Monthly Archives: December 2011

  1. The World's Biggest Philatelic Market Discovers Foriegn Stamps

    The best news for 2012 is the realization that the largest philatelic market in the world, the Chinese market, has begun to expand its horizons. Philatelic markets mature like people do. Newer philatelic markets are narrow and collectors in these markets rarely show interest in stamps beyond their own country. As the markets mature the collectors tend to expand their interests. They do this for two reasons. First many of them have soon acquired all the stamps that they want and can afford of their home country. And second, as collectors mature they begin to see the appeal and specialty interest in the stamps of other countries. We began to see this in the Russian and Eastern European markets in the 1990's. Long dominated by home country collectors, the Russians, in particular, began to collect the stamps of other countries so that they have become major buyers of scarcer British Commonwealth material. This is because of intrinsic specialty interest but also a way for collectors to

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  2. Classic India

    When you buy a house or a car there is a cost of production involved that provides a floor as to the price. If housing prices drop to below the cost of producing homes people will stop building them, supplies will contract  leading to price increases that will allow production to resume. At least that's the theory. So the housing market or the automobile market is not a perfect market in terms of supply and demand because supply is influenced by the cost of production. But the stamp market  is a perfect economic model of a market. Older stamps that can not be used as postage really have no value except for what collectors are willing to pay for them. They can't be used for anything or consumed
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  3. European Catalogs

    There are three main Foreign catalogs for the non English speaking European specialties-Michel for Germany and German Area, Yvert for France and French Colonies and Sassone for Italy and the Italian Area. Michel is the Mercedes of catalogs with hundreds of thousands of specialized listings in all phases of German philately with covers, blocks, paper types and cancellations all addressed and priced. Michel Deutchland Specialized is the prototype of what a specialty catalog should be and no other country's specialized catalog comes even close. Yvert's France and Colonies catalog is good, handles well though without much excitement or acceleration-sort of like a Peugeot. Yvert's listing often go little beyond Scott (especially the wonderful Scott Specialized) but still overall is a capable model. Sassone, the Italian catalog is sort of like a hybrid Maserati/Fiat. Some sections are excellent (modern printing varieties for instance) and it has thousands of listings that are

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  4. Valuing Modern Mint Stamps in Hinged Condition

    The Scott catalog prices for most countries after 1940 is for stamps in mint Never Hinged condition. This is for three reasons. First, most post 1940 stamp are more common in NH than in hinged condition (especially as you come closer to the current period in time). Second, most collectors have been trained to believe they want NH stamps. And third, the foreign catalogs from which Scott steals its prices only list their stamps in NH condition. So the question often arises about how one should value foreign hinged stamps in the modern period. As auctioneers our experience has given us the following answers to this question. The effect of hinging on mint modern stamps is more significant the further you go back to the 1940 cutoff that the Scott catalog uses. Stamps from most European and British area countries in the 1940-1960 period sell, in hinged condition, for 1/3 to 2/3s of their NH price. As one moves closer to the current period the ratio of hinged to NH price gets c

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  5. Sales Tax

    2012 may be the year when the sales tax exemption that most philatelists enjoy when they add stamps to their collections ends. The current sales tax code in most states does not formally exempt postage stamps from sales tax but rather exempts sales of products that travel across state lines when the merchant lacks a physical presence in the state that he is selling (which is how most stamps are sold). This exemption has fueled the growth of mail order selling and now Internet selling and has been actively opposed by most states who are desperate for revenue. The reason for current mail order sales tax exemption is that under our Constitution only the Federal government has the right to regulate interstate commerce and so mail order sales from one state to the next fall under the bailiwick of Congress to regulate and tax. But under pressure from the states, Congress may well act next year.
              The bill that is currently the fr

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  6. Why We Collect

    The desire to collect is innate and probably relates to the gatherer instinct that humans share with other primates. But in a world in which one can collect everything from antique barbed wire to Victorian pocketbooks, why do people collect stamps? The answer I think comes down to three factors- community, size and orderliness.

      First, most stamp collectors were introduced to the hobby by a relative or friend and the feeling one has about philately gets infused with the feelings one has about the early sharing of your hobby with that important person in your life. Second, one can collect at a pretty high level over a period of years and yet store the entire collection on a couple of shelves. Some other hobbies have this advantage, but few have it as clearly as stamps. Most collectibles are far larger and harder to store than stamps. A philatelic collection of thousands can be kept in one album whereas a collection of a thousand horseshoes takes up a gar
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  7. Philatelic Economics

    A remarkable aspect of philately is that unpopularity breeds further unpopularity. It is truly unusual to see a good collection of nearly any South and Central American country. Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Cuba are exceptions, but for the other twenty or so countries that make up rest of the southern Americas, collections that are even 75% complete for major Scott numbers are quite rare. The reason is financial but not in the way you might think. Take Ecuador, for instance. It is a country that is just below average in per capita income but with a large middle and upper middle class and several large cities (philatelic popularity is related to rates of urbanization). There are few real rarities by price among its stamps. Its issuing policy is conservative and appropriate. It should have a decent number of domestic collectors as well as an active expatriate collecting community and yet I can't remember the last time I've see a mostly complete Ecuador collection. The same i

