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People Collect The Darnedest Things
By John L. Leszak

As a dealer, it never ceases to amaze me how people in far off distant lands will take a liking to philatelic material from the United States. For instance, one of my best buyers for President Obama inauguration covers lives in Turkey. I can understand how a world leader such as President Obama can inspire a collection of inauguration covers in Turkey. Likewise, 98% of my George W Bush inauguration covers sell to buyers in Poland.. However, there are so many other collectors of specific U.S. material and one wonders how they ever got a spark of inspiration to collect a precise area or topic.

I'd like to share the collecting pleasures of some of overseas customers and add a little commentary about how they became enchanted with collecting such particular items.

I have a customer in Great Britain who collects modern advertising covers from Buffalo, NY. She is an avid buyer and informs me that her collection is quite comprehensive. She first became enchanted with Buffalo, NY covers as a child in the 1950's when she rummaged through some trash and found a lot of covers with illustrated corner cards from Bell Aircraft. Since then, her fascination for Buffalo, NY has grown. Quite often, other dealers will show me a lovely modern advertising cover from Buffalo and say, "John, you surely must have a buyer for this cover back in Buffalo." My immediate response is, "Actually, I think I have a buyer for it in the UK."

I have a buyer in India who has a fascination for covers relating to Polonia, especially covers from the Polish Philatelic Society. He attended college in Poland years ago, and once had a chance to stumble upon an ancient copy of Stamps magazine. In the Cachet Briefs listings, he found an ad for a Polonia cover and he's been collecting them ever since.

I have customer in Peru whose fascination for U.S. covers is any cover related to Niagara Falls. His father had visited a plant in Niagara Falls in the early 1960s, and since then there's been a desire to acquire Niagara Falls covers.

I have a customer in British Columbia, Canada, who is fascinated with RPO covers from the eastern United States. His grandfather worked on some of those railroads, so there's a sentimental attachment.

Several years ago, I met a man from Austria whose sole philatelic desire is WWII censored Mexico covers sent to the United States. When I asked how he became inspired to collect such items, he replied that about 20 years ago he bought a small auction lot of covers and most of them were WWII censored Mexico covers to the USA. He scrutinized them and discovered a host of variations and developed a thirst to find more.

One might think that philatelists from distant lands would collect pop culture icon subjects like Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. However, I get a lot of requests for stamp subjects like Virginia Apgar, Sam Houston, Grandma Moses and the Erie Canal. I have several folks desirous of Virginia Apgar covers who live in Spain. The buyers for Sam Houston FDCs live in Brazil, Togo and South Korea. My avid Grandma Moses FDC buyers live in Romania, France and the Philippines.

Because Buffalo, NY, was the terminus of the Erie Canal, I receive letters from collectors in places like China, Bolivia, Turkey and South Africa. They all want to know if I have any covers related to the Erie Canal. It often makes me wonder what's found as relevant history and geography in school textbooks from foreign lands.

When assorted stamp clubs across the nation create a show cover with a pictorial cancel, many are amazed when they received orders from far away places. I recently chatted with a lady a few years ago who was excited that the baseball show covers that she designed were ordered from collectors in Egypt, Belize, Italy and Thailand. What was most perplexing was that her club didn't place any ads on an international level, but somehow the orders rolled in.

A few years ago, my wife Paula placed a particular postal history item on eBay for sale. It was a lovely example of U.S. #26 on a lemon yellow envelope tied with a magenta cancel. Buyers from the state where that cover originated were appalled when it finally sold to a buyer in Indonesia for a handsome price. One indignant man sent an email that read, "why would you send such a lovely cover outside of the country?"

I fielded the inquiry and replied, "Why did you bid a mere fraction of the final sale price?" I never received a reply.

One of my dealer friends told me that he accidentally brought Canadian covers to a show in Florida one year and they turned out to be his saving grace for sales. I asked him if he had the good fortune of finding a Canadian sunbird in Florida who purchased the covers. He replied, "John, you won't believe this, but a lady from Argentina bought them all. She sent them to her brother who teaches at a college in California and collects Canadian covers!"

In this age of e-mails, dealers receive inquiries from all over the world. One of my dealer friends told me that he established a customer in Japan for covers from West Virginia that have coal mining corner cards (printed return addresses). Although my friend suggested coal mining covers from other locations, his customer is insistent upon those from West Virginia and offers no explanation for his specific wants.

A few years ago, I chatted with a dealer who was destined to do the NOJEX show in Secaucus, NJ. He said that he was looking to buy some postal history for a specific customer. I reached for my box of New Jersey covers and he waved me off and said "No, no, I want covers from Colorado. I have a buyer for them who is flying in from Norway." He went on to state that he didn't know why, but the Norwegian gentleman was intrigued with Colorado covers.

Years ago, I had an approval customer for Las Vegas picture postcards who lived in New Zealand. He was simply fascinated with neon signs and felt that Las Vegas cards from the 1950s and 1960s were amazing. One day, I sent him a few Holiday Inn picture postcards that depicted neon signs. For a while, he devoured every Holiday Inn postcard that I could locate. Local dealers were miffed. They'd ask, "Why are you buying up all the Holiday Inn postcards?" I replied quite honestly, "I have a buyer for them in New Zealand." I got stares of disbelief, and they'd utter, "Seriously, John, why are you buying all the Holiday Inn postcards."

One day the buyer from New Zealand wrote to me that he was taking some time off from postcard collecting and I've never heard a word from him ever since.

It's truly amazing how such simple items that we take for granted are prized by collectors on the other side of the world. Now that a global philatelic marketplace is more accessible, especially through the Internet, so many new philatelic contacts are made daily.The philatelic world truly has "Gone Global."

Have you an examples of a philatelist in one part of the world who collects something native to another part, with no readily apparent reason? Share them with us in The Virtual Stamp Club's message board.

© John L. Leszak. All rights reserved. Published on The Virtual Stamp Club by permission.

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