Monday, August 26, 2013

Stamp Collecting is Not Dead!

     The second week in August I went to Stampshow 2013. Yes, the American Philatelic Society (APS) held its yearly show in Milwaukee at the Delta Center (Convention Center). I had never been to a national stamp show before. Oh, I had once attended a very large bourse in New York City but it was mainly a bourse with some exhibits, nothing like this show. And the admission to Stampshow was free. Where can you attend a convention or show with an entire convention room full of dealers, stamp society and specialty collectors' booths, row after row of stamp exhibits, and several rooms of lectures going on for no money. There were lots of free giveaways, but of course you make up for no admission by spending considerable time at all those dealers' tables because you do not get to see these dealers from all over the country very often.

      Some say that stamp collecting is dead. I myself was worried about this idea. When I attend local stamp clubs the vast majority of attendees are senior white men. And every few months we are honoring one such member or another who has died. A mostly older male attendance does not bother me because I have been the minority female in the group all the way through premed classes in college and through medical school and residency. Even through my years of medical practice most of my colleagues were male. I adapted and actually began to prefer the male social group. At a party, I would often gravitate to the men's group where there was either technical talk or else I would put up with the sports talk there, preferable to the discussion of labor and delivery and young child rearing that was the topic of the female group discussion.

      Yet here at this show were lots of people and the mix was much more diversified. There were some families and youngsters which I was glad to see. The show provided a large youth area and some activities for the young. And women now hold some of the prime positions in national stamp organizations. A woman, Cheryl Ganz, is the curator of our new Smithsonian National Stamp Museum in Washington, D.C. Several of the speakers were women. Still minorities are under represented in the hobby. And there are still the lonely quiet women sitting in the concession area either killing time by reading or knitting or else glancing nervously toward the exhibits, waiting for their man to finish his tour of exhibits and dealers so that the couple can then move on to whatever he promised her in coming to Milwaukee in the first place.

     A listing of the topics presented at the various seminars demonstrates the broad attractions of philatelic collecting. There is a topic of collection that should strike interest in any individual who likes to collect things. Here are some of the titles of the presentations. "Christmas Crusade -- How a Little Church in Wisconsin Helped to Revolutionize US Stamps Police by Maurice Wozniak; "Wisconsin Cinderella Stamps by Ken Grant; Postal History of the Library of Congress by Larry Nix; Captain Tim, Tasco & Other Hobby Builders by Wayne Youngblood; "Collecting Christmas Seals by John Denune; "An Overview of he First International Symposium on Analytical Philately by john Barwis and Tom Lera; "A Glimpse of Milwaukee through Its Advertising Covers by Jim Meverden; "Basics of German North Atlantic Catapult Air Mail by James Graue; "What's Eating Your Mail?" by Steven Berlin (This talk was also an exhibit and consisted of a lot of nibbled mail as well as fumigated mails, etc):  "The Benjamin K. Miller Collection by Cheryl Ganz; " How to Develop a Thematic Exhibit, Parts I and II by Tony Wawrukiewicz; "Sending Airmail by Zeppelin by James Graue; "Challenges & Opportunities in Exhibiting and Judging Literature by Rich Drews and John Hochner; "Auxiliary Markings Show and Tell by Ralph Nafziger; "Carriers and Locals: The First Topical Stamps by Clifford J. Alexander; "Fiji -- Bird Definitive Overprints of 2006 to Present by James Cottington; and multiple meetings and gatherings of small and large specialty philatelic collecting societies as well as auction viewings and live auctions.

     I actually gave a talk myself about the combination of two of my collecting interests: antique toys and stamps. However, when you see the esoteric topics listed in the former paragraph, you might guess that my topic didn't attract too much attention. It was the wrong venue for my discussion. My talk works better at the local stamp club level where I have discussed this topic twice at two different clubs where both talks were well received.

     I spent some time looking at the endless exhibits. I have given some slight thought to mounting an exhibit myself. But it is a lot of work and can be quite costly if one is striving to win a higher medal. The competition at a national level requires some expensive rare philatelic material to be included with the exhibitor's knowledge both about his subject matter and the philately of the items he uses to illustrate that subject. If I am going to exhibit, I will have to start at a very low level at the local stamp show. I am considering a display that tells about the history of the Teddy Bear. I certainly have material for such an exhibit and the knowledge about Teddy's story.

