Monthly Archives: February 2012

  1. Blackjacks


    One of the most popular stamps of the Nineteenth Century is the black stamp honoring President Andrew Jackson that was issued first in 1863 and then again in several grilled forms over the next few years. The black Jackson, called the Blackjack by collectors has been popular for several reasons. First it has never been either rare nor common, occupying that middle ground that collectors like, making ownership a source of pride but not a hardship. Second, the stamp has always had many printing varieties and grills,
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  2. Stamp Albums

    One of the things that many collectors pay too little attention to is the albums that they put their stamps in. Nice attractive well made stamp albums cost money and many collectors are loathe to part with hard earned coin of the realm for anything but actual stamps. That's fine if that's what you want or if that is all you can afford but nice albums really cost very little in the end and can add considerably to your enjoyment in collecting. Putting your stamp collection in nice albums is kind of like putting new bathrooms in your home. If all of our homes were destroyed when we were done with them then it might make little economic sense to invest in things that are just for our own enjoyment. But it the end we(or our heirs) all sell our homes and nice bathrooms make homes more salable and at higher prices. The estimates of the American Realtors Association are that people who put in new bathrooms and kitchens get back abo
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  3. Rob Redstone


    During the late 1970's and the height of the inflation driven stamp market there was a crazy person who pretended to be a stamp dealer who came regularly to our auctions. Rob Redstone was about 30 and dressed dramatically, talked loudly and always was making phone calls which we felt were calls on which there was no one else on the other end of the line. The calls were about buying pork belly futures or thousands of shares of "stock x" and all the while he had trouble scrounging up $1500 to pay his stamp auction bill. When the bottom dropped out of stamp speculation in 1980, Rob disappeared and over the years I had wondered what happened to him. Last weekend I was in the center of Philadelphia with a few minutes to kill before meeting my wife. I went for a cup of coffee and seated in the coff
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  4. Space

    They brought a black and white television set into our fourth grade class and we watched John Glenn's lift off in 1962. They told us it was a big deal- the first person to orbit the earth but nothing told us it was a big deal as much as the fact that there were televisions in the classroom. TV and school were always antithetical, we thought, and here we were watching current events as something we needed to learn. The United States varied its issuing policy for this event by issuing a stamp for John Glenn's flight though
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  5. Stamp Hinges

    The best inventions are often the simplest and, for simplicity and usefulness, philately's greatest invention was the stamp hinge. The hinge wasn't actually invented, rather it evolved. The earliest collectors just licked their mint stamps to put them in their albums and made a paste to gum down their used stamps. As the Nineteenth Century progressed, collectors started using the selvage of sheets to hinge in their stamps. It was only by the second and third generations of collectors that the need for an easy way to remove hinges was felt. Stamps that were gummed down in albums or hinged with gummed selvages were impossible to remove for trading or resale without damaging the stamp or at least the gum.

     Small pieces of paper were gummed and sold as hinges, but the first generation of hinges were gummed pieces of porous paper that stuck to the stamps they were hinging and were not much easier to remove than the gummed pieces of selvage they replaced.

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  6. Greece

    The world wide press has given extensive coverage to the problems with the Greek economy and the effect this is having on the rest of the European Union. It increasingly appears that Greece will default on its loans and either leave or be forced out of the Euro zone. This is uncharted territory for both the Greek economy and the European and world wide economy though market reactions seem calmer now than when the crisis first became critical some months ago. No one knows what the final economic outcome will be but the philatelic effects so far have been interesting and unexpected. Greek stamps, from the first Hermes Head issues though later Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century mint, and Occupations have been very hot since the Greek economic crisis began. This is counter intuitive. If the Greek economy falters or if Greece goes back to it's own devalued currency than logically Greek stamps should experience decreased prices due to lower demand an
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  7. United States Dealers Stock

    We have available a completely intact dealers stock in three cartons. Largely post 1940 it has things like errors (mostly coil imperfs) and even a recalled Legends of the West sheet in the original packaging. The postage has been carefully counted out by book and is over $ 14,000.  And the price is only $9795, postpaid. This is a one of a kind lot created by a fastidious dealer and all stamps are XF,og,NH. Our price is less than 70% of face value and if you have a way to use or dispose of the premium material at face or slightly above you would be into the postage part of the lot at well under 60% which would make it attractive to sell out of it what you can and use the rest for postage. Email me if you are interested.

