Monthly Archives: February 2014

  1. Philately and Sales tax

    2014 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 this year.

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  2. Today's Access to Information Makes our Hobby Easier

    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
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  3. Gum

    Gum has had a long relationship with printing on postage stamps. In the pre-1930 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 they 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
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  4. Earl Apfelbaum's Writings

    For over thirty years, from 1965 to 1987, my grandfather, Earl Apfelbaum, published a weekly column in Linn's Stamp News called "Apfelbaum's Corner." In the very first article, he said that his model for the articles were a series of car columns that had run in the Philadelphia Bulletin in the 1930s and 1940s called "Rolling Wheels," which were written by a local car dealer. Their purpose was not overtly commercial. Rather, the intent was to create what was really the world's first blog, an intent to entertain and educate and create customer loyalty by telling stories and writing about matters of interest to collectors. Earl rarely tried to sell anything in his articles. He told stories about his early days in the hobby and how collecting changed during his lifetime.

    At one time in the late 1970s, collectors voted "Apfelbaum's Corner" as
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  5. Italy and Area Pricelist

    One of the most interesting and specialized areas of philately is the Italian area. Italian philately comprises several main areas of interest
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  6. On President's Day, try President Jackson


    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
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  7. Valentine Collecting Has Always Been a Part of Our Hobby

    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 c
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  8. Saving The APS

    Let's start with a postulate: The American Philatelic Society is worth saving, and membership in the APS is worth having and worth the $45 or so that it costs. The question then is how to save the society, because certainly the membership losses, the demographic makeup of the society, and the declining revenues don't bode well for APS long-term viability.

    The APS membership has slipped to about 33,000 from a high of over 60,000 members. There are plenty of reasons for this, but the Internet, the economy, and the decline in stamp collecting interest are among the most obvious. Membership levels are now as low as they can be for the Society to offer the level of service it is now offering. If membership continues to decrease, cuts in service will be required, making membership even less appealing. You will see a death spiral. Once someone joins the APS, they
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  9. Stamp Collecting Used to be Portrayed Positively in the Media

    The Lone Wolf was a detective series in the 1920s 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 1930s. 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
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  10. A Fascinating and Affordable Specialty

    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
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  11. Our Postal Service Deserves Praise

    A few years ago, I read an article about how smaller town diamond merchants send their stock to each other by ordinary First Class mail. The article said that outside New York, the incidence of First Class mail going astray is nearly nonexistent. Apfelbaum's sends out thousands of packages per year, mostly through the postal service, with almost never a loss. Companies send their valuable packages out Registered or confirmed delivery largely so as to protect themselves from dishonest recipients or doormen who would pretend that the package didn't arrive, rather than because of Postal Service concerns. Think about it; when was the last time you sent a bill or birthday card that didn't arrive?

    The reason that virtually all First Class letters reach their destination is that we have an honest, professional, and relatively well paid group of men and women w
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  12. Promoting Philately

    I came across an interesting item last night in Sloane's Column, which I was rereading recently. In a 1930s entry, Sloane discusses a current proposal before the board of the American Philatelic Society that would authorize the spending of $10,000 to promote philately to the general public. Sloane reports that this proposal was supported by the philatelic liberals who think we should do something to increase the appeal of our hobby and was opposed by the true conservatives who feel that money is best unspent.

    My estimate (based on the membership size of the APS in 1935 (about 4,000 members) and the dues (about $5) indicate that spending $10,000 on philatelic promotion then would have amounted to about 50% of the annual budget of the
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