“It’s true that young people don’t write letters or really know what stamps are, and that, generally speaking, stamp collecting is for an older generation that is slowly dying out, so far fewer people collect stamps nowadays than they did in the past,” says Douglas Muir, senior curator of philately at The Postal Museum in London. “But people are still extremely honoured if they appear on stamps, and you get far more publicity about stamps in newspapers these days than you ever used to.”
Etching your way into history by Royalty; Politicians and by those genuine accomplisher is something we have accepted, much like many other unquestioned impositions.
However over the last few decades, vanity by the commoners ( like me) have infested both the digital and real world.
If you are not on LinkedIn, and/or Facebook, and/or Twitter and/or Whatsapp and/or etc etc. You are probably non-existent ( and if I can be audacious enough to say irrelevant) as far as the digital world is concerned.
And if you are, well, of course you are. You are reading my blog. You have a reign and rein on your digital presence. You would have possibly and surely succumbed to this plague which is called vanity.
It strikes quietly uncontrollably and unconscious to many, to others it’s merely a competitive response.
And how it grows, triggers are everywhere must have been your surprise birthday party ( you had no idea you ruled so many hearts ) or your newly minted certification at a course ( latent genius ) or a recent acquisition ( hope we are taking Tesla and not Lamborghini). Or just a change of partnership ( personal or professional – everybody cares).
We post, and we share and we like and we go viral with this infestation of our glorious feet’s and hourly and weekly sense of dis appropriate accomplishments with the unfailing assumption that the world won’t “live another day” till they applauded to your blessed existence ( even if they don’t)
Well, who am I to preach, who in this crazy world doesn’t want the love ( as fake as it might be) ! It’s human to be vain.
So here I am sharing the opportunity for you to continue your persuasion in vanity into the glorious pages of history, or should I say sheet, ahem- may be just say, adhesive paper.
Many lovely desperate ( for commercial viability) postal departments of a few countries have found your sweet spot.
Vanity and they are at your service to flame your fire.
Getting on a stamp
Until quite recently, appearing on a stamp used to be something of a double-edged honour. In most countries, unless you were the head of state, one crucial condition for being so honoured on a postage stamp was that you were dead – and have been that way for at least five years.
In the UK, the birthplace of the postage stamp, the first living recipient of this honour was Sir Francis Chichester, whose boatGipsy Moth IV, featuring its skipper’s definite if unidentifiable image as a small figure on deck, appeared on stamps in 1967 in celebration of the sailor’s singlehanded circumnavigation of the world.
Until then, the ban on picturing living people on stamps was an unwritten Post Office rule in the UK, and therefore the commonwealth stamp world and one that is still broken only rarely, and not always overtly.
A stamp in 1999 honouring Freddie Mercury, the singer with the band Queen, who had died eight years previously, also featured in the background the unmistakable figure of the band’s drummer, the very-much-still-alive Roger Taylor.
But the tribute of the first starring role as a living subject on a stamp was reserved for cricketers Michael Vaughan and Freddie Flintoff after England’s victory over Australia in the Ashes series in 2005.
In the US, a statutory restriction on the use of portraits of the living on currency, dating from 1866, was also applied to postage – until in 2011, the United States Postal Service announced it was “dropping a rule that currently requires an individual to have been deceased at least five years before being honoured on a stamp”.
In a move that looked suspiciously like a cynical effort to make philately both cool and commercially viable again, members of the public were urged to use social media – ironically – to nominate “acclaimed musicians, sports stars, writers, artists and other nationally-known figures” for consideration as subjects for stamps.
Well, now that was a start, but not quite so enamouring to the younger generation ( who we are counting upon to carrying on the baton of philatelic pursuits and not render our vintage collections worthless)
So how do we solve a problem like Mariaaaa… as the song goes.
Aha! #HarryPotter is summoned and #Avengers are called in #Starwars and #StarTrek collide while #lordoftherings vibe with #GamesoftheThrones and of course the #Pixar and #Disneyland characters have there own special commemoratives to ensure everlasting place in #philatelic history.
All this efforts to lure the young into stamp collecting. A win-win commercial arrangement.
Well if you are famous ( and saleable) anybody and nobody who has earned instant fame over the last few quarters are now on an adhesive paper which in other words is called a collectors item.
I have this uncanny premonition that publicists and advertising agencies will soon feel very threatened about their livelihood. Superstars shortcut to the hearts, minds and albums of their fans are just a call away to the post office stamp artists team!
Well, do we stop here. Oh no! We don’t. Vanity is much much more personal.
It’s not good enough that I have the entire collection of #wonderwoman stamps. I am wondering woman – why am I not on a stamp!
