Stamped Out

In the Sept 29 online issue of the New York Times there was an interesting opinion column by contributor Eugene L. Meyer, lamenting the state of our hobby, fueled by the apparent disappointment of the value of his childhood stamp collection:

“I got rid of my stamp collection the other day. It was no great loss from a monetary standpoint. The emotional loss, though, was enormous.

There was a time when my collection might have fetched a good amount, because there was a time when people cared about stamps. They used them to mail bills, letters and postcards, and in the process paid attention to what was on them. You didn’t have to be a collector to value the beautiful, quirky and rare.

Today, many if not most bills are paid online. Letters are rarely written and sent; email suffices. Stamps are still used occasionally, if rarely saved or savored. And most of what passes for stamps are generic images printed on demand at a postal kiosk.

Stamps were, and sometimes still are, things of beauty and history, links to distant places that spawned a global hobby known as philately, or, simply, stamp collecting. Putting a bright spotlight on the hobby was none other than President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the philatelist in chief, often shown in official White House photographs with a magnifying glass, viewing his collection.

Before hours wasted on video games and other ephemeral pleasures, the hobby transfixed and transported youngsters. Stamps were the adhesive coins of the realm, a way to learn geography, history and politics…”

You can read the rest of the column HERE.

Let’s hear your opinion after reading his story. True, the amount of stamp collectors out there seems to be down (and the APS member stats reported in the article certainly appears to bear this out); stamp values for common items certainly have fallen; and you would be hard-pressed to find a brick and mortar stamp shop these days. Do all these signal the end of a “dying hobby”? Or do they just reflect the collecting realities of a new, digital age?

The Alamo Story and Texas Independence through Philately

We have a special guest for our October 15 meeting: John Own of the Columbia (SC) Philatelic Society will be speaking and showing his exhibit: “The Alamo Story and Texas Independence through Philately”, subtitled: “Putting Together A Philatelic Exhibit of Postal History – It’s Easy But Requires Some Due Diligence”. We will also have a mini-auction in October, members can submit no more than three lots each.

For our November meeting we will have our regular auction, so encourage your fellow members to pull out all the stops and bring the GOOD stuff! December is our Christmas luncheon at Deerfield, but we haven’t finalized the date yet.

Finally, October 25 is the deadline for submitting articles for the November-December Smoky Mountain Philatelist. Start writing!

Meaningless or Deceiving Adjectives Used to Describe Stamp Items for Sale

Larry Oliver

I was originally trained as a journalist, and my father taught me some very pertinent things about the use of language. Amongst them was the importance – and lack of importance – of certain words. He was the first to teach me about objectivity vs. subjectivity. He phrased it as unambiguous and ambiguous, respectively. Some words have a clear, precise meaning, while others (commonly used in advertising!!) can be interpreted in multiple ways. The subjective words or phrases tend to appeal to the reader’s own desires, with the reader (or listener) interpreting them in the way most pleasing to the reader. We were not allowed to use the subjective words in our newspaper except in the opinion columns. Newspaper reporting was the “who, what, when, where, how and why” approach, with caution to be exercised in the “why” discussion.

Stamp dealers, auction houses, and even collectors like to embellish the descriptions of their offerings with subjective, or ambiguous terms. Even philatelic authors succumb to the temptation to express a feeling or an emotion about the topic of the article. We, as readers and buyers are always going to be exposed to vague terms and we almost without awareness read them, apply our own interpretation, and go on. It may be of some value to all collectors to develop a sense for these adjectives that, while probably not intended to deceive, induce a positive unconscious reaction that encourages purchase of the item.

Over some period of time, I have jotted down the words and phrases that I have observed in auction catalogs, dealer descriptions and ads that fit the above definition of ambiguous interpretation. Enjoy reviewing this list of terms used in stamp auction catalogs and dealer’s ads that are enticing, but uninterpretable, and use caution when you see the word or phrase used to describe the collection or item you are examining!

