Monthly Archives: November 2014

  1. Martin Apfelbaum and the origin of the term "Black Friday"

    Black Friday is upon us! But where did it start?

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  2. Happy Thanksgiving

    Lost in our everyday trials and tribulations is a proper appreciation about what we have to be thankful for. We live in the greatest time to live in history, in the greatest country. A middle class American today has a far better life than a European king had 200 years ago. Losing a child to illness is highly unusual whereas only 150 years ago one in three children died before the age of six. We have access to more calories, ease of transportation, housing, clothing and entertainment for less money in terms of hours of effort to obtain them than ever before. Life spans are longer and the sciences of the mind allow us to build our capacities for happiness and caring. When my great grandmother came to the United States 100 years ago she left behind her parents and her three sisters. She was 16 when she came with her 18 year old husband and she never saw her family again. One of her sisters was killed in a pogrom, another died in some Stalin related atrocity in the 1930's and

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  3. The Cobb, Ruth and Mays of Philately

    Many endeavors have disputes over who are the greats in the field. Baseball aficionados have argued for decades over the greatest players and teams. Complex statistical analyses have been devised that can be used to compare players from different generations to each other. Others statistics rate the comparative values to their teams of pitchers versus position players. Avid readers rate famous authors based not just on how much the reader likes the writing but on the writer's impact on literature. And similar evaluations exist in the field of arts criticism and music.

    Perhaps because philately is a discipline without an academic footing, little attempt has ever been made to compare the great collectors
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  4. Psychologists Explain Why Collectors tend to Over Value Their Stamps

    The Endowment Effect is a concept in behavioral economics which states that people tend to increase their idea of the value of an item depending on whether or not they are the owner. The Endowment Effect was first hypothesized by the economist Richard Thaler and is an example of a big name for an idea that has been pretty obvious to stamp collectors and stamp dealers for many years.

     Apfelbaum engages to buy about 1500 collection per year. These are collections from collectors who have contacted us to sell their stamps. For the most part they are the collectors who made the stamp collections so they are well versed with the quality and popularity of the material that they own and are aware of the prices that they paid for their stamps. They are, too, aware that stamp dealers have expenses and profits to make and that markups on philatelic material run a third or more. And most collectors have a modest Endowment Effect-they like their stamps and be

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  5. Ten Years From Now

    It is always interesting to speculate on future winners and losers in the stamp market. Philatelic popularity is ever changing. In 1900, foreign postal stationery cut squares were a serious specialty that looked likely to continue in popularity. Today, almost no one collects them. In 1950, US precancels were avidly collected. Today there are few fans. In 2000,  numerically graded "perfect quality" common stamps were the rage. Now, after serious losses, collectors see them as the marketing sham that they were. Tens years from now I think the biggest loser will be US First Day Covers. FDCs are a relic of the 1950s when they first gained popularity. They were a nice adjunct to a regular US collection largely because the United States issued so few new stamps (In 1953, the USPS new issue total was three). Collectors looked for ways to expand their appreciation of new issues and First Day Covers were one way (as were plate blocks). Now with hundreds of issues per

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  6. One Hundred Years Old and Still Popular

    There are two major factors that influence philatelic popularity- first, the number of collectors who have a nationalistic interest in the particular stamps and, second, the intrinsic sex appeal of the stamps from their use, colorfulness of area of origin or design. Thus US stamps or German stamps are popular under the first guide line and stamps such as the issues of French Southern and Antarctic Territories are popular under the second. Some philatelic specialties are popular for both of the above reasons and the stamps of the German Colonies are one of them. Germany was late to the Colony game and seemed to engage in colonial exploitation more out of a sense that a good empire required colonies rat
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  9. Classic Switzerland

    Switzerland was one of the world's first issuers of stamps and the country continues to be one of the most popular philatelic areas. The first issues of Switzerland are called the Cantonals and the first of these was issued in 1846. Switzerland has a federal system of government, similar to the United States in that sovereignty rests with the states which united and set up a constitution governing the relationship between Federal government and the state governments. Over time in the United States, the Federal government has assumed more power and the states less. The same thing has happened in Switzerland except that the Swiss states or Cantons as they are called have retained more of their power vis a
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  10. Boy Scouts Promoted Stamp Collecting

