Monthly Archives: May 2018

  1. A Winter's Tale

    Image result for Cozy winterPhilately 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 warm cup of hot chocolate, a stamp album and some new additions to mount are a nice way to spend a cold a blustery winter's evening. 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. And we see collector rates getting higher and higher the further from the equator that we move. Philately has always been a major hobby in Scandinavia but even within cou

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  2. Rating the World's Great Collections

    Image result for Alfred CasparyMany endeavors have disputes over who are the greats in the field. Baseball aficionados have argued for decades over the greatest players and teams. Complex statistical analyses have been devised that can be used to compare players from different generations to each other. Others statistics rate the comparative values to their teams of pitchers versus position players. Avid readers rate famous authors based not just on how much the reader likes the writing but on the writer's impact on literature. And similar evaluations exist in the field of arts criticism and music.

     
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  3. Love Of Stamps and Stamp dealing

    Image result for philatelyIt is a love of stamps that takes the collecting impulse that is found in many of us and transforms the person into an ardent philatelist. The collector reads all he can about the hobby and, in the typical trajectory, goes from a more general type of collecting to specializing. The philatelic experience involves searching (dealers stocks, Ebay, the internet, philatelic auctions) in the hopes of finding items that are just right for your collection within the structure that you have used to define your collection, (US Fancy Cancels, German Pneumatic Post, or whatever).

    Counterintuitively,  the very n

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  4. The Cameos of Gambia

    The fear of the counterfeiting of postage stamps made for a large number of Nineteenth Century printers' trade offs. The gold standard of anti-counterfeiting technology was line engraved (called intaglio) printing, which, for a special anti-forgery bonus, usually included lathe work. This type of printing rose off the paper and produced a fineness of design that didn't make counterfeiting impossible but made it more difficult and raised the cost (both in time and expertise) to the forgers considerably. Producing line engraved stamps is similar to putting a burglar alarm sign on your front lawn or using the Club in your car. Raising the cost and risk to forgers or thieves mea

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  5. Evolution of Stamp Mounts

    Image result for Stamp hingeUntil about 1950, philatelists were quite content hinging their stamps. The first stamp mounts in the United Stateswere Crystal Mounts, marketed by the H E Harris Company. They were not created because collectors wanted (or could be convinced they wanted, which is they same thing) a better way to mount their stamps. Rather Crystal Mounts were really a pain to use and were marketed solely to add a non-stamp item to the Harris line. Harris found he made more money from albums and mounts than he could from stamps. Crystal Mounts were clear acetate strips that collectors wrapped around their stamps and then cut the mounts to the desired size. Stamp mounts have always had two problems- the problem of height and the problem of horizontal and verti
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  6. Lewis Shull

    Image result for 1976 Stamp showIn the 1970’s and 1980’s the stamp business underwent a shift. The traditional stamp store began not to work very well as a philatelic sales model. At the time dealers thought this was because it didn't make sense to have a store front for which the vast majority of people who passed by had no interest, and rents in central locations had grown very high relative to sales. But looking back, what really ended the traditional stamp store was the rapid rise in stamp prices in the late 1970’s, and the consequent increase in philatelic liquidity. Better stamps became so easy to sell and in such demand that dealers flocked to stamp shows week after week to sell their purchases. Collectors soon

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  7. Nice Guys Don't Finish Last

    Image result for leo durocherOne of the worse views of humanity is summed up in Leo Durocher's famous line "Nice guys finish last". Durocher was a major league baseball shortstop and manager and its not clear what in his life led him to this philosophy. Durocher was famously not a nice guy. He was a drinker, passer of bad checks, womanizer and once said that if he was playing third base and his mother was rounding third base trying to score he would trip her. Its not clear at all that being so prickly helped Leo finish any better than being a bit kinder would have. He was a mediocre shortstop, never making the list of the top

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  8. Stamp Prices and the Dollar

    Image result for CurrencyUntil 1970 the stamp market in the United States was mostly determined by the domestic market alone. Virtually all stamps, both US and Foreign, that were sold in this country were sold to domestic buyers. International travel was unusual and expensive, there was no Internet, and American philatelic auctioneers didn't send many catalogs overseas. 1970 was a watershed year as it marked the period that the economic balance began to shift between Europe and the United States. Until 1970, Europe was still economically weak and recovering from the devastation of WW II. After 1970, the dol

