Philatelic Incunabula


Das Buch zur IPHLA
Das Buch zur IPHLA


Maassen: Chronik der deutschen Philatelie
Maassen: Chronik der deutschen Philatelie

Incunabula, from the Latin cunae meaning cradle, refers to books published during the infancy of printing, usually before 1500.With the growth of stamp collecting in the 1850s, dealers published the first catalogs, albums, and periodicals. This philatelic literature printed before 1875 is generally referred to as our incunabula. German philatelic literature began in 1862 when a stamp album and a catalogue were published in Leipzig. Two books, celebrating the 150th anniversary of German philatelic publishing, are being released in conjunction with the International Philatelic Literature Exhibition, IPHLA 2012, in Mainz, November 2-4.

Das Buch zur IPHLA is the official catalogue and guide to the exhibition. In addition to the program details and lists of exhibits and exhibitors, there are 160 pages of essays on philatelic literature. The 320 page, hardcover volume in German is available from Heinrich Köhler for 15 € plus shipping.

Wolfgang Maassen, a well-known scholar of German philatelic literature and history has compiled Chronik der deutschen Philatelie: Katalog und Handbuck der philatelistischen und postgeschichtlichen Literatur 1862-1914. This first catalog of philatelic literature published in German before 1914 contains over 1200 listings, with valuations, for monographs, pamphlets, catalogs, handbooks, and many journals. It will become an indispensible reference work for collectors of early German philatelic literature. The 300 page, hardcover volume in German and English is available from Heinrich Köhler for 24,90 € plus shipping.


Philatelic Literature Rarities Auction


Lot 9017, Heinrich Köhler Auction #352
Lot 9017, Heinrich Köhler Auction #352

Senf of Leipzig published an international stamp album of extraordinary quality in 1878. It was bound in white vellum, tooled in gold leaf, with gilt edged parchment pages, and gold clasps. Having an original price of 60 gold marks, only a few albums were sold. One copy has survived in mint condition, with no stamps ever mounted in it. Heinrich Köhler will auction the album on November 3, 2012 at the International Philatelic Literature Exhibition, IPHLA 2012, in Mainz. The starting bid for the Senf album (Lot 9017) is 7000 €.

Besides this beautiful album, many other scarce titles are offered in the Köhler literature auction (No. 352) which contains 941 lots of stamp albums, monographs, atlases, postal regulations, auction catalogs, and journals. Although there is a strong emphasis on German literature, a wide range of countries are represented. The searchable, online version of the catalog unfortunately lacks any of the illustrations; a print copy can be requested from Heinrich Köhler.


Savings Stamps

United States Savings Stamps by Harry K. CharlesSavings stamps were an important financial tool to many Americans for sixty years. Purchased with pocket change and accumulated on cards or folders, the stamps provided savers with a method of gathering funds for larger financial goals. Harry K. Charles has told their story in United States Savings Stamps: The Postal & Treasury Savings Stamp Systems of the United States, published by and available from the United States Stamp Society.

Postal Savings was established in the United States in 1910, after nearly 40 years of Congressional inaction. Deposits to open or add to an account were only accepted in whole dollar amounts. The 10¢ Postal Savings stamps facilitated accumulation of a dollar for a deposit. The Post Office created this savings vehicle at a time when many communities lacked a bank and periodic bank failures (more than two decades before FDIC insurance) caused considerable distrust of banks among many. Since European governments had offered postal savings for decades before the United States, the program was familiar to and popular with many immigrants.

 When the United States entered World War I, a few years later, the Treasury Department needed to borrow billions of dollars. The Post Office played a major role in the sale of 25¢ Thrift Stamps that could be accumulated to purchase $5 War Savings Certificate Stamps that paid 4% interest at maturity. Treasury stamps were important for financing both World Wars as well as the Cold War. All remaining Postal Savings accounts were closed in 1966 and the sale of Treasury Savings stamps ended in 1970.

 The book provides much more than merely the details of the stamp issues. Harry has included the regulations, savings cards, post office forms, meters, slogan cancels, and a very nice chapter on the ephemera used to promote these stamps.

The Best New Exhibiting Book

Philatelic Summit Papers

Imagine being able to enter the thought process of a top exhibitor. James Peter “Jamie” Gough, whose exhibit The UPU and Its Impact on Global Postal Services just won the Grand at AmeriStamp in Atlanta, has written a book telling how he turned a shoebox collection of covers, selected because they were “very interesting as to the ‘why’ – in addition to having to be unusual (not having seen one before) and pretty” into a world-class exhibit.

