Topical Tidbits Tops 300 Pages

[press release]
Topical Tidbits Tops 300 Pages

The latest issue of the American Topical Association’s website feature, Topical Tidbits, brings its total pages to more than 300—all available free online. The colorful pages of the new issue of Topical Tidbits take philatelists of all ages south of the border to Mexico, with facts, games, puzzles and lots of stamp images about our southern neighbor.

Aimée Devine, assistant coordinator of ATA youth services, has been creating the features since 2012 through her Perforated Press design service. Each issue includes a downloadable album page for the topic. Past topics, which are all still available on the ATA website at, include: Canada, Magic of Disney, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Gingerbread, The Statue of Liberty, and many more.

Topical Tidbits are designed as an adjunct to the “Stamps Teach” program developed by APS. The pages are used extensively as teaching modules in classrooms, for stamp club activities, and as at-home fun for all ages. They have helped get young people interesting in topical collecting.

The Mexico issue includes a map of Mexican states, with stamps for each. There are sections on Day of the Dead and papel picado (pierced paper), which were shown on the 2016 Colorful Celebrations U.S. issue. Readers can try their hand at designing a traditional Mexican dress, and match the Mexican products stamps series to their description in Spanish.

All issues of Topical Tidbits can be viewed and printed at For more information, contact ATA at PO Box 8, Carterville, IL 62918-0008,

Space Weather Handbook DVD Released by ATA

Solar storms that cause bright auroras can also affect people and technology in space and on Earth. The development of the scientific understanding of that Sun-Earth relationship is examined in Space Weather—A Philatelic Journey, a new philatelic handbook published in DVD format by the American Topical Association.

Written by meteorologists Garry Toth and Don Hillger, it contains descriptive text, stamp and cover images, and an extensive and up-to-date checklist. More than 200 pages of detailed information are in .pdf format. The checklist appendices in Excel format are also included.

The handbook will be of interest to collectors of numerous space and weather-related topics.

Garry Toth, MSc, was an operational meteorologist with the Meteorological Service of Canada. His topical interests are weather, climate, space weather and planetary weather.

Don Hillger, PhD, is a satellite meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and holds a cooperative position at Colorado State University. His topical interests include unmanned scientific satellites, weather and climate.

The DVD is $35, or $30 for ATA members, plus $1.50 postage in the U.S. and Canada, or $3 elsewhere. Order from American Topical Association, PO Box 8, Carterville, IL 62918-0008, Preorders will be taken for a printed book version until Mar. 31, 2018.

Tara Murray Leaving APRL

Tara Murray, the chief librarian at the American Philatelic Research Library for the past seven years, is leaving for another position outside philately, but it appears the nation’s largest philatelic library will be in good hands.

Murray announced on October 24 that she had “accepted a position at Penn State as Germanic and Slavic Languages and Linguistics Librarian.” The APRL is located, with the American Philatelic Society, in Bellefonte, Pa.; Pennsylvania State University’s main campus is in nearby State College, Pa.

Murray employment before the APRL was also at Penn State, at its Population Research Institute.

“One of the best parts of the [APRL] job has been all the people in the hobby I’ve met and worked with,” she wrote on Facebook.

APS executive director Scott English praised Murray on Facebook.

“Tara has been one of the finest people I’ve worked over the years,” he posted. “I think her most amazing accomplishment will be overseeing the construction of our new library and still delivering great member service in the middle of the chaos.”

She will be succeeded by Scott Tiffney, currently a volunteer research assistant at the APRL. He began there part-time in 2011, and then became full-time there. He has a Master of Library and Information Science degree. Before coming to the APRL, he worked for the National Park Service.

“I know I’m leaving the library in good hands,” Murray said of Tiffney.

U.S. Museum Shows Flower Stamp Art

[press release]
National Postal Museum to Open Art Exhibition Celebrating Beautiful Blooms on Stamps
Original Stamp Artwork from the Postmaster General’s Collection

“Beautiful Blooms: Flowering Plants on Stamps,” opening Oct. 20 at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, celebrates the variety of flowering plants commemorated on U.S. postage stamps during the past 50 years. The exhibition, on view through July 14, 2019, explores the symbiotic relationship between flowering plants, bees, birds and butterflies.

