In the course of doing reference work here at the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL), there are often resources that spring up in the library collection that at first glance would not necessarily be considered to have much research value or practical philatelic information capable of answering a specific research request. One of these unique and often overlooked resources here at the APRL is what are known as the American Philatelic Society Member Lists, originally called the “List of Members” and still later by the 1970’s, the “Annual Membership Directory”. The original Member Lists date back to 1889 when they took the form of a loosely bound typewritten list arranged alphabetically by member surname. The 22 page 1889 list provides the member’s number in the American Philatelic Association (as it was known then), their full name, and title prefix (Dr. or Rev. for example) as well as an address which could be a P.O. Box number, just a city, or a full street and city address. Continue reading “Resource of the Month: Member Lists”
One of the more common reference requests received at the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) concerns forgery information for not only U.S. stamp issues but also worldwide issues. Among the more recent and notable resources for forgery information available at the APRL include the Serrane Guide and the Tedesco Index of Literature in the English Language that Describes Postage Stamp Forgeries (the latter being available online from the APRL) . Even the latest editions of the Scott’s U.S. Specialized Catalogue have begun to include listings for counterfeit stamps. Often overlooked but no less useful is one of the earliest attempts to compile resource material about known forgeries of worldwide stamps, Album Weeds, also known by its subtitle How to Detect Forged Stamps.
Album Weeds began as a series of articles in The American Philatelist under the title “The Spud Papers” first written by noted British philatelists W. Dudley Atlee and Edward Loines Pemberton and later by English priest and philatelist Robert Brisco Earée. Earée, Atlee and Pemberton wrote the articles, which appeared in various philatelic publications between 1867 and 1881, in an attempt to describe various known worldwide forgeries. They introduced their initial series of articles by writing “if philatelists would only study their stamps a little more, instead of merely trying to see how many they can collect, we are certain that they would soon learn for themselves far more than any book or the Spud Papers can teach them.”
Some of their earliest submissions also included an actual example of the forgery being described along with explanatory text. Their writings proved highly beneficial and popular to collectors at the time and were eventually compiled and formatted into a book with illustrations under the title Album Weeds.
The first edition was published in one volume in 1882 by Stanley Gibbons. Later in 1892 a second one-volume edition was published followed by a two-volume third edition in 1906. Today the 1906 third edition has been reprinted by different publishers as an eight-volume set.
Organized alphabetically by country and then chronologically by the date of each forged stamp issue, the resource continues to be a remarkable compilation of forgery information. Relying primarily on text to describe each country’s known forgeries with some minimal supplementary illustrations included, each country section begins with an introductory paragraph detailing the extent of each country’s forged issues followed by in some cases subheadings titled “Paper,” “Watermarks” and “Perforations” for further explanations of each. Following these general sections are descriptions of specific issues listed chronologically with further details under the subheadings of “Genuine” then “First Forgery,” “Second Forgery” and so on. Also included in each country section are descriptions of known forged postmarks. What ultimately makes Album Weeds a valuable and useful resource still is that it provides detailed primarily textual accounts of some of the earliest and most significant stamp forgeries.
Whether it be the 1851 issues of Hawaii or the 1861 Confederate States New Orleans issue, Albums Weeds provides extremely useful historic, and in many cases still current, information regarding the genuine characteristics of these particular stamps as well as their known forgeries.
Various editions of Album Weeds are available in the main book collection on the first floor of the APRL and can be used onsite or requested remotely for borrowing by APS members.
Back in June I had the opportunity to visit the Vincent Grave Greene Philatelic Research Foundation in Toronto, Ontario. Charles Verge, Secretary of the Foundation, Sheila Moll, the Head Librarian, and Kathy Hartley, the Reference Librarian there were my hosts showing me around the Library and the facilities of the Foundation.
The Foundation is located at 10 Summerhill Avenue in Toronto, Ontario in the beautiful Summerhill neighborhood just north of the downtown, easily reachable by car or more conveniently by a nearby subway station. The Foundation is home to the Harry Sutherland Research Library which houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of Canadian and British North America philatelic literature in North America. The collection includes all of the most important monographs, journals, Postal Guides, Postmaster General Reports, auction catalogues and research papers on British North America. Many of the earliest journals in the collection have been scanned and are available digitally for full-text searching. The Research Library is a contributor to the David Straight Memorial Philatelic Union Catalog and the Global Philatelic Library, making their collection searchable online.