Despite its rather formal title, The Ever-Changing Paradigm of Philatelic Exhibiting is actually much like having a conversation with Jamie. Beginning with the importance of developing a coherent storyline, he shares advice on many aspects of exhibiting from title page design to layout and mounting, as well as his experiences in philatelic judging. Rather than rules and prescriptions, Jamie provides guidance that will ignite your thought process and help you to view your own collections and exhibits with a fresh perspective. While imparting valuable tips to veteran, as well as novice, exhibitors, he also offers those who are want to exhibit for the first time a comfortable entry. Aided by Jamie’s book, those who attend stamp shows without spending much time among the frames will find exhibiting less overwhelming and more understandable.

Available from Postiljonen for 20€ plus shipping, the book is the first in their Philatelic Summit Papers series based on papers to be presented at the 2nd International Philatelic Summit in Malmö in April. The Ever-Changing Paradigm of Philatelic Exhibiting is the best exhibiting book published in several decades.

Moroney Prize Deadline

It is time to prepare submissions for the Rita Lloyd Moroney Awards. Each year, the Historian’s Office at the United States Postal Service awards two cash prizes for the best historical writing about the American post office. The first is $2000 presented to a faculty member, independent scholar, or public historian for a journal article, book chapter, or book; and the second, $1000 to an undergraduate or graduate student for a journal article, book chapter, or conference paper. This year they were won by Philip F. Rubio for his book, There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice, and Equality (Chapel Hill, 2010) and Joseph M. Adelman for his article, “A Constitutional Conveyance of Intelligence, Public and Private: The Post Office, the Business of Printing, and the American Revolution,” published in Enterprise & Society.There's Alway's Work at the Post Office

Any topic in the history of the United States postal system from the colonial era to the present is eligible for consideration. Though submissions must be historical in character, they can draw on the methods of other disciplines such as geography, cultural studies, literature, communications, or economics. Comparative or international historical studies are eligible if the United States postal system is central to the discussion. An independent panel of academic scholars, chaired by Dr. Richard Kielbowicz at the University of Washington, makes the selections. To be considered for the 2012 prizes, submissions must be postmarked by December 1, 2011. Winners will be announced in April 2012.

The awards were established in 2006 to honor Rita Lloyd Moroney, who began conducting historical research for the Postmaster General in 1962 and served as Historian of the U.S. Postal Service from 1973 to 1991. Ten prizes have been awarded to date.

Postal History at the Post Office

USPS History Web

The United States Postal Service provides a wealth of resources, reaching back to its roots in colonial America, for those interested in its history. Last summer the Historian’s Office redesigned their Postal History web site. It provides access to the essays, reports, and lists they have written and compiled about people who have worked at the Post Office as well as information on Stamps, Postage Rates, Mail Transportation and Delivery, Postal Uniforms, Post Office Buildings, and Historical Statistics for the Post Office. The Photo Gallery displays a small fraction of the pictures held in the Post Office collection grouped by people, vehicles, buildings, equipment, airmail, and railroads. Research Sources links to other significant postal history collections and provides a link for contacting the Historian’s Office.

Ochopee, Florida Post Office

Postmaster Finder is one of the most valuable resources. This growing database contains the names and dates of service for postmasters who served at more than 15,000 Post Offices, a number that increases weekly. It includes nearly all postmasters appointed after 1986 and for some post offices, the records stretch back to the 1700s. Besides personal names, the data can be searched by city, county, state, ZIP Code, or dates of establishment and discontinuance for post offices.

The USPS corporate library supports the information needs of the headquarters staff and is open to outside researchers by appointment. While its strength lies in the documents, reports, and magazines produced by the Post Office as well as Congressional reports and hearings about the Post Office, there is also a good collection of postal history books. For access, contact Raymond Plante, 202-268-2906 ( in the library, or Jenny Lynch, 202-268-2074 ( and Melody Selvage, 202-268-2532 ( in the Historian’s Office.

Christmas is Coming

I am breaking my usual prohibition on discussing Christmas while there is still Halloween candy in the stores, because this book will probably sell out quickly.

1930 Iceland Christmas Seal

In 1903, a Danish postal clerk conceived the idea of adding charitable stamps to holiday greetings mailed during the Christmas season. The money raised from the sale of these stamps was used to help children suffering from tuberculosis. With the approval of King Christian IX, the world’s first Christmas Seal was issued in 1904 with a portrait of the Danish Queen and the word Julen. Christmas Seals spread rapidly to other parts of Scandinavia. They also came to the United States in 1907 after Emily Bissell read an article by Danish-born journalist Jacob Riis.

