What's Your Favorite Philatelic Literature?

Two more inches of snow politely held off until after the February meeting of the Mount Nittany Philatelic Society at the American Philatelic Research Library in Bellefonte, Pa., postponed from the prior week when sub-zero wind chill brought central Pennsylvania to a standstill. The APRL is where the club usually holds monthly meetings, but was an especially appropriate venue for the late February get-together of a dozen hardy souls, because the subject was philatelic literature.

Passing in ReviewMNPS members were asked, “What stamp-related books have you found indispensable, and why? Which publications would you recommend to others in the stamp hobby?”

One of the first recommendations by a MNPS member was Robert B. Morgan’s Hungarian Hyperinflation of 1945-1946: the Postage Rates and Postal History of History’s Most Impressive Inflation, published in 2003 by the Collectors’ Club of Chicago. Hungary’s postwar economic collapse, reflected in mail rates and stamps, was literally unimaginable. At its peak, which came about in July 1946, inflation was 41,900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000%. That’s 41.9 quadrillion percent, as Europe calculates it.

Another club member had words of praise for Passing in Review, LTC. Herman L. Halle’s account of the political chaos that engulfed post-WWII Germany, largely told with original documents from that turbulent era. Richard Nakles singled out for praise Ireland: Identification of the Rialtas and Saorstat Overprints, a slim guide to Ireland’s challenging 1922-23 “Provisional” and “Free State” issues, with a  transparency to overlay onto stamps that would tell genuine overprints from forgeries. Created by Joe Foley, this helpful tool for collectors was reprinted from the April 1975 American Philatelist.

Ed Tracey was pleased with what he’d learned from the 238-page Precancel Stamp Society Catalogue of United States Bureau Precancels, published in 2005. Dennis Gilson had kind words for The Micarelli Identification Guide to U.S. Stamps, of which the APRL has at least five different editions from 1981 to 2006, all but the earliest published by Scott. Dennis claims he always has this book by Charles N. Micarelli at his side, a reliable tool in making sense of even the subtlest nuances of U.S. philately.

The Micarelli Idenitifcation Guide to U.S. StampsWorthy of mention in the discussion were several local authors of note: Joe Hahn, who has done work on the stamps of Paraguay and El Salvador, not to mention John L. Kay, co-author with Chester M. Smith, Jr., of Pennsylvania Postal History. (The 1996 630-page update to that book, first published in 1976, is available for sale from the APS here.)

In fact, another co-author actually attended the meeting ― MNPS stalwart Louis F. Geschwindner, Jr., who in 1982 wrote The Time Marking Machine Co. and the B.F. Cummins Co. with Reg Morris and John Koontz for the Machine Cancel Society.

MNPS President Don Heller shared a tale from his youth in the hobby, and produced a much-used, long-loved, endlessly thumbed copy of Volume 13 of Billig’s Philatelic Handbook. In his boyhood, as an eager neophyte collecting stamps of Romania, Don and his father paid a family visit to Chicago where the boy met a sophisticated adult with an abiding interest in those same stamps, Rev. George C. Muresan.

Muresan told young Don that if he was serious about following Romania, he must get Billig’s Vol. 13, with its 36-page Catalog Listing of Romania by Otto W. Friedl & James R. Arnold. As Heller notes in his online guide to Philatelic Literature on Romania, “Friedl was a stamp dealer and expert, associated with the Mercury Stamp Company and the Friedl Expert Committee, in New York.” Heller was hooked, and the rest is a life much of which has been well spent following philately.

The first flakes fell as the meeting ended, and we all headed out through the dark to warm homes, hot toddies or cocoa, and the welcome pleasure that a good book always brings.

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Is there a book, paper or magazine that has influenced what and how you’ve collected, one that has enhanced your enjoyment of the stamp hobby?

If so, why not share it with fellow philatelists, by posting a comment here at the APRL blog?