Monthly Archives: September 2017

  1. Papal Special Event Covers

    Special Event or Commemorative covers are an envelope, with an artistic cachet, canceled with a stamp that honors and event or special occurrence. Special Event covers have been in the philatelic news lately as they have been issued quickly to honor the investiture of the new Pope. Special Event covers exist for Papal inaugurations, Presidential inaugurations, Royal Weddings, births-in fact anyone can design an envelope for anything, add a stamp and you have a Special Event Cover.

    Covers of this type have a long and varied history. The idea of a design on a

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  2. Special Delivery

    The goal of the Postal Service has always been speed. The history of mail delivery, from the Roman postal roads to overnight service, has been one of ever increasing rapidity of written communication. Time is money, and the value of the post, especially in the post-1840 philatelic period, has been the ever increasing availability of rapid, inexpensive communications to ordinary people and businesses. Mail delivery was fast in nineteenth century America—certainly when compared to earlier eras. Letters within cities were often delivered the same day (there were three daily deliveries in downtown Philadelphia, for instance, in 1900),
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  3. Big Scandal

    Philately lacks drama. Maybe that's why stamp collectors love a good scandal in our hobby. Though philatelists tend to differ in opinion on what constitutes a good stamp scandal, most will agree that a good scandal must be international in scope, affect thousands of collectors, and defraud collectors of large amounts of money. By these standards most of today's issues qualify as irritants or distractions. All will agree though that there have been three major philatelic frauds in the history of our hobby.
     
    The first major stamp scandal became well known just after the turn of the twentieth century. Stamp collecting was becoming the popular h
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  4. Bigger Scandals

    While Francois Fournier was a philatelic facsimile maker whose work fools only novices or collectors who have never seen the real thing, Jean de Sperati spent his life creating forgeries designed to undermine the most knowledgeable philatelists. Even his book that he wrote Philatelie sans Experts (Philately without Experts) shows his prime motivation was the thrill of creating forgeries that even great experts couldn't tell. And Sperati's work is good, so good, in fact that until about 1920, when it became known that he was doing forgeries, stamps that he made in his workshop would routinely get certifica
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  5. Small Scandals

    Philatelic scandals come in three sizes—small, medium, and large. The work of Francois Fournier, prolific forger from Switzerland, ranks as a major philatelic scandal. He made hundreds of thousands of reproductions of many of the most popular and collected stamps in the hobby and defrauded, either directly or indirectly, tens of thousands of collectors out of millions of dollars. That is a large scandal. Jean de Sperati was a far finer artisan in his forgery work than any other who ever lived. He made detailed engraved plates by hand and was careful in his use of paper and duplicated watermarks. A man with his artistic skill set could have made far more money (and certainly had legitimate fame) in fine arts restoration, even if he were not creative enough to be an artist himself. But Sperati played small ball. His production was limited in numbers of st
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  6. Dangerous Auctions

    The situation took place couple of years ago, but may as well have happened yesterday, we got a call from a Thrift Shop in the Hatboro area, a small town just a few miles from our office. The shop had been given a collection that they felt was pretty valuable, and they wanted us to look at it. They were very upfront about the terms of sale which were as follows—the collection was open to bid, high bids would be revealed (they originally had said that there would be sealed bids, but when we went to see the stamps, it was pretty clear that they were prepared to reveal all bids), and bidding was to remain open for seven business days after the last bid that topped a previo

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  7. Cyprus Stamps

    It is a curious fact, mostly to do with poorly designed and implemented rules, that banking crises in tiny countries can bring the world financial system nearly to collapse. Places like Iceland and Cyprus, which were more well known to philatelists than to the general public, have been given the power (by the European Union's bizarrely lax banking rules) to take deposits that essentially have the guarantee of the European central bank (and behind that, the full faith and credit of the Bundes bank of Germany). Thus, over the last decade, Germany continues to bail out smaller and weaker economies and have more
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  8. A Different Way Of Selling Stamps

    Image result for profit marginMost 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
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  9. Polling Philatelists

    Image result for pollingOpen your newspaper or look online, and hardly a day goes by in which some new CNN or Bloomberg poll isn't measuring some aspect of American life. How much time do we spend watching TV? Or exercising? Or intending to exercise as we watch TV? Nearly every aspect of our lives is polled and measured and evaluated, and if the polls are to be believed, we are a nation of people who say they never have enough time to do the things that they want and yet who seem to be able to have the TV set on eight hours a day.
     
