Until revelations of Bill Cosby’s sexual assaults became well known a few years ago, he was one of America’s most beloved entertainers. There was even a stamp issued for "The Cosby Show" by the USPS, and Cosby was a shoo-in for a commemorative stamp ten years after he had died (The United States Postal Service had long had a rule of a wait of a decade after death before commemorating anyone except a deceased President —this has been waived, and ten years is not a formal requirement but is still traditionally followed.)
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one of the oldest nature conservancy groups in the world. Founded in 1961, the organization began to partner with philatelic agencies worldwide to issue government postage stamps, a portion of whose funds went to the WWF for their conservation programs. The fund has provided tens of millions of dollars for rain forest conservation and endangered species conservation worldwide.
Monaco is a tiny scrap of mountainous coast that has managed to retain its sovereign status over the last few centuries by offering itself as a tax and vacation haven for the world’s most wealthy people. On a per capita basis, Monaco is one of the world’s wealthiest nations, and it has on a population and land area basis one of the world’s most profligate stamp issuing policies (Monaco has issued over 3,000 postage stamps giving it a ratio of 1,500 stamps per square kilometer but only 1/10th of a stamp per resident. Vatican City is the worldwide philatelic profligacy winner with over 3,000 stamps per square kilometer and nearly four stamps issues per resident—forty times more stamps per resident issued than Monaco).
Stamp collecting came of age as a hobby by 1890. By that date all of the major stamp catalogs (Scott in the US, Stanley Gibbons for British, Michel for German Area, and Yvert & Tellier for France and Colonies) were being published annually. There were hundreds of worldwide philatelic journals published weekly and monthly. Stamp dealer shops were pervasive in most big cities, and the number of serious stamp collectors numbered in the tens of thousands. “Second generation” (so called because most of the adult collectors of 1890 had been children when the first stamps were issued) was so active because the hobby was so exciting. "Finds" were still pervasive, and old
The easiest way to appreciate the changes that have occurred in our hobby since its early decades is to look at an early edition of the Scott Catalogue and compare it to the Scott that we use today. The Scott Catalogue grew out of the stamp price lists of the early stamp dealer J. Walter Scott. By 1885, he was publishing an annual catalog, and the 1895 edition which we have in our library has just 620 pages. In those pages, Scott lists all the postage stamps in the world, US locals, and Postmaster Provisionals and worldwide stationery.
Postal stationery is now a forgotten sub specialty of our hobby. For most countries collectors have been collecting only the stamps for over a hundred years. But before 1900, no collection was complete without po
Philatelists usually collect in reverse chronological order. As they begin their hobby, they acquire the more recently printed and easier to obtain stamps. Because modern stamps (when they are not self adhesives) always have perfect gum, collectors come to assume that it was always this way. But insistence on perfect gum is only a post-WWII phenomenon in our hobby.
Postage stamps had gum from the first—even the Penny Black was gummed—and the ability to easily attach a stamp to an envelope was intrinsic to Rowland Hill’s proposal that created stamps in 1840. Early gums were often animal based gums and were thickly applied. This created a problem for collectors of mint stamps from the first (and was much of the reason that early
If you look through the Apfelbaum store, you will find stamps and covers sold in several different ways. The stamps that collectors want to fill their albums are sold as individual stamps or sets. Then there are specialty groups for more specialized philatelists in each area including covers and Proofs and multiples of individual stamps for collectors who enjoy looking for perforation varieties and cancellations. And finally, there are the collection lots that we offer for sale.
Collection lots are sold by us in two main types-by country and as general collections. Country collection lots are collector made and often contain the vast majority of the stamps for any particular country. General collection lots are of more interest. Consider one th
U.S. Proofs come in several types. The proofs that are created before the stamps are put on a plate and which are used to determine the acceptability of the die are called Die Proofs. These come in several types, the most common being large die proofs. Often these exist quantities of less than a hundred and are very costly. Before 1894, virtually all US stamps also were printed in plate proofs. The
Most American stamp dealers try to do pretty much the same thing to stock their business. They buy collection lots, usually at auction or from wholesale price lists. The way this works, when it is done properly, is to buy a collection and then break it into a number of smaller units that appeal more to collectors trying to fill spaces in their albums. Usually collections are bought in the 10% of catalog range and the component units, when they are sold, sell in the neighborhood of 20%. It's nice work, if you can get it. This is the model that the overwhelming percentage of Ebay dealers use as their business plan. The problems are obvious—everyone is chasing nicer collections, and the price of them goes up while the selling price of the units that come from that collection remains the same. This squeezes margins.
