Monthly Archives: November 2012

  1. Literature Past

    The New York Review of Books is a literary magazine that began publishing in the 1960s. Issued twenty or so times a year, it carries book reviews and articles on contemporary issues written by a large group of the finest thinkers and academics of our time. The magazine is a bi-monthly journey into the world of ideas, escorted by the best intellectual guides. Like all periodicals of this type, the problem is that great articles of ten years ago are still great, even if the periodical format means that they are never read again. What the N.Y.R.B. has done, however, is put their entire publication history on line. Subscribers have access to over 2,500 wonderful articles about books and thinking. If you like this sort of thing, it makes for some of the most amazing reading.

    There are two preeminent American stamp periodicals- the American Philatelist
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  2. Czechoslovakia Music Sheets


    Czechoslovakia has all of the markers for a popular philatelic country. It has a highly educated population. As a central European country, its population shares many characteristics with the Austrians, Swiss, and Germans- all of whom are avid collectors. Since the downfall of communism and the introduction of the free market, Czechoslovakia shou
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  3. Forbin

    The last comprehensive catalog of Revenue Stamps of the World was issued by the French dealer Forbin in the year 1915. After that date, the collecting of worldwide revenue stamps began to fall off in popularity. In a very few countries, the United States and France come to mind, the collecting of native revenue stamps continued to be popular. But for the vast majority of the world, by 1930, Revenues simply were not collected anymore. The reason was simple. By 1930 there were enough worldwide stamps (and even within countries enough specialized stamps) to keep all but the most ardent philatelists happy. So Revenues became less popular and in hobbies, less popularity breeds lesser popularity until, today, it is a very unusual collector, indeed, who collects any revenue stamps at all.

    In the 1970's, I was involved with a group who was trying to reissue and update th
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  4. Lucky Lanie

    Lanie Murphy was a lucky young woman. On her twenty first birthday, her grandfather gave her a group of stamps that he had received from his father when his father died. The great-grandfather was never a stamp collector; rather, in the 1920's, flush with money from his job on Wall Street, he bought a mint block of four of every new issue as it came through the Post office near his office. Many people bought stamps like this during the 1920's. Lanie's great-grandfather bought them, put them in glassines, and never looked at them again. They remained in perfect quality, which, more than their rarity, made them very valuable.
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  5. Prince Edward Island

    There are a handful of countries that issued stamps from the very first period of philatelic issues which, through a confluence of historical circumstances, have come down to us as philatelic countries where collectors can obtain all of the stamps for a modest price. Two factors are usually necessary for this to happen. First, the issues need to be plentiful enough, or unpopular enough, that the stamps are not too expensive. And second, the country has to have had a short lived philatelic history so that there are not too many different stamps. Some countries such as Saxony issued less than twenty different stamps before being incorporated into the German Emp
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  6. Modern Philately

    The history of our hobby can be divided into four phases. The first is the 1860-1910 period. This was the birth of philately, where collectors first began to acquire stamps. It was when the first catalogs and albums were developed as were the basic rules for quality and what is appropriate to put into collections (genuine vs reprints etc). The tools of our hobby (perf gauge, tongs and watermark tray were developed at this time too). The second period (1910-1950) was the period when collectors expanded the boundaries of the hobby in response to the increasing popularity of philately. First day Covers and plate blocks began to be collected and specialization became more common in response to the lack of enough scarcer world wide material to satisfy demand. The third period (1950-2000) consolidated the earlier phases of the hobby and expanded philately's emphasis on mint stamps and especially newer issues. Stamp collecting became such a big business for Post Offices that ne

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  7. Decoupage

    Classic French stamps are among the most interesting. The first issues of France are printed by a method of printing called typography. Unlike engraved plates, typography relies on plates that hold a design by having an ink-holding agent that is applied to the plate do the printing rather than having the metal plate itself hold the ink, as is the case in engraving. Typography is a simpler printing method than engraving, but in the hands of capable printers can produce a fine result. But the non-metal aspect of the printing agent means that wear is rapid, and for this reason typography tends not to be used for large printing orders as the quality of the print tends to d
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  8. Newspapers


    Collectors of United States stamps are accustomed to thinking that, when postal patrons of the Nineteenth Century wanted to mail newspapers, they used specially prepared Newspaper stamps. This was the case in the United States, a country that in the Nineteenth Century designed and issued more special service stamps than any other. Most other nations used regular postage stamps to ma
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  9. Hiram Deats Library

    About forty years ago (as one of the first stamp tasks I was involved in professionally), we consulted with the Philadelphia Library over their philatelic collection. Philadelphia had been the recipient of the Hiram Deats library which was donated to them in 1952. It still laid in cartons in the enormous main library basement when I examined it in 1971. The library consisted of nearly 1200 cartons and my job was to sort through it with two goals in mind-first, to sort out duplicates that Deats had himself and which duplicated each other and, second, to integrate the Deats donation into the Philadelphia libraries main collection, again with the goal of reducing duplication. The Philadelphia Library planned to sell off all the duplicates.

    The Library was fortunate that we contracted to "consult" with them at a set price for the job and not hourly as once I got into the Deats library and the Philadelp

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  10. Philately and Charity


    Many collectors choose what they collect so as to both maximize their philatelic pleasure and, at the same time benefit the charitable and political groups that they are interested in. This kind of collecting and stamp issuance has a long tradition. The first stamps that had a charitable component were issued by Switzerland in 1912. This began an annual series of "Pro Juventute-For the Children" and was the beginning of the thousands of charity stamps that our hobby has produced. The Scott catalog calls these stamps semi-postals. These stamps have postal values of a given amount and then a "charity surcharge" that the buyer pays in addition to the postage that is donated to the designated charity. These stamps are sold to collectors, and the protocols of kindness encourage people in countries that issue these stamps to use semi-postals on mail like wedding invitations
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  11. George VI

    There are six different Monarchs of Great Britain who have ruled since stamps were issued. Five of them have left a very prominent philatelic footprint (Edward VIII was king for a bit less than a year and made no impact on stamp collecting). Certainly Elizabeth has had the largest number of stamps issued with her likeness on them, followed by her great grandmother Victoria, but it is in specializing on the three kings in between that has produced some of the most interesting areas to collect. Of these three kings, many philatelists consider George VI the most interesting to collect.

