Monday, May 30, 2005

Something to look forward to.

I talked the stamp dealer I work parttime for to let me bring home a pound of Sweden he has in his store. Actually, he has about 40 pounds, all on paper, and most of it exactly alike. I told him that if I could take it home, I'd look at it, discover how many stamps there were in a pound, how many different, and so forth. He agreed. I have until Friday to give him the word, but most of the work has been done.

This material apparently came from the return mail of a stamp dealer in England. There are between 1800 and 2000 stamps per pound, usually with two to five stamps per piece of paper on about three-quarters of it. I found exactly seven stamps from nations other than Sweden in the pound I picked from the middle of the box - three from Denmark, three from England, and one from the United States.

I haven't finished soaking them off paper yet, but I have a pretty good idea of what's there. The earliest stamp I know for sure is in the mix in quantity is Scott #701, from 1966. The last issued stamp I found in quantity (more than three copies) was #857, from 1970. If we take Scott at its word, there should have been 157 stamps inclusively between the two numbers. There are roughly 120 different in the lot I'm currently soaking off paper. About 20 of those are definitive stamps, the rest are all either booklet stamps or large commemoratives.

The stamps from the Wasa booklet are there in quantity, including the large 55o blue stamps depicting the the ship and the Swedish coat of arms. The three stamps from the "highways" booklet are there, but in lesser quantity (at least in this group). I found four different stamps from the 1969 "Paintings" souvenir sheet, and plenty of copies of the stamps of the "Swedish Art Forgings" booklet.

Most of the commemoratives were present both with the coil variety and the booklet variety. There were at least a dozen copies each of the Swedish Fairy Tales booklet stamps, and I found four of the five Wildlife set from 1968.

Once everything's soaked off, I'll put one of each on a Hagner page, scan it in and post it. I hope to be able to have a price and shipping terms by next Monday for anyone wishing to relieve Shayne of some of this material.

Friday, May 27, 2005

It's hard!

I always thought working for a stamp dealer would be a lot of fun. I was right, but it does have its drawbacks. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't see a dozen items I need for my collection. Sometimes it's difficult not to drool worse than Pavlov's dogs!

Last week it was French Colonies. This week it's early Australian Kangaroos. What will it be next week? There's no telling. At least with my working, I'm earning enough money to actually buy stamps again. I went nine months without buying anything, and felt utterly deprived.

Today I picked up a bag of Ireland on paper. About three-fourths of it are parts of the "Bird" issue of definitives from 1997, and the re-issues in Euro denominations. There are actually several issues of this group: the standard Irish coinage issue, the mixed coinage (Irish pounds/Euros), and the Euro issue. There are also several varieties of die cut self-adhesives in all three sets, plus several "N" - nondenominated - issues, both perforated and die cut self-adhesive. There's also a perforation variety: either perf 15x14, or perf 14 (primarily used for booklets). The die-cut self adhesive stamps also seem to have been issued in two or three different varieties. Altogether there are at least 75 different, and probably more.

In the article before this one, I wrote that I was "getting out the soaking tray". I had sorted down about a third of a two-pound mix I'd bought to be soaked off paper. There was considerable Channel Islands in the mix, as well as a good assortment of stamps from all over. I put the last group out to dry earlier this evening, before I sat down to write this entry. I've been very pleased with what I've found so far, including two strips of five each of Tunisian commemoratives, the first-ever copies of the Italian "Castles" coil stamps, some Japanese coils, a few Thailand, some high-denomination Indonesian commemoratives, some Malta, South Africa, Switzerland, Canada, and Luxembourg, and just a lot of miscellaneous stamps I now need to sort down and catalogue.

One interesting find was that several of the Channel Islands issues that were issued as die-cut self-adhesive sets were re-issued. The Guernsey "Flowers" were re-issued in booklets with the date "1997", and a straight edge on one side. The Jersey "Days gone By" issue, Scott #854-57, was issued dated 1998, 1999, 2000,and 2001. I recently discovered it's been re-issued dated 2003. The Jersey "Birds" set is dated, and so is the "products of Jersey" set. There are a half-dozen stamps from other countries I'm checking out to see if they have more than one date of issue.

