This page includes selected articles from the 2005 issues of Across the Fence Post.
Moss Hartís Wisconsin Connection
By Maurice D. Wozniak
The strongest Wisconsin connection for the commemorative stamp issued Oct. 25 for playwright Moss Hart lies unexamined in the theater archives of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.
His widow, Kitty Carlisle Hart, donated much of Hartís correspondence and scrapbooks to the center with the stipulation that it remain sealed until after her death. At that time, the material Ė especially his diaries and letters -- will be eagerly perused by those seeking clues to the personality of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright and stage director. Although Hart became fabulously successful, he was known to suffer repeated bouts of depression and seek long-running sessions of therapy in his adult life.
The WCFTR, one of the world's major archives of research materials relating to the entertainment industry, is co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Collections have been established at the center by actors such as Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, who lived in Wisconsin, for example, and many others.
A more tenuous connection to Wisconsin may be established through Hartís friendship with another famous writer honored recently on stamps, Edna Ferber, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist.
Ferber, who grew up in Appleton, worked on newspapers there and in Milwaukee before moving to New York City, where she became, arguably, the most popular woman novelist in America in the middle 50 years of the 20th century. She won a Pulitzer Prize for So Big in 1924, and also wrote Show Boat, Cimarron, Giant, and Ice Palace, among others.
Her severe image appeared on an 83 cent definitive stamp in 2002. A later version of the stamp bears the date 2003.
Ferber was one of a loose group of talented, ambitious writers and other literary and artistic elite who ate lunch daily around a table at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan. At the center of the group, known as the Algonquin Round Table, was a newspaper columnist subsequently honored on a stamp in 1992, Dorothy Parker. Parker called it the "Vicious Circle," and Ferber called it the "Poison Squad," because its members leveled so many insults at one another.
Hart was invited to join by George S. Kaufman, his collaborator on their first Broadway hit, Once in a Lifetime, which opened in 1930 and ran for two years and 300 performances. They shared a Pulitzer Prize for drama with their third collaboration, You Canít Take It With You, in 1937, and it ran for 800 performances.
Hart and Ferber never collaborated formally but became fast Ė although apparently not romantic -- friends. In fact, she had a pet nickname for him, "Mouse."
One day, according to reports, they were sharing a cab driving past some run-down tenements in the Bronx, and Ferber commented, "Imagine living in a place like this."
"I donít have to imagine," replied Hart, who grew up in New York tenements and quit school at the age of 15 to work to help support his family. "I lived there."
Hart and Kaufman remained close friends even after they stopped their formal literary collaboration after their fifth play. They each owned farms in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. One day, when Hart was showing off the elaborate estate he had built among the rolling hills of the farm, Kaufman looked around and said, "Moss, this shows what God could do if He had money." Both men died in 1961.
When she visited Hartís farm, Ferber wrote in his guest book, "You know I love you, donít you Mouse, but I would kill you for your house."
February issue No selected article this issue
Historical Services at the Ebling Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Presents:
"Casualties Have Been Very Heavy: Medical Transport in the Great War, 1914-1918," an exhibition of stamps, postcards, and other philatelic material from the collection of guest curators Annette Yonke and Gerald Estes. These materials will tell a story about the ambulances, stretchers, hospital ships, and field hospitals that served the wounded on the European front during the First World War. The exhibition opens on January 18 in the Historical Reading Room on the third floor of the Ebling Library. There will be several public programs accompanying the exhibition, beginning with an opening reception on January 24 at 5 p.m. in the Historical Reading Room featuring a gallery talk by Annette and Gerald on the development of their collection. On March 31, Historical Services will host a Snow Miller Seminar in Medical History lecture by Jeffrey S. Reznick PhD, who will deliver a talk entitled "Healing the Nation: Soldiers and the Culture of Care giving in Britain During the Great War." The seminar will begin at 5 p.m. in the Meriter Lecture Hall on the first floor of the Health Sciences Learning Center. Please join us for these engaging presentations and a thought-provoking, visually rich exhibition.
"Casualties Have Been Very Heavy: Medical Transport in the Great War, 1914-1918" Exhibit
January 18-April 15, 2005
Historical Reading Room, Third Floor
Health Sciences Learning Center
University of Wisconsin-Madison
750 Highland Ave.
Madison, WI 53705
608-262-2020 (general information)
608-262-4421 (Historical Services)
April issue Some Notes on Stamp and Cover Preservation by Arlene Sullivan, RPSC, BNAPS,
Some Notes on Stamp and Cover Preservation
by Arlene Sullivan, RPSC, BNAPS,email@example.com
(Note- the author has a B.Sc. in biology from Simon Fraser University and recipes listed are proven effective and safe!)
It isn't only the moneyed collector of classic stamps and rare covers that needs to be concerned about the proper handling and storage of his collection. No matter what kind of philatelic material appeals to you, there are a couple of things that you can do to ensure that your stamps, postcards and souvenir sheets will last in good condition for many years.
I found a couple of books (check your local library) that provide good general overviews of how to look after paper artifacts. The first is "An Ounce of Preservation - A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs" by Craig A. Tuttle, Rainbow Books, Inc. ISBN 1-56825-021-5. This paperback is a nice introduction to care and preservation of your paper collectibles, not too technical but a useful overview of topics such as paper, inks, recognizing deterioration, how to store paper, and simple repair techniques.
