Philately has always been a cold weather hobby. Its popularity nation to nation and region to region has always increased south to north with the highest concentrations of serious collectors where it is the coldest and darkest. The reasons are clear: a cup of hot chocolate, a stamp album, and some new additions to mount are a nice way to spend a blustery winter's evening. But, there are other reasons, too. Paper doesn't keep so well in warm, sticky climates, and literacy and reading rates, which are good predictors of philatelic interest, are higher in northern countries. We can see collector rates getting higher and higher the further from the equator that we move. Philately has always been a majo
Monthly Archives: December 2017
- Posted December 29, 2017Read more »
- Posted December 28, 2017Read more »The stamp business used to have what economists call high barriers to entry. It took a lot of knowledge, a lot of capital, and years of advertising and satisfying customers to build a good mailing list and a good stamp business. When the Internet became the preferred method of buying and selling in philately, there was considerable worry that old time stamp dealers would lose their competitive edge and that eBay and Stampwants would, overnight, make any seller a competitor of dealers who had spent decades building their sales networks.It has worked out somewhat differently. It is true that today anyone can be a seller with immediate access to the worldwide ph
- Posted December 26, 2017Read more »
Throughout philatelic history, writers have been predicting the next great philatelic area or specialty that will take off in price. Predictions are usually founded on one of two criteria that predict the supposed increase in popularity that the stamps will undergo. Either the economy of the country will take off creating a pool of desperate collectors eager to buy the older issues that you should have put away (if only you had listened to the prognosticator), or there is some intrinsic not fully understood rarity factor that collectors will ultimately discover which will make them eager to buy stamps that you (had you listened to the prognosticator) should have put away in quant
- Posted December 25, 2017Read more »Most philatelists, and especially most stamp dealers, see a dichotomy between traditional stamp collecting and the collecting of stamps on covers, which has come to be called postal history. Years ago, the best dealers and collectors of covers and postal history came up from the ranks of traditional philately. It was only after someone knew the stamps of a particular area and had collected and studied them for years that they would begin to study the use of those stamps and add covers to their collections. This fundamental way that most collectors began their hobby began to change around 1970 when collectors and dealers started to specialize in covers without any real knowledge of the stamps that franked their covers. This change occurred because increasing philatelic popularity had made prices so high that creating traditional stamp collections was too daunting for many collect
- Posted December 22, 2017Read more »
Stamp certification never provides absolute certainty to stamp buyers. Expert committees in the United States are very clear that they offer only an opinion, not a guarantee. Their legal boilerplate, which every owner signs when he commits his stamps or covers to the expertization process, stipulates that the opinion is just that, an opinion, and that if the stamp or cover should later prove to be a forgery or repaired, well (and this is couched in a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo), tough luck. Grading standards change as does the equipment available for determining the genuine from the fake. For
- Posted December 21, 2017Read more »
Stamps have been written about since they first started being collected (for over 150 years now) so any avid philatelic reader has millions of philatelic words to brighten his cold winter evenings. Over time, readers have realized that stamp writing comes in four major types. Each collector has his favorite type and writers rarely write in more than one of these different philatelic genres.
