Some of the most popular US philatelic issues of the twentieth century are the Farley issues. They are Scott #753-771, and though avidly collected today, like many popular stamps, they had a checkered past. James A. Farley was a New York party politician who was instrumental in Franklin Roosevelt’s rise to the Democratic party nomination for President in 1932. Farley was rewarded for his help by being made Postmaster General. In the days before the Commerce Department, the Postmaster Generalship was the greatest patronage package in the President’s gift box. Before the Postal Service was independent, the Postmaster general had great control over the building of Post Offices and postal routes and had vast amounts of discretionary funds at his disposal. Few left the job poorer than they came in. Farley was also the chairman of the Democratic Party and so combined an enormous amount of money power in one man.
Farley was not a stamp collector, but Roosevelt and Roosevelt’s friend and confident, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, were. In 1935, Farley had a small number of then current issues printed. He presented them imperforate (and in different sheet configurations) to the President, Ickes, and a few other officials, as a philatelic gift. As a special printing for the President, Farleys issues were ill advised but were tolerable to collectors. But when additional copies of these stamps began appearing on the market at very high prices, philatelists were outraged. Stamp collectors had clout then, and soon Farley was forced to issue his special imperforate stamps to the public at face value without gum.
The press that “Farleys Follies” received was overwhelmingly negative. Linn’s and all the leading magazines of the time excoriated the issues, and assured the stamps undying popularity by urging collectors to boycott them. Philatelists never like being told what to do. And when you add this intransigent streak to the hope that if everyone else follows the boycott, then the stamps that you buy will become more valuable, then you have the prescription for permanent  philatelic appeal. By the late 1930s, Farleys were a collecting specialty all of their own. Because they were issued in large imperf sheets of 200 (really the first U.S. Press Sheets) collectors were able to make gutter pairs and blocks and literally scores of collectible varieties. Until about thirty years ago, complete sheets of 200 were, though pricey, commonly offered, though in recent years most seem to have been broken up mostly because their large size makes them so hard to store.
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