The second is a much more technical book oriented toward the conservator of books, but it is worth a read particularly for those storing and displaying classic stamps. The information I give below on deacidification of paper comes from this volume. It is "The Practical Guide to Book Repair and Conservation" by Arthur W. Johnson. Published 1988 by Thames and Hudson, London, ISBN 0-500-01454-X. This is a good read for the chapters on Materials, Adhesives, and Chemicals alone.
Information on the chemistry of stamp "oxidation" and it's reversal come from an excellent article in the first quarter 1998 issue of "BNA Topics", the journal of the British North American Philatelic Society. "Rejuvenation of Stamp Colors with Hydrogen Peroxide" written by L. Kruczynski is a very readable report on Mr. Kruczynski's investigations into some of the mechanisms of stamp discoloration and how to reverse them.
WHEN YOU BUY -
Mould and Mildew
Preservation should start from the moment you inspect potential purchases. Look closely - do you see any signs of staining, mould or water damage? Does the album or cover have a musty or sour smell? Is the paper damp, and is it fragile and easily torn? These are signs that the material may be contaminated with mould or mildew, and while it may be a really good buy, think twice about purchasing - you may be taking home more problems than the stuff is worth.
The main problem with albums and covers that carry fungal growths of this kind is that even with a good airing, a dry storage area, and careful handling, mould and mildew can spread to uncontaminated material in your collection and under the right circumstances can cause considerable damage. Fungal growth weakens paper, making it fragile and harder to handle, and can cause staining and color changes in stamps and paper. Under conditions of dampness and sluggish air circulation - basement or attic storage, for instance - fungi can spread incredibly quickly and cause the loss of a collection in a matter of weeks. So avoid purchases that show the signs of mould and mildew contamination. If you must buy, make sure that your purchase is given a thorough airing in a dry place, and store it well away from the bulk of your collection. Always wash your hands after handling these kinds of pieces to prevent spread of the fungal spores to uncontaminated material.
Especially if you are buying older material, carefully inspect the condition of the paper for pinholes, thin areas, and tears. Take a look at the color of the stamp, too; is it faded or darkened? These are signs of paper deterioration that could have occurred for a number of reasons - usually improper storage. Exposure to sunlight, cigarette smoke, emissions from automobiles or coal plants, and even handling of the stamps with fingertips instead of stamp tongs can cause changes in the paper that weaken the bonds that hold the paper fibers together. Pinholes and tears can then occur with even gentle handling.
Exposure to even small amounts of acid from atmospheric pollutants or handling can cause "oxidation" of the stamp ink. Acidic compounds will also cause paper deterioration, so be aware that changes in ink color can mean changes in paper quality, too. Orange inks of the Victorian period seem to be particularly susceptible to this kind of color change - examples of the 3c small Queens of Canada, for example, can be almost black.
It also pays to know something about the printing and gumming of the stamps you are purchasing. For instance, "Ostropa" souvenir sheets issued in 1935 in Germany (Scott B68) are often found mint without gum. A gummed sheet in this case is not a very good buy as the gum was formulated with sulphuric acid which over the years has caused the paper of gummed sheets to deteriorate. Collectors who knew this soaked the gum off of their copies to preserve the paper, making the mint no gum sheets the preferred collectible. Know your stamps!
OK, MY STAMPS ARE HOME, NOW WHAT?
There are three simple rules to always remember when working with your collection:
1. Never used your hands to handle your stamps if you can use tongs.
2. Always use storage materials designed for use with philatelic material.
3. Don't smoke, eat, or drink around your stamps, or store them in areas where people are smoking, drinking, or eating.
Why tongs? Your hands may be clean, but even freshly washed hands carry traces of oils and acids given off naturally by your skin. Repeated handling of stamps with your fingers will leave residues on the stamps, and over time these will build up and cause paper deterioration and staining. The gum on mint stamps is also easily disturbed by fingertip pressure. Proper use of tongs prevents paper acidification and can save that valuable mint gum!
(This also applies to handling covers. While most modern material is never going to be worth enough to really worry about, old and/or valuable covers should always be handled with cotton gloves to avoid contamination with oils and acids.)
And why not store your stamps in baggies and old vinyl binders? While this may be the cheap way to go, watch out for inappropriate materials that may come into contact with your stamps and covers. The vinyl on binders, for instance, can give off chemicals used in the polymerization process - chemicals that even in small amounts can dissolve some kinds of inks, trash paper, and cause ink and gum transfers to the vinyl surface. A similar problem can arise with photocopied pages that may be in contact with your mounted stamps. Be careful with any kind of plastic or chemically treated material, including paper, that is not sold by a reputable dealer for philatelic purposes; the added expense of purchasing good quality storage bags and pages is very small compared to the loss of your collection by improper storage.
As for the third rule, no, I am not trying to nag you into not enjoying a smoke while you sort those color varieties. Keep in mind, though, that cigarette smoke will discolor and damage paper eventually, and leave a smell that is impossible to get rid of. (Get a non-smoking friend to check your catalogues to see what I mean.) Try to limit exposing your collection to cigarette smoke and to any other kind of atmospheric pollutant such as car exhaust, coal plant emissions, and industrial effluent. Not easy, I know, but even keeping windows closed (or open) can help. Regular airing of your albums will also help to preserve them.