     The National Postal Museum brought an exhibit of perhaps the best known stamp rarity in US philately -- the inverted Jenny. The museum owns a single such stamp, but put together an exhibit with replicas of plate blocks and other historical occurrences of this rare error.  In case you are uninformed about what the Jenny Invert is, here is first a photo and then its story.

     The Inverted Jenny major error stamps was issued on May ,20 1918 picturing the Curtiss JN-4 airplane, often called the Jenny biplane. A full pane of 100 stamps was printed in error in which the red frame was actually printed second and therefore was the part that was printed upside down. Interestingly this stamp was a rush job. The US Postal Service decided to inaugurate a regular air mail service between Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City on May 15, 1918, setting the rate at 24 cents over the regular land rate of 3 cents. Engraving only began on May 4, and the printing began on May 10 which was a Friday. Unlike previous stamps of this time period, sheets of 1/4 size containing only 100 stamps instead of the usual 400 at a time. Since there were two colors, each sheet of 100 had to be fed through the printing press twice, which creates the possibility of more errors. At least three misprinted sheets were found, removed and destroyed but this one made it through unnoticed. Stamp collectors of the day knew of the rush job and the changed printing techniques and made special runs to the post office to look for error sheets. Indeed a collector by the name of William T. Robey received the error sheet, within a week sold it to a dealer for $15,000. A second dealer purchased it for $20,000 and then that dealer got the idea of dividing up the sheet and selling a block of 8, several blocks of 4 and the rest individual stamps. Over the ensuing years, the value has steadily and enormously escalated. In December 2007, a mint never hinged single sold for $825,000, in November, one had sold for $977,500. In October, 2005, a block of four sold for $2.7 million. It was certainly interesting to see this very expensive stamp behind glass amongst the exhibit frames.
     During the course of Thursday and Friday, there were 4 First Day of Issue ceremonies to attend. These ceremonies are somewhat entertaining. There are some speakers to relate the story of the development of that particular new stamp or postal stationary issue. The stamp is unveiled and then the speakers and participants sit at a table and sign their names to either the program for the ceremony or the first day cover or both. These items then become particularly collectible. The Marshall Islands issued the stamps pictured here:

     My favorite was this set of Indian Chief Headresses drawn by Chris Calle. These are beautifully designed and portrayed. And the artist, Chris Calle was there to sign the program and a set of his First Day Covers. I am familiar with Chris's father, Paul Calle, known for his western American art. I think I even have one of his prints in my camouflage art print collection. I was excited to hear his explanation of producing the graphics on these stamps.

     The UN issued this set of 6 stamps showing star nebulae as taken by our most technologically advanced telescopes. We attendees received one of these stamps on an FDC for attending the First Day of Issue ceremony.

     The US also issued another form of the A Flag For All Seasons, this one a modified booklet issue.

     And a Folk Eagle postal stationary large format envelope.

This is a torn corner of the postal stationary, by the way and an example of
how not to remove the corner of an postal stationary unit. One should
probably collect the whole envelope, or if saving a corner cut, then
more carefully and symmetrically cutting off a corner square.

     I certainly spent enough time at the bourse tables. I enjoyed sitting and chatting with a gentleman from California who had driven with a friend to Milwaukee to attend. We chatted at the Israel Stamp Agency for quite sometime before I spent some money on Israeli stamps. The Israel Postal Service produces very collectible stamps.  This country's stamps are known for their "tabs"; that is the salvage on the stamps usually contain printed material and sometimes graphic material that elaborates on the topic of the stamp itself. Collectors save the stamps with their tabs. Even used stamps are often collected with their tabs Many of course have Biblical scenes, and others relate to modern Israel's exceptional progress in medicine, agriculture, forestry and archeology. The country produces a wonderful Stamp Year Book describing all the stamps issued that year and discussing their topics. I purchased the 2012 book along with some other Israeli issues that add to my Toys on Stamps collection. I also purchased a few things for my WESMYF collection: What Every Strikes My Fancy. In a future post, I will show you some of those stamps that I purchased at the bourse.

     In summary, I enjoyed the Stampshow 2013 very much and will try to attend another national stampshow very soon. Actually in 2015, Milwaukee is hosting the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs yearly show, Wiscopex. This will not be the size of Stampshow but it will have a lot of dealers there again. And no doubt other national stamp societies will pick Milwaukee again in the near future. Milwaukee has a nice venue for this size of convention. Attendees at Stampshow from all over the country and world for that matter commented on the convenience, the cleanliness, and the hospitality of the city.

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