So, voila the not so artificial intellect of our friendly neighbourhood post office just went into a eureka nebulous state.
Selfie Stamps wave.
Postage stamp with your own ( or family) picture is the latest missile launched by postal offices of various countries such as USA, UK, Australia, Austria, Bhutan, Canada, Finland, India, Indonesia, New Zealand and a few more.
For example, The United States Post Office allows you to make custom postage stamps from your own photos, but you must use one of the organization’s approved third-party vendors. As explainedon the U.S.P.S. website, custom stamps can be designed and purchased fromPhotoStamps,PictureItPostageandZazzle.
You can get your personalized stamps in a variety of sizes and monetary values. Most vendors also offer a collection of stock images you can use for your stamps. You can use your own logos and graphics to create postage, postcards and envelopes as well — which can come in handy for wedding announcements, family reunions and other events.
Custom postage stamps cost more than the standard versions available at the post office. Prices vary by vendor, stamp size and amount.
So as you can read, we are been nudged to remain self indulgent and in our family history be itched as the first’s to be on a postage stamp.
I wonder, if this doesn’t do the trick for keeping philately alive…. what will !
The Queen has been on postage stamps since 50 years and going strong. Her reign on England and Postage Stamps is quite remarkable. This linkage further entwines into her own personal wealth, so as to speak of.
As of 2015, she is worth £300million but is “asset rich and cash poor”, claims the most comprehensive analysis of her wealth in decades.
Some of her most valuable possessions are kept under wraps, or rather protective sheets.
She inherited the Royal Philatelic Collection, the world’s most comprehensive collection of postage stamps of Britain and the Commonwealth, from her father, George VI.
Many of the most prized pieces were assembled by his father, George V.
With just one set of penny blacks valued at £4million, the Queen’s total collection must be worth £10million although some estimates put the figure at £100million.
The Queen also owns a valuable art collection worth many millions.
On May 9, 2006, Spanish police raided 21 homes and offices of Afinsa Fienes Tangibles SA, the world’s largest postage-stamp dealer, and rival firm, Forum Filatélico. They charged eleven men with running a $6.4 billion pyramid scheme that took in some 343,000 investors – 1 percent of Spain’s entire population, making the fraud one of the largest in Spanish history.
An economy either is in trouble or has lost its sense of balance when investors shy away from tangible capital formation in favor of buying postage stamps and similar collectibles. Unlike machinery and technology, stamps do not produce real goods and services. They have long since been printed and sold by the government, and will never be used actually to mail letters. However, stamps have shown themselves to be a great vehicle to attract savers who think that buying them can produce an exponential earnings growth – or more technically, “capital” gains, if we can stretch economic terminology far enough to call a stamp collection “capital.”
If value resulted merely from scarcity, then postage stamps, coins and master paintings all would seem to increase almost automatically over time, just like most land does. But these trophies of wealth do not promote rising production, consumption or living standards. As stamps do not earn money by employing labor to produce goods and services, their price gains are neither profit nor capital gains as classically understood. They are what economists call a windfall.
The Spanish postage-stamp scheme seems to have taken off in 2003, the year in which Spain’s free-market conservative government deregulated public insurance and oversight for non-financial investment funds. Afinsa Group bought two-thirds control of the New Jersey stamp and coin auction house Greg Manning and merged it with the Spanish auctioneer Auctentia to create Escala as the world’s third largest auction house (after Sotheby’s and Christie’s). Escala moved its operations to New York City and listed its stock on the Nasdaq over-the-counter market. Despite the stock market’s lethargic trend, the company’s earnings showed such rapid growth that in just three years its share price soared from under $5 to $35, tripling in 2005 alone.
Afinsa’s purchases accounted for 70 percent of Escala’s profits, thanks largely to the fact that as its Spanish parent’s sole supplier, Escala marked up its stamps by a reported 1,150 percent, out of all proportion to the usual 25 percent. Afinsa thus was carrying stamps for which it paid 58 million euros on its books at €723 million, over ten times their catalog values – which are fictitiously high in any case, being published mainly for the benefit of stamp dealers to give their customers the idea that they are getting a good buy. But as Forum Filatélico’s chairman, Francisco Briones, explained to a reporter from London’s Financial Times: “It was ‘normal’ to charge clients such inflated prices because of the services provided . . . including the custody and conservation of stamps.”