The exhibition showcases 33 botanical artworks from the renowned Postmaster General’s Collection, on long-term loan to the National Postal Museum from the U.S. Postal Service. Created in partnership with Smithsonian Gardens, “Beautiful Blooms” invites visitors to observe and appreciate not only the compelling artwork, but also the creative process behind stamp design. By juxtaposing concept art and final art, and by linking larger-scale art with images on actual stamps, visitors will be able to see beyond the stamps to their meaning and messaging.

Featured botanical artwork, which includes 29 framed pieces and four pieces of digital art displayed interactively, are organized into seven themes: Flowering Trees; The Rose: Queen of Flowers; Birds in the Garden; Pollination; Botanical Congress; The Seasonal Garden and Beautification of America.

[Shown on the left: concept art for the 1998 Giving & Sharing stamp. “Mary GrandPre, the artist of this concept design, later became the award winning illustrator of the Harry Potter book series. Although the pollination symbolism of this design was reflected in the final design of the stamp, This art work was not accepted as the approved stamp design.”]

A garden-themed atrium display complements the exhibition gallery with garden furniture and live plants from Smithsonian Gardens as well as a large-scale mural triptych featuring lush garden imagery from the Smithsonian Institution’s collection of hand-painted glass lantern slides. The overall experience will transport visitors into a relaxed but vibrant garden setting.

“Our goal is for visitors to enjoy, appreciate and witness the beauty associated with this incredible collection of artwork,” said Elliot Gruber, director of the museum. “Every stamp tells a story, and this exhibition tells the story of the design process and creativity resulting from the beauty of flowering plants on stamps.”

The exhibition explores the diversity of artwork used in the U.S. stamp production process, including both developmental and final art designed by illustrators using a variety of media, such as oils, pastels and digital design software. The display of stamp art in various phases of development will enable visitors of all ages to understand the role developmental artwork plays in the production of postage stamps.

“Botanical stamp art, particularly flowering plant stamp art, represents some of the most attractive artwork in the Postmaster General’s Collection,” said Calvin Mitchell, exhibition curator. “This exhibition, displayed in a garden setting, offers the general public a rare view of the stunning art work that results in the beautiful stamps appreciated by people around the world.”

About the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum
The National Postal Museum is devoted to presenting the colorful and engaging history of the nation’s mail service and showcasing one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue N.E., Washington, D.C., across from Union Station. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). For more information about the Smithsonian, call (202) 633-1000 or visit the museum website at

Zais May Resign As APS President

Mitchell “Mick” Zais is warning that he may have to resign as president of the American Philatelic Society: He has been nominated by President Trump to be Deputy Secretary of Education.

“If confirmed, I will have to resign from all boards and organizations with which I have a leadership position,” he said in an e-mail that included the White House press release announcing his nomination.

That press release, by the way, did not mention the APS.

Confirmation for such sub-cabinet positions usually happens.

According to the APS Bylaws, in the event of the resignation of the President, the Board of Directors will choose a replacement from among the current members of the Board.The Board must call a meeting within 10 days of the vacancy to fill the position.

Zais served as the elected State Superintendent of Education in South Carolina. “During his term in office, the department’s budget was reduced while on-time high school graduation rates increased every year to an all-time high,” the White House said. The West Point graduate also served 10 years as president of Newbury College in South Carolina.

The retired general was elected to the APS presidency for a three-year term in the spring of 2016, and took office in August 2016.

We will update this story as we learn of new developments.

The Virtual Stamp Club interviewed Zais about his first six months as president last January. The VSC radio feature is here (script and audio file).


Update: Zais’ nomination was approved December 13th by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and sent to the full Senate for action. No date for that vote has been set.

The Washington Post reports Zais had some trouble during the HELP Committee hearing on his nomination, which was attended only by the Republican chairman and Democratic members.

Update: Zais’ nomination was returned to President Trump January 3, 2018, without action, along with other nominations that were not acted upon, because the Senate recessed for more than 30 days over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. It is expected that his nomination will be resubmitted for consideration.

APS Names New Editor: Martin Kent Miller

[press release]
American Philatelic Society Names New Editor

Bellefonte, Pennsylvania — Today, the American Philatelic Society announced that Martin Kent Miller of Greer, South Carolina would become the new Editor for the Society. Miller will serve as Editor of the APS flagship publication, The American Philatelist, a monthly journal dedicated to stamp collecting and the Philatelic Literature Review, the quarterly publication of the American Philatelic Research Library.

