NPM Gets War Cover Collection

[press release]

The National Postal Museum has accepted a donation of three volumes of postally used envelopes collected by the late Dr. George S. Brooks of Winchester, Kentucky. Dr. Brooks formed the collection in honor of his son LTJG George S. Brooks, Jr. USN, who was lost at sea aboard the submarine USS Pompano off the coast of Japan during World War II.

Pompano left Midway Island on patrol August 20, 1943 and never returned; its exact fate has never been conclusively determined. The elder Brooks channeled pride and grief for his son into collecting military mail that chronicled the hardships and sacrifices of wartime, especially the difficulties faced by military personnel and civilians in communicating from forward areas, secret locations and prisoner-of-war camps. Some of the last envelopes exchanged by Lieutenant Brooks and his parents – one marked simply “missing” – are an especially poignant part of the collection.

The donation was made by George S. Brooks II, accompanied by his wife, Kathy, and other members of his family. Mr. Brooks is the grandson of Dr. Brooks and the nephew of Lieutenant Brooks.

“Besides adding considerable depth to our military mail collections, the Brooks family’s gift will make it possible for the National Postal Museum to share their grandfather’s passion for collecting with others,” said Daniel Piazza, chief curator of philately.

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, please call (202) 633-1000 or visit the museum website at

Stamp Dealer Arrested In Health Fraud Scheme

The October 27th Virtual Stamp Club radio feature was about one of the few African-American stamp dealers, Kevin Custis, whose day job was being a physician.

Was. He was one of four doctors arrested and indicted in early December on charges of defrauding Medicaid, Medicare and other public health programs of millions of dollars. In all, 20 people were accused of taking part in the scheme, including the Surgeon of the New York Police Department. That’s Custis’ mugshot on the right.

You can read more about the arrests on WABC-TV’s website. There was also a less-than-flattering article on Custis in The Daily Beast in January 2016.

Custis had booths at shows under the trade name “Stampmen.” He specialized in foreign stamps. I last saw him at the Clifton, NJ, show in October. He is listed as a member of the American Stamp Dealers Association on its website, but is not listed as a dealer-member of the American Philatelic Society.

There is now an addendum at the bottom of the radio feature’s script page about the arrest.

Bigalke Leaving APS for Linn’s

Jay Bigalke, editor of American Philatelist, the official journal of the American Philatelic Society, is leaving to return to his former employer and become Editor-in-Chief at Linn’s Stamp News.

He is shown in the center of the photo on the right, buying stamps August 11 at Americover 2017 in Independence, Ohio.

Bigalke has been telecommuting to the APS, coming to headquarters in Bellefonte, Pa., one week a month while living in central Ohio with his wife and two sons.

Bigalke became AP editor in late 2014 at the age of 32. He had been senior editor for digital media at Linn’s, which is also headquartered in central Ohio, in Sidney.

He is an active first day cover collector who has attended many first day ceremonies. On the left, he is shown servicing first day covers for the Circus Posters souvenir sheet at Baraboo, Wisconsin, in late 2014.

“Under Jay’s leadership, the APS raised the standard of The American Philatelist from good to great,” APS executive director Scott English told The Virtual Stamp Club in e-mail. “Even though he is leaving our team, Jay is an APS member and collector to the core. We look forward to working with him in his new role.”

Youngblood Adds Two Top Jobs

Well-known philatelic writer and editor Wayne Youngblood — and one of the most-popular people in U.S. stamp collecting — is the new editor of two top publications: American Stamp Dealer & Collector and Collectors Club Philatelist. The latter is published by the Collectors Club in New York City.

The former is a glossy magazine which, despite its title, is aimed at a more casual audience and possible news stand sales.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity and extremely indebted to current editors Randy Neil (who founded ASD&C) and Gene Fricks,” the current editor of the Collectors Club Philatelist, Youngblood posted on Facebook.

