Monthly Archives: March 2015

  1. American Philatelic Society

    The latest monthly edition of the American Philatelist, the magazine of the American Philatelic Society, shows that after the last round of dues that the society membership has slipped to about 36000. When I first started in this hobby the APS had over 60000 members.

    In 1975 membership in the American Philatelic Society was required if you wanted to be involved in buying and selling stamps as a dealer or serious collector. Most stamp Auction houses used APS membership as their primary reference source-if you were an APS member your bids were accepted, if you weren't things were far more difficult. The magazine the American Philatelist was the finest in this country (though the Collector's Club Philatelist was more erudite) and was worth the price of membership by itself. Thousands of members belonged for the sales circuits where books containing thousands of stamps were sent to your home for your perusal and p
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  2. Stamp Auctions

    Forty years ago when I started in the stamp business there were twenty stamp auction houses in the United States holding several hundred auctions per year. Today there are only ten holding not many more than fifty auctions. Even before the Internet and the sales platform of EBay (where everyone can participate in auctions all of the time) there was a dramatic falloff in mainstream stamp auctions.

    There are several reasons why this has occurred. First, over the last thirty years stamp prices, like most commodity prices have not kept pace with inflation. My estimate is that a general basket of fine collectible postage stamps can today be bought with about half as much real money as that basket could have been purchased for thirty years ago. Sure, prices of most stamps have gone up, but values of most things have gone up even more. My 1980 Toyota cost me $5600. Today it would be $20000. Stamps have not gone up fou
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  3. Local stamps

    Localpost USA Wells Fargo & Co. Pony-ExpressUnited States Local stamps were in use along with USPO adhesives until about 1861. The local companies were allowed to provide enhanced delivery and pickup service within cities (for businesses the Post Office usually delivered from post office to post office on intercity mail) and local companies provided the door to door service. There were scores of local delivery companies and hundreds of collectible locals varieties as listed by the Scott specialized catalog.

    What has always intrigued me about US Locals is their popula

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  4. Guaranteed

    A guarantee can mean many things. A satisfaction guarantee means that the seller promises that if you are unsatisfied with your purchase he will refund your money and take the product back. This guarantee is standard with most American retailers. Buy a shovel from Home Depot, take it home, find out that you really needed a spade, and you can return it providing you haven't used it. Fine and easy. But philately is a little different and I want to tell you how Apfelbaum is very different from any other seller.

    Most stamp sellers guarantee your satisfaction and so does Apfelbaum. But only Apfelbaum offers a lifetime warranty of genuineness. Now such a warranty is only as good as the expertise, financial strength and durability of the company offering it. But Apfelbaum have been selling stamps professionally since 1910 (that's right, we have a copy of a 1910 US ce
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  5. Grills

    The United States Post Office was very concerned in its early years with the reuse of postage stamps. In 1867 when a decent salary was a dollar a day, first class postage represented 3% of an average person's wage (equivalent today to about $6) so the appeal of reuse was real. Postal historians looking at the record have long questioned whether reuse was a real or phantom problem (my own experience is that it rarely happened) but the fact remains that the Post Office was always looking for schemes to frustrate reuse.


    In 1867, they set upon a plan of grilling postage stamp paper. The grill would cut the paper with fine ridges so that any cancellation ink would be absorbed more fully into the paper fibers, making washing of cancellations more difficult. It was a cumbersome solution to an imaginary problem-a perfect government program. But for collectors of United States Stamps it has produced a bonanza of i
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  6. The Most extraordinary Philatelic Item

    Collectors throughout philatelic history have argued over what they feel is our hobby's most interesting and extraordinary item. Each collector has his own ideas and contenders for the honor have changed as collecting interests have changed over the the years. Ferrary felt the one cent magenta British Guiana was the most extraordinary. Perhaps it's because it's unique . My own favorite is this little gemhttp://www.stampauctionnetwork.com/f/f11319.cfm#66. It also has an autographed letter as well as being autographed on the front of the envelope by Charles Dickens. I think the combination of the greatest writer of the time autographing a cover with the world's first postage stamp makes this a strong contender for the world's most extraordinary item. But perhaps that's influenced by the fact that I own it and it's in my personal collection. George Sloane, who left us a thirty year record of his
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  7. Stamp Exhibitions

    Stamp Exhibitions began in the United States in 1888 when a small exhibit of stamps was included in the Boston meeting of the American Philatelic Association. Before that, stamp meetings were largely trading events with no formal displays. In 1889, J Walter Scott (of catalog fame) organized the first major stamp exhibition at the Eden Museum in New York. By the early part of the twentieth century, stamp exhibitions were common in every American city and most of us grew up on the model of our stamp activities being centered on going several times each year to a large stamp exhibition with a large dealers bourse attached. The financial model was that the fees from the dealers tables would underwrite the cost of the stamp displays. It was at exhibitions that most of us cut our philatelic teeth, seeing great stamps and collections and acquiring stamps for our collection.
    Great philatelic exhibitions will be around for a while. The United States hosts a FIP sa

