In the October issue of the Philosateleian Post Horn, I asked readers a question: if they awoke and found their home on fire and had time to grab only one thing from their stamp collection, what would it be?
Vivian B. responded in this way:
I was surprised that I had an answer without even thinking about it. I first started collecting when I was in second grade. I started with the ones at home that we received through the mail—from relatives in Japan, from my dad’s Army connections abroad and around the country—and then started buying grab bags of random assortments. And then came my very first order for specific stamps.
Bhutan had issued a set of six scented stamps depicting a variety of roses. They were magical. I remember taking them to school and everyone was fascinated by the exotic locale and the sweet fragrance. Of course, they don’t smell like anything anymore—it’s been too many years. But they are the stamps I would grab if I could only pick one item from my collection.
Vivian’s response is well put, and illustrates a common thread shared by many collectors. Our most prized possessions are often not those of exceptional value or rarity, but the ones that hold some sentimental value.
I had to think a bit longer to come up with my own response. As you know, I’m a huge fan of the 14¢ American Indian stamp, and have a not insubstantial collection of stamps picturing landscapes. I’ve spent a lot of time on both of those collections, and yet they’re not the first items I would grab from my collection on my way out the door.
You see, after the woman who was to become my wife and I met, we corresponded and really got to know a lot about each other by mail right up until she moved to Florida. (We lived in different states at the time we met.) Sarah had a frustrating habit (to me as a stamp collector) of using the most absolutely common definitive stamps, and the vast majority of letters she sent me bear Forever Liberty Bell stamps.
The value of the stamps on those envelopes? Practically nil. But I could buy more American Indian covers on eBay. I could start over on my landscapes collection. I could even acquire a different Civil War POW cover for my collection.
What I couldn’t replace is those letters from Sarah.
If you read the Philosateleian Post Horn, you found out earlier this month that my wife Sarah and I made a trip out to California in September. One of the places we visited during our time there was Yosemite National Park. It fulfilled a long-held dream for me, and given the chance, I would go back again in a heartbeat. I’m not even sure how to put into words the beauty of that area as a whole, and Yosemite Valley in particular.
We spent most of our time staring at the incredible scenery, but being a stamp collector, I also had to seek out the Yosemite Village post office. I had this postal card postmarked there.
As you can see, this is the 28¢ Yosemite National Park postal card from the first Scenic American Landscapes postal card booklet. To make up the additional postage required, I used the 5¢ John Muir stamp issued in 1964.
There are two markings in green on the left side of the postal card. The first is a dated stamp that reads “Yosemite National Park/Yosemite Valley.” Both this marking and the one below it—a round image depicting Half Dome and reading “Yosemite National Park”—were available at the visitor center in Yosemite Village. They’re intended for use primarily by visitors who can purchase a little book to get stamped at each of the nation’s national parks, but they also provided a nice cachet for my card.
I’ll post more about the philatelic highlights of our trip to Yosemite later.
There’s no question the United States Postal Service, like the country as a whole, is dealing with some serious money problems. But did we really have to stoop to this?
You’re no doubt aware of the reissue of the famous Inverted Jenny stamps last month, and you probably know that unlike the originals, which had a face value of 24 cents, the new stamps have a face value of $2. The official USPS line is that this is “to make them easily distinguishable from the 24-cent originals” (source).
I know, I can’t write that without laughing a little bit myself. If the self-adhesive format in which the reprints were issued didn’t clue someone in on their status, surely the “2013” date to the left of the design would. The only reason to issue the stamp with a $2 face value (instead of the original value or even as a “Forever” stamp) is to separate us collectors from our cash. I can accept that. I’ve ordered a single sheet myself, though I intend to keep no more than one stamp for my collection, and will use the others for postage.
What really takes the cake, though, is that 100 sheets of the Inverted Jenny reissue were printed with the airplane right side up. What do you call a stamp originally issued inverted when it is intentionally issued normally? An inverted invert? Or is it just normal, even though it’s much scarcer than the inverted variety? (Is your head hurting yet?)
The “normal” stamps are available for sale, but you can’t order them. You see, the special sheets have been placed into the stocks of regular inverts (if that makes sense), which means there’s a chance you’ll end up with one when you purchase what you think is a sheet of inverts. Not much of a chance, but a chance.
It will be interesting to see if the editors of the Scott catalogues assign the special “normal” stamps a catalogue number, or if they’re only mentioned in a footnote. While they don’t appear to be an additional attempt to grab money (unlike the press sheets of many issues being sold without die-cuts), I am myself rather unimpressed with the idea. Only 600 of these stamps exist—an intentionally created rarity arguably designed to spur sales of the stamps (with the aforementioned face value of $2 a stamp, or $12 a sheet). That, to my mind, smacks of the shenanigans of a producer of so-called wallpaper.
What do you think of the “normal” Inverted Jenny? Would you pay potentially far more than face value to a dealer in order to add one to your own collection?