To kick off the Buyers Guide to building a stamp collection, the APS has found four experienced collectors to act as mentors to you, the readers of The American Philatelist. What follows is a series of advice – from lived experience – from collectors who have navigated the murky waters of building their own collections. Their successes and misfortunes are now yours to learn from.
My father was a serious collector, and I began collecting his stamps at the age of five. Unbeknownst to him, I found where he kept his boxes of duplicates and I helped myself. That lasted for about six months before my mother discovered my stash, and I then did not collect again until I was about 11. We were on a ship on our way to India where my father had been assigned by the U.S. government, and he bought me a package of 5000 worldwide stamps and told me to occupy myself on the crossing of the Atlantic. I spent the better part of seven days learning what things like CCCP meant and sorting stamps into countries. I loved it and decided right then and there that I was going to be a stamp collector for life. And that’s turned out to be the case.
What does collecting look like for you today?
It’s a mélange. I collect about 20 different countries in what I call album collections, where I just fill the blanks. These are countries that have personal connections to me – places where I worked, where my wife is from, that sort of thing. I also am a serious exhibitor. Since I retired nearly 10 years ago, I have been working on a whole range of new exhibits and gathering material for them even if they’re not ready to exhibit - the 50¢ Transpacific airmail, international usages thereof and the rates that were paid, Korean War postal history, especially POW mail and foreign military contingents, U.S. auxiliary markings, repairs and rejection marks at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from 1917 to 2003. I also collect U.S. postal counterfeits, which are a fascinating area and fairly specialized material, but there’s material out there to buy; it’s hard to find, but I enjoy looking.
I had written about U.S. postal counterfeits [fake stamps produced with the object of taking money from the U.S. postal service]. I got two particular letters in response to my article on that subject. One was from Rich Drews, and he said, “I've got a small collection of these, too. We ought to compare notes.” The other was from Joann Lenz, who said something similar, so the three of us got together by mail, compared our collections, noted that we each had things the other didn't... Together, we had maybe 85% of the known material, so we formed a noncompetitive exhibit and showed it together as a Court of Honor exhibit. Surprisingly, Scott Publications came to us and said that they'd like to add U.S. postal counterfeits to the Scott Specialized catalog. And so our three collections together form the basis of what in 2013 debuted as that Scott Specialized section. Meanwhile, Joann and I were scouring dealers, Rich was a dealer at the time, and we kept coming up with new material, mostly things that we didn't have - full sheets of counterfeits, postal uses of counterfeits - and our exhibit, which started off as two frames, ended up as five.
This story is reprinted from the March 2021 Buyers Guide Issue of The American Philatelist. If you are interested in gaining access to members only benefits such as this highly acclaimed monthly magazine join the American Philatelic Society's Together We Grow page today!