Avoid eating or drinking around your stamps, too. Grease spots and pop stains are not only unsightly, they also attract insects that can destroy an album in a surprisingly short time. Spilled coffee can also turn those expensive mint unhinged stamps into landfill in only a few seconds of inattention. Better to keep the food and drink in the kitchen.
STORING YOUR COLLECTION
The enemy of stored collections is water in the atmosphere - either too much or too little. Depending on the kind of climate you live in, you may need to either increase or decrease humidity in the room where you store your collection. Generally homes in temperate climates that use central heating provides good conditions for storing stamps. If you are comfortable, your stamps probably are too. It may be worth investing in air conditioning, a humidifier, or a de-humidifier if your budget warrants to maintain a suitable environment in your home. Be especially careful if you are storing your stamps in a basement or shed, or in an attic. If there is any hint of dampness, or if the temperature is high, move your collection to another space. Make sure your family is aware of this, too; I would guess more collections have been destroyed by inappropriate storage than by any other cause.
Take the time to go through your albums and boxes once every few months even if you are not currently using them. This allows the stamps to air, and gives you the chance to inspect them for any problems that may be developing.
The following "recipes" are supplied for use in arresting or reversing some common problems that may arise with stamps or covers in your collection. NOTE WELL: If you are not willing to lose the stamp or cover, DON'T EXPERIMENT WITH IT! IF WHAT YOU HAVE IS PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE, PLEASE LOOK INTO PROFESSIONAL CONSERVATION. I would tend to try and preserve only those covers and philatelic items that will die an imminent death anyway. The German "Ostropa" sheet cited above is a case in point; the gum is so acidic on these that if they haven't rotted away already, they are darn close.
These recipes are all water based and non-toxic, but please observe some basic precautions. If you have the faintest doubt that anything on the cover or stamp may run in aqueous solutions (water), leave them alone! Ink can be tricky, as can cancellations. Watch also for wax seals and other attachments, as these too can come loose with handling combined with just a little moisture. When mixing and handling solutions, don't use kitchen utensils, as they may have traces of food or grease on them - invest in a few new, clean, spoons, containers and sprayers. Use distilled water; tap water may contain minerals or salts that will react with your cover or stamp. Use fresh solutions, too, as old solutions may not work (especially hydrogen peroxide). Spray solutions outdoors, or at least in a well ventilated area, and don't breath the spray in. And last, but very important - make sure your cover or stamp is dry before storing.
Checking paper for Acidity
Using bromcresol green, an indicator dye, can roughly test determining the acidity of paper. Touched to the paper, the dye remains green if the paper is neutral, yellow if acidic, and blue if alkaline. This dye is in bottles or felt tipped pens through scientific or archival supply houses. Be careful, as this will stain.
Deacidification of Paper
The chemicals used in these methods are relatively harmless (they are closely related to baking soda, and the active ingredients in proprietary antacids!) but as in anything be careful with the solutions, test them on something you don't want first, and make sure you follow the recipe. I imagine that a pharmacist or archival supply house might be able to give you a supplier for these chemicals. If you can't find these chemicals, I see no reason why plain old baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) would not be a good substitute.
Recipe 1 - Make up a 0.12 percent solution of calcium bicarbonate in distilled water. Soak the sheet in the solution for half an hour, then remove, blot off excess solution, and dry between pressing boards. This process neutralizes the acid content and leaves and alkaline residue as a buffer against further contamination.
Recipe 2 - Make up a 10 g per liter solution of magnesium bicarbonate and use an atomizer bottle (spray bottle) to spray a fine mist of solution onto the paper. Do this in open air or a well-ventilated area. This method is preferred for fragile items that may not take much handling.
Reversing "Oxidation" on Stamps
A gentle bath in a two to three percent hydrogen peroxide solution will restore the color in stamps that have lead based inks that have darkened due to exposure to trace amounts of acid. If the color does not change after a half an hour or so, "oxidation" is not the culprit. This treatment works for restoring color to the 3c small Queens of Canada. By a different chemical mechanism it will also restore the color of the "muddy waters" variety of the Canadian 1898 Map Stamp. Research the stamp pigment before using hydrogen peroxide, as vegetable based dyes used in later years may be irreversibly bleached by this treatment.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
They may be "just stamps", but even the most basic collection is worth handling properly. I hope these tips and recipes help you keep your collection in good condition. Remember, years from now a novice collector will appreciate a well-preserved copy of even a common stamp. Good handling and storage techniques now will ensure a supply of quality stamps for the future.
By Stan Fairchild, CuyLor Stamp Club, APS Chapter 601, firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is a compilation of questions from the Internet stamp group rec.collecting.stamps (r.c.s.) relating to stamp prices. More than a dozen sources were used for this summary, which was strongly influenced by my own experiences and knowledge limits. Much of the information given in the r.c.s. answers were based on personal experience, making great anecdotes but little statistically sound analysis. The topic of stamp-market pricing mechanisms might serve as a viable master's degree thesis for an economics major.
(The newsgroup r.c.s. later split into two groups, rec.collecting.stamps.discuss for philatelic discussions and rec.collecting.stamps.marketplace for buy and sell postings.)
This document remains a work-in-progress. My summary is below, but the gist of it is that "people really pay" varying amounts for the same material, depending on what stamp "market" they use to get material. What started this project off was this question:
"I was looking through my latest Scott catalogue and comparing book value with stamps being traded in an Internet auction. Most stamps were offered at prices well below book value. Judging from the pictures and the few I bought, they seemed to be of decent quality. How can this be? Why would anyone sell for so much less?"