The first major type of stamp writing, the largest in terms of words written and books and articles published in the more high-brow journals, is technical writing. The first issue of the London Philatelist, published in 1892, ha
- Posted December 19, 2017Read more »Throughout the Nineteenth Century, postal officials around the globe had one paranoia in common: they feared that postal patrons were soaking used stamps off envelopes, washing the cancellations, and then reusing the stamps. Philatelists who have studied thousands of stamps from the period have found scant evidence of this fraud. But that didn't keep postal authorities from devising more and more detailed plans to discourage such illegal reuse. The anti-reuse hysteria reached its apex with the grilled issues of 1867.Grills are tiny cuts made in the paper of a stamp. The stamps were printed, gummed, and, before the perforation process, fed
- Posted December 18, 2017Read more »The great stamp speculation of the late 1970s, which saw worldwide stamps at least double in price in less than five years, had a precursor in the mid 1960s. The European stamp speculations that were then the driving force in worldwide price increases had a basis in reality. After World War II, Europe was devastated. The economies of Germany and Italy were shattered, and the economic infrastructure of these countries destroyed. People first needed food, clothing, and shelter; providing this for themselves filled Europe's time in the decade after the War. As the economies of Western Europe improved, collectors began to try to find the post-war issues that they had been unable to afford when they had come out. They looked mainly for the higher values of sets and Airmail denominations for use in the United States. Earlier stamps were also in short supply. Many fine stamp collections had
- Posted December 18, 2017Read more »Every kid in the 1950s and 1960s began collecting stamps the same way. We started with a Harris or Minkus worldwide album. Mine was the Statesman Deluxe, which had spaces for over 25,000 stamps. Next up the ladder was the Citation album, which had spaces for over 50,000 stamps, and to which I aspired. What made these albums interesting (and what made philately the social hobby that it was in the 1950s and 1960s for children) was the fact that these albums had illustrations; Harris and Minkus also marketed packets of 10,000 or 20,000 different stamps which contained many of the stamps that were illustrated in the album. Each packet contained not only many of the same stamps, but also many stamps that were dif
- Posted December 18, 2017Read more »The United States is probably the most difficult country to collect, no matter how you figure difficulty. If your measure of difficulty is cost, then US stamps win hands down; a complete collection of US stamps, only done once, would be worth near $20 million, many times the cost of any other single country. If your definition of difficulty is how hard it is to identify different major catalog numbers from one another, classic US philately has the crown there, too.
- Posted December 18, 2017Read more »
The world was very different in 1960 than it is today. The universe was only four billion years old, a considerable age but adolescent compared to the nearly 14 billion years astronomers think it is today. Black holes hadn't been theorized or discovered. There was less documentation to prove evolution, as DNA had only been worked out a few years before. No one had been to the moon. No one had color television sets. I Love Lucy hadn't been replaced by Snookie and J-Wow. Making a phone call meant sitting down in your home and dialing. There were no computers and Internet and philatelists reading articles like this would be holding newspapers in their hands. And mail meant stamps. The world around us is very different than it was when the Baby Boomers were kids.
But the stamp world has changed ver
- Posted December 18, 2017Read more »Probably nine out of ten philatelic forgeries were created in the nineteenth century. There were three primary reasons for this. First, stamps that were issued in the earliest period (before there were many stamp collectors) never existed in sufficient quantities in even the limited market by 1890. Second, early philatelic standards did not view forgeries the way we do today. Many early collectors were glad to have a “reproduction”, or a “reprint,” as they were euphemistically called, in their collection when they couldn't afford the genuine. And third, the
- Posted December 18, 2017Read more »
Preprinted labels as collected by philatelists come in three broad categories: postage stamps, revenues, and Cinderellas. Postage stamps are collected by all philatelists. They are the major stamp issues of each country and are issued for the prepayment of postage. Postage Stamps are listed in many major worldwide catalogs. Collecting postage stamps has a long history and is very popular. Revenues are stamps that are issued to pay taxes, not postage. How
- Posted December 18, 2017Read more »
Like Germany, Japan was devastated as a result of WWII. American bombing had destroyed industrial production, and the war had killed a high percentage of young adult males. Many homes were in ruins, and the electric and telecommunications grid was annihilated. Like Germans, the Japanese are an energetic and frugal people, and by the 1960s, fifteen years after the end of hostilities, Japan had largely rebuilt and was on its way to reemerging as one of the industrial powers of the world. The Japanese poured their export earnings into technology and universities and infrastructure, but unlike the Germans, the Japanese never really got into stamps.
- Posted December 18, 2017Read more »
Get a group of sixty year old doctors together, and you are sure to hear complaints about managed care and capitation and MBAs that get between doctors and patients. Lawyers have similar issues. People in the printing and publishing business lament the Internet. And independent booksellers now all seem to work for Barnes and Noble for $8 an hour. Every business and avocation has changed dramatically over the last thirty years. Philatelists, with our view of history, should be more understanding of this. Change has always affected all hobbies and occupations. Certainly the Internet and all that technology has opened up to us has dramatically changed our world. But have
- Posted December 18, 2017Read more »There are three broad traits that philatelists share with each other. The first is inquisitiveness. Many very intelligent people are quite content with what they know. They do well in their professions and in their life, and their idle time is spent being entertained. Others, people who are receptive to our hobby, love to learn and know about things, and find information and facts interesting. They collect knowledge, and its an easy transition for them to collect stamps.