Afinsa paid its stamp investors an annual rate of 6 to 10 percent interest, beating most competing yields as the global financial bubble was pushing interest rates steadily downward. (Spanish government bonds paid only 3.5 percent.) To build up trust, Afinsa gave its clients post-dated checks for the gains that were promised. It also promised to buy back the stamps it sold, at the original price. This gave an appearance of liquidity to the normally illiquid market in stamps, fine arts and other collectibles, where 25 percent commissions to auction houses are normal. These ploys convinced the majority to simply re-invest the money to buy yet more stamps, which the company held in its offices ostensibly for safekeeping and preservation.
Money poured in, giving stock-market investors in Escala much higher returns than the stamp-buying customers nominally were receiving. As one news report remarked, why buy stamps and coins when you can invest in companies dealing in them? But within a week of the arrests, Escala’s stock plunged below $4 a share.
The denouement came shortly after Lloyd’s of London withdrew from a €1.2 billion policy to insure Afinsa’s stamps. One of its experts noticed that if $6 billion really had been invested, it would have bought up all the investment-grade stamps in the world many times over. The fact that stamp prices did not reflect any such extraordinary buying implied that few bona fide stamp transactions occurred at all, and there had been a massive over-billing.
Afinsa often bought the stamps from Guijarro at 8 percent of their value listed in philately catalogs and re-sold them at a monstrous profit of up to 1,150 percent. Just between 2000-02, it spent 57.88 million euros on the stamps and sold them for 723.55 million euros.
As matters turned out, most of Afinsa’s stamps had no investment value. This explained why there were no receipts for transactions with Escala. The police found €10 million in €500 banknotes (worth about $650 each at the exchange rate of $1.30 per euro) by breaking open a newly plastered wall at the Madrid home of Afinsa’s main stamp supplier, Francisco Guijarro. What they could not find were any receipts for the stamps that he allegedly bought. And despite the remarkably high markups charged for curating the stamp collection, it was rife with phonies, as Lloyd’s had suspected. Concluding that the bills Senor Guijarro had sent to Afinsa were just a cover for a money laundering operation, the prosecutors charged the family members and officers who controlled Afinsa with embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion, fraudulent bankruptcy, breach of trust and forgery.
After a lengthy trial that stretched for almost a decade, Afinsa’s executives were convicted by the national court in July 2016 and sentenced to up to 12 years in prison, although the Supreme Court later reduced Cano’s sentence to only eight years.
The arrests recalled memories of a more famous U.S. fraud involving postage stamps some 86 years earlier, in 1920, by Charles Ponzi – the man who bequeathed his name to history in the form of Ponzi pyramid scheme. He is reported to have arrived in Boston in 1903 with only $2.50. Not speaking much English, he took menial jobs. Fired as a waiter for shortchanging customers, he moved up to Montreal and became an assistant teller in an Italian immigrant bank. It grew rapidly by paying double the normal 3 percent rate of interest on savings accounts, but failed when its real estate loans began to go bad. The bank’s attempt to give the impression of solvency seems to have given Ponzi the idea of paying interest out of new deposit inflows rather than actual earnings. As long as clients felt they were receiving interest regularly, they tended to be calm about the principal balance.
Ponzi was sent to a Canadian prison for forgery, and then was jailed in Atlanta for trying to smuggle Italian immigrants into the United States. After his release he moved back to Boston and got a job selling business catalogs. A Spanish customer sent him a postal reply coupon, which allowed its holder to buy stamps in foreign countries for return mail rather than using domestic currency to buy a stamp.
Prices for these coupons were long out of date, having been set in 1907 by the International Postal Union. World War I drastically shifted exchange rates, enabling buyers to pay a small amount in Britain – or even less in Germany with its depreciated currency – and obtain a return stamp order that was good in the United States.
The markup on these tiny postal orders was large. An American penny could buy foreign stamp orders that could be converted into six cents in U.S. stamps, for a 500 percent profit. The problem was that it would take a truckload of such postal orders to make serious money. A million-dollar investment would involve a hundred million penny coupons – which then would have to be converted into stamps and sold in competition with the U.S. Post Office, presumably at a discount, mainly in immigrant neighborhoods.
Focusing on the principle of arbitrage rather than such laborious implementation, Ponzi explained that he could make a 400 percent gain after expenses. He promised that investors could double their money in 90 days, pretending to take due account of the costs and shipping time from Europe to America. When his Securities Exchange Company paid early investors the high returns he had described, they spread the word to others. Ponzi’s inflow of funds rose from $5,000 in February 1920 to $30,000 in March, and $420,000 by May. By July an estimated $250,000 a day was flowing into his firm, mainly from small investors who let their book credits build up rather than taking out their money. Some people put their life savings into the plan, and even borrowed against their homes.
