Stamps of the earlier eras were color coded. The United States first class postage rate stamps of the Nineteenth century were red-brown (the overseas stamps were blue). So were the first class postage stamps of Great Britain, Canada, and Austria. The reason had nothing to do with design or aesthetics. Red dyes were cheaper. Here's why.
Inks are a combination of a coloring agent and a solvent to move that coloring agent onto the medium that it is printing. Coloring agents can be either organic or inorganic. Inorganic pigments are expensive and often change color over time. The earliest stamp pri
A century is a long time in history. In 1913, less than 2% of American homes were electrified. Virtually no one had a car; perhaps only a few dozen brave people had flown in planes. There was nearly no surgery; any infection was potentially life threatening. Life expectancy was thirty years lower than today. Smoking was pervasive, and levels of air and water pollution were high, and there were no nuclear weapons. Life has changed dramatically in the last century, certainly more so than in any other. An inhabitant of England in the year 1100 would have had little difficulty fitting in if he were transported a century into the future. Our great-grandparents would barely recognize today's world.
There is probably no activity, though, that has changed as l
Recently a family brought us a collection that has been in their family for nearly 150 years. The collection had been started by their great-grandfather in 1860, carried on by their grandfather, and then their father who passed away last year at more than 90. Most collections that live through many generations in the same family become like rebuilt homes
Philately is the study and collecting of postage stamps. But mail carriage existed for over a thousand years before the first postage stamp was issued and through the history of our hobby many collectors have ventured back to collect these postal artifacts. These earliest letters that were carried are lost to us and probably were official, military and merchants correspondences. The Vatican maintains an enormous record of over 1500 years of official church correspondence. The model for this was probably similar to all of the earliest mail. Nearly all was carried by church carriers who travelled from diocese to diocese keepin
For philatelic Americans traveling in Europe, one of the great pleasures of their trip was a visit to the great Sunday stamp bourses in the major European cities. Collectors would spend their days visiting the retail stamp shops and then on weekends visit the outdoor stamp bourses. These bourses have been written about since Pat Hearst's famous book Nassau Street described his travels around Europe visiting various bourses, wallet packed with dollars. Hearst described country after country where he bought great things, and since the book could easily have been renamed Great Buys I Have Made, you have a good idea already of what he talked about.
The 1970s were the halcyon days of philately. The inflation of the Carter years was fierce, and inflation rates for many years topped 10%. Add to this, currency controls in Great Britain had meant that people began to lose faith in money. Remember for a minute that money has no real value. It is a convention and represents a bearer certificate for goods and services that are only redeemable as long as the person doing the redeeming believes that there is someone who will want to exchange goods and services for the money that he has. When people lose that faith, economies break down. Such faith is bent and deformed by confiscatory taxation and currency controls
Mail and Internet sales have long had an advantage relative to ordinary retail sales in that there was no sales tax charged for interstate sales. Buy a set of zeppelins from your local retailer for a thousand dollars, and it will cost you $60-$80 more than if you you buy them online. This is one of the reasons that there are so few stamp retailers anymore with shops. Because of the sales tax exemption on interstate retail sales nearly all stamp sales take place tax exempt through mail order and the internet. Even most sales that take place at stamp shows are effectively tax exempt as the smaller dealers who have booths at these shows rarely charge tax. This is all about to change.
Retail stores have long complained that this system is unfair (and it is). Larger retailers, who maintain retail outlets at most of the hundreds of malls throughout the country are at a
Good histories share many things in common. First, the historian must know his subject cold. Good histories are not only about the subject they purport to be about but also place the subject within a place and time context. Second, the historian must be a clear and lucid writer who can make his points in an interesting manner. Good writing should read effortlessly. This goes a long way toward keeping the readers keen, especially in history where a decent amount of minutia and detail are often required. And third, a good history makes broader points about its subject, placing it within larger historical context. Thus Gibbon's Decline and Fall
Early philatelists did not have the same aesthetics that stamp collectors have today. Little, sometimes even no, attention was paid to quality. Stamps were peeled off envelopes, and the pieces that came off were pasted into early albums. And whenever an early issue proved elusive, early dealers were pleased to print reproductions and forgeries. Many of these early forgeries made little attempt to fool anyone.
Herman Hearst, Jr., who went by the nickname "Pat"
Queen Elizabeth II has been the monarch of Great Britain for over sixty years. Longevity does run in her family, but she is in her mid 80s, and at a certain point she will either abdicate in favor of her son (or grandson) or simply pass on. Her reign has been a long and eventful one, especially for philately. When the Princess became Queen in 1953, the British Empire was just breaking up, and the Commonwealth was just being formed. The stamp issues of the colonies had previously been coordinated, designed, and often printed by the the Crown Agents and their successors. Most British Commonwealth stamps, no matter what country they were issued from, had similar d
By the way that some collectors squander their money, you would think that they had an overabundance of it. Throughout philatelic history, collectors have rarely been as careful as they should have been. In the late nineteenth century, few collectors scrutinized where they bought their stamps, and so reprinters and counterfeiters abounded during this period. One of the most egregious scams was the machinations of Nicholas Seebeck. In the early years of the twentieth century, Seebeck contracted with several South and Central American countries to print their stamps. In return, he kept the plates and floo
The philately of Spain is one of the most interesting. The nineteenth century issues number over 200 face different varieties, much more than most other countries (the United States has more collectible varieties, but we include as major collectible catalog numbers the types of the 1851-57 issue, the subtle shades of the 5c 1857 , the grills and Bank Notes (where Scott lists three complete sets of the same stamps in same colors made from the same plates), and the reprints and reissues. Without these philatelic varieties, the US has less than half the number of different issues than does Spain).
May 6, 1840 was the first day of the first stamp. Many inventions are derivative. The automobile, for instance, didn't appear in fully developed form. Many engineers and inventors from many countries worked on various car platforms, improving the work of previous designs, to get the point of a fully functioning modern car. This type of model is true for most inventions. Some, however, are nearly perfect when they are first conceived and are only tweaked around the edges. For 173 years, the only change to Rowland Hill's original stamp has been the addition of perforations. Perhaps only the light bulb has kept as close to its original design and continues to serve an important function.
The Penny Black is not a rare stamp. Over 68 million were printed. Conventional philatelic wisdom has always held that 1% is a good estimate for the number of stamps that have
Our hobby is over 160 years old, and for most of that time philatelists have been complaining about three things that have made their hobby problematic: access to material that they need, prices, and fear of adding altered or counterfeit material to their collections. In philately today, the good news is that these long time concerns have been largely ameliorated thanks to the internet and the collecting market as it exists today.
The first and most significant problem that collectors of previous generations complained about was the difficulty of finding material for their collections, especially if they collected outside the main stream. Years ago, there was a collector who specialized in covers and stamps relating to gold mining. He spent his life in the search
Philately is probably the most international hobby of them all. Few coin collectors collect coins of any but their home country. Other major collecting hobbies all have a nationalistic skew, if only because collectors tend to try to create in adulthood collections that they couldn't afford as children. There were no Lionel or H&O trains in Europe after WW II, so European model trains enthusiasts don't seek them now as adult collectors. Philately is the one hobby that is (or at least was) different. Most of the baby boomers, who collected as kids, maintained large general worldwide collections. When they get back to their hobbies, they are often as eager to collect the stamps of Russia as they are the stamps of the United States. This is true too of collectors from other countries, whom have always had a tradition of collecting the stamps of the United States as we