    Hobbies in general, and p
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  10. Ken Whittle

    When I was an annoying teenager helping out at the Apfelbaum stamp store in the 1960s, every Saturday brought in the fascinating Ken Whittle. Ken was the kind of philatelist that you saw a lot of then. He was the archetype of the "solitudinous collector" (or SC). SC's are people for whom philately is very important and who are putting together important collections which they rarely talk about. Mr. Whittle was extremely well educated and worked as an engineer for Dupont in Wilmington (doing something with fractions of petroleum), was unmarried, and lived—full time—at a small residential hotel in Wilmington. When I knew him in the 60's, he was always neat as a pin with a well groomed little mustache. He came in, took off his hat and coat, and to my "Good Morning, Mr Whittle" would always (and I mean always) respond "Greetings and salutations, young man"

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  11. Is Philately Losing Popularity

    Philatelic popularity began a long, measurable ascent about 1900. An historian can see the hobby taking off, and we know that the numbers of collectors increased because we see an increase in the number of philatelic magazines, in the quantity of different stamp albums, increased membership in collector societies and more stamp dealers. As these quantifiable measurements of the appeal of our hobby have fallen off in recent years, the idea that our hobby is losing adherents has been gaining traction. But the evidence is really not that clear.

     
    It is true that the number of APS members and Linn’s subscribers are down. There are fewer, less well attended stamp s
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  12. Trieste Stamps

    One of the constants in history is the malleability of political boundaries. In America, we have become a bit inured to this fact because our own geography has been so steady, adding only Hawaii and Alaska to our country in the last century. But Europe is used to change, and nowhere in Europe has there been more change than in the Balkan area. Trieste is a city that lies at the end of the Adriatic and has had many masters during its history.
     
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  13. British Colonial Stamps High Values

    When collectors rail about excess new issue stamps soaking up their collecting budget and leaving them with little to spend on older stamps, they are only part of a long tradition of collectors who have bought stamps for their collections that were issued for reasons other than postal need. Some of the most popular stamps in all of philately, the George V and George VI high values, fit this description. When they were first issued, the enormous face values of some of the stamps (even up to as much as 100 Pounds postage value, a sum equal to the average annual wage for a construction worker in 1920-1930, the years such stamps were being issued) cause dolorous d
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  14. What A Difference Three Years Make

    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¢, but quantities were not saved. When collectors began to demand the sheet, the stocks that dealers had on hand were soon exhausted, and prices rose rapidly. Today, it catalogs $32.50. By the time the 12¢ TIPEX souvenir sheet was issued three years later, collectors and dealers were putting away big stocks of each new issue, and this stamp was one of man
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  15. Cover Collecting

    Cover collecting did not begin at the same time as did stamp collecting. Philately had its start in earnest about 1860, and, really, until about 1910, cover collecting was something collectors did when they didn't have the time to wash the stamps they needed for their collections off the envelopes on which they had bought them (this is why so many earlier stamps are so much rarer on cover than off). In a few cases, such as Pony Express covers or Civil War Patriotics, much of the collecting interest had to do with the cachet on the envelope and the usage that the cover received (rather than the stamp) so that there were a few early cover savers. But serious postal history collecting
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  16. The Way It Was

    If you like stamps and stamp history, working on old collections is one of the most interesting things that you can do. Couple of years back we purchased a collection that had been made in the 1930s and had been passed down through the generations with considerable care, if not interest, on the part of the new owners. The last owner was an 85 year old grandson of the original collector.
     
    The collection i
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