The Research Foundation is also home to Canada’s foremost expertizing service for the stamps and postal history of Canada and British North America. In February 2012 the Foundation purchased a Foster Freeman VSC6000/HS Video Spectral Comparator which allows the Foundation’s Expertizing Committee to examine items under some of the highest magnification commercially available as well as exposing the material to a wide range of wavelengths of ultraviolet, infrared and filtered visible light. Also on site is a large meeting room with exhibit frames mounted on its walls. The space is used regularly by a number of local clubs and societies, notably the Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada, the Greater Toronto Area Philatelic Alliance and the Canadian Aerophilatelic Society. But finally, one of the truly unique objects, especially for this native philatelic traveler and librarian, is the original safe of the Marks Stamp Company, one of Canada’s oldest and most significant stamp dealers. The safe is still operational and is a centerpiece in the Research Library.
If you plan to visit Canada near Toronto or are just interested in the philatelic history of British North America, be sure to make time to visit the Vincent Graves Greene Research Foundation. They are open Mondays through Thursdays and one Saturday a month from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and by appointment. Email or phone ahead (firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-921-2073) just in case.
One of the lesser known catalogs still in publication that can be found in the American Philatelic Research Library collection is the Brookman stamp catalog, more properly referred to as the Brookman Price Guide or Price List. Although in the shadow of the more prominent and highly regarded Scott, Stanley Gibbons, Michel and Yvert & Tellier stamp catalogs, the Brookman Price Guide is still considered a very reputable “retail” price list that, for the purposes of the general or beginning collector, can provide very valuable information. The original Brookman Price List, a little more than 30 pages published over 80 years ago, was nothing more than a list of philatelic items on sale with the Brookman Stamp Company. Now published by Brookman, Barrett & Worthen in Bedford, New Hampshire, the current catalog is over 390 pages and has grown to become a combination of the Scott United States Specialized Catalogue published by Amos Publishing and the annual Postal Guide to U.S. Stamps produced by the U.S. Postal Service.
The Brookman Price Guide includes not only listings and values for all regularly issued U.S. stamps and back of the book issues, but the guide also includes listings for postal stationery, revenues, booklets, state and federal hunting permit and Indian reservation issues, first day covers, souvenir cards, souvenir pages, and uncut press sheets as well as several other types of philatelic material. In addition to the regular U.S. listings the catalog also includes philatelic information for “U.S Related Areas” such as Canal Zone, Cuba, Guam and Confederate States to name a few. If that’s not enough, the current catalog also contains listings for the regular issues of the United Nations, Canada, and the Canadian Provinces, all in one book. Although the format of the catalog is a scaled down version of the U.S. Specialized, all listings include Scott numbers, image illustrations, some watermark information and prices for single issues, sets of various sizes (4, 6, 8 and 12), mint sheets, and plate blocks. Keeping in mind that the Brookman Price Guide is primarily meant as a pricing guide and sales inventory for the stamp company, the catalog’s listed values can be slightly higher than those found in the Scott U.S. Specialized or other standard catalogs but the inclusion of prices for mint sheets, plate blocks, booklets and stamp sets as well as individual issues affords the collector the unique opportunity of consulting another recognized catalog for U.S. material in order to make value comparisons when purchasing various philatelic items.
But one of the truly unique additions to the Brookman Price Guide and one that is not found in the Scott U.S. Specialized or other similar catalogs is a section devoted entirely to autograph collecting. The autograph section is organized under various subheadings such as Astronauts, Authors, Entertainers, Politicians, Scientists, Athletes and Celebrities. The listings include specific values for autographs found on photographs, letters, cards, or covers as well as just signatures on a piece of paper. This section of the price list has proven to be a valuable and one-of-a-kind resource in the Library when answering requests that involve a cover or postal card which includes a signature such as a President, an astronaut, or even in some cases a Postmaster General. One recent request involved the value of a postal card depicting the 1969 moon landing bearing the signature of astronaut Neil Armstrong. Although no catalog or price guide can ever conclusively evaluate the true value of such a distinctive piece of philatelic ephemera, the Brookman Price Guide was able to provide a reliable starting point for the market value of such an item (it’s $1,200, by the way!).
If you are interested in borrowing or just using the latest Brookman Price Guide come by for a visit or request it by contacting the Library. The latest Brookman Price Guides are located on the first floor of the Library’s public space right next to the main Reference Desk.
For many specialties, we acquire new catalogs annually or every few years. This is not the case for worldwide postal stationery. The most comprehensive catalog is still the Priced Catalogue of Postal Stationery of the World, more commonly referred to as Higgins & Gage.
Member Richard Thompson recently lent us some supplements he had acquired that were more up-to-date than ours, and we are now confident that we have the most up-to-date editions and supplements available. Still, that means the most recent date on any of our Higgins & Gage volumes is 1986, more than 30 years ago.
Though the pricing, even with the supplements, is out-of-date, Higgins & Gage is in regular demand for its detailed listings and illustrations and comprehensive coverage. The numbering system is also used regularly.