Said the American Stamp Dealers Association, publisher of ASD&C, in a press release, “Wayne’s reputation and accomplishments in the hobby make him the perfect choice to take the magazine into the future.

“Wayne, one of the most recognized names in the U.S. philatelic community, is a lifelong stamp collector who began before the age of 8 and never stopped. He has been an APS member for more than 40 years, serving nearly a decade on its board of directors. He also serves as an expertizer for American Philatelic Expertizing (for more than 25 years), and is the longest-term instructor at the APS Summer Seminar on Philately, where he has been lead instructor of the Stamp Technology course for more than 25 years.”

Youngblood was elected at the American Philatelic Society Board for the first time as a Director-at-Large in 1997 at the age of 35.

His philatelic writing career began as a staff editor for Linn’s Stamp News, then as Editor of the co-owned Scott Stamp Monthly. He later moved to the rival Stamp Collector newspaper, and became publisher of owner Krause Publications other hobby/collectible publications, ranging from comics and toys to records and movies.

Youngblood is the author of 10 books (including eight on history and historical photography) and has had thousands of articles published throughout the philatelic world.

He currently edits the American Topical Association’s Topical Time journal and Duck Tracks for the National Duck Stamp Collectors Society. He continues to write regularly for several publications (including American Philatelist, Linn’s and The international Philatelic Exporter) and is in-demand as a philatelic speaker.

In addition to belonging to numerous philatelic organizations, Youngblood serves on the board of directors of the Arizona Philatelic Rangers and has been inducted into the APS Writers Unit #30 Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs Hall of Fame. Although his primary expertise lies in stamps, Wayne, who is now an independent author, editor, and dealer, also has a strong interest and knowledge base in historical documents, autographs and vintage photographs. He has served at numerous appraisal fairs specializing in these areas for about 20 years.

Among his collecting interests are errors, freaks and oddities; fakes and forgeries; and the secret drop boxes of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos.

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.

Stanley Gibbons Firm Up For Sale

The world’s oldest stamp dealership, Stanley Gibbons, has put itself up for sale, according to a report by the BBC.

Although founded in London in 1856, Gibbons for many years has been headquartered on the Isle of Jersey, considered a tax haven. Gibbons, however, does maintain a retail store in London.

Stanley Gibbons also sells coins and antiques, but is most identified with rare stamps. For many years, the firm has had few if any philatelists among its management. It has attempted to make inroads in the online stamp collecting market, and for a very brief time, owned The Virtual Stamp Club.

Gibbons said it had received an offer by an investor, which the investor denied.

Recovered Jenny Invert Sells For $295,000

The Inverted Jenny stamp stolen in 1955 and returned to its owner during World Stamp Show-New York 2016 a year ago sold May 11 for $295,000 — $250,000 plus an 18% buyer’s premium.

Position 76 was part of the “McCoy Block” of four stamps stolen during the American Philatelic Society convention exhibition in Richmond in 1955. Two of the stamps were recovered in the early 1980s. One is still missing.

The block of four was owned by Ethel Stewart McCoy and on loan to the APS when it was stolen. Shortly before her death in 1980, she donated ownership rights to the stamps to the American Philatelic Research Library, which shares facilities with the APS.

The boards of the two organizations decided last fall to sell the stamp recovered in 2016. The auction was conducted by the Robert A. Siegel firm. Bids were received by telephone, Internet and live bidding. The winning bid came in over the phone.

Bidding started opened at $120,000 and closed about 90 seconds later.

The 2018 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue values an undamaged, very fine copy of the stamp, C3A, at $450,000. This one, however, was repeforated on two sides (top and left), in an attempted to hide its identity. The presale estimate for Position 76 was $150,000-$200,000, well below the final price. No doubt its notoriety added to the value.

The Siegel firm produced a 48-page catalogue for this one item’s sale, which can be downloaded here or ordered as a printed book. Written by auctioneer Scott Trepel and Ken Lawrence, provides a history of the original 1918 discovery of the 100 error stamps, the 1955 theft of the McCoy block, and the return of three of the four stamps.