I. THE MARKET
A. Market segments
For purposes of discussion, "stamp market" is any mechanism used to legally transfer ownership. The market includes retail shops, mail sales, auctions-including circuit books, bourses, and trading. These segments have fairly little overlap except for the ever-present arbitrageurs known to Pat Herst's readers as satcheleers.
All of these markets need both a willing seller and a willing buyer. If the buyer is a dealer, he expects to resell at a profit. If the buyer is a collector, a selling collector may get a higher price but probably will have to sell the collection item by item.
New buyers come from the outposts in department stores, from advertisers in daily papers and on television, and from post offices. Without the entry-level expensive marketplace, the market from which collectors like to buy cheaply would gradually cease to exist, because it does not reproduce its customer base from within.
The biggest stamp retailer, Mystic Stamp Company, marks up to about double Scott, because its advertising in mass circulation publications cannot be sustained by intra-hobby prices. Yet Mystic brings more new members to APS than any other recruiter, and sometimes more than all the others combined. Many of those customers, once familiar with the hobby's own marketplace, probably switch to less expensive suppliers. Even, so Mystic does well enough to support a weekly full-color, full-page spread on the back of Linn's Stamp News, and other full-page spreads inside.
Meanwhile, all other segments face competition from below-market sellers in Linn's classified ads, APS sales circuits, and on-line auctions, usually of retired collectors who are disposing of their personal collections. Each discrete segment has its own value system, which only indirectly affects the others. The value systems can only "only indirectly affect the others" if the buyer, seller, or both are unaware of them, unable to access them, or are uninterested in them for a particular transaction. See my comment on "instant gratification" below.
1. Retail shops
The amount of turnover done in any big city, high overhead retail shops has to be a minuscule portion of the world's stamp turnover. Vastly more turnover is gained in auctions, circuits, net sales, trades, shows, etc., than in stores in cities. The value of a stamp can't be set on the value plus costs of doing business, as value in purest terms is the highest amount someone is willing to pay at any given point in time. Scarcity plus demand drives prices, not a combination of scarcity, willingness to pay, and the other guy's excess overhead.
That's why high overhead shops such as Gimbels/Minkus/Robinsons, et al. bit the dust. They had a good run until auctions, shows, small shops, and mail order became well organized and easily accessible. The key point here is that the alternatives had to get organized and be easily accessible. Big-city downtown stamp shops are still a fixture of the marketplace in the cities such as Chicago, Frankfurt, Hamburg, London, etc., despite their high retail prices.
2. Mail sales
These still serve the market for those with limited access to the other sources of stamps (trading, retail sales, auctions) or for those seeking special material.
In an auction, there IS always a seller, but no GUARANTEE of buyers. As a result, an item of little interest may go at a very low price. An item with strong interest may go far above auctioneer estimates or even catalog prices. This is just a matter of economics and a function of supply and demand. Since the stamp market is very fragmented and inefficient with regards to pricing, price fluctuations can be tremendous.
A particular lot or collection in an auction may only be exposed to a limit number of buyers at that moment. If there is a lack of interest at that moment, or the buyers are not the right bidders for that kind of material, the lot can be sold at substantial discount to catalog. Dealers have to buy the stamps cheaply enough to make a profit on them.
This means dealers often make offers for stamps and collections that might seem like an insult to the average person. Selling at auction gives the collector an opportunity to. eliminate much of the overhead. He can get a better price for selling AND a better price for the buyer of the stamp, too, than they might otherwise get.
Most auctioneers say that the majority of their lots are sold to dealers for resale to customers at a profit. This point became contentious when Scott switched to retail valuations. At first, Scott relied on auction realizations to calculate those values. Dealers howled, claiming that such were actually wholesale prices, from which they marked up substantially.
The previous collector's comments on the pricing mechanisms within the US market are interesting and useful, but not entirely paralleled in Europe. This is particularly true in regard to the destination of most auction lots. It may well be true in relation to collections and/or other "mixed" lots, but then these are of no use in indicating market prices of individual stamps.
Internet auctions became very popular after this article was first written. They seem to be providing buyers with a range of material broad in price and quality. The exposure to a world-wide audience tends to help good material to draw reasonable bids, albeit usually well below full Scott values, except for items having some special feature not recorded by Scott.
Buyers have a chance to examine the material in detail, but the auction exists at one moment in time. Unlike a retail shop or mail order house, the buyer probably has no chance to try for the same lot tomorrow or next week.
B. APS Circuits
Collectors always should sell below retail, because they do not have dealer overhead costs, yet other collectors will readily pay more than dealer buy prices. Despite that rather obvious point, collectors often don't "get it." Looking at circuit books submitted to the APS Sales Division, most dealers price their material to sell at about half Scott, and it tends to move quickly, so they get their checks after just a few months. I have grouped APS circuits under "Auctions" because any one-circuit book gives a one-time chance at a particular stamp.
There is a web site, http://www.stampfinder.com, that lists thousands of stamps for sale. The listing gives both centering and catalog price, as well as the sale value. Because the deal must be finalized with the owning dealer, whose name and address I think one gets, there may be room for negotiation. But it could be fairly close to a real open market and should drive catalog prices to the same values. The Internet is helping collectors to learn about the real stamp market.