Floor Sweepings
Hand selected
Seldom seen
Fairly Complete
Rarities abound
Not to be missed

And my personal favorite for ambiguous interpretation:


The Variety Hunter: Case #529a and #530a

by Scott Martz

In previous columns I have focused on plate varieties, but today let us look at a printing variety.  The pictured stamps are: #529a— three cent purple, type III, offset printing, double impression; and #530a—three cent purple, type IV, offset printing, double impression.

Scott #529a
Type III offset printing

Scott #530a
Type IV offset printing

These are spectacular double impressions, showing great distance between impressions. They almost make you think your eyes are out of focus.  It is interesting with offset printed stamps the paper is not actually printed twice. The plate puts ink on the transfer roll twice. If the transfers are slightly apart then when the paper does go over the transfer roll, both ink impressions are transferred to the paper at the same time, showing the double image. This also explains why 1 image is slightly blurry, and less distinct. The ink was disturbed from the first transfer by the second, so the second transfer is bolder and clearer.

These are not rare varieties for the offset series, and can usually be found at a large stamp bourse. These three cent denominations can be had for only $20 to $30 dollars.

Happy Hunting! Scott

The Beautiful Canada Scott #158 “Bluenose”

by Robert Taylor

Considered one of Canada’s most beautiful stamps, the Bluenose was created in 1929 as a high value (50 Cents) in the King George V scroll issue. It’s striking dark blue color is very evident and has been a collector’s favorite from that year onward. The name Bluenose was actually the name of a Canadian fishing schooner as you will see in more info below.

Printed by the Canadian Banknote Company of Ottawa, it shows the fishing schooner photographed racing off Halifax Harbor by Wallace MacAskill in 1922. The designer actually chose to show two images of the schooner to represent it winning one of it’s legendary races.

Despite it’s racing career, the Bluenose is not a yacht but a fishing schooner, and actually spent much of its life as a working ship although it was designed and built with racing in mind. It was one of hundreds of schooners that each year ventured out into the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland, fishing for cod from March to October. Designed by noted yacht designer William Roue of Halifax, it was built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and launched in 1921. Its name “Bluenose” is a nickname given to those who fish the Grand Banks, although the ship is actually painted black. On one excursion, the Bluenose brought back over 300,000 pounds of cod, the largest catch ever recorded in Lunenburg’s history.

There is a rarity that exists with this issue. It’s called “man on the mast”. It appears as a small image of a figure just below the top of the forward mast. This is an item that can be faked easily so expertizing of such a stamp is necessary. Such legitimate varieties are quite pricey.

In Canada, there is an annual challenge called the International Fishing Trophy, a competition among the fishing boats of the Grand Banks. The Bluenose, reaching speeds of 17 knots under full sail, won the trophy in 1921, 1922, 1923, 1931 and 1938 under Captain Angus J. Walters, never losing a race in 17 years. It sailed to Chicago in 1933 to represent Canada at the Century of Progress Exhibition, and sailed to England in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of King George V. Outdated and replaced by modern motorized vessels, it was retired from service in 1942 and sold to work as a freighter in the Caribbean, stripped of its sails and masts. Laden with a load of bananas, in 1946 it crashed into a reef and sank off the coast of Haiti, a sad ending to a legendary icon.

The famous Bluenose, easily the most recognized Canadian ship and a national symbol of Canada, is also shown on the Canadian dime and on Nova Scotia license plates. Today, the Bluenose II, a replica built in Lunenburg in 1963, recaptures the glory of these magnificent schooners, representing Nova Scotia at numerous events.With just over one million copies printed, it remains and continues to hold excellent value:

MNH   $450.00
MH   $350.00
FINE   $200.00
USED VF    $100.00
USED FINE    $50.00


Are you interested in articles like these? Join our club and receive The Smoky Mountain Philatelist in your email box bi-monthly, six times a year. And if you would like to share your expertise with your fellow stamp collectors, we’re always looking for interesting submissions. Please email the editor here, and thanks!