Ponzi spent most of the money on himself, buying a mansion and bringing his mother over from Italy. The financial reporter Clarence Barron (publisher of Barron’s) noted that if he really had invested the money as he told his investors he had done, Ponzi would have had to purchase 160 million postal reply coupons. Yet the post office reported that few were being bought at home or abroad, and only 27,000 were circulating in the United States.
Federal agents raided Ponzi’s offices in August, but did not find any postal reply coupons, just as Spanish police did not find investment-grade postage stamps in the scheme’s 2006 replay. Ponzi was sentenced to prison yet again, but jumped bail and tried to make some quick money selling Florida real estate. He soon was recaptured, and was deported back to Italy upon his release in 1934.
What Ponzi sold was hope, pandering to peoples’ unrealistic desire to believe that a new way to make easy gains had been discovered, with no visible upper limit as to how long gains can persist in excess of the economy’s own rate of growth. It is a measure of how much harder it is to make returns in today’s world – and hence, how little hope needs to be excited – that whereas Ponzi promised to double his investors’ money every three months, the Spanish stamp scheme paid only a 6 to 10 percent annual return. Neither fraud actually made any trading gains or profits, but simply paid investors out of new money coming in from fresh players. New inflows were treated as earnings. That’s how pyramid schemes work.
It was almost as if the Spanish operators had read one of the biographies of Ponzi that began to appear as observers noticed the common denominators between the global financial bubble of the 1990s and earlier bubbles. These bubbles provide a classic contrast between the real wealth of nations and what the business press these days calls “wealth creation” that simply takes the form of rising asset prices – “capital gains,” most of which are land-price gains.
No doubt stamp collectors would have viewed the bidding up of stamp prices as wealth creation if it actually had occurred. But all it would have achieved was to inflate the price of old stamps, much as the world’s growing ranks of billionaires were bidding up prices for master paintings and modern art, designer furniture and beachfront homes. If all the economy’s savings went into Rembrandts and Picassos, their price obviously would soar, just as putting $6 billion into postage stamps would have established higher plateau levels for stamp prices.
The flow of funds into any category of assets bid up their prices. This is true most of all for land, one of the most universal economic needs and conspicuous-consumption status measures. But does this really “create wealth”? Do market prices reflect use values, living standards and the progress of civilization?
The requisite characteristic for such price gains is indeed scarcity, but not so much that there is not enough for large numbers of buyers to make a market. If psychological utility is the key, “scarcity” has value only as a compulsive acquisitive character – wealth addiction. It means having what other people lack, with connotations of denial.
Today’s balance sheets confuse bubble wealth with real capital formation. “Investment” has become whatever accountants say they are. So have asset and debt values, given today’s leeway for financial fiction. The practice of “marking to market” permits accountants to project hypothetical gains at astronomical rates of interest, or trivializing by discounting, applying purely mathematical functions that have lost all connection to realistic rates of growth. The result is that the financial sector itself has become decoupled from the “real” economy.
The tragedy of our time is that saving today is being diverted in ways that are decoupled from real capital formation, but merely add to the economy’s debt and property overhead. To distinguish wealth from overhead, this book starts with real estate, and then reviews the stock market, advance saving for pensions and health care via a flow of funds into the stock market to create capital gains. My aim is to show how different the actual economy is from what economic textbooks teach. Economic statistics have been hijacked to the cause of special-interest pleading. All but lost from sight is the common weal.
Suppose that Ponzi actually had bought International Postal Orders, and that the Spanish stamp companies actually had invested $6 billion in rare philatelic items and coins, driving up their price to create paper gains for the investors. To whom would they sell, in order to take their gains? (This is the proverbial “greater fool” problem.) More to the point, how positive would have been the broad economic effect of such asset-price inflation?
The recent stock market and real estate bubbles are much like pyramid schemes in the sense that what is bidding up stock and property prices is an exponential inflow of new money from pension plans and mutual funds (for shares) and bank credit (for real estate). Venture capitalists are “cashing out” while corporate managers exercise their stock options.
Suppose that mortgage-packaging companies are honest in their appraisals of current price trends. The real estate bubble is nonetheless speculative and postindustrial. The analogy is found when financial managers endorse government policies that encourage the inflation of price for stocks and bonds, stamps and coins, Rembrandts and modern art by claiming that this creates wealth and hence, by definition, pulls living standards and culture onward and upward.
What is wrong with this picture? For starters, it fails to define value as distinct from price, windfall and capital gains as distinct from earned income. It also neglects the fact that market prices rise and fall, but the debts remain in place. And when debts cannot be paid, savings are wiped out.