Miller, 49, joined the APS in 2008, but has been a stamp collector since 1974. His collecting interests include philatelic materials related to the USS North Carolina, the 1934-35 National Parks series, and a single-issue collection of the 1937 West Point commemorative. He is currently President and Founder of The Image Forge, a corporate communications firm in Greer in operation since 2003. In 2012, Miller branched out into the social media world as Co-Founder and Director of Marketing for Socialtopias in Charlotte, NC. He was Global Communications Manager for Michelin Aircraft Tire Corporation in Greenville, SC from 2000 to 2003 and Vice President and General Manager of Hell Gravure Systems, North America in Schaumburg, IL and through their relocation to Inman, SC. Miller holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Harding University in Searcy, AR where he graduated Magna Cum Laude.

“We’re excited to have Martin joining the team,” said Scott English, Executive Director of the APS, “He brings a wide range of experience in publication, marketing, and branding to our organization. We hope to leverage his talents not only with the publications, but leading the way in growing our online presence to promote the APS and the hobby.”

While Miller’s primary responsibilities will be managing the two publications of the APS and APRL, he will also lead the efforts to revamp the APS website and develop the online strategies for promoting the APS and the hobby to a whole new audience.

“Philately has always been the unifying point of my varied interests — art, design, printing and history,” commented Miller. “I’m honored to now have the opportunity to combine my professional experience with the hobby that holds my love and passion.”

Miller officially joins the APS team on October 1, 2017, but will begin working with current Editor Jay Bigalke immediately.

US Postal Museum Taps Elliot Gruber

Elliot Gruber, the chief development and external affairs officer for the Jewish Social Service Agency, has been named director of the National Postal Museum, effective Sept. 5.

Gruber has more than 30 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector. As chief development and external affairs officer for the Jewish Social Service Agency since January, Gruber is responsible for the organization’s philanthropic revenue, marketing and communications. Under his leadership, the agency launched a $6 million capital campaign to renovate one of its buildings in the Washington, D.C., area. The Jewish Social Service Agency is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, client-focused health and social service agency helping individuals and families meet emotional social and physical challenges for more than 120 years.

Before joining the Jewish Social Service Agency, Gruber was a principal at EHG Consulting, which provides strategic planning and operations and fundraising expertise to nonprofit organizations. Gruber worked with the Houston Maritime Museum, which is preparing to launch a $50 million capital campaign for its new facility scheduled to open in 2020. He also conducted a comprehensive review and analysis of the organizational and fundraising structure for Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Gruber was the president and chief executive officer of The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, Va., from February 2013 through April 2016. There, he managed a $7 million annual budget, 550 acres of parkland and a staff of 90. He also established the Monitor Foundation, a nonprofit organization overseeing the largest marine metals conservation lab in the world, to ensure continued conservation of the ironclad steamship the USS Monitor, which was built by the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.

From September 2010 until January 2013, Gruber was the senior vice president for resource development for the United Way of the National Capital Area. He was responsible for all fundraising programs, including the Greater Washington Give to the Max Day, which in its inaugural year raised more than $2 million in 24 hours.

Gruber was the vice president and chief operating officer of the Gettysburg Foundation (August 2002–September 2010) where he directed the $125 million capital campaign to build a new museum and visitor center at Gettysburg National Military Park. He oversaw all museum operations, including ticketing, reservations, visitor services and facilities management.

He has also worked in leadership capacities at the Ocean Conservancy, the Civil War Trust and the National Parks Conservation Association.

“Elliot brings great and relevant experience to the directorship of the National Postal Museum,” said Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. “His skills as a museum leader and his fundraising acumen make him an excellent choice to lead this important museum into its next chapter.”

“I am proud to have been selected to lead the National Postal Museum, which tells the story of our American journey, past, present and future,” Gruber said. “I look forward to using my experience to work with the museum’s staff, advisory council and the Council of Philatelists to build new partnerships within the Smithsonian, across the country and around the world.”

Gruber received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and his master’s degree in organizational psychology from Columbia University in New York City.

He succeeds Allen Kane, who retired in January, as director of the museum. Marshall Emery has served as acting director of the museum since then.

About the National Postal Museum
The National Postal Museum is dedicated to the preservation, study and presentation of postal history and philately. (Note: Philately is the collection and study of postage stamps, postmarks and stamped envelopes.) The museum uses exhibits, educational public programs and research to showcase the largest and most comprehensive collection of stamps and philatelic material in the world—including postal stationery, vehicles used to transport the mail, mailboxes, meters, cards and letters and postal materials that predate the use of stamps—and make this rich history available to scholars, philatelists, collectors and visitors from around the world.

