Monday, September 28, 2009

Lawrence Block's New Column in Linn's

I've blogged earlier on the mystery writer Lawrence Block and his famous stamp collecting hit man, John Keller. Mr. Block now has a monthly column in Linn's, "Generally Speaking," the first one of which appeared in the September 28, 2009 issue. According to Linn's, "Like his character, he collects worldwide, 1840-1940, and he'll be writing for Linn's from the special perspective of a general collector."

What I particularly like about Mr. Block's books (and what I look forward to in his columns) is how he captures the world of stamp collecting. A couple of examples from his novel Hit Parade:

"When you collected the whole world, your albums held spaces for many more stamps than you would ever be able to acquire. Keller knew he would never completely fill any of his albums, and he found this not frustrating but comforting...You tried to fill all the spaces, of course--that was the point--but it was the trying that brought you pleasure, not the accomplishment." (Page 37)

"Well, a stamp collection's like a shark...If you're not adding to it, there's not much pleasure in having it." (Page 286)

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Stamp Acts" in the NY Times

The august New York Times does run articles, even ads, relevant to stamp collecting from time to time, but I found Matthew Stevenson's recent OpEd piece especially relevant to the "Blue" International collector. You can find the entire piece at this url, but I wanted to quote a few lines to whet your appetite:

"I consider Simon my most-traveled friend. As well, I take some personal pride in having tarried in places like Okinawa, Pakistan, Bosnia and Mongolia. But both of us drew blanks as the pages of the [1925 Scott Modern] stamp album unfolded around such names as Horta, Labuan, Mayotte and Rouad...In 1925, six-year-old boys, like my father, knew more of the world than do frequent-flying travel writers today."

"In the early days of World War II, places like Memel, Marienwerder, Helgoland/Heligoland or Upper Silesia went from stamp collecting to Nazi occupation, as if Adolph Hitler was in pursuit of first issues, not simply lebensraum."

While I don't know whether Mr. Stevenson is aware of it, Sandafayre Stamp Auctions has a very helpful Stamp Atlas online. Alas the index doesn't drill down to places like Horta (which, incidentally, is part of the Azores--yes I had to look it up!). Perhaps cross-referencing the "Blue" with the Stamp Atlas would make an good future project--I might even learn something.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Scott's Reference Album of Philatelic Terms

Some years ago I thought it would be fun to find an alternative way of collecting stamps that would free me from the tyranny of the printed album. One possibility that I entertained was a collection illustrating philatelic terminology and concepts--for example, different approaches to prevent the reuse of stamps. (My favorite is Afghanistan's approach to tearing pieces out of its early issues.) The project never got off the ground, but I was reminded of it when I came across an eBay auction for the 1936 Reference Album of Philatelic Terms published by Scott. This brief album was "designed so that a stamp serving as an example may be mounted opposite each term listed. When all the spaces are properly filled, the result will be a very comprehensive reference collection." To that end, the first 2 pages were devoted to "Perforations and Roulettes," and included Common, Clean Perf, Rough Perf, Hyphen Hole, Lozenge Perf, Pin Perf, Sewing Machine Perf, and Part Perf. The other sections are Printing (Engraving, Typographing, Lithographing) including such terms as Se tenant and Moire, followed by "Paper," then "Philatelic Terms," such as Double Surcharge, and finally, "Do Not's: Things which are to be avoided in forming a stamp collection." These include Thin Spot, Repaired, and Heavily Cancelled. Obviously with only 24 pages to work with, there are lots of missing terms and areas, but still, an interesting concept. I wonder how long it would take to find the 84 stamps representing each of the terms?

But who am I kidding. I love the the Procrustean bed that is the printed album as long as I can add additional stamps wherever there is empty space on the page.