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A few months back, I bought a book titled Ten Under Cat (Figure 1) by one Cecil Rose. I had never heard of its author and had little idea of its contents, apart from the fact that it was the memoirs of a stamp dealer; I love such books! It turned out to be a quick read and I finished its 160 or so small format pages within a few hours.
Figure 1. Front cover of Ten Under Cat (1958) along with the dust jacket inside panels giving a synopsis of its contents.
First, a bibliography of the book:
Rose, Cecil, and Edward Lanchbery. Ten Under Cat: Reminiscences of a Stamp-Dealer. London: Cassell & Company Ltd, 1958. 159 + (1) pp, numbered in Roman numerals till v, then a blank page, and then 7-159. Hardbound in dark green cloth with gilt lettering on spine. Dustjacket. Price 10/6 on dust jacket front panel.
Lanchbery seems to be the ghost writer as the title page says, “…by Cecil Rose as told to Edward Lanchbery.”
So, how does the book get its name? On one page, Rose says that when he started dealing in stamps, he “… bought as one of the trade on discount terms. ‘Ten under Cat’ – ten per cent under catalogue price – the phrase rolled glibly off my tongue.” On another, he tells a buyer, “I’m charging you ten percent under catalogue price. Honestly you won’t do better. I swear it.”
To any dedicated stamp collector, such (and other) statements sound incredulous, many of his facts and especially his numbers, which often went into many tens of thousands of pounds (the value of 1 pound then equates to about 25 today), sound fictitious. To top it all, Rose relates some dubious transactions with great relish; if some of them indeed took place, why should he publish them and risk getting into trouble?
So, I went online to read more about the man. And I realized that Rose was a much more colorful character than the average stamp dealer! And, trouble did eventually catch up with him; in 1960 as he approached his late years, he was arrested, tried and jailed.
Cecil Rose (Figure 2) was born c. 1903-04. From his book, we learn that his grandparents had fled the Continent and settled in England. Rose’s mother ran a large house of 13 in the (then) village of Salford near Manchester. Rose had three brothers and seven sisters.
Figure 2. Cecil Rose. From Daily Herald, December 20, 1960.
Rose’s father was a jeweler but was “too religious to be a good businessman.” He had no shop or office but worked from home, buying, polishing, cutting, setting stones, and reselling them privately. He later started trading in stamps in bulk.
Rose’s eureka moment was when he was 16 and wanted a bicycle. His only wealth was in stamps (which he had bought for full catalog value). He took enough stamps of catalog value to a dealer to cover the cost of the cycle. And he learned the lesson that he wouldn’t get more than a fifth of the catalog for the two or three stamps that the dealer was interested in.
Violá! Rose set about preparing approval sheets and selling stamps at catalog (though one wonders which collectors pay full catalog?) In 1926, the family moved south to be close to major stamp hubs of Europe. After operating for five years from home at Finchley, he and his father opened a shop in Oxford Street in London.
Unfortunately, Rose’s father passed away just a year later. Still young, in the following years, Rose learned the trade the hard way. He said in his book that he was often the target of “petty frauds and big-time confidence tricksters.” Nevertheless, slowly business grew, and he became known as “Rosie” to collectors and dealers.
The advent of World War II made him deposit his best stock at the bank, close his shop, and enlist in the army. He went to the Middle East as a warrant officer in the Field Security Force. When there, he later admitted that he franked some high-value Cyprus stamps with the Middle East Field Post office Cairo number and later sold them as freaks for good money.
High Street, Eton
After the war, Rose returned to his stamp business. His Oxford Street premises had suffered in the blitz. After operating from his house at Windsor for a while, he got to know about a shop in High Street, Eton, Windsor from a solicitor friend. Rose bought the lease and opened his shop near the end of 1945.
Rose gave a talk on stamps to the Eton College Philatelic Society and soon his shop became the society’s headquarters. Due to its proximity to the college (just about half-a-mile), his shop became prominent with his wife, Mina, helping him out. The shop was so popular that, over the following decade, he claimed he had an average of 400 college boys on his list of regular customers (Figure 3).
Figure 3. “Rosey” showing stamps to schoolboys. From Daily Herald, April 30, 1960.
In his book, Rose devotes a good-humored chapter to his dealings with Eton schoolboys. They were either looking for a bargain or trying to pull his leg by making him search for non-existent stamps or spoil his dealings with adult collectors by making comments on Rose’s unfair prices.
Trial and sentencing
Rose was committed to trial at Old Bailey on 20 charges. He pleaded “not guilty” to all of them. On November 28, 1960, the trial opened and lasted three weeks.
The Queen’s counsel, Neville Faulks, brought all of Rose’s trickeries into the open. He clarified the three types of Rose’s frauds.
