Howard Ryan

Howard Ryan was an old collector when I first entered the stamp business forty years ago. He collected line engraved stamps of the nineteenth century which meant the first issues of Great Britain, all of United States and a few issues of a few European and foreign countries. Line engraving was the most secure form of printing and engraved stamps were very difficult and expensive to forge. Countries used them to discourage counterfeiting and to a large extent it worked. There are no decent counterfeits of nineteenth century US stamps and hundreds of forgeries of nineteenth century German States stamps, most of which were printed by typography, a simpler and far less secure printing method. Howard only collected line engraved and he only collected them in the highest gem like quality. So he was after a 120 year old paper product that had been cut from a sheet, placed on an envelope, delivered hundreds if not thousands of miles distant, removed from the envelope and placed in a succession of collections. And at every step of the way everything had to go perfectly-the originator of the letter had to cut the stamp with large margins, the postal carriers had to transport the letter without damage, the early collectors, who had no sense that quality would become king in philately, had to get the stamp off the letters and into their collections without damaging them, and the stamps had to move into a succession of collections faultlessly. A tall order indeed! So tall in fact that in all the years I knew him, Howard Ryan never found a stamp perfect enough for his collection. Sure he looked at stamps and might even have bought one if it measured up. He got tremendous joy from his stamp collecting. He just never got any stamps.

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