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  8. Varieties On First Issues

    What is striking about the first philatelic issues of most countries in the Nineteenth Century compared to the later issues is the small number of printing varieties that exist on first issues compared to the subsequent issues. Specifically, US #1 & 2 have a few minor shade varieties listed by the catalogs and several very minor reentries ( a variety created in making the plate that printed the stamp where the design was not fully erased before reentering a new version). But compared to the recognized varieties on the later 1851 issue, the printers of the first US stamps should be considered nearly perfect. The One Cent of the 1851 issue has scores of  major varieties and types alone and the 10c
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  9. Who Will Be First?

    The United States Post Office announced last year that it was ending the previous policy that has guided postal emissions for the last century and that people no longer had to be ten years dead before they could be suitable for commemoration on US postage stamps (previously, the only exception to this policy was recently deceased Presidents). Our post office was the only one in the world that had maintained such a policy. It originated as a desire to depoliticized the stamp issuing process and ensure that postal commemoration was only for people who had stood the test of time. The system worked, perhaps too well. In our world where fame is so fleeting and attention spans so short the philatelic sales agency had trouble marketing stamps commemorating people that many people couldn't remember. Hence the change. The question that has interested philatelists is who will be first. Showing the age of most people who collect stamps, recent discussions in the
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  10. President's Day

    Every country in the world grapples with the issue of what images should go on its stamps. And this was never as important as when the first stamps of each country were issued. The essays for the first stamps of Great Britain (which were the first stamps issued) show a variety of choices from elaborate numerals to scroll work to portraits of young Queen Victoria, the design that ultimately won out. Countries like Austria and Germany used Coats of Arms, though they had strong monarchs that they could have portrayed. France used an allegory of the French nation, the goddess Ceres, as their national symbol and Brazil took for its first stamps fancy numerals which philatelists today call Bulls Eyes because
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  11. Stamp Bullies

    Years ago at one of the more popular Philadelphia stamp clubs there was a man named Bob. Bob had a pretty fair philatelic knowledge, though he wasn't nearly as capable a philatelist as he thought he was. But that wasn't Bob's biggest problem. No, he would come to the major club meetings and brag about what he owned and what he knew, and over the course of time he got into fights with various members and the club's attendance would decline, and Bob would have to move off to ruin another club. Once Bob confided in me that he didn't understand why the clubs in Philadelphia were declining so. He said he needed to go from club to club because as soon after he started regularly attending meetings the attendance at that club would decline and soon the meetings would stop entirely.

     Bob was poison and only a small amount of poison can make an entire room toxic.  People can get their fill of prickly personalities at work and dealing with health insurance

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  12. Oakwood, OK

    Oakwood, Oklahoma is a tiny spot of parched prairie 100 miles north west of Oklahoma City. It is over twenty miles from the next nearest town that gets a name on google maps. Oakwood is tiny. The 2000 census listed 70 inhabitants (more people work on my floor in my office building) and a google camera shot of the main intersection looks less busy than my driveway. Oakwood doesn't have a gas station or a convenience store but it does have a United States Post Office. At least it does until the latest Post Office closings go into effect. And this then is the problem that the Post Office has had for years, which is that it has maintained a retail presence and route system in rural America that no sane profit making making business would ever have done. Now, with postal losses mounting, the Post Office is beginning to close tiny offices like Oakwood. This will have ramifications for our country and they need to

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  13. Austria Reprints

    Several nations have reprinted their earlier stamps for collectors. The United States did so in 1876, reprinting scores of out of print issues for the 1876 Centennial Exposition so that the Post Office could have for sale examples of all of the postage stamps that had ever been issued. Most were sold in quantities of less than 500 which shows you how few serious collectors were around in 1876. Portugal had a large number of official reprints. But the winner in terms of scarcity and availability for the price is Austria. Most Austrian stamps of the Nineteenth Century were officially reprinted and often more than once with specialized catalogs distinguishing between different printings. Over
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  14. Billions of Marks


