Monthly Archives: March 2012

  1. A Valuable Presidential Invitation


    Grace and Calvin Coolidge were considered generous and gracious people. But little did they realize that the invitations that they sent out in 1927 had more than just the significance of being able to have cocktails with the President. On the White House stationary that was used for this invitation the President used a rare type II,Scott #634A which was a stamp variety that was not known immediately&nb
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  2. When Collectors Buy Stamps

    Remember how you organized your day was in 1970. Your clock radio alarm went off and you listened to a bit of news or some music while the percolator made coffee. The morning newspaper was at the front door and you read that before going off to work. At your office you did your professional tasks while looking forward to a date later that night with your Apfelbaum Auction catalog or Linns or whatever philatelic item would come in the mail that day. People's lives were compartmentalized and the change in this aspect of our lives is probably why you hear so little about conversations around the water cooler anymore. They no longer exist as the Internet age has let us have access to who and what we like, whenever we want. No more waiting to go home to read the news-it was reported today that 27% of people use their phones to get news updates numerous times per day. People no longer wait until they are off work to engage in philatelic matters-Stamp Auction Network reports it

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  3. Competition

    Nobody has yet improved on Adam Smith's version of capitalism.  Put different companies and concepts in the economic arena and the invisible hand will pick the most efficient idea and the one that, at its price, most people want to consume. But for the invisible hand to work, the competition has to be fair. And for the United States Post Office, the playing field has been skewed against it for some time. Sure, the Post Office has some crazy work rules and union problems. But the real Post Office problem is that it is held to arbitrary and unfair standards by Congress and then castigated as an example of why government can't deliver services efficiently. First, the Post Office must deliver to every address at the same price, something that private package delivery companies wont do. Second, pension accounting rules that Congress has mandated bring forward employee retirement expenses decades before they are due to be paid, again
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  4. Iceland Parliment

    The Althing is the parliament of Iceland and is considered to be the oldest Parliament in the world (though whether this is "continuous" or not is subject to some dispute). But the Icelanders are rightfully proud of their Parliament's longevity and have publicized it on two 1930 sets which commemorated the one thousandth anniversary of the Althings founding in 930. These sets have always been popular not only among Iceland philatelists and Scandinavian collectors but among all stamp collectors who like well designed and printed stamps and who like good value for their money. Iceland has always been one of those countries that has enjoyed great philatelic popularity despite limited internal demand for their stam
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  5. Why and When

    One often sees discussions concerning repairs on lower priced stamps. While collectors do need to be careful about repairs and alterations it is important to remember that stamps are repaired for a reason and that reason is so they can be sold as non damaged items at higher prices than they would be otherwise. Thus repairing a stamp is an economic act, not someone engaging in an esoteric activity. I say this so that you'll keep in mind the two questions that reasonable philatelists ask when they are examining an item for repairs- Why and When. If a stamp has been in a collection for thirty years and was thought to be a cheap stamp thirty years ago why would anybody waste their time repairing or reperfing it. And when would they have done it?  Keep in mind that perforating pins on early Nineteenth Century stamps were not perfectly placed and even when they were, they could move over the course of thousands of cuts into stamp sheets.

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  6. Numerical Stamp grading

    Our modern philatelic trend of specialization has been partly the result of a world wide glut of new postal issues that have made most collectors unable and unwilling to collect worldwide stamps. Another less commented on change in collecting habits has come from this overabundance of new issues too. It is the increasing emphasis on quality. An overwhelming basket of new stamps each year has forced collectors to restrict in many ways the number of stamps that they will consider for their collecting.Quality restrictions are the natural consequence of restrictive collecting. In the early days of stamp collecting acquiring a packet of a couple hundred stamps meant hours of sorting, arranging and cataloging that would put a gleam in the eye of a collec
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  7. What is Different From Fifty Years Ago

    Life changes. It evolves both at the macro level, over generations, and at the micro level within a single lifetime. One of the nicest things about aging is observing the little changes that occur over a lifetime and seeing how those changes create new understandings that becomes the starting point for new generations. This happens in politics, in business and of course in philately. When I started collecting stamps nearly fifty years ago nearly every collector maintained a worldwide collection. And why shouldn
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  8. Colonial Differences

    Collectors either esteem or denigrate the earlier stamps of British Commonwealth and they do so for the same reason. From about 1890 to the QE II period (1953), the stamps of nearly all the Commonwealth colonies are the same-small stamps with a portrait of the reigning monarch (either Victoria, Edward, George V or George VI)-distinguished by stamp collectors by scores of varieties by monarch, denomination and watermark. Many find it very redundant. Others exhilarate in the variety on a simple theme. Some like Mahler. Some like Bach.  But several of the British Commonwealth colonies in the 1920s and 1930s experimented with change and collectors have rewarded these experiments with great col
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  9. Another Reason Stamp Prices Rise

    Like most predictions, philatelic prognosticating is one-third fact based, one- third interpretation of those facts and one-third hope and wishful thinking. That said I
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  10. Afternoon Delight

