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.

U.S. Stamp Sets Guinness Distance Record

On July 19th, the Guinness Book of Records will certify a U.S. 29-cent stamp as the postage stamp that has traveled the furthest, ever — to Pluto and beyond. The 9 a.m. EDT ceremony at U.S. Postal Service headquarters will be live-streamed on Facebook: www.facebook.com/USPS

PLUTOSome background from the USPS: A 1991 Pluto: Not Yet Explored stamp that traveled more than 3 billion miles on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto has earned the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ achievement for the farthest distance traveled by a postage stamp.

Launched Jan. 19, 2006, on one of the fastest rockets ever built, New Horizons’ 9.5 year trek to Pluto reached 36,000 mph on the July 14, 2015, flyby. To place the rocket’s power in perspective, it took three days for Apollo 11 to reach the moon. New Horizons passed the moon in nine hours.

This record will extend another billion miles, as NASA recently announced the New Horizons mission will journey beyond Pluto to visit a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69 — considered to be one of the early building blocks of the solar system.

s_plutoThe Postal Service learned of the 29-cent stamp’s journey on the eve of the flyover and quickly put plans into place to set the record straight as noted in NASA’s celebratory photo above.

For details on the 2016 U.S. stamps for Pluto, click here.

Bill Gross’ Hawaiian Classics On The Block at WSS-NY2016

[press release]
Auction of Historic Hawaiian Stamps From Renowned Gross Collection At World Stamp Show–NY, May 29

grosslot9(New York, NY) — Renowned collector and Wall Street money manager William H. Gross will sell his acclaimed Hawaii stamp and cover collection during World Stamp Show – New York 2016 with his proceeds from the auction to be donated to nonprofit organizations, including The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. The collection features many of the most iconic rarities of Hawaiian philately, including ten Hawaiian Missionary stamps.

The unreserved auction, “The William H. Gross Collection: Hawaii – Important Stamps and Postal History,” will be conducted by Charles F. Shreve and Tracy L. Carey in association with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries (www.siegelauctions.com) at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City and online on Sunday, May 29, 2016.

“The stamps of Hawaii are among the most exotic and popular stamps ever issued, particularly the first issues of 1851 called Hawaiian Missionaries. Over the course of the past quarter-century, working with Mr. Gross to build his various collections, we have observed that he has always been especially fond of his Hawaii. The instantly recognizable Hawaiian Missionary stamps and their fascinating history have always captivated collectors. But the extreme rarity of these classic issues makes it difficult for more than a few collectors to own them, and nearly impossible for any collector to own more than a few of them,” explained Shreve, Director of Robert A. Siegel International.

“The ten Hawaiian Missionary items in this auction, including several on covers, will surely be viewed as the stars of the collection. Without question, this offering during World Stamp Show will be one of the highlights of the entire event,” stated Shreve.

A renowned Wall Street money manager, Mr. Gross is the Lead Portfolio Manager responsible for managing the Janus Global Unconstrained Bond strategy, a member of the Janus Global Macro Fixed Income leadership team and a member of the Janus Capital Group Global Allocation Committee.

Highlights of the 77 lots in the upcoming auction include:

grosslot9Lot #9 [shown on the right] — The finest of only seven recorded unused examples of the 1851 13-cent “Hawaiian Postage” Missionary stamp. This magnificent gem is an extraordinary example of a world-class rarity in superb condition, defying the norms of the issue. Scott catalog value: $37,000.

Lot #11 — The Eliza Johnson Cover, one of the finest and most colorful of the nine recorded 13-cent “Hawaiian Postage” Missionary covers. Pre-sale estimate: $100,000 – 150,000

Lot #21 — A petite and remarkably attractive decorative cover with the Hawaiian 5-cent and 13-cent 1853 Kamahameha III first printing, and in combination with the United States 12-cent 1851 issue which was affixed at Honolulu over the 13-cent Hawaiian stamp. Pre-sale estimate: $20,000 – 30,000

grosslot24Lot #24 [shown on the left] — This is the only recorded cover with more than one of the rare 1857 “5” cents on 13-cent provisional surcharge (in this case, five examples), used in combination with United States postage. It is widely regarded as the most outstanding United States and Hawaiian mixed-franking cover outside of the Missionary issue. Pre-sale estimate: $250,000 – 350,000

Lot #25 — A spectacular United States and Hawaiian mixed-franking cover addressed to Fidelia Fiske, who was one of the first Missionaries to work among the Nestorians in Persia. This is the only 1857 5-cent Provisional surcharge cover addressed beyond the continental United States. Pre-sale estimate: $100,000 – 150,000

Lot #61 — 1865 5-cent “Hawaiian Postage” Numeral issue, used in combination with United States 10-cent 1861 Issue on a cover to Germany. A unique United States-Hawaiian mixed-franking cover, as this is the only recorded use of a Numeral issue on a cover destined beyond the borders of the United States. Pre-sale estimate: $40,000 – 50,000

Lot #67 — A superb original-gum tete-beche pair of the 1865 5-cent blue “Interisland” Numeral issue in the finest condition attainable. Scott catalogue value: $20,000.