    Stamp collectors can always be a bit sanguine when the rest of the world gets upset if the Producer Price Index goes up a bit. German inflation during the early Weimar period defies belief until you actually see it. The scan here is of the front and back of a 1923 cover with over 30 billion marks of postage on it. Inflation was do high that postal patrons had to add stamps to envelopes as they were waiting in lin
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  15. Stamp Clubs

    There was a time in our hobby where you couldn't really call yourself a collector unless you belonged to a stamp club. Thousands of clubs existed in this country and, in Philadelphia alone, in 1970, a collector could go to a different stamp club meeting five days a week. There were over twenty clubs in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, meeting once a week or twice monthly, or, for a few of the more high brow clubs, monthly alone. And Philadelphia paled in comparison to Chicago which had nearly forty clubs in its prime. Stamp clubs served as social networks and a place to see stamp friends and talk about stamp issues. Each club had it's own character, generally driven by force of personality of a few long time members. A club could be gossipy or scholarly. Some tried to have regular guest speakers or exhibits to facilitate serious philatelic conversation. Others were coffee klatches given over to gossip and reminiscing. And most clubs had tr
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  16. Charles Dickens


    Charles Dickens was born two hundred years ago this month. He has always been my favorite writer and several years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to acquire for my personal collection the greatest philatelic and literary autograph combination- an envelope addressed by Dickens franked by the world's first postage stamp-the Penny Black, along with a letter signed by Dickens
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  17. Valentines

    Valentine's Day is a holiday for which no long historical tradition exists. There were several St Valentines as part of the pantheon of Catholic martyrs and saints but none of them had any association to romantic love. Scholars looking for antecedents to the holiday can trace it back to a poem of Geoffrey Chaucer in the late 1300's but really the celebration of Valentine's Day seems to have begun in earnest about the same time as the early post made the sending of Valentine's cards easy. In this sense the holiday was a technologically driven occasion where friends and distant lovers could keep in touch on this day by exchanging cards. And throughout the Nineteenth century Val
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  18. United States Postal Service Loss

    News this week came that the Post Office lost $7 billion dollars last year and this is after an accounting change postpones a $5 billion loss due to how pension contributions are paid. Worse, the Post Office's business model is failing and, despite what really seems to be significant efforts at increasing efficiency, loses will only compound in the years ahead without major changes. But change is something the USPS is forbidden to do by law except with Congressional approval. And the Post Office will be out of money this fall, just in time to be a political issue during the Prsesidential campaign. The vast majority of Americans agree that we need a Postal Service. And we need that service to be a service, not just a profit driven business. As a nation we have always subsidized two things with our postal service-first rural America,  by maintaining daily postal delivery to every home in America for the same low price and second,  low cost newspaper, magazine and

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  19. Tom Wilson

    Tom Wilson had been a customer of ours for years when he called us to come and see his collection that he was ready to sell.Tom and I spoke on the phone and set up an appointment for me to come to his home in Chula Vista, quite a ways from my Jenkintown office, but, for a collection the heft of Tom's, well worth the trip. We set up a date and time and as I was saying goodbye Tom asked "how will I know it is you when you come to the door?" I replied lightly that since I was probably the only one with whom he had an appointment that day to see his stamps, when someone showed up and rang his doorbell, it was probably me. It didn't reassure him. I said that he and I had spoken on the phone scores of times, that I knew his birthday because his wife had often called to arrange philatelic presents and that, though we had never met, my voice and my driver's license should be enough to convince him of my identity when I arrived. "We need a password" he said. I thought he was joki

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  20. Philatelic Immigration

    When I started in the stamp business in the late 1960s there was still active a large group of professional philatelists who had been political refugees from the 1930s. These were people who had escaped Germany and Eastern Europe and had come to the United States, often by very circuitous routes. All had a story and most appeared to be alive only because of the most fortuitous of circumstances. Stamp Dealers had a better survival rate from the Nazi final solution than did many other professionals and this was because they were less reluctant to pick up stakes and leave, and so got out earlier while there was still time. Most professionals deal in a language and culturally specific skill (a German lawyer or Polish accountant is unemployable in the United States in the often lucrative profession in which he was trained) and most business men have their investments in unmovable plant and equipment. But stamp dealers are more mobile. But rearranging his stock to fewer, scarcer it

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