These are a convenient way to examine material up-close-and-personal, and with a range of dealers available. The buyer has a chance at instant gratification.
This is an inexpensive way to convert duplicates or unwanted material into wanted material. Trading range has been expanded by Internet listings of others interested in trading. E-mail makes for quick correspondence and decisions.
If the buyer is a dealer, he expects to resell at a profit. If dealers don't stay in business, the collector loses access to supplies and has access to stamps only through trading and new issues. Thus, the collector has an interest in having dealers make enough profit to stay in business. Dealers have to move inventory to do that. A dealer may also have a few showstoppers on display that are priced at full CV.
Often these show stoppers are actually part of the dealer's personal collection and he or she actually doesn't want to sell the items. They are just there to impress customers with the depth of the inventory.
If a buyer is a collector, a selling collector may get a higher price but will probably have to sell the collection item by item. A collector who has. a wide range of interests in reality plays dealers off against one another. A buyer with $20 to spend on stamps from any one of half a dozen readily available countries can get more catalog value for the $20 than a collector with a very narrow interest--especially if there are other potential purchasers competing to buy the same material.] I've noticed that virtually all of the buyers of auction lots I've sold have lived in tiny towns-presumably people with no other easy access to a steady supply of stamps. Because the market is the way it is, one collector has gone to the "shotgun" approach to collecting. He buys lots of wholesale lots, and resells just enough to recover his costs and collect the parts he wants. His goal is to have $0 invested in his collection.
My feeling is that collectors want to feel they got a "deal." The easiest way to feel they get a deal is to get a discount off the catalog price. Many collectors also want instant gratification. The Internet doesn't give that, but retail shops, bourses, and live auctions do.
II. CATALOG PRICES
Scott catalog values are not literal "retail values." They should be used as an approximate indicator of relative value between different items. The catalog only serves to place an item in relative magnitude of worth. The dealer uses the catalog as a reference to help him/her make sure he doesn't pay too much for an item and also sells it for its maximum benefit.
The last part doesn't necessarily mean top dollar. The catalog value is a guide, not an absolute. It is the price a buyer will pay an informed seller when the buyer must have the particular stamp immediately. Three things determine stamp value (covers, etc, too): rarity, condition and popularity/desirability/fame.
It doesn't pay to put too fine a point on the question of price when the asking price is a few dollars. Save haggling for buying a White Plains souvenir sheet or other large item. Dealers will be happier to see you coming and will respect your knowledge and sense of worth much more.
Prices can legitimately vary from one dealer to another. It depends on what the dealer paid for a stamp, how quickly he wants to sell it, what his overhead costs are, whether he or she specializes in that area and therefore puts more effort into organizing his stock and looking for unusual items, etc. In fact, most of the widely used general and specialized catalogs are not retail price lists either, and usually overstate the actual values.
The only exceptions are actual dealers' price lists, such as H. E. Harris and Brookman, and even these prices tend to be somewhat higher than those you can find by shopping carefully, because those companies have high overhead costs (for producing their catalogs, for one thing!). If half Scott is about right for easy sales through low-overhead sales circuits, then full Scott is about right for high overhead storefront stamp shops in big cities, and somewhere in between is about right for bourse purchases. Note that companies that advertise heavily in the mass media have to sell at about double Scott to make money.
Book value is an interesting concept. Scott claims that it is the average retail price for a stamp in VF condition. However, it's customary to get stamps for less than catalog, especially if you are willing to accept F-VF condition. (Note most of the dealer ads offering good discounts from Scott specify F-VF.) Also, when buying collections, it's expected to get the stamps at a discount.
What has really been an eye-opener is comparing people's written descriptions to the scans of the stamps. An incredibly high proportion of the stamps described as VF or even VF+ are mis-centered or have perfs missing. One collector reports having seen several US stamps with what he would consider to be major defects described as VF and sell for above 30% of catalog. These are stamps he'd describe as space fillers and expect to buy for 5% or less.
Another collector comments that he is beginning to think that this whole condition "thing" is simply not important to a large number of collectors. They seem to want to fill the spaces in their albums, and are happy with a "good-enough" copy. It boils down to condition and true scarcity. If you want it, and are willing to pay the price, then it's worth it. As to dealers putting stamps into APS sales circuits at 50% of Scott's, a collector remarks that they aren't at the same grade that Scott values, which is VF, with no faults.
Key comment from one collector: I don't care about the condition of the stamp if it's "good enough" for me; I don't care about the dealers label. I don't want damage, I don't want to see repairs. Early issues weren't always centered properly, and I'm not going to go nuts searching for the perfect copy."
B. Changes since
In 1989(?), Scott's dropped prices a whole lot to reflect discounting (buying at or near 50% of Scott's). All that happened was that the discount dropped (to 30%?) off the much lower prices. Scott's couldn't keep dropping prices to keep up with discounting without eventually reaching zero!
Most auctioneers say that the majority of their lots are sold to dealers, for resale to customers at a profit. This point became contentious when Scott switched to retail valuations, because at first Scott relied on auction realizations to calculate those values. Dealers howled that those were their wholesale prices, from which they marked up substantially.
