The question over what John Kennedy’s assassination did to his historical reputation has long been debated. The signature achievements of the late twentieth century progressive agenda-the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Medicare in 1965 were accomplished after Kennedy’s death. But surely the sympathy that his death aroused helped the massive Democratic victories in 1964 that allowed those progressive achievements. Indeed, much of the political fighting of the last fifty years has been attempted to push back against the Civil Rights Act and Medicare, culminating in the current Republican plan to eliminate Medicare for everyone under the age of 55.
       But if Kennedy’s historical significance is difficult to evaluate, his philatelic significance is more clear. No American President has ever been as commemorated as John Kennedy. Kennedy thematic collections can occupy a collector’s entire hobby time (and budget) with thousands of issues. No other American President comes close. A philatelist could put together an interesting collection of several other Presidents: Roosevelt (and FDR had commemorative stamps issued for him largely because he was a collector himself), Lincoln (probably the most popular and beloved of Presidents), and maybe Washington. But after that the philatelic well dries up. All Presidents have been commemorated on US postage stamps but only a few make it to more than a handful of foreign issues. Kennedy’s philatelic popularity is related to his spectacular death and the popularity of stamp collecting at the time it occurred. Scores of nations issued hundreds of Kennedy stamps, proofs and essays that they had no postal reason for. And when Bobby was assassinated a few years later, the flood continued. Like most stamps issued to commemorate the interest of the moment (Kate and William buyers beware), there is little long term interest in such philately. Kennedy commemorative collections that buyers paid thousands for in the 1960’s are worth almost nothing today.

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