On May 9, 2006, the price of Escala shares fell by half as news of the police raids spread. By Friday its stock was down almost 90 percent. On Monday it jumped by 50 percent, from $4.34 at Thursday’s close to $9.45 a share. Hedge funds were making and losing money hand over fist, dwarfing the gains and losses made from stamp trading. A veritable market in crime, punishment and beating the rap was in play.
What does this have to do with true capital formation? Individuals are getting rich while the economy is polarizing between creditors and debtors, property owners and rent-payers. Unproductive investment occurs when it takes the form of windfall “capital” gains, and when it involves going into debt for real estate, stocks or bonds, or “collectibles.” Unproductive credit occurs when commercial banks make loans that merely finance the purchase of property, companies or financial securities already in place.
Two centuries ago, French followers of Count Henry St. Simon outlined an industrial system that was to be based mainly on equity financing (stocks) rather than debt (bonds and bank loans). Their idea was to make industrial banking a kind of mutual fund, so that claims for payment (and hence, the value of savings) would rise and fall to reflect the economy’s earning power. The industrial banking that developed largely in Germany and central Europe differed from the short-term Anglo-American collateral-based trade credit and mortgage lending. But since World War I, global financial practices have been more extractive than productive.
The consequence has been that debts on the economy-wide level have grown more rapidly than the ability to pay. Instead of reducing this debt overhead by earning their way out of debt, economies have sought to inflate their way out of debt. However, the mode of inflation is not the familiar rise in consumer prices, much less wage inflation. Rather, it is asset-price inflation, emanating largely from the United States. Since the gold-exchange standard gave way to the paper dollar standard in 1971, the U.S. economy has become unique in being able to create credit – and foreign debt – without constraint. The result has been an unparalleled growth in debt relative to income, production and wages. This “debt pollution” has been likened to environmental pollution. It is the financial equivalent of global warming.
We have entered an era in which financial markets resemble the stamp-buying funds. Governments have replaced industrial growth with purely financial wealth creation in the form of a real estate and stock market bubble. This has turned the economic universe upside-down relative to what the classical writers expected to result from the technological progress unleashed by the Industrial Revolution and its parallel agricultural, commercial and financial revolutions. Property and credit have become costs instead of a benefit, institutional forms of rent- and interest-extracting overhead rather than helpful inputs.
Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in the world, with more than 2 billion followers. It has been 121 years since the issue of the first Chirstmas Stamp
The stamp is the 1898 Canada two-cent with the Mercator map. (Gerhardus Mercator was the most notable geographer of his time, and his world map of 1569 won lasting fame.) Most often called the ‘Map’ stamp or the Imperial Penny Postage issue, the stamp also gets credit for being the first ever Christmas stamp.
At the Universal Postal Union conference in Washington, in 1897, British Empire delegates, especially Canada’s Postmaster General Honorable (later Sir) William Mulock, lobbied to get an overseas penny postage rate among Empire nations. He lost that battle, but in July 1898, he was in Britain with a new proposal and much determination.
The decision was not exactly what Mulock wanted, but a resolution at the July 1898 conference allowed Empire countries to opt into an Imperial Penny Postage rate if they chose to do so. Canada made the move to be effective on Christmas day 1898. That, however, did not cause the two-cent to be the first Christmas stamp.
At the time, stamp designs for the colonial countries had to be approved by Queen Victoria. The story goes that a post office official in discussing the new Canadian stamp for the Imperial Penny Postage rate (two cents) with Her Majesty said the new stamp could serve as a tribute to the prince. The official was referring to the then-Prince of Wales whose birthday occurred on November 9, the original date selected to release the stamp.
Queen Victoria, who had her gruff moments, is said to have replied “Which prince?” in a tone that suggested she would not be pleased with a royal connection other than herself. The official quickly said “Why, madam, the Prince of Peace,” referring, of course, to the Christ child. As a result, the stamp when it was officially released on December 7, 1898, bore, not only Mercator’s map, but also the words “XMAS 1898”. It now ranks as the first Christmas stamp in the world, and it was not until 1964 that Canada commenced a regular run of Christmas stamps.
The map stamp was reissued as a stamp-on-a-stamp by Canada Post for its centennary last year. The same stamp commemorated the memory of Sir William Mulock.
Countries were slow to issue specifically-designed Christmas stamps. The next nation with Christmas stamps was Austria in 1937 with two stamps often referred as Christmas Greeting Stamps. The stamps feature a rose and zodiac signs. Brazil issued four semi-charity stamps in 1939 depicting the three Kings and the star, an angel and child, a southern cross and child, and mother and child.
