Monthly Archives: December 2014

  1. A Cool US Error

    Most philatelic Errors are printing errors-that is, errors that
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  2. Margin Initials


    Most collectors feel that specializing in a single country qualifies them to state that they are a "specialist" when it comes to their philately. But many collectors go even further than just one country and collect a single issue such as the Washington Franklin issue of the United States. Some go even further than that and collect the plate numbers and plate number blocks and some go even further than that and collect initials that are found in the side corner margins of Washington Franklins. These initials are a form of accountability markings to let people know after a stamp was printed who was responsible for handling the plate. Ther
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  3. Bi Colors

    Before the advent of the Giori Press, which allowed easy multicolor printing, the United States Post Office issued primarily single colored stamps. This was because bi color stamps, under the traditional engraving process, required different runs through the press for each color. This was time consuming and created "registration" problems, that is problems of the colors aligning correctly one to the other. But other, more disastrous, problems, such as inverts, could occur. 

    To 1960, the United States issued less than 20 bi colored stamps. The first were the higher values
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  4. Match and Medicine Stamps


    There are many aspects of United States Philately that simply don't exist with the stamps and the collecting of other countries. Certainly, the emphasis that American collectors have placed on Revenue collecting is unparalleled in the philatelic world. Revenues are stamps that are issued by governments for tax paying rather than postal purposes. 

    United States collectors have a huge number of these sta
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  5. Why Stamp Collecting is Easier Than Numismatics

    Numismatics presents a problem so profound that it is ignored by most coin collectors: what to collect. Coins have been issued for well over 3000 years by thousands, if not tens of thousands, of political entities. This has presented a problem for coin collectors that we stamp people have not yet had to face. There are not catalogs that list all the coins that have ever been issued as we have in stamps. And how could there be? There are too many coins from too many places that are no longer self governing. And many coin issues are undocumented, issued long before agencies of the state formally ordered such things. Such coins were issued by whim, sometimes with little state oversight and new varieties of ancient and medieval coinage are constantly being discovered. Stamps have only been around for 170 years, all in the literate period of world history, where researchers have been able to document issues, know press runs and list varieties
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  6. Stamp Dealing and Immigration

    For stamp dealers coming of age in the 1960s the stamp world was replete with Europeans who had escaped from Hitler and Stalin. Most were Jews, though looking back through the less opaque lens of our time, I know several were political escapees and at least one was fortunate enough to get out or he would have worn a pink star before he was exterminated. In 1965, the average philatelic refugee was about fifty, so in the prime of his professional life. And there were scores of them on the American philatelic scene.

    The reasons that refugees were overrepresented in the stamp world are several. First, it was easier for stamp dealers to get out of Europe than it was for many other "inferiors" whom the Nazis planned to exterminate as they moved across Europe. Many people who knew they were on the list of those whom the Germans would kill simply waited too long to leave and by the time came where they felt they had to go, they no longer

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  7. There Will Always Be New Stamps

    Seigniorage is the profit that governments make on securities that they issue, on which they don't pay interest, and that are retained unused by the public. Cash in mattresses represents a form of seigniorage and, more than anything else, old face value postage stamps held by collectors do as well. The money that collectors have tied up in mint stamps represents an interest free loan to our post office. And because most mint stamps held by collectors will never be used, the profit to the post office is the value of those stamps held by collectors (Private companies issue gift cards and they are required by accounting rules to bring the unused portion of these cards into income-this is a sort of private seigniorage). For many years philatelic commentators have speculated that seigniorage was the reason that our Post Office pushed philately so hard and the reason that so many new issues had esoteric themes ( designed to entice noncollectors into buying them and putting them in a drawe

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  8. Specialized French Philately

    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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  9. Some Investment

    Stamps were a hot hobby in the 1930s, and how hot is best illustrated by the fate of two United States Souvenir sheets that were issued three years apart. When the APS sheet was issued in 1933, the hobby was just beginning its Great Depression ascent. The face value of the sheet was only 12
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  10. Federal Duck Stamps

    Every country has peculiarities of its specialization. The Germans have coil numbers printed on the back of stamps and collect their coils in strips of eleven to prove that the stamps didn't come from a sheet which was printed with rows no larger than ten. The French collect gutter pairs with plate numbers, called millisimes. The Swedes measure the perfect centeredness of their socked-on-the-nose cancels. But no country collects their revenue stamps like the United States. No country includes such a broad array of revenues in the specialty catalogs as are listed in the Scott US Specialized catalog. No country lists Privately issued revenues such as the US Match and Medicines. And finally, no country has so
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  11. Third Party Grading

    Coin collecting has been dominated over the last fifty years by third party grading issues to the point where few serious numismatists buy non-graded coins. Eager grading services have tried to push into philately hoping to enlarge their fee base. So far it hasn't worked. Some collectors have become enamored of graded stamps but most think that it is inconvenient and costly. There are several reasons why third party grading is popular for coins and why it has largely failed in philately, despite two separate, (one in the late 70's and the other a few years ago) highly promoted, and well funded grading service attempts to make it stick. Third party grading has creat
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  12. The Best Stamp Book Ever Written

    Herman Herst Jr.'s book Nassau Street is probably the most readable and enjoyable of all the philatelic canon. It is a series of stories and reminisces about philately in the 1930s and 1940s loaded with good anecdotes about many of the giants of our hobby along with reflections on where the hobby was in the year that the book was published (1960) and where stamp collecting had come from. The book was immensely popular and was on the New York Times' bestseller list for a time after its publication, indicating appeal outside the hobby. Copies are available from used booksellers on Amazon, so, if you want one, there are a few that are still available. But books like this are hard to find, and collectors who came into the hobby after Mr. Herst's retirement have little access to the joys of his philatelic vision.

    This situation exists because the copyr
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  13. Why Perforations are Measured Like They Are

    Stamp collecting has always been an International hobby and there is no better example of this than the issue of measuring perforations. Europeans and Americans differ on how they take temperature(Celsius versus Farenheit) and distance ( miles versus kilometers). But collectors all around the world use the same types of perforation gauges and count perfs the same way. When we call something perf 12 all collectors mean 12 perforation hole per two centimeters. This early agreement on perfs came without any effort. The French and the Belgians were the world's philatelic leaders in the mid Nineteenth Century. They produced the first albums and catalogs and so it was to them that later catalog makers from other countries turned when it came time to list differing perforation varieties.

    For the most part the early Scott catalog copied the differing national sections of the foreign catalogs, using a pirated version of Yvert for France and Michel for Germany. So it was natural to pi

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  14. The Civil War

    How history is remembered is one of the best ways of determining how a people wishes to understand itself. Currently we are in the midst of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and this conflict, and the way that it is taught and learned and understood tells us much about ourselves in the early 21st Century. The sheet illustrated above is a USPS 1994 sheet commemorating the Civil War. It is evenly divided between Northerners and Southerners, slaveholders and those who opposed the ownership of human beings. Clearly, 150 years after this great war, which killed nearly as many Americans as all of our other war
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