Recently, Scott's has been revaluing stamps by increasing the standard to which individual stamps are held. Sets which recently catalogued for a given price, may still catalog at the same price, but the price may now be for mint-never-hinged, not mint-hinged as it was before. Scott's set a centering standard of F-VF (and, for 1997 of VF) without raising prices much. I don't think Scott's aim was to "devalue" collections, but to make its published prices more correct. Since Scott's can't keep dropping prices forever to match discounts, an alternative is to "raise the bar higher" for a stamp to qualify for the price. If a specific copy of a stamp doesn't match the "raised standard" its value declines and justifies a discount. That approach gives Scott's a chance to have its prices correct and even makes real-world sense.
There is also a lack of timeliness of the catalog values. It takes time to compile the market data and print the catalog, some values may be outdated. A good example is Hong Kong, whose popularity is skyrocketing, where catalog values are useless even day to day.
Good US material is fairly predictably going for about 30% of Scott, with cheaper items bringing a higher percentage and more expensive ones bringing a lower percentage. Why are the more expensive items going at a lower percentage of catalog? One guess is that the average collector with $200 to spend would rather fill in 20 "easy" gaps in the collections at $10 each than one really difficult gap for $200.
In response to a question on a vaguely related topic, a seller recently commented that he used 70% of Scott's as a real-world value for German-area stamps.
If a collection were composed of stamps with significant catalog value, then the price paid would be a function of condition (centering, gum, absence of defects and repairs, etc.) as well as comparative demand. The price could vary from more than catalog, if the stamps were marvelous, to 10-20% of catalog if there were lots of problems with the stamps or the country was not one the dealer would expect to be able to resell in a reasonable amount of time.
III. MY CONCLUSIONS
When a seller and I are fully knowledgeable about a stamp, I expect to buy at 40%-60% of Scott's. If I were to sell major parts of my collection, I would expect to get 15%-20% of the catalog value from a dealer and 40%-60% from sales of individual items cataloging above Scott minimal prices. If I were creating an exhibit and needed one or two specific items to complete the exhibit, I would expect to pay full catalog value, even if the items were only in average condition.
From a purely financial perspective (not a good point from which to view a hobby), to be certain of increasing the "profit status" of my collection I would have to buy items cataloging (condition included):
a. at least a couple of dollars, and do so
b. for less
than 10% of catalog.
If I'm paying more than 10%, it's for the hobby, not for financial benefit. Personally, I view Scott's prices as reflecting the price agreed upon by a knowledgeable buyer and seller when:
a. the buyer MUST have the item, or
b. the item is in great condition
The Apollo/Soyuz Spaceflight
By Dan Hammell, Local Stamp Clubs
30th Anniversary of the Apollo/Soyuz space flight which occurred on July 15, 1975
President Nixon signing
treaty in 1972 agreeing to
docking of spacecraft.
Another meeting with
Soviet space personnel.
Much set-up required
prior to launch.
They are off!
Docking took place over
Apollo landed in the Pacific
Ocean near Hawaii.
Stamps issued by:
First day cover of
USA stamps with all spacemen.
USSR Stamps USA
First day cover of USA
stamps with purpose
of this spaceflight.
Donald "Deke" Slayton, 1924 to 1993
The boyhood home of Donald "Deke Slayton was Monroe County, Wisconsin; the Slayton family farm was located at Leon, near Sparta. Deke graduated from High School at Sparta, then he joined the Army Air Force, graduating from pilots training in Texas. He closed out WWI in Okinawa, becoming a test pilot, then selected as one of the original 7 astronauts. Heart problems kept him grounded although Deke was appointed Chief Astronaut in 1962. When Apollo/Soyuz came along he was selected as module pilot for the flight; afterward his next job was developing the shuttle and flying it back to Texas.
Deke left NASA in 1982, becoming involved in airplane racing and rocket production. He died in 1993 at the age of 69.
His book, "Deke", telling his life story in his own words, was released after his death.
The Deke Slayton museum is located at 200 W. Main Street, Sparta, Wisconsin; the 30th anniversary of the Apollo/Soyuz spaceflight will be celebrated there on July 16, 2005, beginning at 10 a.m. Further information can be obtained by contacting the museum by mail at P.O. Box 293, Sparta, Wisconsin 54656 or 1-888-200-5302
A Stamp with No Name on It
By: Russ WhiteThe UPU today requires that the name of the country be on the stamp. British stamps are the exception, having no country name on them; the reason cited is that they were first. The image of the monarchís head is usually a clue that the stamp is from Great Britain. However, contrary to popular belief, other stamps exist with no country name. Sometimes, the reason Americans think the country name isnít present is that they donít know the alphabet or script in use, but in a couple of instances, no name was used by plan.
For most memories, Bosnia and Herzegovina were two provinces within Yugoslavia. For those of more historical bent, they were the site of the assassination of the Crown Prince of Austria in Sarajevo in 1914, an event sometimes cited as triggering World War I. Prior to the 1870s, these two provinces were nominally controlled by the Ottoman Empire. In the 1879, Austria pushed to gain control. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had two heads, an Emperor in Austria, and a King in Hungary. The King was subordinate to the Emperor, but much of the notations for military posts were KuK for Kaiserliche and Konigliche (Empire and Kingdom) Feldpost or Militarpost. Bosnia and Herzegovina were two provinces whose status was ambiguous. Occupied Turkish territories to some, they were integrated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1908. Feldpost operation (field post) were primarily for soldiers and government officials. Shortly after de facto annexation, the military was to provide services for the occupied civilians via the militarpost (military post).