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  8. Essays

    350637aEssays are designs for stamps that don't get issued. If they are issued, these designs are then called Proofs. Essays come in two main types- design essays and production essays. Design essays are artist's productions for proposed stamps. These designs may come as a result of an authorized postal authority stamp production process where artist's designs are produced and modified based on artistic production and political considerations. Design essays are also produced on spec- an artist or designer has an idea for a stamp and produces an essay in the hopes of selling it to a postal authority. Design essays also include paper essays. In the 1860's, the United States post office toyed with the idea of printing sta

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  9. Americans treat their stamps badly

    George Sloane, whose book I have been rereading this week, makes a point in a 1956 article that I have long wondered about. Why is it, he asks, that such a high percentage of Airmail invert stamps (#C3a) are damaged? Look in any auction catalog. Chances are two out of three that the Invert listed for sale will be listed with some kind of fault from crease to thin to even small tears. And regumming is common too. This was a stamp that was a rarity from its discovery in 1918. It was sold directly to dealers and collectors who knew from the start its rarity status. So why couldn't these stamp's owners take better care of them over the years? Or to draw the point more broadly and to show that it is peculiarly an American problem, lets look at the 1893 Columbian issue. The dollar values of this set are nearly always defective. And yet why? Again, from the start they were sold almost exclusively into collector hands. And f
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  10. More on George Sloane

    George Sloane began the first of his weekly columns for Stamps Magazine nearly eighty years ago and his last over fifty years ago. People started collecting stamps in earnest about 1860 which means our hobby is about 150 years old . This places Sloane firmly in the middle period to early modern period of our hobby. Issues that don't concern us today are constantly addressed in Sloane's writings. Counterfeits were a major concern and exposing the classic philatelic forgers and their wares was continually addressed. Today we have a far greater concern about philatelic alterations and those of us not trained in the earlier school of our hobby forget that until about 1900 forgeries were collected side by side with the genuine in even the finest collections. Ferrary http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrary unknowingly (and perhaps knowingly) spent thousands on fakes and it was the winnowing of of forgeries out of c
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  11. Philatelic Literature-Sloane's Column

    George Sloane was born in 1898 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Benedict_Sloane. By the time he was 23 he had a stamp shop on New York's philatelic Mecca Nassau Street and by 1932 he was writing a weekly column for Stamps Magazine, a stamp weekly that occupied the position at the top of the philatelic literature heap in the 1930-1950 period that Linns fills today. Sloane began his first column in 1932 and for 37 years until his death continued his columns. He never missed a week. His columns covered both researched reporting and general philatelic musings. His main area of expertise was United States classic and Bureau period (mostly 1894-1916) philately but what made his columns a must read for every stamp collector was the wide range of subjects he covered. His 1350 columns were printed in book form in 1961 (and reprinted in 1980). Much of the in
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  12. A Pretty Good Idea From Eighty Years Ago

    George Sloane was one of the preeminent stamp writers of the previous century. He was a prominent dealer and had a weekly column in Stamps magazine (which was the largest circulation stamp weekly of its time) from about 1930-1960. His columns were published in book form in the 1960's and make fascinating reading today
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  13. The Big Picture

    Stamp collectors tend to concentrate on minutia. The difference between one variety and another is often a design difference of a fraction of a millimeter, or a single date in a cancel, or a mere cent in a rate. But often, as
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  14. Philately and the Apfelbaum's - The First Sixty Years

    1910 Maurice Apfelbaum, Earl
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  15. Postage

    There has been
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  16. Herbert Bloch

    Not many people today remember Herbert Bloch who died in 1987. To the generation of stamp collectors who grew up after World War II, though, Herbert was a god. He had learned his trade (stamp expertizing ) at the feet of Otto Friedl who was one of the most knowledgeable stamp dealers who ever lived. Herbie (like high schoolers, stamp dealers of the earlier generation used their boyish nicknames into their dotage. I called him "Mr Bloch" once and he looked over his shoulder to see who I was talking to) was already an old man when I met him in the early 1970's. I was in college and working part time in our stamp business when my father arranged for my brother and I to spend a couple of days with him and get some idea how expertizing was done in the classic manor. We went to his old dishevelled New York office (I think now that Herbie was probably the model for the character Bill Pearson in the "Lunch with Pearson" articles that I wrote in the 1970s).
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  17. Bileski

    Kasimir Bileski, or as he was known professionally
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  18. Ivory Show and Captain Tim

    The greatest publicity push that stamp collecting ever received was in 1933. Ivory soap promoted a radio show that featured stamp collecting. Called "The Ivory Stamp Club with Captain Tim" the show was a radio stamp club where kids followed along as Captain Tim, for fifteen minutes at a time, three times a week, regaled his listeners with stories about stamp collectors. This was the perfect year for philately. A new President, an avid stamp collector, was in the White House. And there was a prime time radio show devoted to promoting our hobby.
    Ivory Soap created a show where kids could
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  19. Russian Airmails

    Most countries have
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  20. Philately a Hundred Years Ago

    Suppose you were a fellow collector of my grandfather Earl Apfelbaum in the 1920s. The probability is that you would be a world wide collector with perhaps a single country concentration. You would have a hardbound Scott album or a McKeels album as Minkus and Harris were still years in the future. You mounted your stamps with hinges and the prevailing philatelic dispute was not over "hinged" versus

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