eliminate government at the margins- getting it out of regulating health care for instance. There is no serious advocates for ending public schools or social security or Medicare, all of which in years past were provided privately and all of which were very contentious issues when they were first proposed.

     The change towards the ubiquity of the state has a real connection to postal service and philately. Until about 1800, governments around the world saw their goal as providing military might to protect the state and police power to protect proper

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  17. Default and Philately

    Perhaps the most ridiculous man made disaster of our lifetime is closer and closer to coming about. I have refrained from writing about it as it seemed inconceivable that the United States House of Representatives would actually renege on the debts and legal obligations of the United States. This is the same group who is claiming that the mortgage crisis was caused by the recklessness of borrowers who walked away from their mortgage obligations, but then hypocrisy in politics should never be surprising. A partial default on United States obligations which may occur on August 2, 2011 will have profound effects on the stamp market in direct proportion to the effect that it has on the value of the dollar and the effect on the U S Treasury market. If US and Foreign creditors perceive that there may be a problem getting paid, look for them to flee dollars and US denominated debt securities. Interest rates should spike upwards and the value of the dollar will plummet. Stamps, which have an i

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  18. Independence Day

    Two hundred thirty five years ago the thirteen American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and began a seven year war that would result in the the founding of the United States of America. Before our Revolutionary War, Great Britain thought of her American Colonies as a whole and lumped the thirteen colonies in with the sugar islands of the West Indies and the British possessions in Canada. Our revolution resulted in profound changes of thinking on the part of Britain on the value of her Colonies and the proper steps needed to retain them. Before 1776, Britain treated her colonies in a cavalier and dictatorial manor, with little regard for local populations and what was best for each. The individualization in British colonial administration that was result of the American Revolution was one of the factors that led to the British idea of issuing separate stamps for each Colony after 1840, not just sending off GB stamps and running the Colonial Post Offices as branch

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