Franklin Roosevelt’s Postage Stamp Quilt

Postage Stamp QuiltA new book tells the story of Estella Weaver Nukes and the special quilt she made for stamp collecting President Franklin Roosevelt.

Author and quilt historian Kyra E. Hicks told me she had no idea of Roosevelt’s passion for philately until she started researching Franklin Roosevelt’s Postage Stamp Quilt: The Story of Estella Weaver Nukes’ Presidential Gift.

The 44-page full-color paperback is available from for $12.95 (ISBN 978-0-9824796-1-2).

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.

M.C. Escher and Philately

MC Escher and PhilatelyThe Dutch journal Filatelie recently featured an article on M.C. Escher and philately (March 2011). It’s a great resource for any collector with an interest in Escher – but of course, it is written in Dutch.

Luckily for the English-language collector, Artists’ Market has published a translation of the article as a booklet. The translation was done by Bert Groeneveld, and Jeffrey Price of Artists’ Market worked with both Groeneveld and the original author, Jan Vogel, to produce the booklet.

The booklet is in color and includes additional illustrations that were not in the original article. It is available for $20 (post paid to anywhere in the U.S.; air mail oversees is an additional $15) and payment can be sent via PayPal to

The Artists’ Market gallery will hold an exhibition related to Escher and philately, with some of the original drawings and all of the Escher-related stamps on display, from Nov. 25-Dec. 30, 2011.

Jeffrey would love to hear from any philatelists who have an interest in or information on Escher’s work with postage stamps and banknotes. Contact him through Artists’ Market or by email at

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

Continue reading “Treasure Trove of Early Postal Documents Published”

77th Congress Book Released


American Philatelic Congress Logo

After Christmas 1935, Eugene Klein convened philatelists at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia for the First American Philatelic Congress. During the two-day event, they heard 19 original philatelic papers by philatelists such as Stanley Ashbrook, Clarence Brazer, James Waldo Fawcett, Max Johl, Catherine Manning, Delf Norona, and Philip Ward. The Congress published the articles in a softbound volume of 62 pages without illustrations.

This annual tradition of publishing original articles by leading philatelic and postal history scholars continued last week with the release of the 77th Congress Book at STAMPSHOW in Columbus, Ohio. Today, Congress Books are 200-page hardbound volumes, with color illustrations, containing eight or nine original papers. The 2011 volume is the sixth edited by Ken Trettin.

The Congress Book is distributed annually to members of the American Philatelic Congress. This year’s article titles convey the diversity of topics and research approaches published in the Congress Books: “The Disintegration of the Hohenzollern Empire 1918-1923” (Al Kugel); “Prexies and the Interaction of Color” (Diane DeBlois & Robert Harris); “A Census of Confederate Covers Bearing the 2¢ Green Stamp” (Dan Warren); “The Underground Railroad Post Office in Postumia Grotte 1872-1945” (Tom Lera); “The Development of Airmail Services in Poland 1918-1928” (Jerzy Kupiec-Weglinski & Jacek Kosmala); “The Salam ‘Pointing Hand PAID’ Handstamps: America’s First Pictorial Postal Markings” (Mark Schwartz); “The Puzzle of the Piscataqua Postmarks” (Nancy Clark); and “The Court Delivery Stamps of Imperial Austria” (Ingert Kuzych).

Collectively, the nearly 1000 articles published over the past 77 years represent a significant body of philatelic scholarship, which I consult often. I was able to complete my set of Congress Books this summer when I found No. 7 (1941) on the APRL library sales shelf. For those who do not own a set, they are widely available in philatelic libraries. The last paper index to the Congress Books was published in 2006 (Nos. 1-72). The Congress maintains an electronic version of the index, updated through 2010; and Leonard Hartmann’s Philatelic Bibliopole has a list of authors and titles that can be “Ctrl+F” searched.

Western Ukrainian Stamps Explained


Western Ukrainian National Republic

Western Ukraine is one of several short-lived political entities in Eastern Europe whose stamps and history are often confusing to collectors. Ukrainians living in the provinces of Galicia and Bukovina declared their independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire on November 1, 1918 and established the Western Ukrainian National Republic (ZUNR). Soon afterwards, the Polish population of Lviv, the capital city, rose up against Ukrainian rule. On December 1, 1918 the ZUNR agreed to unite with the remainder of Ukraine, which had declared its independence from Russia. However, by July 1919 Polish forces had occupied most of Western Ukraine and held it until World War II, with League of Nations sanction.

Western Ukrainian Postage Stamps

Leftover Austrian stamps circulated widely in Western Ukraine. Nearly all of the stamps issued by the ZUNR were overprints on Austrian or Bosnian stamps. The stamps issued by Polish and Romanian occupation forces were also overprints on Austrian stamps. Dr. Ingert Kuzych worked with the editors of the Scott Catalog to revise and expand their listings for Ukraine as well as Western Ukraine. His latest book, A Comprehensive Catalog of Western Ukrainian Postage Stamps, 1918-1919, greatly expands upon the Scott Catalog listings with overprint varieties, valuations on cover, printing history, plus a little bit of general history. Dr. Kuzych edited the Ukrainian Philatelist for eleven years and has published numerous books and articles on Ukrainian philately. His newest book is available from the Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society bookstore.

Large U.S. Banknotes Identification Guide published

Large US Banknotes Identification GuideThe American Philatelic Society has published Large U.S. Banknotes Identification Guide by Bob Pipes and Steve Einhorn.

The book aims to help the collector identify these stamps, and includes large illustrations and a summary of the information and methods used to distinguish between soft and hard paper, which is crucial in correctly identifying the stamps in a series.

The book is available for purchase from the APS Marketplace.