On 1 December 1941 Hungary released a semi-postal stamp picturing a soldier and a Christmas leaf. The surtax on the 20+30 Filler value was intended to pay for “soldiers’ Christmas”. The first stamps to depict the Nativity were a set of three released by Hungary issue of 1943. The country didn’t follow up with another holiday issue until 1988.
In 1944 Germany released a non-valued stamp which was to be used to send Christmas packages to soldiers on the front lines and from there back again. Also that year, the German garrison at Rhodes overprinted local stamps with the inscription “Weichnachten” (Christmas).
It would be 10 years before Cuba issued its two-stamp set of Poinsettia and Bells. On Dec. 1, 1951, Cuba printed two stamps that actually promoted Christmas. The stamps, 1 and 2 centavos, depicted a poinsettia and the word ”Navidades,” Spanish for ”Christmas season.” Three-fourths of the proceeds from the stamps went to the Communications Ministry employees`pension fund.
That year also saw the first appearance of Saint Nicholas on a stamp issued by France on which he is shown in an eighteenth-century print by Jean-Charles Didier bringing the three murdered children back to life. Haiti followed in 1954 with two stamps – Fort Nativity and Star of Bethlehem. As the 1950s progressed, Luxembourg and Spain produced Christmas stamps in 1955 while Liechtenstein, Korea and Australia started what has become a fashion with Christmas issues in 1957. Australia was the first nation to begin issuing Christmas stamps on an annual basis.
The U.S. issued its first Christmas stamp in 1962. The first stamps showed Christmas wreaths and trees, but then the designs became more religious symbols, largely as a result of lobbying by a Waterbury, Conn., railroad worker. After protests about the separation of Church and State in the late 1960s, the Post Office Department began issuing both “traditional” [religious] and “contemporary” [non-religious] Christmas stamps. The religious stamp, in almost every year since the Post Office Department was reorganized as the government-owned corporation U.S. Postal Service, has portrayed a painting of the Madonna and Child.
The cross connection of Christmas; Royal Mail and India
Early in November 2005 the UK Royal Mail produced its annual set of commemorative Christmas stamps, themed on a classic Christmas subject, but with a modern, multicultural twist.
The various stamps were designed around images of the Madonna and Child drawn from European, Haitian, Italian, Indian, Native American and Aboriginal artworks. Royal Mail stated the images were ‘culturally diverse yet all equally significant’, and the designer of the set, Irene von Treskow, stated that ‘the challenge was to go beyond the predictable’.
The unpredictability of this set of stamps extended to its reception. The Indian reference in the set was to a Mughal-style painting, dating from about 1620 and by an unknown artist, on the 68-pence stamp depicted the holy family with St Anne and an Angel.
The family is made up of a darkhaired man and woman with tilaka markings on their foreheads—identifiable in a contemporary context as signifiers of Hindu-ness—cradling a blond-haired baby Jesus.
Several Hindu organisations complained vigorously to the Royal Mail that the stamp was insensitive to the feelings of the Hindu community in Britain; additionally, as 68 pence was the price of a standard letter to India, it was argued that the stamp might inflame a politically sensitive situation by being read there as an attempt to convert Indians to Christianity.
The Royal Mail initially refused to act, perhaps confident in its multicultural credentials as displayed on the stamps. Rather rapidly, however, it changed its strategy, withdrawing the stamp from open sale within a week of its issue (although it was still available on request), apologising for any unintentional offence and pledging that it would not reproduce the stamp after its first print run was exhausted. This followed a short but concerted campaign by the Hindu community.
Gaffs around Christmas Stamps
Over time there have been a number of errors, freaks and oddities relating to Christmas stamps.
Here are a few interesting design :
The subject matter of this 1974 Australian Christmas aerogramme is rather inopportune. The image is based on the Doomsday Angel from Durer’s woodcut The Whore of Babylon.
David Gentleman’s 1973 UK Christmas design has King Wenceslas gathering wood in a totally treeless area.
This 1982 UK Christmas stamp proclaims “While shepherds watched…..” however, a closer inspection shows the shepherds totally ignoring their flocks.
Did you know ?
In 1843, three years after the appearance of the first postage stamp-the 1-penny black of Britain-the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London sent Christmas greeting cards to friends.
The cards were designed by an artist friend of the director and featured three panels: The right and left panels depicted scenes of feeding the hungry and clothing the needy, and the center panel showed a family participating in a holiday toast.
A four-line message printed across the center panel read ”A Merry Christmas/and/A Happy New Year/To You.”
This is considered the first Christmas greeting card.
To a stamp collector, inheriting a relativeʼs stamp collection is almost like winning the lottery. But a non-collector who inherits a stamp collection has a dilemma: he or she has heard that stamps may be valuable, but hasnʼt a clue how to find out the value of their new collection, much less how to turn it into cash.