    Anyone who was a Cub Scout or a Boy Scout in the 1950s and 1960s received a free monthly copy of Boys Life magazine delivered in the mail. The magazine was for boys 7-17 and offered light reading, projects and an array of stamp collecting ads. Companies like Jamestown and Kenmore and Mystic and H E Harris vied for your quarter, offering 100 triangles or old time monarchs along with a selection of approvals. There premium offered was a loss leader to get you to order the approvals, which were usually a couple of dollars worth of individually priced sets and singles with enticing write up. With a few selection you were offered a stamp album and then you were a real stamp collector.

    Today, stamp professionals see hundreds of these old time collections, put together by children for a few bucks each and put away on the shelves (or worse, in the damp basement) when they grew tired of them after a few weeks. Most of the owners are the collectors themselves, now older men who r

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  11. The Deats Library in Philadelphia

    Hiram Deats's massive collection also included geneologies in addition to his famed Revenue collection. The geneologies were donated to the, now Hiram E. Deats Memorial 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
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  12. Why Stamp Insurance Rates are so Low

    Stamp theft, despite the scare stories that you sometimes hear, is really not much of a problem. We rarely have a customer inform us that his stamps were stolen and the APS's stamp theft committee almost never sends out an advisory of a stolen collection. In the 1970's stamp theft was more of an issue than it is now and the change from stamps being an actively stolen commodity to an infrequently pilfered one tells us a lot about the changes in our hobby and our world in the last thirty years.

    The reason for the reduction of stamp thefts is threefold. First, stamps have languished in value so that on a "value to difficulty of fencing ratio" they are an inefficient product to steal.  High end TVs, computers and jewelry have made much more appealing targets over the last thirty years and stamps that are stolen are often taken as an afterthought of another robbery. Second, most criminals like the easy and big money and that money is in drugs. One could make t

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  13. Stamp Exhibits in the Future

    There have been thousands of competitive stamp exhibits that have been prepared and displayed over the last century. These collections take years to develop and many hours to mount, describe and write up. They are then put up in frames at a stamp show, seen by a few score people and, on average, exhibited a dozen times before the owner doesn't win enough awards for his interest to stay piqued. Modern technology has created a great philatelic possibility. Over the last ten years millions of scans of stamps and covers have appeared on the Internet. Collectors now could easily put together a Virtual Exhibit, consisting of stamps and covers that pertain to the theme of the exhibit but which the collector doesn't own and many never have actually seen except as scans. In favor of this proposal is that it appeals to what exhibitors have long stated was their main phila
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  14. North Korea

     There are few laboratory tests in any environment that so clearly measure the differences in political systems as did North and South Korea. Divided after complete devastation during WW II, the North took a Maoist and Stalinist central planning model and the South a capitalist American model. The results have been so dramatic that if this were a medical study it would have been called off for ethical reasons.

     The South has prospered and become one of the wealthier nations in the world whereas the North has gotten to the point where most of the 24 million people who live there are starving and would die without massive food aid. Over the next few years succession issues should affect North Korea. Kim Jong-Un heir is a thirty one year old boy, who has been educated in the west. Whether he has any real power or whether he will move North Korea to a capitalist democratic model is unknown. Indeed, it is even unknown whether North Kore

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  15. Help in Choosing a Specialty

    There are three aspects of any philatelic specialty to consider when you are looking around for a new area to collect-difficulty, cost and satisfaction. Specialties vary in difficulty and difficulty is not always relative to cost. Collecting the mint stamps of the United States is a moderately difficult undertaking if you plan to try to attain much completion in the pre-1900 period. Most US stamps are available mint with a little searching. But they are expensive. A good mint US collection, still with plenty of holes but pretty good, could easily run $100,000. That's an expensive but not difficult specialty. Complete precancels of the United States are an impossibly difficult specialty even though except for a very few stamps nothing is more than a few cents a piece. (One of the world's greatest collectors, with other collections worth millions, spent his life and resources try to complete US Bureau issue precancels and never could find scores of 20c stamps.)

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