D-Limonene: Orange Citrus Solvent

Directions for Use in Removal of Self-adhesive Stamps
by Ken Farnik

First, determine that a stamp is a self- adhesive and not water activated (stamps with gum), because this solvent will not work on water activated stamps. Once that is confirmed, check that the stamp is indeed stuck down on paper and not plastic. A different procedure is required for stamps stuck down on plastic (or cardboard). Use a Q tip to wet the paper (envelope) immediately behind the stamp. Wait approximately 30 seconds. Now, gently lift the stamp up with stamp tongs from one of its corners. It should come right off. It is not necessary to discard the paper or envelope on which the stamp was stuck to.

Using the Q tip, apply a little more solvent now to the back of the stamp. You will see the adhesive backing starting to dissolve. Work the Q tip around in a circular motion on the stamp until all the adhesive is dissolved. It will look like a sticky film on the stamp. You can feel it with your finger. Now use a paper towel to gently rub the sticky film off the stamp. Use a sideways motion until all of the film is removed. This may take a few minutes. Check the front of the stamp for any of the sticky film which may have been transferred by use of the paper towel. Using a clean portion of the paper towel, now remove any traces of sticky film from the front of the stamp. There may be a slightly sticky feel to the stamp, both front and back. Do not be concerned by this. Air dry the stamp for 3 days. You will notice an odor of oranges that will dissipate over time. The stamp needs to dry in the open for approximately one week.

Other information: This solvent does not weaken the paper fibers of the stamp as soaking in water will do. Hence, you will find that peeling and cleaning of the stamp is much easier than if the stamp were wet with water. If the stamp is on a plastic envelope (or cardboard), obviously the solvent will not readily soak through from the back, so the Q tip soaked in solvent must be applied from the front. More time must be allowed for this- several minutes. Be patient. Once the stamp is off the plastic, chances are that the adhesive is already dissolved, so just use a paper towel to remove as previously described.

Other stamp uses: Old fashioned “scotch” tape and magic mending tape will also come off. Actual soaking of the stamp might be required. If the tape has already stained the stamp, solvent will not help to remove the stain. In that case, you are on your own.

D-Limonene Food Grade, High Purity, Orange Citrus Solvent 100 % Organic, 100% non toxic

Limonene is a phytochemical which falls in the class of monoterpenes and cyclo terpene. The name Limonene is derived from the citrus fruit i.e., lemon and it is abundantly found in other plant sources like cherries, spearmint, dill, garlic, celery, maize, rosemary, ginger, basil, etc. This phytochemical generally occurs in two optically active forms, l-limonene and d-limonene. The d-limonene is the compound which is responsible for strong smell of oranges.

Are you interested in articles like these? Join our club and receive The Smoky Mountain Philatelist in your email box bi-monthly, six times a year. And if you would like to share your expertise with your fellow stamp collectors, we’re always looking for interesting submissions. Please email the editor here, and thanks!

The Variety Hunter: Case #599a

by Scott Martz

The 599A type II coil stamp is not an uncommon variety. It is highly publicized and illustrated in most catalogs, and with patience most people will find one with some patience and persistence. After seeing a few with your own eyes you will know exactly what to look for.

I have a great story to tell of when I really truly learned to hunt for these. A dealer friend in NY, John Kellas III, gave me an opportunity to search a box of these about 10 years ago. But, this was no ordinary box, it was HUGE. The box was the size of 3 large pillows piled on top of each other. Mostly off paper! We figured over 200,000 stamps. I spent 2 months searching it, and I actually found over 250 of the 599A and 634A Type II stamps in that box. I became very good at finding them at a glance. I was able to keep 20 of those stamps after searching it for John. The 599A and 634A are scarce as that box was 100% unsearched and only about 1 in a 1000 stamps were Type II. The pair of stamps below was not found in this box, but in a collection many years later. I have the many hours of hunting this box, to credit helping me find this in a collection at a Florida show.