Every five years, AFA in Denmark has published a catalog of Scandinavian Christmas Seals (Julemaerker Norden). The 2012 edition will be a special enlarged volume including all the major and minor varieties as well as local Christmas Seals. This color catalog will list and price all varieties, imperforates, sheets, booklets, and proofs.  The 2007 edition was 344 pages; the new edition will more than double to 856 pages because of the expanded coverage. It is a sturdy softbound volume in Danish with an English introduction. The publisher does not plan to repeat this enlarged edition again. Available for $115 plus shipping from Jay Smith.

A Boot Full of Postcards

A Boot Full of Postcards by Enrico Sturani

Whether flags, national colors, monarchs, founding fathers, or allegorical figures, all nations have iconic images by which they are instantly recognized. Italy has one more of these instantly recognizable symbolic representations, based upon its geographic shape – the boot, which Enrico Sturani has taken for the title of his new book on Italian postcards. In Italia! Sveglia! Uno Stivale Di Cartoline tutti i simboli della nostra Patria [Italy! Wake Up! A “Boot” Full of Postcards, Symbols of our Homeland] he reproduces 232 political, commercial, or advertising postcards from the late nineteenth century up to the modern period that depict a wide range of Italian allegoric, patriotic, and propaganda images. After essays on allegories and patriotic symbols, Sturani uses the postcards to consider how Italians have viewed their country through two World Wars, under Fascism, and in the Libyan War. Only a few postcards depicted are after the 1940s. Mail conveys many types of messages, some of which are visual. Learning to read these visual clues is as important to illustrated mail as the rates and routes are to postal history. Even those, like myself, who do not read Italian, will find the book an interesting perspective on postcards. Card cover, 156 pages, full color, bibliography, €27 from Vaccari as one of their “History through documents” series.

A Crime Wave

A retired inspector, Howard K. Petschel spent his career investigating postal crimes, including many of the counterfeiting schemes during the 1970s. Distinct from forgeries, whose market is primarily to collectors, counterfeit stamps are printed and sold to defraud the Post Office of its revenue.

Stamp Counterfeiting, by Howard Petschel

His new book, Stamp Counterfeiting: The Evolution of an Unrecognized Crime, retells true crime stories beginning in the 1890s, when the Post Office believes this crime first occurred in theUnited States, through the 1940s. However, he does cite an 1863 letter about counterfeit stamps from the postmaster ofMason,Michiganthat apparently drew no official response from the Post Office Department. While Petschel the attributes origins of counterfeiting to the financial crash of the early 1890s, criminality and economic woes have a much longer history. I think he overlooks another significant factor. The same advances in printing technology during the 1890s that flooded the mails with cheaper and better quality illustrated envelopes as well as magazines could have provided the same benefits to a criminal enterprise.

Rather than go into the technical differences of the counterfeit stamps, Petschel has focused on the stories of the people involved – the forgers and the detectives. This book is a sequel his now out-of-print Spurious Stamps (APS, 1997). While discussing many of the same cases, it provides new details gleaned police records, newspapers, and the National Archives. However, it lacks the bibliography, index, and color illustrations of his first book. Petschel’s new book is an enjoyable read and a complement to the original. Card cover, $26 plus shipping, from your favorite literature dealer.

Treasure Trove of Early Postal Documents Published

US 2

After 15 years of editing and preparation, one of the most significant books in American postal history and philately is at the printer. With never-before access to the original Post Office documents, The Travers Papers: Official Records – United States Postal History and Postage Stamps – 1834-1851 tells the story of the design, production, distribution, and destruction of the first United States postage stamps, the fabled 1847s. The compilers, George Brett, Wilson Hulme, and most especially Tom Alexander have written essays placing these original documents within the political and social context of the American postal reform movement. Barbara Mueller contributed her decades of philatelic writing experience to the editing of this project. Not only does this book answer many important questions about the 1847 stamps themselves;  it is the also most comprehensive collection of documents related to the U.S. Post Office during the years covered. Beginning in 1834, Tom provides the why and how background for the first U.S. stamp issue. Jim Lee will publish the 1300 page work as two clothbound volumes in a deluxe slipcase for $300 to be shipped around Thanksgiving. A pre-publication price of $225 (plus shipping) is only available until October 15th.

Thomas J. Alexander

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