The museum occupies more than 100,000 square feet of the historic City Post Office Building, with 35,000 square feet devoted to exhibition galleries. A U.S. Post Office stamp store, museum store and a 6,000-square-foot research library complement the exhibition halls.

APS Exec On The State of The Hobby

At a “town hall” meeting at the NAPEX show in suburban Washington, D.C., June 9, 2017, American Philatelic Society executive director Scott English talked about the diminishing membership, not only in the APS, but in stamp collecting organizations in general.

APS membership in 1988, when English graduated high school, was almost 56,000. Today, when his youngest child is graduating high school, it’s about 29,000. Membership is down about 900 for the year. “It scares me,” he admits.

English said he did “opposition research” before he took the job as executive director 22 months ago. He described that as “I know more about you than you do, and it isn’t all good.”

In this case, he found that the APS was disconnected and standing still. It’s still a problem, he said. “Our problem with the hobby is we love tradition.”

However, English — who was not a stamp collector before he took the job — disputes assertions that stamp collecting is dying, and decreasing organizational membership proves it.

“Stamp collecting isn’t collapsing, organized philately is,” he declared.

English told the collectors at the NAPEX session the APS may get involved in the Regency-Superior bankruptcy case. That was a large philatelic auction house and retail stamp seller with headquarters in Saint Louis. A major creditor has seized the assets of the firm, and those who consigned stamps and covers to Regency-Superior for sale may not be paid.

He said that while the organization itself was a consignor to R-S auctions and stands to lose money, the APS also wants to stand up for its members and other consignors. English says it is not fair that material that they own should be seized by this creditor, a bank. He has director the APS attorney to look into the matter.

He also said that APS may get involved in seeking changes to bankruptcy law to protect future philatelic consignors. English said that in his past career in politics, he was at times involved in writing bankruptcy legislation.

English also disputed the assertion by the owner of Regency-Superior that the business failed because stamp collecting is dying. You can hear or read his comments in a Virtual Stamp Club radio feature (podcast).

On other subjects:

  • APS will be redoing its website to make it mobile-friendly and Google-friendly. Right now, it’s neither, and only 2% of its visits are from mobile devices (and he suspects that’s just himself and COO Ken Martin).
  • AmeriStamp Expo 2017 in Reno was on target for revenue, off target on expenditures, and resulted in a loss.
  • On finances, English deferred to APS Treasurer Bruce Marsden, who said APS/APRL finances are probably the healthiest they’ve been in the past 5-6 years.
  • English gives “all credit” to Robert A. Siegel Auctions for getting the most possible for the American Philatelic Research Library for the recently-recovered inverted Jenny airmail stamp. “That stamp should have sold for about $180,000,” English said. “It’s probably the most expensive reperfed stamp ever!”
  • A small shopping center is going into the vacant space right next to the American Philatelic Center, with six retail spaces. Its architectural style was influenced by and will be consistent with the APC.

Scheuer’s Kansas-Nebraska Overprint Article Wins APS Award

Henry B. Scheuer’s article titled “Kansas-Nebraska Overprint Stamps: Why, Where, and When They Were Initially Sold” was selected as the 2016 winner of the United States Stamp Society/Barbara R. Mueller Award for the best article published in a single year of The American Philatelist. The award will be presented at the APS StampShow Celebration Banquet 2017 on August 5 in Richmond, Virginia.

More on the award and the article can be found on the APS website.

APS Names 2017 Carter Service Award Winners

The American Philatelic Society is recognizing Ed Andrews, Jack Congrove, Dawn Hamman, Ed & Judy Jarvis, and David McNamee for National Service to Philately, and Ed Laveroni, Sharon Newby, Gerald Nylander, Guy Purington, Roger Rhoads, Charles Shoemaker, Norm Shufrin, Roger Skinner, Tim Wait, and Ann Wood for Local Service.

Awards are presented each year at the APS General Meeting, this year on August 5 at StampShow 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. The Young Adult and Young Philatelist awards will be announced at a later date.

Brief bios of each recipient can be found on the APS website.

The Nicholas G. Carter Volunteer Recognition Award recognizes the outstanding efforts of our volunteers at national and local levels and also recognizes our younger members whose outstanding leadership is crucial to our future. The awards were been named in memory of Nick Carter who helped to establish them. Nick felt it was important to recognize those unsung heroes who contribute their talents, time and energies to benefit stamp collecting and the society.