But let us discuss what the 599A (and 634A) Type II is. In the photo above the type 1 #599 is on the left, and the 599A is on the right. The 599A has three very bold hairlines. They have significant width to those three hairlines. Many people will mistake a heavily struck or over inked stamp as the actual variety. The trick is to look for true width in those hairlines. Also a line in the right scrolling is bold, as it has distinct width, as compared to the normal, it is a secondary marker to confirm the variety. See illustrations, and compare to the photo of the pair of stamps pictured.

Scott #599 Type I
Normal width hairlines

Because this is a plate variety, all stamps on the same plate do have the variety, why is the stamps picture a pair with one stamp showing the variety and one without? The answer is, that this stamp was printed by the rotary press method, and more than one plate is placed on the drum that does the printing. Where the plates come together, that forms the line that you see. So when 2 different type plates were put on the rotary drum, this very rare variety was born. So this is a variety of a variety. Kind of corny I know, but what can I say, that is who I am.



Scott #599A Type II Strengthened hairlines

In terms of value, this is fun as prices multiply quickly from the plain #599 price. #599 used is a 5 cent stamp, the 599A used is $17. A nice premium for sure, but if you can find a line pair with one #599 and #599A the price jumps to $1000 for a used pair. If these were in MH condition, the #599 is 35 cents, the 599A is $100, and the line pair with one 599 and one 599A is $650. Never hinged jumps to $1250. But this is an excellent example of the normal mint stamp being worth less than the same stamp in used condition. My example has a few short perforations on one stamp, which hurts the value quite a bit, but it is still an extremely difficult piece to find.

Happy Hunting! Scott

Are you interested in articles like these? Join our club and receive The Smoky Mountain Philatelist in your email box bi-monthly, six times a year. And if you would like to share your expertise with your fellow stamp collectors, we’re always looking for interesting submissions. Please email the editor here, and thanks!

Our Next Meeting – July 16, 1:30 pm

Our next meeting will be Sunday at 1:30 pm, July 16, 2017 in the Blue Ridge Room at Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community Center, 1617 Hendersonville Rd. Asheville, NC. This is the regular meeting room.

Stamps start at 1:30, Business at 2;00, Program at 2:30, Still more stamps, ‘till 4:00 AND A lot of members come even earlier at about 1:00.


It’s our auction month!

Our other bi-monthly program is an auction and it is probably one of the best, and spirited, in the state. Here you bid and acquire anything from stamps, covers, sheets, albums and miscellaneous collections of stamps at very reasonable prices. As long as you are a current member, you can bring anything philatelic to the auction for bidding. If you are not sure how it works, please ask Jay, Larry, Stan or myself for guidance and recommendations.

See you there!


Our Next Meeting: June 18, 2017

Our next meeting will be Sunday at 1:30 pm, June 18, 2017 in the Blue Ridge Room at Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community Center, 1617 Hendersonville Rd. Asheville, NC. This is the regular meeting room.

Stamps start at 1:30, Business at 2;00, Program at 2:30, Still more stamps, ‘till 4:00 AND A lot of members come even earlier at about 1:00.



Larry Oliver will give a presentation on Surcharges: the pleasures and the pains; the why, when and where. The intent is to demonstrate the causes and types of surcharges we see on worldwide stamps.

And There will be another contest. Of some sort.


Planning Ahead for the AUGUST Meeting…

We have our exhibition frames – now let’s use them. Create your own ONE PAGE exhibit. Handwritten, typewritten, computer generated, it doesn’t matter. One pagers are simple in concept & execution. Take a small topic, show an example or two with a few lines of text & that’s it. Some topics that might spur your thoughts include: Your favorite stamp; or least favorite stamp; the ugliest stamp (Romania’s 1970 stamp “honoring” Beethoven is Larry’s choice); a single cover analysis; a single stamp with an oddity like a double transfer; an error in stamp design (The Vegas Statue of Liberty); a simple color comparison, like the various shades that can be found on US #563.

Robert Taylor and Larry Oliver will be judges and there will be prizes!

The Club’s 2015 Scott Catalogues, Volumes 1 thru 6, A to Z, will be at the meeting plus the Club’s 2012 US Specialized & World Classics 1840 -1940
And, as always, Door Prizes and the 50-50

See you there!