The collection is estimated to bring $2 million or more. Mr. Gross and his wife, Sue, will generously donate the auction proceeds to The Smithsonian National Postal Museum (www.PostalMuseum.si.edu) and The Hawaii Foodbank (www.HawaiiFoodBank.org), a nonprofit agency that helps provide food to the needy through over 200 charitable organizations on Oahu.

Seven previous auctions of items from Mr. Gross’ extensive U.S. and foreign collections have already raised a combined total of nearly $25 million for charities and other non-profit organizations.

“Sharp-eyed collectors with good memories will probably notice one stamp missing from this auction,” said Shreve.

“The only recorded unused 2¢ Missionary, ex Ferrary, Burrus, B. D. Phillips, Ostheimer and Honolulu Advertiser, belongs to Mr. Gross, and he wishes to retain just this one stamp, reflecting his passion for world-class rarities. Who could fault him? If collectors wish to see the 2¢ Missionary stamp, they can visit the Court of Honor where it will be displayed at World Stamp Show – New York 2016 along with Mr. Gross’ United States rarities,” explained Shreve.

A limited edition hardbound catalog of the William H. Gross Hawaii Collection has been prepared for the sale and is available for $25 each. Auction lots also can be viewed online at www.siegelauctions.com or by appointment at the Siegel Galleries at 60 East 56th St. in New York. Additional information about this and past sales of material from the Gross Collection can be found at www.williamhgrosscollections.com.

For additional information, contact Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries by phone at (212) 753-6421 or by email at stamps@siegelauctions.com.

Philatelic Foundation Certifies Recovered Jenny Invert

[press release]
The Philatelic Foundation Authenticates Stolen Jenny Invert Stamp
[Click here for the story about the recovery of the stamp.]

mccoy76jenny(New York, NY) On Monday, April 4, 2016, a representative of Spink USA, a leading rare stamp auctioneer, brought a Jenny Invert to The Philatelic Foundation’s New York offices for authentication on behalf of a potential consignor. The PF is widely regarded in the hobby of stamp collecting for its expertise in authenticating this iconic United States airmail rarity. Over the last 70 years, the PF has issued Certificates of Authenticity for 84 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 PF’s staff immediately began the expertization process led by Executipfjennyve Director Larry Lyons and Curator Lewis Kaufman (shown at right). Matched against the PF’s detailed records, photos and electronic scans of the Jenny Inverts, the evidence quickly pointed to the possibility that the stamp was one of the two missing from a famous block of four Jenny Inverts. The block, which was previously owned by Ethel McCoy, was stolen from its exhibition frame in 1955 during an American Philatelic Society convention in Norfolk, Virginia.

The PF staff determined the stamp to be position 76 from the error sheet of 100. (The actual stamp is shown above, photo courtesy the PF.) At some time following the block’s theft, it was broken into four singles, and then altered in an attempt to disguise identification as stamps from the stolen block. Upon close examination, position 76 was found to have been reperforated at its left side to remove traces of a vertical red guide line that had originally appeared on the tips of its perforations. The American Philatelic Society and law enforcement were immediately notified of the identification of this long-lost Jenny Invert.

Stolen Jenny Invert Recovered

mccoy76jennyOne of the missing “McCoy” Jenny Inverts has been recovered, after it was consigned to an auction in New York City. (The stamp shown on the right is the recovered stamp. Photo courtesy the Philatelic Foundation.)

It was one of a block of four that had been stolen while on display at a 1955 stamp show, the American Philatelic Society convention in Norfolk, Va. Two other stamps from that block had already been recovered.

jennyblockThe stamp, Sc. 3A, belongs to the American Philatelic Research Library in Bellefonte, Pa., which is associated with the APS. One of just 100 stamps for this issue with an inverted center vignette, it is worth about $150,000.

The would-be consignor is in his 20s and lives in Britain. He said he inherited the collection from his grandfather and knew little about it.

There is more about the recovery of the stamp and its background on the websites of the APRL and the Spink auction house. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and there is also a story in the Christian Science Monitor.

Added April 20th: The stamp was certified as genuine, although reperforated, by the Philatelic Foundation. That story is here.