To Grow Your Specialty, Share Your Know-How

Perfins Club logoOtto F. Wolke is a longtime APS member who lives about 70 miles from Bellefonte, PA. Earlier this fall, Otto brought a wonderful gift with him on a visit to the American Philatelic Center: a fresh, sound, complete copy of the Catalog of United States Perfins, edited by John C. Randall.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the gift of such a catalog is no big deal in a library with literally miles of shelves, but you’d be wrong. A current catalog is always a sought-after asset, whatever your philatelic specialty. With perfins ― the perforated initials that firms punched through mint stamps to prevent misappropriation and misuse before meters were widely used ― the number of corporations, smaller businesses, banks, utilities and government departments confirmed as perfin-users still steadily grows, year by year. Continue reading “To Grow Your Specialty, Share Your Know-How”

An Exemplary Book by a Modest Author

Montana Precancels Catalog & Guidebook 1Charles Adrion is a modest man. On Sept. 28, in the “Press & Publications” listings on The Stamp Collecting Forum, he informed collectors of a new “Montana Precancels – free catalog online” with this flowery announcement, printed here in its entirety:

“This book shows all known denominations precancelled in Montana. If you have any others in your collection, I’d love to hear about them.”

Perhaps he would have made a bigger deal out of the new catalog if someone else had been the author, but in fact the Montana Precancels Catalog & Guidebook was his creation.

It is not just an excellent book on an eminently collectible U.S. stamp specialty, but it is the first publication on the subject that the APRL has seen since J.C. Whitham’s 24-page Official Precancel Catalog for Montana, published in 1952. That consisted of 24 three-ring-punched 5” by 7” loose-leaf pages with reduced-size black line illustrations of the precancels only, and was available for $2.00. (Using the Consumer Price Index, $2.00 in 1952 is equal to $17.72 in 2015.) Continue reading “An Exemplary Book by a Modest Author”

Not a Small World, After All

The American Philatelic Research Library regularly lends up to five books by mail to APS members wherever the U.S. Postal Service can reach them. This standard five-week loan by mail allows for time in transit. If seven weeks go by and the books have not been returned, we take the first steps to get them back.

On March 3, I emailed an overdue reminder to a 27-year member of the APS to whom we had sent the two volumes of Intercontinental Airmails 55 days before. I was not prepared for his reply:

“What a coincidence!  The books arrived YESTERDAY.  I am constantly amazed (dismayed?) at how long it takes for surface mail to get here from the Mainland.”

Seven weeks and five days in transit? It was my turn to be amazed. No wonder he’s interested in Intercontinental Airmails!

Then I noted the last line in his address: Saipan, MP  96950

For those of you unfamiliar, as I was, with that obscure postal abbreviation, “MP” means the Northern Marianas Islands. Military history buffs will recall Saipan as the scene of a Pacific battle ― now there’s an oxymoron on which no one ever remarks ― in the summer of 1944. Continue reading “Not a Small World, After All”

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. Continue reading “What's Your Favorite Philatelic Literature?”

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. Continue reading “What’s Your Favorite Philatelic Literature?”

Meet Fred Baumann

Fred BaumannAs I’ve come to learn working here during the last two years, the American Philatelic Research Library is a remarkable resource masterfully marshaled by a small, highly talented team of professionals with remarkable skills. APRL Technical Services Coordinator Betsy Gamble has untangled the most complicated bibliographic questions for me. Reference Assistant Scott Tiffney tackles complex, esoteric queries each day with a confidence born of long experience and a familiarity with what’s available and how to seek it out. And Librarian Tara Murray, as Director of Information Services, brings special expertise to the task of overseeing and organizing the vast array of components to serve our many patrons across America and far beyond as efficiently and helpfully as possible, aided both by the staff and the volunteers who give generously of their time.

I have none of the talents of these fine people, but am best regarded as a lowly scrivener, with a knowledge of philately that is six inches deep and three miles wide. I have written for Linn’s Stamp News, Stamp Collector, Scott Stamp Monthly, and sundry other publications, and have both taken courses from and taught courses for the APS, which I joined 30 years ago. I have had a serious interest in philatelic literature since I worked for a Michigan stamp auction firm that specialized in selling and reprinting handbooks back in 1986.

What interests me are the aspects of the stamp hobby and its vast literature that aren’t readily covered elsewhere: the many nooks and crannies where history and philately overlap and connect, and those questions we receive from APS members and APRL patrons that don’t have obvious or ready-made answers. These fascinate me, and I hope to shine some light on them in a helpful way that you, too, will find interesting, here in the PLR blog.

Please feel free to get in touch with me. If you have questions or comments, you can post them here on the blog, or see the APRL website for contact information.

Collecting your hometown postal history

A longtime APS member from a town in Medina County, Ohio, recently wrote to the APRL to ask one short question: “Is there anything in print about collecting hometown postal history?”

1882 cincinnati '4' duplex cancel on mfg cvrThe short answer is, yes, mostly short articles about covers found by collectors that fill niches in such collections. Many of these pop up in state postal history journals, like the “Hometown Post Offices” columns in every issue of the quarterly New Jersey Postal History Society Journal. Occasionally you may find a longer piece on the hometowns of specific collectors, how they came to collect, and what they’ve learned along the way, such as this hometown column on Cincinnati by former APS President Janet Klug.

However, our sense was that this concise correspondent was asking for a handbook or collector’s guide, a “how-to” book. That we do not have ― and perhaps we never will ― even though hometown collections appeal to a wide range of people.

This is because not only are no two hometowns exactly alike, but no two hometown collectors are likely to collect their postal artifacts in exactly the same way. In addition, there are fierce arguments over what does and does not belong in such a collection. Advertising covers? First day covers? What about incoming and outgoing foreign mail? There is no “right” or “wrong” when collecting to suit yourself, and most hometown collectors do exactly that.

If you, too, are interested in hometown collecting, the APS Education Department has a great opportunity in a StampCampus Collecting Connections module to be offered online on Friday, January 16, at 2:00 p.m. EST.  Veteran collector Tom Horn, Director of the APS Sales Division, will guide the one-hour module titled “Collecting Your Hometown Postal History.” Tom’s session will help you to discover sources of information about your hometown’s history, where to look for postal history related to your town, and offer tips on making the wisest buying decisions.

Because these courses are offered online using GoToMeeting software, they are far more affordable than APS courses traditionally have been ― just $20 for APS members, and only $50 for non-members. (Non-members can join APS now to save on the tuition.)  The session requires a computer, speakers, a microphone (useful for participation, but not required); having a web cam with a built-in microphone would be most helpful.

Session enrollment is limited. To find out more, visit the APS Education Department’s StampCampus Collecting Connections page at the APS website.