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  8. Merry Christmas

    We want to thank the thousands of Apfelbaum clients who have made this year our most successful ever. Over ten thousand of you are registered to buy from us online and last year we sold over 25,000 lots. Going forward we continue to promise you a guarantee that is without equal in the philatelic world-complete 100% money back satisfaction and a life time guarantee that every item we sell is genuine and as described. Thanks again and we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season and good wishes to you and your family for the coming year. By the way, if there are any topics that you would like to see me write about in these blog articles, let me know.

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  9. Who Died This year who Should be Commemorated on a Postage Stamp

    The USPS announced this year that they were going to begin to waive the" ten year deceased" rule for commemoration on US postage stamps. Looking at the list of notable deaths of 2011, I don't think we need to worry that we are going to be inundated by a massive amount of  new issues. It seems that there are just not that many people that the USPS would consider putting on a stamp anyway. Remember, many of the most significant deaths are hardly people we are about to see on our stamps. Vaclav Havel(the Czech writer and Prime Minister and one of the leaders in the demise of the Iron Curtain) is deservedly famous but it is highly unusual to see foreign heads of state on our stamps. Kim Jing-Il is important too, but unless the USPS is planning a Favorite Despots series I don't think he will be on a United States stamp anytime soon. The Boston Globe lists the 85 most significant deaths of the last yearhttp://www.boston.com/news/obituaries/notable_deaths_of_2011?pg=85&n
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  10. December 21 and 9/11

    The United States Post Office has commemorated everything from baseball to rock stars, from Faulkner to Disney. We do really well at honoring our heroes and often at overvaluing the trivial. But as a nation we aren't very comfortable with commemorating or honoring our painful experiences. Our philatelic commemoration of the most painful American experience, the Civil War, has been spotty, more a selection of famous battles than addressing the causes of the war and how ending the evil of slavery was played out. The shameful end of Reconstruction has never made it to stamps nor has Jim Crow or lynching or the nearly century long attempt to continue de facto slavery. We are not very good as a society at facing what is painful without jingoistic posturing. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the two terrorist attacks on America that have occurred in the last twenty-five years have been ignored. On December 21, 1988 Pan Am 103 was blown up over Locherbie Scotla

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  11. Five Hundredth Posting

    When I began this blog a couple a years ago the purpose was to tell a few stories about our hobby, to talk about the way the hobby used to be and identify some of the the changes that have occurred in Philately. Little did I think that within two short years there would be 500 topics to explore and that this number would only scratch the surface of subjects that our vast hobby affords. Philatelic writing has three main strains. There is writing in the tradition of Herman Herst Jr and Earl Apfelbaum, writing that tells the history of our hobby and the personalities who have collected and dealt stamps. There is writing in the tradition of the Collector's Club Philatelist and the Journal of the London Philatelic Society (now the Royal) that treats our hobby as a serious academic discipline. And there is writing in the tradition of Linns and the American Philatelist, informative but not exhaustive-an overview of many subjects so that the reader can further investigate subjects he finds int

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  12. South Korea

    Especially scary about the death of North Korea dictator Kim Jong-Il is the effect it will have on South Korea. When the Koreas were partitioned in the early post WW II period, they were both equally devastated. But while North Korea has gone from poor to destitute, South Korea has been the poster child for capitalism, ending last year as the world's 26th wealthiest country (on a per capita income basis) wedged between Japan and Spain. The question for philatelists is why, given that the Koreans have become so wealthy, are their stamps are not more avidly collected and why haven't they appreciated in value anywhere nearly as rapidly as the stamps of China and India.

    Though  Korea has a large population that is wealthy and well educated, philatelic proclivity is always subsumed to national character. Qatar is the wealthiest country in the world on a per captita basis yet there is little philatelic demand from native

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  13. Dear Leader

    Kim Jong-Il has died. As leader of North Korea, he presided over his nation's continued slide into abject poverty and oppression. There are few laboratory tests in any environment that so clearly measure the differences in political systems as did North and South Korea. Divided after complete devastation during WW II, the North took a Maoist and Stalinist central planning model and the South a capitalist American model. The results have been so dramatic that if this were a medical study it would have been called off for ethical reasons.

     The South has prospered and become one of the wealthier nations in the world whereas the North has gotten to the point where most of the 24 million people who live there are starving and would die without massive food aid. Over the next few years succession issues should affect North Korea. Kim Jong-Il's heir is a twenty-eight year old boy, who has been educated in the west. Whether he will have any real power o

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  14. Quality, Quality, Quality

    For many years in the property market is has been said that there are three things that influence prices and will insure investors a good return-location, location, location. Similarly, the unstated emphasis in stamp investment has been quality with the suggestion that only the finest examples of each stamp will be a good investment. This current recession has proven that belief wrong in the stamp world.