The first stamps bore the coat of arms of the empire and kingdom, but no text, save the numeral value. From 1879 to 1900, the currency was (per Scott) 100 Novicica (Newkreuzer) = 1 Florin (Gulden). Although only values to the 25 (Kreuzer). Interestingly, the Michel Austria specialized and Netto specialized Austria simply list the values as Kreuzer, and 100 Kreuzer = 1 Gulden for both Austria and Bosnia. The stamps were deliberately issued without any indication of Austrian text, as there was some concern that to do so would deliberately antagonize the Turks. In 1900, a second issue followed the convention of the first, with the denominations (100 Heller = 1 Krone) expressed with numeral (Heller values) or numeral K. Additional values were added in 1904, with black numerals. No other text is present. In 1906, the first of the "scenic" issue of Bosnia and Herzogovina came out and thereafter K-u-K Miliarpost is seen on most stamps, with many also including Bosnien Hercegovina (the German spelling for the provinces). The military post ran until the 1918 cessation of the Empire. After that, there were several regional issues of the province, until the general issues of Yugoslavia in the 1920s.
After the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina arose from the list of philatelically "dead" countries and today provides service as an independent entity.
Bill Stamps Generated Revenue
By: Russ White
There seems to always have been a need to generate revenue to pay for governmental functions. In the British Commonwealth and the U.S., taxes were often levied on paperwork. Paperwork, in this case, needed for business functions. These include receipts, promissory or demand notes, checks, legal documents and legal notices or decisions.
In some cases, in the U.S. Documentary stamps were used, but the more general stamp used in many cases was a bill stamp. The Province of Canada first issued bill stamps in 1859, and issued a second set in 1864. Both sets were printed by the American Bank Note Company of NY, and numerous varieties exist to keep collectors busy.
A third set was issued by the Dominion of Canada after Confederation in 1867. Bill Stamps were used to collect a tax on promissory notes and similar documents. A promissory note usually promised to pay a certain amount at a date in the future. These were used for short (or long term) loans, usually for business purposes. Personal promissory notes also exist, but with the exception of mortgages, are less commonly seen. The 1868 Bill stamps of Canada were printed by the British American Bank Note Company, and strongly resemble the Large Queen high value postage stamps. The engraving of Queen Victoria is similar, from the same vignette, and the stamps are often found for a fraction of their postage counterparts. The amount shown was often the amount of a loan and interest or similar consideration. Promissory notes were also used to purchase supplies or merchandise on "time" and one or more notes would be signed at purchase time. By the 1920s, these had diminished considerably, with checks and other mechanisms reducing the used of promissory notes.
Demand notes were a similar means of conveyance, but usually had no specific date, and were payable on presentation. Demand notes were often used to secure merchandise or as a means to carry only a note to a distant city and then obtain cash when arriving in that city. Both of these types of notes, and also checks were often taxed during the mid-1800s and early 1900s. Seen here is a promissory note from George W. Callum to pay to Moses E. Cowan a sum of Five hundred and eight dollars and seventy five cents in three months time (after June 28th, 1875.). A notation on the back suggests that the note was redeemed by 1 October at the Bank of New Brunswick, in St. John, NB. (Canada) The sum of money was substantial, greatly exceeding the the average salary of a worker in those days. Taxes were usually based upon the amount of the note; in this case a tax of 18 cents was paid on the note. Without further research, I would suggest that this was likely a business-related note, and not a purely personal one.
Simply Postage Ö Not!
By: Russ White
The British Commonwealth has used many postage stamps and revenue stamps. Many British postage stamps have been seen on receipts. In 1881, the British Post Office changed the wording on stamps from Postage to Postage & Revenue. Most revenue stamps became obsolete, with the new "general" stamps being used for almost all postage and revenue uses. Some countries followed suit, but others continued on with specialized revenue stamps. Others used various stamps at differing times, with little or no differentiation, often with no way to tell what the stamp was used for unless it is found on a letter, postcard, or document. In Canada, the two departments, Post Office and Inland Revenue were two distinct units and revenues were to be kept separate. As such, Postage stamps were used for postal purposes and revenue stamps were supposed to be used for revenue collection, The one case where these overlapped was the War Tax. War Tax stamps were supposed to be used on Postage during 1915 and 1916. Three stamps made philatelic history, when the overprints, intended for documents were overprinted without postage exclusion, and thus Scott MR2B to MR2D were created with values of 5, 20 and 50 cents.
During this time frame and earlier, Bill Stamps were used to collect a tax on promissory notes and similar documents. The taxes on checks were established and re-established several times during the times of fiscal needs. Most of those on checks issued during the War Tax era were embossed on the Canadian checks showing a red beaver and the payment of 2 cents.