    The stamps of George VI are the most affordable of all of British Commonwealth. They lack the rarities of Victoria, the long sets with expensive Pound values of Edward VII and George V, and the tens of thousand of stamps that a complete collection of QE II would require you to own and house. There is compactness and affordibility  with George VI. What many specialists consider to b

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  12. Nicholas Seebeck

    Seebeck is a name that one rarely encounters in modern philatelic reading. Yet for stamp collectors of a hundred years ago he was as the personification of evil. Seebeck  was a stamp dealer, then a printer, and in the early 1890
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  13. The Decade of the 1890's


    The decade of the 1890
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  14. Care of Stamp Collections



    Most collectors take good care of their stamps, at least while they are actively collecting. Albums that are in your office or library are usually kept on the living floors of your house, and they are subject to the same temperatures and humidity that people are comfortable with. This is generally acceptable for most stamps though stamps are a bit more finicky than people and generally do best in 70-75 degree temperature with lower humidity than most people feel is required for comfort. It is when collectors lose interest in their stamps and move them to their basements and attics that the trouble can begin. If your stamps are not very valuable this may not be a problem, but if they have real value you will come to regret improper storage.

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  15. Classic Norway

    The first two issues of Norway have always held great interest among serious philatelists. The First stamp, an imperf, is one of the most popular in philately. It was printed widely apart so nearly always comes with large margins. It is plateable, meaning that all one hundred of the positions in the sheet have been identified and can be told by examining subtle printing characteristics on each stamp. The cancellations types are plentiful and usually identifiable (most countries for their first issues mandated "killer" cancellations of the Maltese Cross type that were used on the Penny Black. Norway largely used the town cancellations that recor
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  16. Boxes of Stamps

    Until about 1970 the vast majority of stamp collectors were world wide collectors. They often concentrated (mostly in this country in American and Canadian stamps) but the large majority of collectors in that generation maintained world wide collections as well, usually buying box lots. They sorted these box lots out over time adding to their world wide collections when obtaining items for their specialized collections slowed down or got too expensive. Most collectors of this earlier generation got as much joy and excitement form sorting out their box lots as they did from their more specialized collecting. The reason was simple. It's nice to buy valuable stamps. But it's also nice to buy not so valuable ones too. And to sort and categorize large groups of world wide stamps. And to learn the geography and history which was the original lure of this hobby.

    Many collectors today are returning to the way that their father's collected. The

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  17. The Kobans of Japan

    One of the more unknown and interesting areas to collect is the Koban issues of Japan. Unlike the first two Japanese issues which have been extensively forged (actually faked #1-8 of Japan are about ten times more common than the genuine, and forgeries of the second Japanese issue, called the Cherry Blossoms, are ubiquitous too), the Kobans are nearly always genuine and very plentiful. They were the main stamp issue of Japan for the 1875-1910 period, which coincided with one of the most significant and rapid industrializations that any nation has undergone. In 1868, Japan had been a feudal state nearly cut off form the world. The Meiji Re
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  18. Oral History

    Many groups have little written history of their activities. Among literate societies this is because the group itself is considered tangential to what the people involved are doing or are trying to accomplish. Thus you have, for instance, hundreds of academic historians in this country writing about history and many writing about how to write history and even some writing about the history of writing history. But stories and background of the historians themselves are not written about. Maybe historians aren't very interesting. But stamp collectors and professional philatelists are. And most of the history of our hobby, it's origins and appeal and stories that elucidate why we do what we do today, has gotten lost. The stories are there. But collectors are too busy writing and talking about the technical aspects of their hobby, and only address orally the fascinations that brought them to philately in the first place, and the stories of their early years c

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  19. Mint United States

    Traditionally, most collectors of United States stamps have collected in a similar fashion. They collected the stamps after 1930 mint and in Very Fine NH condition. From 1900-1930 they collected mint as well but usually were content with hinged stamps and often lesser centering as well. Nineteenth Century was largely collected used by the vast majority of collectors. Collectors who collected this way were responding to two realities of US philately. First, prices for perfect mint stamps are reasonable in the modern period when most of the stocks of stamps are in perfect condition. But as collectors reach the earlier periods, the premium for perfect quality and gum begins to rise to levels that most collectors can't afford. Rather than quit collecting they compromise on quality. And second, even if money were not a concern, the quantity of perfect stamps in the earlier periods is very small. Collectors are like most consumers-they are accustomed to instant gratification and don't w

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  20. Stamp Prices and the Dollar

    Until 1970 the stamp market in the United States was mostly determined by the domestic market alone. Virtually all stamps, both US and Foreign, that were sold in this country were sold to domestic buyers. International travel was unusual and expensive, there was no Internet, and American philatelic auctioneers didn't send many catalogs overseas. 1970 was a watershed year as it marked the period that the economic balance began to shift between Europe and the United States. Until 1970, Europe was still economically weak and recovering from the devastation of WW II. After 1970, the dollar was devalued several times against the mark and other European currencies, which pushed up prices of these stamps in dollar terms. And the rapidly expanding European economies gave consumers there more money to pursue their hobbies also putting upward pressure on prices. Large numbers of European dealers flocked to our shores and millions of dollars of European stamps flowed back to their countries of or

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