Stamp collecting is a surprisingly fascinating field, but a pastime that is literally dying. Many people are INHERITING stamp collections — with absolutely no interest in the hobby, or knowledge of what the collection is worth, or how best to sell it.
The inheritor of a stamp collection has three choices, as long as we ignore the fourth one, which is to put the collection in storage and forget about it, and that is not a good solution.
The three choices are these:
1. Become a collector
2. Donate your collection
3. Sell your collection
Please bear in mind that these choices are by no means equal, or necessarily advisable, today we focus on the 3rd option.
Selling stamps drops you into shark-infested waters. Dealer and collectors know full well the ignorance of most people when it comes to what the value is of stamp collections they own — especially so for the folks who inherit such windfalls. The temptation is overwhelming to pay the minimum needed to unburden the disinterested of their stamps — it’s human nature, and not worth getting too worked up about. It’s what MOST people would do.
EXAMPLE: This month a local woman went to an international stamp show with her collection of Chinese stamps. She walked up tothis one table, where the dealer gladly paid her $400 for a collection that was worth at least $10,000 — and likely MUCH more. Best Advice:
Most of us who inherit a stamp collection would want to believe it’s precious– a good place to start is by meeting a few ( not one ) assessors who could estimate the worth of the collection.
Once assessed an option for you would be to donated some stamps to a local charity directly and took the write-off of the ones which may not be to your care taking best. How to sell, using a local dealer and eBay — mostly for the experience. But the most valuable part of the collection you could approach an auction house to sell at a major show. It’s pretty clear that, if you DO have a valuable stamp collection, the auction option is normally going to yield you the best return — though this option is not without pitfalls as well.
==== HERE’S SOME OF WHAT WE LEARNED:
1. Trust no one. Or at least, don’t BLINDLY trust people in the business. Indeed, often it seemed the more sincere and friendly the dealer, the less likely you’ll be getting a good deal. However you will still have to go through a grind. You could check some of the online portals who offer indicative current price to stamps. 2. Trying to figure the value of a stamp is daunting to the uninitiated. MANY factors are in play beyond simple scarcity. The QUALITY of the stamp is all important — new or franked, how “badly” franked, WHERE it was franked (some collect based on such an odd factor), the adhesive method used to put the stamp in the album (and the resulting damage to the stamp), the number of perforations (!), centering (big factor), country, etc. Suffice it to say that — unless you become a collector yourself — this analysis is beyond the capability of 99.9% of the populace.
3. If your stamps do indeed have collector value, figure out a way to get a number of people to “bid” on them. This can be done at a stamp show (bigger is better), but in this day and age, there are two options:
A. Stamp auction B. Amazon / EBay and a few other internet sales 4. Modern stamp auctions are mostly internet auctions. Only a tiny fraction of the bidders are actually in the room. And things move lightning fast, as seldom is there a bidding war. We found that at an action we visited, the average time for an item to be sold (or not sold) was TEN SECONDS! Elaborate efforts are made by the auction houses to put out the information on their offerings in both hard copy auction books and Internet format prior to the auction — and naturally bidders are worldwide. 5. Recommendations from collectors as to who to use as an agent in such sales can be quite helpful, but always be aware that some get a small kickback for referring sellers to auction houses, etc. Ask around. You could invest a fair amount of time at a REMARKABLY well-run local stamp club, and the collectors/curators who would be anxious to share their expertise. 6. Because of the difficulty in grading stamps, the best way to sell on eBay/Internet is to do it on consignment. Yeah, your agent gets a hefty chunk of the proceeds, but we could not have done it any other way. Selling a lot of items on eBay is a business in itself with many aspects few master. But if your collection is worth much more than a $1,000 or so, the stamp auction house may be the better way to go.
7. Unless you are desperate for cash, take your time. No rush. You’ll probably net more from the sale. And the process itself can be surprisingly interesting. 8. A ROUGH gauge of the value/scarcity of a stamp is stampworld.com. But understand that some of the prices are usually inflated values. A rough rule of thumb is that a stamp can be sold for 15%-25% of the catalog listed price (new and used listed separately). But there can be a remarkable difference, depending on supply and demand — and quality. Occasionally a stamp can sell for even MORE than catalog — but that is seldom the case. Remember, it’s supply and demand that (should) establish value. And then you have to consider the cost of doing the sale — when thinking of what you will NET in such transactions.
We hope this information is helpful. If you still insist on getting ripped off just to quickly get rid of your stamps, let me be the first to offer you an incredibly “unfair” pittance for your collection. But my advice? Reject this offer!