    Here is what has happened. In the early years of this decade high quality graded certified material saw a great run up in price. The fetishization of common stamps in "100" graded condition was ridiculous and many common stamps sold for hundreds of times what any sane collector would pay for them. This market has completely collapsed, mainly because few collectors were involved in it in the first place. That market was driven by a west coast philatelic expertization service that liked the fees it was getting expertizing for grade and by a few dealers and coin transplants wh

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  15. Gum and Printing

    Gum has had a long relationship with printing on postage stamps. In the pre 1930s days, flat press printing meant that sheets of paper were fed into the press one by one and then the printed sheets were hung up to dry, gummed and weighted at the corners so that as the gum contracted the stamp sheets did not curl. With the faster and more efficient printing method of rotary press, stamps were printed on rolls of paper. Hand gumming was impossible as was weighting each sheet to prevent shrinkage. The solution was to apply the gum to the sheet with ridges, sort of like expansion lines on freshly poured concrete sidewalks, which allowed a small amount of contraction of the paper from the drying gum without curling. Gum ridges were the solution used by the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Different countries had different answers to this problem. The German printing office applied their gum in a sprayed ridged pattern against the curl of the paper- an high tech

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  16. Changes in Certification Standards

    The first American Philatelic Society certificate was issued a bit over a hundred years ago and it was for a US Occupation of Cuba issue. Following the standards of the time the certificate simply said that the stamp was genuine. The first certificates took their role as "certificates of genuineness" seriously. They said nothing about the quality of the stamps, often not even mentioning if the gum was genuine or not and they certainly never graded the stamps. By about 1930 it was common to see the issue of gum addressed on Philatelic Foundation certificates, though this practice was not mandatory and many regummed stamps were passed as og. About this time too, certificates began to address the issue of quality with major repairs being mentioned for the first time. It wasn't until the late 1980's that hinging became a matter to be passed on by experts and the first NH certificate were issued by the Philatelic Foundation in the late 1980s. The greatest changes in stamp certificate
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  17. United Nations

    Postally speaking, the United Nations is an invention- an organization not a nation or political entity. The fact that it issues its own postage stamps and maintains its own postal service is a concession to the trappings of sovereignty (real political entities control their own post) and a revenue grab (UN stamps can be sold to collectors and the United States has the expense of processing and delivering the United Nations Postal Administration's (UNPA) mail). Interest in UN stamps has always been a factor of interest in and respect for the United Nations as an organization and it is safe to say that interest in UN stamps are at an all time low.

     The first UN issues were issued in 1948 and were avidly collected, largely by Americans. For the first twenty years of UN issues many US collectors maintained a collection of UN. It was cheap and they could complete it. After the UN began taking an anti US and anti Israel line, beginning about 1970, UN philately incr

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  18. Danzig

    One of the most interesting philatelic areas is Danzig, now called Gedansk. Danzig is a city or rather city state on the shores of the Baltic Sea between Germany and Poland (which was long ruled by Russia) and part of its philatelic charm is in the many issues that were created as political control bounced back between various outside nations. For most of the early stamp period, Danzig was part of Germany and used German postage stamps-first the stamps of Prussia, of which it was a part, and then after 1871 and German unification, using the stamps of Germany. After 1920 and the Treaty of Versailles, Danzig was stripped from Germany and became a free city and as such issued its own postage stamps. It is duri
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  19. End Of The Year Buy It Now sale

    We have listed today our end of the year direct sale. In it are over 5000 lots available for your collection at the click of your mouse. There are lots of United States stamps, British Commonwealth including Canada and extensive General Foreign including collections and accumulations. Nearly $2 million dollars of sales value is included here with prices up to 40% off what the stamps were originally listed for. And of course each lot comes with Apfelbaum's full quality and condition guarantee and satisfaction guarantee. You should take a look at what is being offered.

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  20. The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date

    The Lone Wolf was a detective series in the 1920's about a high end burglar named Michael Lanyard who helped the police solve crimes. The series was written by Louis Joseph Vance and was made into about twenty movies in the 1930's. I happened to see one recently on TCM entitled The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date. The plot is a twisted kidnapping but a key part of the story is that the Lone Wolf-a cool debonair urbane sophisticated lady killer and international jewel thief and crime solver- is a stamp collector. In the first scene he buys what appears to be a Cuba #244a, an inverted center (though the denomination was difficult to see and the movie was in black and white) which is represented as the great rarity that the Lone Wolf needs for his very extensive stamp collection (though the invert today catalogs only $650, so philatelic license was taken as to rarity). The collection is then stolen from the Lone Wolf who must solve the kidnapping in order to get his collection

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