“What do you have at the APRL regarding the history of Artcraft Cachets?” was a recent reference request received at the APRL. Apart from some articles found in the American First Day Cover Society’s (AFDCS) own journal, First Days, and the various handbooks and catalogues which are housed in the circulating collection at the APRL that list, illustrate, and in some instances value Artcraft and other cachetmakers and their cachets, the APRL also holds another unique collection which over the years has grown thanks to contributions from the AFDCS and its members and that can assist in answering this question. Starting in the late 1970’s the AFDCS decided to donate its considerable archives of materials to the APRL for safekeeping and for use by future first day cover researchers. The initial donation comprised ten four-drawer filing cabinets but has now through ongoing donations by the AFDCS and its members grown to take up 45 linear feet of compact shelving space in the closed stacks area on the second floor of the APRL.
The AFDCS Archives consists of over 3,000 file folders labeled mostly by cachetmaker and arranged alphabetically with the files including such valuable research information as original advertisements, correspondence, unserviced cachets, biographies, article clippings, photographs of the cachetmaker and their cachets, as well as in some rare instances, serviced cachets. Not all AFDCS Archives file folders contain all of this useful information but many include a good number of the aforementioned items. Continue reading “Resource of the month: American First Day Cover Society Archives”
Need to know the postcard rate in Czechoslovakia in 1920? Have a Scott catalog number and need to know the Michel number? Want to learn more about the Inverted Jenny?
Every day, APS members turn to the library staff with questions like these, and our library staff uncover the answers. We can help you search our online catalog, provide more information about a book or journal in our collection, and even recommend resources on your topic.
For National Library Week in April, we featured each of the APRL’s five staff members on this blog. We are experts in philatelic literature, and we can help you build your knowledge and enjoy your hobby to the fullest.
Visit our library services page to learn more about what we can do for you and how to get in touch with us.
Tara Murray is the Librarian and Director of Information Services for the American Philatelic Research Library. She manages the library’s operations and collections and leads digitization projects.
Jane King Fohn was interested in making her gold and grand award-winning exhibit, The 9-cent Alamo Stamp and its First Day Covers, available to a wider audience. A display in the American Philatelic Center would only reach the limited audience of those who can make the trip to Bellefonte and wouldn’t be permanent, so I suggested that Jane lend us her exhibit for scanning. When she agreed and sent us the exhibit, we scanned it and added the digital copy to the library collection. It is now accessible through the library catalog and the APS online exhibit collection.
Fred Baumann is a Library Assistant three days each week at the APRL. He helps patrons select materials, checks material in and out at the circulation desk, keeps a close eye on overdue books, processes payments for library services, shelves and locates books and periodicals, and prices donated books for resale.
When I moved to Bellefonte as an active collector a decade ago, I found the APRL both enchanting and intimidating. With hundreds of books and journals about the things I collected, the chief challenge was discovering what was indispensable and what was not. That task is even more difficult for patrons searching an unfamiliar online catalog from afar.
While I’m not a professional librarian, I do bring to the library an intimate familiarity with the stamp hobby both as a collector and as a writer for the last 33 years. My experience sometimes enables me to find precisely what a patron needs.
A collector requested literature about stamps of Bosnia & Herzegovina from the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The best-known reference is an 87-year-old text, too rare and fragile to leave the library. What he didn’t know was that there’s a superb catalog in full color with current stamp values, robustly bound and in great shape, that we could lend him without a worry. He was delighted, replying that he “found some valuable info for just about every stamp in my collection.”
Krystal Harter is a Library Assistant at the APRL, and is responsible for responding to researcher requests, processing incoming donations, and checking in new journals.
Collectors, organizations, and non-collector families are very generous when it comes to donating their accumulations of books, journals, notes, and other philatelic material. We actively receive current journals from approximately 525 organizations which are checked into our card catalog, online catalog, and then shelved for immediate use. Donated archival notes, clippings and research materials are catalogued and placed in our archival files and made available to collectors for their research. Philatelic reference books and stamp catalogs are processed by determining if we currently possess the 2-3 copies we keep in our collection and if not, they are cataloged, barcoded, and shelved for use. If not needed, we add them to the online catalog for sale to collectors.
Many collectors are very excited to have the opportunity to purchase the publications, at a discounted price, to have as their own rather than borrowing them. I remember receiving a call from a member with a limited income and living in an assisted home asking about borrowing a Scott Catalogue. Not only was the fee to borrow the catalog an issue, so was the fact that he had no way to get the publication to the post office to be appropriately mailed back to us. I mentioned that we had Scott Catalogues for sale, which were a few years old, and asked if he would be interested in purchasing one stating that he would just have the one-time fee and then the catalogue would be his to use from that point forward. You would have thought we offered this member a million dollars as he graciously accepted the offer to purchase the Scott Specialized Catalogue.