APS and APRL mourn the loss of the "Dean of U.S. Philatelic History."
It is with deep sadness that the American Philatelic Society (APS) and the American Philatelic Research Society (APRL) announce the passing of Dr. Herbert “Herb” Trenchard, the dean of U.S. philatelic history on October 21, 2023.
Herb Trenchard came to stamp collecting in 1944, when his high school librarian gave him copies of Stamps magazine to read. During these formative years, he began buying stamps from local New Orleans dealers. His busy college years studying physics brought an end to his active collecting of stamps, but he continued to request, receive and collect many auction catalogues.
In 1955, Herb attended his first philatelic auction, the sale of the Caspary collection at H.R. Harmer, Inc. in New York City. While the items were beyond his budget, it stirred in him the idea of obtaining every U.S. stamp auction catalog ever printed. He soon began requesting catalogs from every philatelic auction house he could find, from the biggest firms to the most obscure. To fill in those catalogs that had already been published, he contacted Sy Colby and Lou Robbins, who regularly attended many of the New York City auctions, and purchased their collections of older catalogs; Herb also enlisted their help in obtaining more recent catalogs from sales that he was unable to attend.
Exploring every avenue in his quest to build his collection, Herb next reached out to prominent philatelic editor and publisher Harry Lindquist, securing from him every auction catalog that he had received in the course of his career. No longer satisfied with only U.S. catalogs, Herb then turned his attention to acquiring British and European auction catalogs as well. His professional work as a theoretical physicist involved frequent trips to Europe, where he made time to visit auction houses and stamp dealers, adding many important older catalogues to his collection.
In 1961, following time in the Army, Herb moved his family to University Park, Maryland which led to one of the most important turns in his philatelic life: a close relationship with U.S. philatelic bibliophile George Turner. Through this close and lifelong relationship, Turner encouraged Herb to become more involved in organized philately, beginning lifelong passion for documenting organized philatelic history, specifically U.S. philatelic history.
Meanwhile, Herb’s collection of catalogs continued to grow. As of 1975, his holdings totaled over 75,000 items. Then in 1984, Herb started a new collection. This collection contained materials related to the history of stamp collecting, or as he described it “anything connected with stamp collecting except stamps.” Those items of philatelic ephemera were kept in a number of albums, boxes, file cabinets, and book cases, and included items like business cards, cinderellas, show programs, postcards, and photographs on such topics as:
- Stamp Dealers
- Philatelic Exhibitions
- Famous Collectors and their Collections
- Early Philatelic History in America
- S. Locals
- Forgers and Forgeries
- Early Philatelists who Impacted U.S. Philately
- First Day Ceremonies
- The Famous Americans issue of 1940
- Special Areas of Postal History
- The St. Louis Bears
- Ionian Islands
By the early 2000s, Herb’s collection totaled over 90,000 items, and in 2018, Herb and his family reached out to the APRL began the process of donating his vast holdings for inclusion in the library’s collection. This enormous and unique collection of catalogs and other ephemera, which arrived on 24 pallets in over 600 bankers boxes, is an invaluable resource for collectors, dealers, expertizers and researchers interested in provenance, values and condition of philatelic auction items over time.
“It was a genuine pleasure and honor getting to know Dr. Trenchard on the visits we made to pick up his extraordinary collection of literature as a donation to the library,” said Scott Tiffney, APRL librarian and APS Director of Information Services. “During these visits he often spoke of his love for the library and the importance of it as a research treasure for the APS and the worldwide philatelic community. His dedication to the library’s mission is expressed in this lasting gift of his collection to the APRL.”
As a prolific writer, Herb’s articles have appeared in nearly every major U.S. philatelic journal including The American Philatelist, the U.S. Chronicle, Penny Post, Philatelic Literature Review, Collectors Club Philatelist, Postal History Journal, Linn’s Stamp News and First Days. Herb was also actively involved in a number of philatelic organizations over his lifetime. He served in every office of the Washington Philatelic Society, including its presidency, was a member of the Board of Directors of SIPEX (the 1966 U.S. international exhibition), and was on the NAPEX Board from 1960 to 1980. He was also member of the Board of the American Ceremony Program Society.
Herb joined the American Philatelic Society in 1970 and eventually became a Life Member of the Society. He was appointed to the APRL Board of Trustees in 1986 and also served as the board’s Vice President. His unique qualifications as a philatelic historian were put to good use in serving as historian and archivist for various organizations such as the Baltimore Philatelic Society, the Washington Philatelic Society and the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs, culminating in his notable appointment as APS Historian in 1993.
His membership on the APS Hall of Fame Committee began in 1973; he later chaired the committee. His philatelic work also included being an active volunteer at the National Postal Museum, serving for a time as an advisor and assistant to the NPM branch of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
“Herb leaves an incredible legacy with the APS and APRL, from his remarkable 23 years on the APRL Board of Trustees and serving as the APS historian. He gave tirelessly in service to his fellow members,” said Scott English, Executive Director. “His final act of kindness was leaving his large collection of material to the APRL for the benefit of generations of members to come. We will work to honor his legacy over the years to come.”
Dr. Trenchard’s contributions to philately have been recognized by the many awards and honors he received over his lifetime, the most significant of which included his designation as a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London; the Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award in 2006; the John Luff Award in 1992 for Outstanding Service to the APS; and election to the Hall of Fame of the APS Writers Unit.
Memories of Herb Trenchard
Herb Trenchard was a walking encyclopedia of the byways of philately. While most of us were collecting stamps and postal history, Herb was accumulating auction catalogs, seals and labels, corner card envelopes, letterheads, and countless other ephemera of our hobby. Some years ago he was invited to a meeting of the Philadelphia Stamp Club to discuss its history. He brought several notebooks filled with materials related to the club.
In addition to describing the club’s founding in 1909, Herb spoke of its predecessor organizations including the Quaker City Philatelic Society (1885), the Philatelic Society of Philadelphia (1893), the Collectors Club of Philadelphia (1897), and the Philatelic Exchange Society of Philadelphia (1907) among others. He profiled some of the club’s luminaries such as editor Percy McGraw Mann and the well-known dealer Eugene Klein.
The APS, the APRL, and we collectors are indebted to Herb and his extensive research and documentation of the hobby.