The “investment fraud” was getting people to buy stamps as investments by making reckless statements and promising false promises concerning the extent to which stamps would likely increase in value within a short time. The “fraudulent conversion” was the practice of inviting the public to invest in stamps that Rose would retain and sell for profit at an opportune time. This was the fraud most people fell for. The third type of fraud concerned the Boy Scouts Jamboree, wherein Rose collected £40,000 but failed to return most of it.
The jury took four and a half hours to find him guilty on 12 counts involving fraudulent conversions, false pretenses, and carrying on business when an undischarged bankrupt. He was found not guilty on eight charges of recklessly making misleading or deceptive forecasts and of fraudulent conversion.
On December 19, 1960, Judge Aarvold sentenced him to six years in jail and barred him from management of any company for five years after the end of his sentence. He told Rose, “There was a fraud of which you were well aware when you committed it. … It was varied in its design and prolonged in its operation … It involved obtaining the trust of your victims and then avoiding discovery by falsehoods, evasions and false promises. … It is obvious to anyone that you are a man in whom it is extremely dangerous to place any trust or reliance.” Further, with reference to the Boy Scouts Jamboree, he said, “… you did not hesitate to use the fair name of the Boy Scouts Association to further your frauds.”
Philatelic rascals and ruffians of all sorts have been recorded since the beginnings of stamp collecting in the 1860s. Rose was not the first, and certainly not the last, who tried to scan and defraud the unsuspecting. So long as (even supposedly sophisticated and shrewd) people get carried away by greed and too-good-to-be-true schemes, conmen such as Rose will be around to dip their hands into victims’ pockets.
After the trial, one does not hear of Rose. He seems to have vanished into obscurity. If anyone has any further information, please get in touch with the editor or me.
I thank Scott Tiffney, librarian of the American Philatelic Research Library, for helping me with the scans of the philatelic articles cited below. Feedback is always welcome; my email address is [email protected].
“Boy Scout Jamboree,” GB Stamp Rolls, accessed January 10, 2023, https://www.gbstamprolls.com/queen-elizabeth-ii/boy-scout-jamboree.
“Current Comment: Private Jamboree.” Stamp Collecting. November 30, 1956.
“Philatelic Fortune for Scouts.” Bristol Evening Post. March 11, 1957.
“£50,000 for Boy Scouts from Stamps.” Torbay Express and South Devon Echo. March 15, 1957.
“£95,000 loss on Scout Jamboree.” Belfast Telegraph. July 17, 1958.
“Stamp Man on 16 Charges.” News Chronicle. April 30, 1960.
“Stamp Dealer ‘Rosey’ of Eton Accused.” Daily Herald. April 30, 1960.
“Cecil Rose Arrested and Remanded.” Stamp Collecting. May 6, 1960.
“Cecil Rose on Fraud Charges.” The Philatelic Trader and Stationer. May 13, 1960.
“Court Told of ‘Bucket-Shop by Stamp Dealer’. Express & Echo. June 9, 1960.
“‘Bucket Shop’ in Stamps, Court Told.” The Birmingham Post. June 10, 1960.
“Stamp Deals like Bucket Shop, Court Told.” News Chronicle. June 10, 1960.
“Accused Stamp Dealer: More Evidence.” The Birmingham Post. June 11, 1960.
“Cecil Rose “Ran Bucket Shop”. Stamp Collecting. June 17, 1960.
“Lord Donegall a Witness in Stamps Case.” Belfast Telegraph. September 15, 1960.
“Marquess a Witness in Stamps Case.” Express & Echo. September 15, 1960.
“Torquay Witness on Deal in Stamps.” Herald Express. September 15, 1960.
“‘Stamp Dealer could Charm Birds out of Trees’ Q.C.” The Daily Mail. November 29, 1960.
“Six Years for Rosey of Eton.” Daily Herald. December 20, 1960.
“6 Years for Rosey of Eton.” Daily Mirror. December 20, 1960.
“Rise and Fall of Cecil Rose.” The Philatelic Trader. December 9, 1960.
“Six Years Gaol Sentence for Rosie the Charmer.” The Philatelic Trader. January 6, 1961.
[Nodder, Wilf.] “A Rose by any Other Name Smells…” The Journal of the Scout Stamps Collectors Club. 5 no. 1 (January 1961): P. 33.
Page, Derrick. “The 1957 World Scout Jubilee Jamboree,” The Postal Museum, accessed January 10, 2023, https://www.postalmuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Stamp-History-1957-Scout-Jamboree.pdf.
Thomas, Gilbert. “Round the Shelves.” The Birmingham Post & Gazette. January 28, 1958.
Walker, Colin. “1957 Jubilee Jamboree ‘Official’ First Day Covers: A Tale of ‘Skulduggery’” Scout and Guide Stamps Club Bulletin. P. 63, No. 1, Whole No. 353 (Spring 2019).