I'll probably start soaking the Ireland tomorrow. I'll have enough soaked off in a week or so to provide a brief report on all the varieties I've found. I did the same thing with a couple of sets of South Africa, and came up with more than 20 varieties Scott hadn't listed in my (admittedly antiquated, for stamp cagalogues) 2003 set.

The next few weeks are going to be very busy for me, but I'll try to write more often than once every ten days! It would help if some people would leave comments...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Time to Get Out the Soaking Tray

I just bought a large assortment of stamps on paper, and will be sorting and soaking them in the next few weeks. As I do, I hope to talk about them, and about the joys of stamp "dumpster-diving" - buying bulk lots for the adventure of searching and finding treasures among the trash.

This box is a good one, and there's quite a bit of material in it that I need for my collection. There are also about 30 different items that represent what the Spanish use in place of Framas. In fact, the Spanish have the best and most varied printed vendor postage of any nation right now. Here's just an example of the ones I found in this box.

There's no reason to try to collect these by value, as that's a matter of choice by the individual. I collect by design, although I am looking for designs that were used with both the old currency (Pesetas) and the new Euro currency.

There was also an interesting discovery in this box - a frama issued by the Spanish Postal Authority in Andorra!

Portugal is also represented in the material I received. There were two different designs, one self-adhesive, the other probably gummed. The gummed stamp features a flamingo, while the self-adhesive depicts a postal stage.

I don't know how many other people collect these, but I find them fun and interesting. I also have several designs of the original German framas, as well as some from Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Isle of Man, and Singapore. If anyone is interested in scans of these other issues, or have other information to share about Framas, please let me know in the comments.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

"You collect Nicaragua?"

Yes, someone asked me that not too long ago. I, indeed, collect Nicaragua. Nicaragua is one of about 30 countries I collect in Central and South America because I've been there. That's the same reason I collect about forty countries in Europe, Asia, and North America. I also collect every stamp issued between May, 1840, and December, 1990, plus at least a 'representative sample' of stamps from newly-minted countries after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1990.

Actually, collecting Nicaragua can be both fun and exciting. Admittedly, there isn't much interesting to collect during the days of the Sandanistas. They put out the typical wallpaper issues prevalent in Africa during the same period, and only slightly better (in both quality and integrity) than the Sand-Dune junk. The early stuff, through about 1900, has the Seebeck blot upon it, but between 1901 and 1970, Nicaragua can be quite interesting.

First, Nicaragua has the largest fresh-water lake in Central America, Lago Nicaragua. It also has some of the most active volcanos in Central America, mostly located between the two lakes, Lago Nicaragua and Lago Managua, near the capital, and the Pacific Ocean. What most encyclopedias and other books won't tell you is that for most of Nicaragua's history, there was no easy, direct access between the Pacific and Atlantic coastal zones. The first road connecting the two zones was completed in the late 1970's or early 1980's. That's why many of the stamps are airmail - that was the only way to get letters from one place to another in the country, and it wasn't much easier to get mail to and from other Central American countries.

That led to two Nicaraguan oddities - the stamps for Cabo Gracias a Dios, and for the province of Zelaya. Stamps used in such oddly named towns as "Bluefield" and "el Bluff", of "Puerto Cabezas" and "San Juan del Norte", are prized by collectors who actually study Nicaraguan postal history.

No discussion of Nicaraguan stamps could be complete without discussing the many issues of the 1914 "National Palace" and "Leon Cathedral" sets, overprints, surcharges, and errors. A person could spend a lifetime studying just these stamps, and not have a complete collection. I always buy every one I can, because it's impossible to know which ones I have and what I don't!