    When I was a young man I lived for a while in London. This was in my pre dealer days while I was in school. One autumn day I went to the BritishMuseum, expecting to run through their antiquities collections when in some far corner on some higher floor I discovered the Tapling collection. As it was displayed in the 1970
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  11. German Inflation Sheets

    The famous German hyperinflation period, to which we are often warned we are about to return, was now nearly 100 years ago. That this was a period before monetary theory and strong central banks. That nearly one hundred years have gone by without hyperinflation occurring in any major country hardly seems to matter when it comes time for hard money people trying to scare us. We have an interesting lot in our March auction that should help keep things in perspective. It is a collection of pristine mint Germany 1923 inflation period, over 50  sheets of 100 as collected from the Post Office, with a total face value of  over 50 Billion (with a B) marks. These sheets were demonetized in 192
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  12. Scott on Your Ipad

    I am one of the least techno people around. I never learned how to use our VCR at home and when that technology was replaced I figured that I could wait out most innovations and never have to figure out how to use anything new. But about a year ago I got an Ipad and it was revelatory, so intuitive and easy and fast that I now carry mine around the house reading books, going online and responding to emails. All this is to say that if I can use the Scott catalog Ipad app, which is really just the Scott catalog downloaded on your Ipad, anyone can. Right now, Scott has the 2012 US Specialized catalog and the 2012 1840-1940 Classic catalog available as Ipad apps but they plan on issuing the full 2013 catalogs on Ipad as they are issued in hard copy format. This Ipad app is wonderful. The illustrations are great and movement between pages is fast. Imagine having the entire forty pound Scott catalog on your tiny Ipad to take to stamp shows or your friend's h

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  13. A Philatelic Slam Dunk

    There are very few philatelic investments that are a sure thing and that have very small dealer markups going in and out. But buying "forever" discount postage is a winner. Right now you can buy discount "forever" first class postage rate stamps at about 86% of postage value. With the Post Office planning to raise the cost of sending a letter next year to 50c, this investment should show a 10% gain in one year. Since most dealers work on margins of about 10% on discount postage,the entire dealer markup cost will be gained back in one year, an occurrence almost unheard of in philately. Long term predictions of postal rates vary but its not unreasonable to assume that rates should go up in the 5%(or more) range for the next several years. And all the while you can be using the stamps on your mail. When I think of how much money people have invested and lost in United States postage over the last forty years the idea that there may be a way for people to finally make some money

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  14. Malta

    Tiny islands have often assumed importance because of their geographic proximity to someplace of great economic value. Hong Kong became as important as it did because it was a British possession and practically Chinese at the same time. St Thomas in the American Virgin islands was purchased from the Danes to protect American shipping lanes to the Panama Canal in the event of military hostilities. And Malta, a small group of islands in the middle of the Mediterranean sea is halfway between the Straits of Gibraltar and Egypt. The British acquired Malta in 1814, as part of the spoils of the Napoleonic wars, and as a port and military installation, Malta was an integral part of the Empire. After the Suez Canal wa
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  15. Philately Today

    I think it
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  16. Encylopaedia Britannica

    If there is ever a date that goes into history books to mark the demise of printed books in the battle with electronic information on the Internet, it may well be March 14, 2012-the day that The Encyclopedia Britannica announced that it was ceasing publication of its 20 volume annual edition. For nearly 300 years this encyclopedia has been the first read for many people who begin to research a subject. The encyclopedia was put to rest by the Internet and Wikipedia, which has incorporated most of the eleventh edition (first published 1911)  in its entries. Stamp collectors have always found Britannica useful and I keep an old hundred year old set above my desk from the days when I used it for quick reference for towns, geography and autographs. Britannica held an exalted position among philatelists in years gone by. My grandfather, Earl Apfelbaum, was in a philatelic Britannica readers group. This group was made of people who claimed to have read the e

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  17. The Post Office's Problem


    We have all been reading about the Post Office's troubles and potential solutions. The problems are largely of Congress's making. As Josh Eidelson says in a Salon article

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  18. The Creation of Wealth

    De Tocqueville finished his famous book "Democracy in America" in 1840 the year that the first postage stamp was issued. Capitalism was in its adolescence and the jury was still out on whether as a system capitalism would produce wide ranging socioeconomic benefits or would just serve to enrich the few. De Tocqueville has a section where he talks about inheritances (volume 1, chapter 3) and it's clear that economics was thought of in those days as a zero sum game in which any gain to one party had the effect of reducing another. Stamps then were part of an enormous revolution of wealth brought about by technology and capitalism that not only has continually raised living standards and enriched the world but has changed the very nature of the social contract. We no longer see economic activity as a process that to benefit one party necessarily impoverishes another. An agricultural based economy, with finite land and crop yields, had only a set amount of wealth, which could be

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  19. Papua New Guinea




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  20. Max Margolis

    I first met Max Margolies in the mid 1960
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