I’ve been holding off on the bad news but here it is – most stamps and stamp collections are worth little to nothing.
• Mint stamps with original gum on the back are worth more than used stamps
• Earlier stamps are worth more than modern stamps
• Stamps with any faults (creases, tears, thins, etc.) are worth far less than those in perfect condition. One thing that is common with most collectibles, especially stamps, is that condition is everything. The same stamp that normally sells for $100 may not even be worth $10 if there are creases, thins, tears, etc.
• Boxes of loose used stamps are usually worth very little
• Stamp albums that are sparsely filled are usually worth very little
• Stamp albums for children or beginners are usually worth very little
• Used US postage stamps printed in the last 70 years are worth almost nothing
• Mint with original gumstamps printed in the last 70 years are, with a few exceptions, worth less than their face value and can be used for postage without worry. The net effect is that virtually all US stamps produced since the 1930s are available in quantities that far exceed collector demand so stamp collecting values have suffered. Sadly, for many stamp collectors that means that their stamp nest egg is worth only a fraction of what was originally paid.
Many stamps are rare but not valuable because there is not enough demand to drive the price up. But find a rare and high demand stamp and watch out. A handful of the crown jewels of philately have sold over the past few decade for multi-million dollar sums.
Every stamp collector has a few basic skills to master before they begin.
Now that you have gathered some stamps from envelopes that came through the mail how are you going to get the stamps off the envelopes? First you should decide if you really want to remove the stamp. Perhaps there is a special cancel or image on the envelope that appeals to you — in this case put the entire envelope in your album. But if you want to remove the stamps from envelopes, the best way is to soak them. Soaking most stamps is fast and easy. NOTE that many U.S. self-adhesives issued in 2004 or later will not soak easily, if at all. Read this helpful article for removing self-adhesive stamps.
You first should go through and pull out any brightly covered envelopes (such as red or green) and lay these aside to soak separately as the color may bleed.
Cut off the upper right-hand corner of the envelopes; be careful not to cut the stamps.
Place them, stamp side up, in a few inches of lukewarm water in a shallow bowl (make sure the water is not HOT as it may damage the stamps). Don’t soak too many at one time, they should have room to float. And, if you are soaking a lot of stamps be sure to change your water after two or three batches.
After a few minutes, you will notice the stamps begin to float free form the paper. Remove each stamp from the water. If you use tongs, be careful as a wet stamp is more easily damaged than a dry one. Be patient and do not try to pull the stamp free from the paper before it is ready as you may end up tearing it.
Rinse the back of the stamp gently in fresh water to make sure all the gum is off. You may wish to place the stamps between two paper towels and put a book on top of them to prevent curling. Leave the stamps to dry overnight.
Your stamps are soaked and dried, what is your next move? Before you mount them in your album you need to put them in some kind of order.
Depending on the type of collection you are putting together you may want to first sort your stamps by country or by topic. Or, you may decide to sort them by the service which the stamp was meant to provide such as airmail stamps, special delivery stamps, postage due, parcel post or revenue stamps.
During your sorting process remove any badly damaged stamps, unless of course it is valuable and may be hard to replace.
If you have more than one copy of a particular stamp, select the best one (well centered and lightly canceled). The duplicates can be saved for trading.
Sorting is a never-ending job as you will always be adding to your collection. And remember, there is no right or wrong way to collect.
Store your stamps in glassine envelopes until you are ready to put them in a an album or stockbook
Collectors often store stamps in albums. To attach the stamps to album pages, you may use peelable hinges or stamp mounts. Unlike tape or glue (which you should never use) hinges and mounts provide a way to remove the stamp from your album page without damaging it. So, should you hinge or mount? That’s another choice that is up to you.
Hinges are small, thin, folded pieces of translucent paper or plastic with special gum on the once side. To use a hinge, moisten the short end of the hinge lightly and press it to the back of the stamp, placing the fold about 1/8 inch from the top of the stamp. Then lightly moisten the larger portion of the hinge and attach it to your album page pressing down to secure it. Many collectors prefer to use mounts for mint stamps, as part of the gum will come off of the stamp if the hinge is removed.
Mounts are small, clear plastic sleeves. To use a mount, you simply insert the entire stamp into the mount, lightly moisten the back of the mount, and attach them to your album pages. Mounts are a little more expensive than hinges, but they protect stamps from air, dirt, and moisture.
Hinges and mounts can be purchased from local stamp dealers. To find a Stamp Dealer in your area, look in your yellow pages or visit the On-line Directory where you can search in your state or city.