I'm building an inventory of my collection that has spaces for every stamp issued by each nation, including the varieties. The Scott catalogues (at least my old 2003 varieties) number Nicaraguan stamps from 1 through 2371, from C1 through C1196, CB1 through CB11, CO1 through CO59, J1 through J48, O1 through O384, and RA1 through RA75, not counting the Zelaya and Cabo Gracias a Dios issues. I haven't built a complete inventory for Nicaragua yet, but I'm sure the total number of stamps will be significantly larger than the 4144 the catalogue would lead one to expect!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A Working Stiff

I will become a working stiff again on this coming Monday. I'll be working part-time at Shayne Clinard's Web-Collector eBay auction company, creating lots for sale from material he purchases. I actually started today, but that was more a training course rather than actually working. I did see some interesting lots! I'm also looking at a large number of stamps I've never seen before.

Today, there were lots that contained: two Australia used sets from the 1930's (#142-44, 163-65); Wurttemburg #11 used; a set of 4 sheets from the 1931 National Exhibition of Uruguay (410a-413a); a lot containing about 200 stamps from Europe, from very early France and Sweden to some Swiss semi-postals from the 1970's; a British Commonwealth lot that contained stamps from Great Britain and about 40 colonies; the George VI Silver Wedding issue from Aden; and a nice lot of Cape of Good Hope, both early triangles and small colonial seal issues. These lots will probably be up on eBay by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

I tried to make a living as a stamp dealer in the early 1990's, and went bankrupt. Seeing how Shayne has taken advantage of the Internet and the quality of the material he has to offer shows that in order to succeed as a stamp dealer, you have to have both quality material and access to a large audience - certainly more people than collect stamps in Colorado Springs.

I think this is also going to be a learning experience for me, and I plan to take full advantage of it!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Digging through Peru

Last year was a bumper year for me and stamp collecting. I managed to acquire some 80 different lots from three or four different dealers. Some of these were huge - 40 pounds or more in weight. I've been working all winter trying to get them organized and sorted down. About 2/3 of it is now on manila stock pages or in packages sorted down by country. I've slowly been trying to work up each country - sorting down what I have, adding what I needed to my collection, preparing the rest either for my trade stock or dumping it into my "recycle bin" - a 30-gallon rubber trash can - to be given to the Boy Scouts, the VA Hospital, or sold to buy more stamps.

I started sorting what I had on hand for Peru Saturday evening. Peru is one of the few countries that never used watermarked paper for its stamps. However, it's still a mess to sort down, since they DID use as many as five different printers for a particular design or series of stamps. The stamps of Peru, however, are great for learning from.

If you've ever wondered what the "grill" on the backs of some early US stamps looks like, the best examples can be found on the 1874-84 "sun" issue of Peru. The grill is similar to the "E" grill found on US stamps from 1867-1880. While the US stamps are priced in the multiple-dollar range (many in the hundreds or thousands of dollars), the grilled stamps of Peru sell for $.25 to $2.50 each, and the whole set is catalogued at $25 mint and $8 used.

From 1938 through 1951, a set of ten definitive stamps were issued four times, printed by three different companies in three different printing methods. The first issue was printed by Waterlow & Sons in 1938, and were printed by photogravure. The second issue was printed by the Columbian Bank Note Co in 1945-47, and were lithographed. Waterlow & Sons printed the third issue in 1949-51, in changed colors from the first issue. Four stamps were reissued in 1951 by the Institute de Gravure in Paris, and are, as indiciated by the printer, engraved. The government did much the same thing with the "Scenes of Peru" issues from 1952 through 1968. Again, there were five different sets issued by three different printers, but this time the stamps were all lithographed.

Peru has also been a country that used its excess printings of stamps by overprinting (and sometimes surcharging) them. There are literally hundreds of different overprinted issues. There are frequently varieties to these overprints that can be quite valuable, and equally hard to find. I've never found one in 45 years of collecting.

Altogether, I think I ended up with about 540 different varieties I need to catalogue and see what I'm missing in my collection. The majority of the rest will go into my trade stock. I hope to have a want/have list posted to my stamp website by the end of this month.