Each generation tends to look proudly at its technological achievements and undervalue the achievements of the past. That we are rightly proud of our computers and rockets should not make us overlook just what an achievement the Panama Canal was. This Isthmus of Panama is a narrow band of mountainous terrain less than fifty miles wide. Even since the Spanish began exploiting the riches of Peru in the early sixteenth century, politicians, businessmen, and engineers had dreamed of creating a canal to allow ships from the western Americas to trade with Europe and the eastern Americas without the thousands miles trip around the southern tip of South America. There were several failed early attempts to build a canal, the most fa
People are often looking around for philatelic specialties. Sometimes they have recently began serious collecting and want an area that will reward their keen interest. Or sometimes they have reached the end of the road in the specialty that they are pursuing and are at the point that the items that they need exceed their budget or where the items that are needed never seem to come up for sale at all. I look for several factors in a specialized philatelic area. First availability-Tannu Tuva town cancels are just too restrictive unless your goal is just to seek and never find. Second affordability- can most of the scarcer items be acquired at a price that most middle class collectors can afford. Third philatelic aesthetics- are the stamps well designed, well printed and intrinsically interesting. And fourth intellectual satisfaction-ours is after all a thinking person's hobby and a good specialty will have a rich literature and study opportunities to enhance your collecting experienc
There are very few long term savings certificates that are tied to the rate of inflation but several years ago the United States Post Office effectively issued an even better investment vehicle. With the "First Class Forever" stamps the Post Office promised completely paid first class postage any time in the future. In 1960 the postage rate was 3c. According to to Bureau of Labor Statistics the rate of inflation during that 50 year period from 1960 should have produced a current postage rate of 22c. So the cost of first class postage has gone up at twice the rate of inflation over the last fifty years. It's anybody's guess whether the cost of first class postage will continue to increase at twice t
The classic stamps of Chile-the imperforate Columbus heads- are some of the most interesting in philately. They consist of one design with four denominations that Scott divides into fourteen major numbers and nearly one hundred varieties. I often wonder at the inconsistencies between different country listings. With some country's classics (I'm thinking Luxembourg here) Scott lists only a very few of the shades and printings of each stamp of the first issues whereas for other countries Scott seems to go whole hog and lists varieties that to my eyes could be normal color variation over the last 150 years since they were issued. I think much o
Here's a fun little thing that just passed my desk. The Mercury Stamp Company was run in Germany before WWII by Mueller, Friedl and Herbert Bloch. They sold stamps, but most of their business was expertizing and they were good. They maintained a several hundred volume reference collection which became part of the Philatelic Foundation's reference collection when Herbert Bloch died in the early 1980's. Bloch was Jewish and he moved Mercury to the United States in the late 1930's where he did expertizing and worked for the famed H R Harmer firm (he was the chief cataloger of the FDR collection and the Caspary collection when they were sold). Bloch resum
When you look over the last forty years and bemoan all the things in the world that are not as good as they used to be one of the things you can't put on the list is that there are more forgeries hobbling our hobby than there were. When I was entering professional philately, we were one generation removed from the age of the great forgers. Ferrari and Fournier worked in the teens, twenties and thirties, and de Thuin up until about 1960. Once they were gone and their working plates bought up by the Royal Philatelic Society of Great Britain and the American Philatelic Society here in the US, there was no new generation of forgers to take their place. There are three main reasons. First, changes in printing technology have made it more difficult to print imitations of older stamps. Engraving, especially intaglio, is a largely forgotten process in the computer printing age and it is very difficult to get modern processes
The famous collectors of yesteryear were a colorful group and none was more interesting than Edward Green. Ned was the son of Hetty Green who was called the "witch of Wall Street" but as far as being a mother was concerned you could have left out the Wall Street part. Hetty was the heir to a great Quaker whaling family and inherited $7 million in 1865 when her father died. She was a shrewd investor but so parsimonious that when Ned broke his leg she either refused to take him to a doctor or tried to do so on the cheap so that Ned's leg eventually had to be amputated. She rarely washed and seldom changed her clothes and when she died in 1916 she left Ned $75 million. Ned was pretty good at making money himself, running railroads and investing in depressed bonds. But he lived lavishly, threw large and expensive parties and paid for the finest and fastest women. He also collected stamps. When the 24c inverted Jenny was discovered, Eugene Klein the famous Philadelphia stamp dealer sold
You never forget your first set-the one you picked carefully out of a catalog. Mine was when I was twelve. I was home from school, my parents having responded to whatever hypochondria I was manifesting that day. I was looking over my stamp collection which was really a Harris packet of a thousand hinged into a Statesman Deluxe album. I wanted something new for it, something mint. After carefully perusing my Scott catalog I found what I wanted. Combining my love of science fiction, French Colonies and colorful stamps, I decided I wanted Monaco #521-27, the Jules Verne set. The catalog price was $2.15 then (it has soared to a bit over five bucks now
For years, thematic philately has been a poorly regarded step sister to traditional philately. Serious collectors collected by country, emphasizing classics and postal history. Less serious collectors collected cats or dogs on stamps. Somewhere in the middle having semi highbrow status was the so called classic thematics- Olympics, Boy Scouts, UPU and Red Cross.These were themes that had stamps issued to them early (in the case of Olympics the first issue was Greece in 1896) and so attained a high standing among serious philatelists. For years many professionals had expected to see a shift away from the traditional topical collecting to thematic collecting that was more germane to today's collectors. And we are starting to see that shift with our current generation of collectors who are beginning to collect stamps with themes that are part of their life. Now, serious collectors want bicycling and golf and tennis stamps. They are sometimes their main collection, but, more often, an e
Elections in America rarely have effect on philately or postal policy. No candidate is running on a platform of reduced postage rates and speedier service. Mail seems to be one of those few areas on which politicians have agreed not to disagree. Though a "postage is too damn high" party might win a few fringe votes it is unusual for political events to have philatelic impact. This was not always the case. The election of 1860 might be the election that had the most philatelic importance. America was facing the most dire time in our history when Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office in March of 1861. The election was fought about slavery and within weeks of Lincoln's inauguration the southern states seceded over their desire to retain the right to own other human beings. The political and social effects of this can be read about in the miles of books that have been published on the Civil War, but the philatelic effects were as profound as any that have buffeted our hobby. Union sta