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  9. Mint United States

    Image result for 1930 post officeTraditionally, most collectors of United States stamps have collected in a similar fashion. They collected the stamps after 1930 mint and in Very Fine NH condition. From 1900-1930 they collected mint as well but usually were content with hinged stamps and often lesser centering as well. Nineteenth Century was largely collected used by the vast majority of collectors. Collectors who collected this way were responding to two realities of US philately. First, prices for perfect mint stamps are reasonable in the modern period when most of the stocks of stamps are in perfect condition. But as collectors reach the earlier periods, the premium for perfect quality and gum begins to rise to levels that most c

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  10. The Kobans of Japan

    One of the more unknown and interesting areas to collect is the Koban issues of Japan. Unlike the first two Japanese issues which have been extensively forged (actually faked #1-8 of Japan are about ten times more common than the genuine, and forgeries of the second Japanese issue, called the Cherry Blossoms, are ubiquitous too), the Kobans are nearly always genuine and very plentiful. They were the main stamp issue of Japan for the 1875-1910 period, which coincided with one of the most significant and rapid industrializations that any nation has undergone. In 1868, Japan had been a feudal state nearly cut off form the world. The Meiji
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  11. Boxes of Stamps

    Image result for pile of stampsUntil about 1970 the vast majority of stamp collectors were world wide collectors. They often concentrated (mostly in this country in American and Canadian stamps) but the large majority of collectors in that generation maintained world wide collections as well, usually buying box lots. They sorted these box lots out over time adding to their world wide collections when obtaining items for their specialized collections slowed down or got too expensive. Most collectors of this earlier generation got as much joy and excitement form sorting out their box lots as they did from their more specialized collecting. The reason was

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  12. Classic Norway

    Image result for NorwayThe first two issues of Norway have always held great interest among serious philatelists. The First stamp, an imperf, is one of the most popular in philately. It was printed widely apart so nearly always comes with large margins. It is plateable, meaning that all one hundred of the positions in the sheet have been identified and can be told by examining subtle printing characteristics on each stamp. The cancellations types are plentiful and usually identifiable (most countries for their first issues mandated "killer" cancellations of the Maltese Cross type that were used on the Penny Black. Norway largely used the town
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  13. Care of Stamp Collections

    Image result for lighthouse stamp album

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  14. George VI

    Image result for George VIThere are six different Monarchs of Great Britain who have ruled since stamps were issued. Five of them have left a very prominent philatelic footprint (Edward VIII was king for a bit less than a year and made no impact on stamp collecting). Certainly Elizabeth has had the largest number of stamps issued with her likeness on them, followed by her great grandmother Victoria, but it is in specializing on the three kings in between that has produced some of the most interesting areas to collect. Of these three kings, many philatelists consider George VI the most interestin

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  15. Philately and Charity

    Image result for pro juventuteMany collectors choose what they collect so as to both maximize their philatelic pleasure and, at the same time benefit the charitable and political groups that they are interested in. This kind of collecting and stamp issuance has a long tradition. The first stamps that had a charitable component were issued by Switzerland in 1912. This began an annual series of "Pro Juventute-For the Children" and was the beginning of the thousands of charity stamps that our hobby has produced. The Scott catalog calls these stamps semi-postals. These stamps have postal values of a given amount and then a "charity surcharge" that the buyer pays in addition to the postage that is donated to the designated charity. These stamps are sold
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  16. Hiram Deats Library

    AboImage result for Hiram Deats libraryut forty years ago (as one of the first stamp tasks I was involved in professionally), we consulted with the Philadelphia Library over their philatelic collection. Philadelphia had been the recipient of the Hiram Deats library which was donated to them in 1952. It still laid in cartons in the enormous main library basement when I examined it in 1971. The library consisted of nearly 1200 cartons and

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  17. Newspapers

    Image result for first us newspaperCollectors of United States stamps are accustomed to thinking that, when postal patrons of the Nineteenth Century wanted to mail newspapers, they used specially prepared Newspaper stamps. This was the case in the United States, a country that in the Nineteenth Century designed and issued more special service stamps than any other. Most other nations used regular postage stamps to mail newspapers, though the rate was often different than the regular first class postage rate. Most nations, the US included, have always subsidized newspaper mail, offering lower rates for the weights and distances sent. Postal services were government agencies then, and the thought was that aiding the distribution of newspapers fac
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  18. Decoupage

    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 printin
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