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.

Mystic Stamp Now Belongs To Its Employees

SundmanDonMystic Stamp Company is now owned by its employees, with the formation of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. According to the National Center for Employee Ownership, ESOPs can be used to buy the shares of a departing owner, borrow money at a lower after-tax cost, or create an additional employee benefit. In the press release below, Mystic president Donald Sundman (shown on the left) says he’s not going anywhere.

[press release]
Mystic Stamp Company becomes an ESOP Employee-Owned Company

mystic_cat2(Camden, N.Y.) Mystic Stamp Company, America’s largest postage stamp dealer and based in Camden, N.Y., today announced the formation of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Owners Donald and Chacea Sundman have sold all their Mystic stock to the ESOP. They will continue in their current roles with the company. Donald is President of Mystic Stamp Company and Chacea is Director of Human Resources. They will stay at Mystic and continue to manage the business.

Donald Sundman said, “The only change is ownership. There are no changes operationally or with our staff. We’ve got a great team, a very successful business, and don’t want to change that. I’m very excited about the ESOP because it will help our employees save for retirement.”

He added “We made this change to position Mystic for the future. This rewards our hard-working colleagues and promises to keep Mystic a positive force in the stamp world and central New York for many years.”

Chacea Sundman said “The ESOP will be wonderful for our colleagues, the greater Camden community, and our customers. It fits our guiding principles. The ESOP is an added benefit as we are keeping our 401K retirement plan and our twice-yearly profit sharing bonuses.”

Mystic’s core purpose is to bring the fun of collecting to a wide audience. Its guiding principles are:

  • Customers. We provide excellent products and service to our customers.
  • Colleagues. We respect our fellow colleagues.
  • Ethics. We act in an ethical manor.
  • Growth and Profits. We strive to increase sales and profits.
  • Citizenship. We strive to make contributions to Greater Camden and the stamp world.

Mystic Stamp Company became an employee-owned company effective April 1, 2016.

Mystic Today
Mystic Stamp Company employs about 150 people at its headquarters on Mill Street in Camden, New York. Mystic has grown to become the largest dealer in postage stamps in the U.S. by bringing the fun of collecting to a wide audience.

Mystic History
Camden, New York, native and stamp collector Lawrence Shaver founded Mystic in 1923. In 1974 he sold Mystic to his friend and fellow stamp dealer Maynard Sundman, of Littleton, New Hampshire.

Maynard Sundman was a pioneer in the world of mail order marketing. His innovative methods of advertising in everything from comic books to matchbook covers introduced the little-known hobbies of stamp and coin collecting to millions of people. Other media he used to bring the joy of collecting to a huge audience were the Sunday supplements, Parade and National Geographic magazines, and late-night coast-to-coast radio commercials.

Maynard sent his 19-year-old son Donald to run Mystic as general manager. David, his oldest son, became president of Littleton Coin Company, today a leader in the coin hobby with 350 employees.

In 1980 Mystic started buying stamp collections aggressively, becoming America’s largest buyer of stamp collections and dealer stocks.

Later Mystic created its Mystic’s U.S. Stamp Catalog, distributing hundreds of thousands a year, broadening its reach and introducing stamp collecting to tens of thousands of people. In late 1986 Sundman purchased a quantity of the newly discovered $1 Candleholder error stamp, known as the CIA Invert. He donated one copy to the Smithsonian National Stamp Collection and filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn how the error happened. The report revealed CIA employees bought the error stamps at a Virginia post office. Within days the story made the front pages of the N.Y. Times and was featured on national TV.

In 1998 Zachary Sundman, 11-year-old son of Donald, bid a record price for the rarest U.S. stamp, the 1868 1c Z Grill, for $935,000.

In 2005 Mystic traded the 1c Z Grill in exchange for the unique Jenny Invert Plate Number Block, worth $3 million, with well-known collector Bill Gross. Gross had purchased the block at a Siegel auction two weeks earlier for a record $2,970,000. News of that trade received worldwide attention. Mystic sold its Jenny block for around $5 million in 2015 to famed shoe designer Stuart Weitzman.

Mystic purchased the Fleetwood First Day Cover business in 2006 from Unicover in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Mystic moved Fleetwood to Camden, and continues to sell new and older First Day Covers.

Mystic remains a strong supporter of the stamp hobby. Company President Donald Sundman has sponsored over 5,800 American Philatelic Society members, a record for the APS. Sundman is Chairman of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum Council of Philatelists and Vice-Chairman of the Philatelic Foundation of New York. He is a member of the Club de Monte Carlo and a fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society. The American Philatelic Society gave Sundman the Luff Award for Outstanding Service to the American Philatelic Society in 2010.

Mystic’s Contributions to Greater Camden and Central New York
Mystic strives to make life better for its neighbors and is actively involved in the Camden and Central New York community, through donations of both time and money, to many worthy causes. [Camden is about 40 miles northeast of Syracuse.]

Some ways in which Mystic contributes to the quality of life in the area include sponsoring its own Camden Relay for Life and American Heart Run/Walk teams; involvement in Camden Chamber of Commerce activities; and fundraising for the public library, as well as contributing to school sports and theater programs.

Other Mystic donations include those made to Imagine Greater Camden, Cluster 13, local fire departments, veteran’s groups, and service organizations such as Lions and Rotary clubs. Mystic awards a scholarship annually to a college-bound high school senior, in addition to providing scholarships for children of Mystic colleagues. Central New York hospitals and the United Way are also recipients of Mystic support.

Mystic Buys Rare $1 Columbian Sheet

[press release]
Mystic Stamp Company Buys Unique $1 Columbian Stamp Sheet
For display at NY 2016 stamp show. Will offer for sale.

dollarcolumbianOn March 22, Mystic Stamp Company bought a unique $1 full sheet of 100 stamps from Columbian Stamp Company for an undisclosed price.

Mystic will display the sheet at NY2016.

The sheet is unique, and one of the most valuable US stamp items.

The sheet lay hidden for decades. In 1893, a wealthy Englishman visited the Chicago World’s Fair. He bought 10,422 Columbian stamps for $1,313. He must have really liked the fair! Two sheets of 100 $1 Columbians were part of his purchase. He kept the stamps until his death almost 60 years later. In 1954, HR Harmer of London auctioned the stamps. Famed rare stamp dealers, the Weill Brothers, paid $37,100 for the complete group. The Weill’s showed the full sheet in 1976 at the international stamp show in Philadelphia. Now, 40 years later, collectors can see the rare sheet at Mystic’s booth at NY2016.

Also purchased were 11 other Columbian stamps, all in full sheets of 100. Included are the 50¢, 30¢, 15¢, 10¢, 8¢, 6¢, 5¢, 4¢, 3¢, 2¢ and 1¢ stamps. Presumably all originated from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

All 12 sheets were displayed at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum some years ago.

The vast majority of Columbian sheets are 50-stamp subjects, as the smaller sheets fit in postal clerk drawers. A small number of “double sheets” of 100 were sold in Washington, DC, and Chicago at the fairgrounds.

In 1999, Columbian Stamp Company sold the second sheet of the $1 Columbian. That sheet was broken into singles and blocks, leaving one remaining sheet.