"What fun, to clean out my office!” So said hardly anyone. The APS headquarters has been a whirring hive of activity since December, as we have moved various offices to new locations in the building, including our editorial office. It’s no small task to excavate my desk from its piles of papers and books, let alone the filing cabinets of assorted detritus from editors of the distant past.
Of course, I could easily spend hours sorting through my findings – photos and negatives from 80s stamp shows, decades-old receipts from past APS staff picnics, slides of stamp images used to put together issues of the AP in the 90s. It’s all evidence of a lot of hard work that’s happened here over the decades: the ephemera behind the legacy of The American Philatelist. Don’t worry – we’ll keep what we need to keep to tell the story of the APS and preserve its records.
In this issue
I’ve been excited about this issue for many months. I’ve been thinking of the issue as “Snake-Oil Salesmen and Philatelic Hucksters,” a name that evokes the very dregs of philatelic society, of long-ago fraud and larger-than-life characters. Luckily the ne’er-do-wells in this issue are far enough removed in time that their crimes no longer spur personal pain and regret – they scammed our philatelic forebears, and hopefully won their just deserts.
The first story comes from Ed Grabowski, who has assembled an impressive collection of material related to the supposedly cure-all medical device, the Oxypathor. Elvard Moses, who patented and sold the device around the world, was convicted of international mail fraud. The covers, postcards and ephemera resulting from the worldwide advertisement of this device are fascinating. So too are the images of the device itself and its supplementary “attachments”.
Our next story is from Rick Barrett, who in his study of the infamous philatelic fraudster William B. Hale, discovered a factual error that was repeated again and again across many philatelic publications in the years since Hale’s death. Barrett tells Hale’s story, diving into contemporaneous newspaper reports, old philatelic advertisements, and government records. He also corrects the record on the circumstances of Hale’s final years.
Scott Tiffney also gets in on the fun of philatelic fraud in his column “APRL Notes,” with a story gleaned from the library’s records: Hungarian stamp dealer and forger Béla Desiderius Szekula (later, Sekula). He moves through Szekula’s various controversies and conflicts, as well as his multiple attempts to publish philatelic journals.
Meanwhile the same problems that concerned our forebears concern us today. There will always be scam artists in the world of philately, but no more are they traveling salesmen who use false names to continue their trade. Now they may be online grifters who, using multiple email addresses or usernames, can sell fakes or counterfeits without fear. I am sure that many of you could share your own stories about run-ins with these grifters.
While I’m on this topic, therefore, I would draw your attention to two columns in this issue. The first is Scott English’s column “Our Story” on page 102. In the December issue, Scott outlined the APS’ important role of protecting collectors’ interests in the online stamp marketplace. He shared a proposal to join with the American Stamp Dealers Association to further this goal. In an update in this issue, Scott explains why a merger between the APS and ASDA is not the best option to address these challenges. However, there are other routes available to the APS to protect collectors and work together with dealers and experts. Read more in Scott’s column.
The second column that you should read is Director of Sales Carol Hoffman’s “Buy and Sell.” The APS’ online StampStore is now hosted on HipStamp’s website. For buyers, using the APS Store on HipStamp should be an improved browsing and buying experience. For sellers through APS, you’ll find a far increased audience for your materials. Carol shares an up-to-date guide to using the platform here.
Also in this issue
While the topic of philatelic wrong-doing is a rich vein to tap, the rest of the issue takes us to different pastures.
We travel to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a small Australian territory. Vincent Sgro uncovered a discrepancy related to a specific set of modern souvenir sheets, which clearly exist yet were not listed in catalogs. He found out why and righted the wrong.
Next, we jump into World War II with Wayne Youngblood’s “Coast to Coast” column, where servicemen heading off to Europe could first mail a recorded message home to their loved ones via record, courtesy of Pepsi-Cola.
In the latest article in partnership with the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society, the esteemed James Milgram comes, hat in hand, with a request to supplement a significant research project he has been working on, a monograph of fancy cancel uses on domestic mail from New York City. If you’ve ever wanted to participate in a crowd-sourced project, this article might be for you. James’ monograph will only benefit from your help, and you could have an opportunity to add to the body of philatelic knowledge on the topic. I’ll let him tell you about it.
We welcome another installment from Charles Posner in his series exploring the commemoratives of the 1950s. Here’s a familiar face – the Marquis de Lafayette, depicted once again on a U.S. stamp.
Finally, there are many important announcements to share. One is Yamil Kouri’s update on Boston 2026, found here. Another is an introduction of our new director of education and content, Eric Spielvogel, who will simultaneously introduce himself and share some news of Summer Seminar 2023.
Last but not least
My kingdom for a quiet month at the APS! But the world keeps turning, and there is always much to do. I appreciate your support and your feedback, and hope that the new year is treating you well.
Call for writers
The American Philatelist depends on our members, who provide much of the content of this magazine. I’d like to encourage more members to join our roster of philatelic writers for The American Philatelist, Philatelic Literature Review, and stamps.org website. We are glad to review article proposals and submissions. The editorial team considers articles on any philatelic topic, but is especially interested in topics on U.S. stamps and postal history. Send your proposal or submission by email to email@example.com. For more information about APS writing guidelines, visit aps.buzz/writeap.
Please keep your feedback coming and share your views. Remember: if you wish to see an always-improving American Philatelist, you – our readers and APS members – must become a part of this exciting journey. Reach out with your questions, concerns, and suggestions. Write a letter to the editor (LetterToTheEditor@stamps.org.) More importantly, volunteer to participate. This is your American Philatelist. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters by regular mail are always welcome and will be responded to in kind.