The APRL still owns Position 65, and has been displaying it at shows for years since its recovery in 1982.

Another Long-Lost Jenny Invert Found

[press release]
The Philatelic Foundation Authenticates Another Long Lost Jenny Invert

A representative of an auction firm recently brought a Jenny Invert to the Philatelic Foundation’s New York offices for authentication on behalf of a consignor. The Philatelic Foundation is widely regarded in the hobby of stamp collecting for its expertise in authenticating this iconic United States air mail rarity. Over the last 70 years, the PF has issued Certificates of Authenticity for 85 of the 100 stamps from the original error sheet of the “upside down airplane stamp,” including all six of the existing blocks of four.

The stamp was hand-delivered to The Foundation by Leslie S. Hindman, the owner and principal of Chicago’s Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. Ms. Hindman recounted that the Jenny Invert had been stored for many years in a safe deposit box together with a number of other rare U.S. and foreign stamps and that the family of the original owner had decided to sell the stamps at auction.

The Foundation’s staff immediately began the expertization process led by Curator Lewis Kaufman and Executive Director Larry Lyons. Based on its extensive electronic and photographic records of this rarity, the PF was able to certify that the Jenny Invert was genuine and came from position 79 in the sheet of 100, one of only two positions which have not been seen in the market place since the stamp was issued almost 100 years ago.

In April 2016, The Philatelic Foundation authenticated another long lost Jenny Invert, which it determined to have once been part of the Ethel McCoy block of four that was stolen in 1955. That stamp was turned over to federal authorities and, following negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, the American Philatelic Society was recognized at its lawful owner and was given possession of the stamp at NY2016.

New Artcraft FDC Catalogue Published

[press release]
Brand New Sixth Edition Of The ArtCraft Variety Catalog Arrives!

severe_catalogueThe Comprehensive Listing of ArtCraft Covers: Their Varieties and Values (1939-2015) is the Sixth (Compendium) Edition in this mammoth project which documents all known ArtCraft covers and varieties produced by the Washington Press (Washington Stamp Exchange). The Listing references over 15,000 collectibles, spanning the company’s full 76 years of production, and has been affectionately labeled “The ArtCraft Bible” by the active community of ArtCraft collectors worldwide.

The first update since 1996, the Sixth Edition is better than ever in that it lists every U.S., UN, and foreign First Day Cover as well as miscellaneous, event, and topical covers produced by ArtCraft. Pertinent information is provided regarding color, size, shading, text, watermark, and other design varieties; fakes; printing errors; imprinted covers; etc. As with prior editions, the latest version continues the assignment of unique, trademarked alphanumeric identification numbers (SEV#s) for each variety, realistic price values (SEV$), and an integrated checklist for collectors to track their collections.

The 250-page (unillustrated) catalog is produced in a deluxe spiral-bound format. It incorporates thousands of revisions and changes, new discoveries, as well as all issues through October 2015, when ArtCraft ceased new production.

No collector or dealer should be without this gem!

For more information or to place an order, send $34.95 (plus $3.50 shipping/handling) to the following. Check, money order, or PayPal gladly accepted.

P.O. Box 762 Rockville, MD 20848-0762

Be sure to include your full name and shipping address as well as your email address.

Note: The $3.50 shipping/handling is waived for the second and all subsequent copies.

(Maryland residents must include 6% sales tax)

Change in U.S. FDC Servicing Policy

Effective with the Jack O’Lanterns issue at the end of September, all FDC servicing requests will be sent to USPS Cancellation Services in Kansas City, not the first-day cities.

This is a change that veteran FDC servicers have been requesting for years, because “helpful” local clerks often miscancel or damage FDCs.

There has not yet been an official announcement from the USPS, other than giving Kansas City as the servicing address for the latest issues in the Postal Bulletin.


A longer article on this was published in Linn’s Stamp News. Click here to read it.