Monthly Archives: October 2014

  1. Bank Note Issue Stamps

    Foreign collectors believe that collecting United States stamps is the most difficult of all national collecting specialties. The reason is that we make too many major catalog numbers of stamps on which the differences are very hard to distinguish. It starts with the one cent 1851's of which there are seven major catalog numbers of a single design and color, but it really reaches its apotheosis with the Bank Note Issue beginning in 1870 (These issues are called the Bank Note issues because the the US Post Office changed its printing contract to award it to a printing company that also printed currency).

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  2. Cape of Good hope


    The two most Southern British areas of influence-Australia and South Africa- were also the latest to confederate and begin issuing postage stamps as a single geographic unit. South Africa confederated in 1910 and before that was made up of the Boer dominated Transvaal, Orange Free State, and Stellaland and British dominated Cape of Good Hope. In 1855, Cape of Good Hope became the first stamp issuing country to issue stamps that were not rectangular endearing itself to the first generation of collectors. The Cape was a thriving trading colony and postal communication was well used by the inhabitants. The triangular stamps of the Cape were always popular and sou
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  3. Why There is Little Written About Philatelic History

    Philatelic history suffers from the fact that stamp collecting is not an academic discipline. Academic history is a constant process of evaluation and reevaluation of sources, previous historic writing and conventional understandings. Several of the latest  award winning histories of the early American Colonial period that I have read present quite a different spin on the period compared to how this era was understood when I studied it in college. Academic historians make their reputation by finding new sources and reexamining the old in a way that never exists with those who look at the philatelic past.

    Stamp histories are largely anecdotal-memories and stories about the great collectors and dealers. I say this because of an important piece of information on philatelic history that I came across recently. I have been reading the f
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  4. The Effect of the Dollar on Stamp Prices

    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 c

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  5. Advertising Stamps

    Worldwide postal services have tried numerous experiments over the years at increasing revenues. Most common has been the experiment of advertising with postage stamps. This experiment was first made almost coincidentally with the issuance of the first postage stamp. The Mulready envelope was issued together with the Penny Black as the world's first piece of postal stationery and private companies quickly began advertising on part of the writing page of the stationery. These letter sheets were then sold at discounts from the postage value to people willing to have such advertising with their mail. In the late nineteenth century, New Zealand experimented with placing printed ads on the backs of
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  6. the Universal Postal Union


    By 1874 the system of international carriage of letters was a mess. Countries had to negotiate postal treaties with each other and most treaties called for cross payments where part of the postage of a letter was remitted by the sending post office to the receiving post office. This was confusing and difficult to keep tabs of but of further complexity was the cross payments to transit countries (say when a letter from the United States landed in England, was sent to Poland and then across land to Russia). Nearly thirty five years after the Penny Black, with world commerce rising, the system of cross payments just wasn't working. It was slowing down communicati
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  7. Early Romania

    Before 1859 Romania didn't exist in its current form and one of its component nations, Moldavia, was one of the first issuers of stamps. The famous Moldavia Bulls have been a favorite of philatelists since the beginning of our hobby. They combine the three characteristics that collectors most esteem-they were issued for purely postal purposes with no advance warning to collectors and no hoarding. They are primitive in design and execution. And they are, and always have been, rare. A short look at these three philatelic characteristics of popularity will help explain how our hobby developed and cast light on many aspects of philately that are still with us today
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  8. Joe Collector

    Most stamp collectors are married men. In fact, if you had to pick the person who was at the exact center of the philatelic demographic in this country you would have a married man in his sixties with grown children. He would be more or less happily married. He and his wife share nearly everything together. They have children, and if they are lucky, grandchildren who they enjoy together. And they share and enjoy together friends, movies, even books. But the one thing our demographically perfect collector and his wife do not enjoy together is his stamps. Very few couples contain two stamp collectors. And when they do they always collect different areas, never together.

    Collecting is at its heart a solitary pursuit. Many collectors belong to societies but most do so in order to use some society services such as a magazine, or sales c
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  9. US 50c Airmail

    Second chances sometimes work out in life, but they almost never do in philately. The 1930 Zeppelin stamps were issued in 1930 and their high face value during the Great Depression meant that many collectors had to forgo buying them and that many people who bought them could only afford one set and not put any away for future sale. Prices of the 1930 set rose quickly after they were withdrawn from sale in 1931. So when the United States Post Office announced in 1933 that they were giving collectors another chance to buy a stamp that seemed certain to go up in value (and at a significantly lower face value than the first set) collectors lined up for the largess. So much so that the Bab
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  10. Classic Chile


    Chile was one of the last South American countries to be colonized. With little gold or silver to exploit or passive Indians to enslave, the southwest coast of South America was not as attractive to the Spanish invaders as was the rest of the new world. Colonization came later when copper was found, and when the rich Mediterranean style climate showed that European type crops (and especially grapes) could be grown and when steam sailing ships and railroads could link the long narrow nation. Geographically, Chile is a narrow ribbon of a nation averaging 100 miles wide by 2700 mile long. The first stamps of Chile were issued in 1853 and were produced in London. T
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  11. An Odd Old Stamp Dealer

    The stamp dealers of the older generation had a fair number of odd characters but none were odder than Morton Paul Goldfarb. Mort, as everyone called him, went to every auction, every stamp show and no matter where you went, you were sure to see him too. Mort specialized in the stamps of the United Nations and only UN. There aren't many better UN stamps in which to deal and Mort made a specialty out of buying and selling UN postage. The United Nations postal agency is really not a post office at all. UN stamps are souvenirs and the UN maintains a Post Office as kind of a postal fiction. All letters deposited at the UN Post Office are turned over to the United States Post Office which is required by Congress to handle UN deposited mail. It is another US subsidy of the UN. The USPS provides the service and the UN gets the revenue for the sale of the postage.

    But to make the burden on the United State Post Office less, the UN has always restricted how th

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  12. Gambia

    The fear of the counterfeiting of postage stamps made for a large number of Nineteenth Century printers' trade offs. The gold standard of anti-counterfeiting technology was line engraved (called intaglio) printing, which, for a special anti-forgery bonus, usually included lathe work. This type of printing rose off the paper and produced a fineness of design that didn't make counterfeiting impossible but made it more difficult and raised the cost (both in time and expertise) to the forgers considerably. Producing line engraved stamps is similar to putting a burglar alarm sign on your front lawn or using the Club in your car. Raising the cost an
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  13. Stamp Mounts- A Short History



    Until about 1950, philatelists were quite content hinging their stamps. The first stamp mounts in the United Stateswere Crystal Mounts, marketed by the H E Harris Company. They were not created because collectors wanted (or could be convinced they wanted, which is they same thing) a better way to mount their stamps. Rather Crystal Mounts were really a pain to use and were marketed solely to add a non-stamp item to the Harris line. Harris found he made more money from albums and mounts than he could from
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  14. Great Britain Officials Are a Wonderful Specialty of Their Own

    Most collectors know the first philatelic story
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