What most people forget today, is that prior to 1949, Newfoundland was not an integral part of Canada, but a separate colony. Prior to 1920, Newfoundland had been a self-governing Dominion like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Newfoundland went bankrupt after World War I, partly due to costs from the war, and the general economic malaise that soon triggered the Great Depression. The government petitioned the King for assistance, and governmental functions were taken over, status was changed to a colony, and the Crown assumed all debts, and economic reforms were begun. Among these were a series of taxes imposed on financial dealings. Like their Canadian counterparts during World War I, Newfoundland imposed a tax on checks. These were often paid by revenue stamps, but at times, people didnít have any, or not for the rates needed. Newfoundland had a single merged treasury, so while the two departments were separate, postage stamps could, in theory, be used for revenue purposes. Some values, especially the 2 and 3 cent post stamps values were used heavily for both postage and revenue purposes. Shown here is a Scot 256 used in 1944 to pay the excise tax on checks. The large circular cancel of the Royal Bank of Canada as well as a violet datestamp tie the stamp to the check. In several instances, the revenue usage consumed so many stamps that the post office had to reprint them [Scott 246 vs. 256] to have enough for postal use. Aside from the actual cancel, or a stamp used on cover or document, distinguishing the usage can be difficult.
The Luxury of Travel (Islands of the South Atlantic)
By Jack Searles, Published in the Olean Stamp Club Newsletter, APS Chapter 1442, email@example.com
Recently, I had a convergence of thoughts. While driving along, enjoying the freedom of movement and travel, I was thinking about the purchase of stamps I recently made for 25% of catalogue value. My mind began to wander and my creative thoughts began to flow.
You know, we are lucky. If you or I want to travel to another state or city or town we simply hop in our cars and away we go. This is truly a wonderful luxury that does not occur in many parts of the world. One of those places where this luxury of travel does not occur as regularly as here in New York State, is Tristan da Cunha.
Tristan da Cunha is a remote, almost circular island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean discovered by the Portuguese explorer Tristao da Cunha in 1506. The British formally annexed Tristan during August of 1816. It has a whopping population of about 300 souls.
This island is the largest island in the Tristan group, composed of a series of smaller uninhabited islands, named Nightingale, Inaccessible, Middle and Stolenhoff, respectively. So what about the freedom of movement on Tristan? Well, the Royal Mail Ship St. Helena calls at Tristan only once per year, on its January/February voyage. Of course, that's the summer season for them. According to reports, the RMS St. Helena only stays for two to three days per year, during which passengers get ashore only if the weather is obliging.
But this is not the end of my story because you see, Tristan da Cunha is a dependency of St. Helena. A Portuguese navigator also first claimed St. Helena. He was Juan da Nova Castella, sighting land on May 21, 1502. The island was named for Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. After its discovery, this island was used by the Portuguese as a fresh water stop for their fleets returning from the East Indies.
During this time, its location was a closely kept Portuguese secret, until 1588 when that the English navigator Thomas Cavendish located the island. The secret was out! From that year the Portuguese, English and Dutch intermittently used forward the island. In 1633, the Dutch formally annexed the island but did not occupy it. Occupation of the island had to wait until May, 1659 when the English East India Company claimed the island under a charter from Charles II. The first inhabitants of the island were company employees, English settlers and slaves from South Asia, the East Indies and Madagascar.
Still unable to place St. Helena? Well it is actually quite famous! You see, Napoleon was exiled to this land in 1815. With this famous dignitary came a large garrison of British soldiers and naval ships on constant patrol in case of a rescue attempt. When Napoleon died in 1821, almost all of the garrison was withdrawn.
But St. Helena has been visited by many other dignitaries, like Charles Darwin in 1836 on the homebound leg of his voyage on the Beagle. Dinizulu, the son of Cetwayo of Zulu War fame, and his entourage were confined on the island, as were 6,000 Boer prisoners of war during the Boer War.
With its up and downs, St. Helena survives with a current population of 5,800 individuals. The island economy has become almost totally dependent upon a single commodity, New Zealand flax, used as ropes and string. St. Helena is also serviced by the RMS St. Helena.
While this has all been interesting- to me at least- it is still not where I want to be. Rather my destination is another dependency of St. Helena located almost exactly in the middle of the South Atlantic, namely Ascension Island. Like St Helena, Juan da Nova Castella first spotted Ascension in 1501, but the finding went unrecognized. The official discovery of this island had to wait for Alfonso d'Albuquerque, who in 1503 rediscovered the island on Ascension Day.
Currently, this island has a population of about 1,350 individuals, of which 850 are St. Helenians, 100 Americans and 350 are British (165 of which are members of the Royal Air Force). Both the US and British Air Forces maintain a presence on this island.
So what does this have to do with stamps? Well, it was a wonderful deal on Ascension Island stamps at 25% of catalogue value that sent me on this trek. After all, you can't own Ascension Island stamps and not know where it is located- can ya??!! Well, look for it in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, almost exactly between South America and Africa, far off the coasts of Brazil and Angola, respectively.
Now that we have arrived at Ascension Island, what about its philatelic history? Well, the stamps of Great Britain stamps in values ranging from 1/2d to 1s were used on Ascension Island prior to 1922. In that year, Ascension Island became a dependency of St Helena, and stamps of St. Helena overprinted "Ascension Island" were used for postage. Since the end of World War II, Ascension Island has participated in all the colonial omnibus issues.
All told, my catalogue tells me that through 1994 this island has issued a total of 574 commemorative and regular issue stamps, plus 6 postage due stamps. There is only one post office on the island, located in the town of Georgetown. Flora, fauna, and historical events are common themes on these very collectable British Commonwealth stamps.
Oh- and guess what? You can visit Ascension Island via the R.M.S. St. Helena which makes its rounds annually. So much for the luxury of travel!
Latest update: November 28, 2005