Drain The Swamp




(photo) Daby B. Carreras’s stamp collection 


Ken Gibson

NYC 2020

Stamps were very popular in the days when I grew up in Alphabet City. There were three children in my building – 199 East 7th Street – and we all collected stamps. Willy, the super’s son, from Chile, and Darryl, who lived upstairs.

That was in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Stamp collecting has waned since then, but it has not lost its value. Many stamps, especially those mass produced by nations wishing to cash in on the craze, are seen for what they are: pieces of paper issued with no real limitation and thus no financial value.

However, the prices of key stamps has continued to soar, with the One Cent Magenta going for nearly $10 million at auction here in NYC in 2014.

That stamp was found on a newspaper by 12 year old Vernon Vaughan, a Scottish boy then living in British Guiana in 1873. While he knew it was unique, he did not have any idea how valuable it was going to become, and so he sold it for six shillings so he could buy more stamps.

It then changed hands until it came to the attention of Count Philippe la Renotière von Ferrary, the man with the largest stamp collection in his day. When he passed away in 1917, it was donated to Berlin’s postal museum. After Germany lost WWI to the Allies, it went to France as part of war reparations, and from France to New York where a collector named Arthur Hind acquired this rarity. From New York it went to an Australian philatelist, then back to the US to be bought by a consortium headed by Philadelphia dealer Irwin Weinberg.

Another American, John E. du Pont, the heir to the Du Pont fortune, and a murderer, purchased the stamp in 1980. At his death the estate put it up for auction at Sotheby’s, where Philip Weiss bought it anonymously as a phone bidder.

Its rarity was due to the fact that it had been produced by the local authorities in a British colony when enough stamps from Britain did not arrive to serve their needs. That stamp, and others in the same series, are genuine rarities that few collectors will ever see. I had the opportunity to view the rare Magenta at Sothebys, where it was displayed in a bulletproof box flanked by armed guards.

While I enjoy seeing, and certainly owning, a rarity, I collect thematically, so I buy stamps that depict birds of prey, falconry, orchids, bats, cactus and thistles. This type of collecting has become popular, many philatelists can show you their collection of Olympics, sports car, architecture etc.

Originally, stamps bore a stark image of a king or queen. The first stamp, issued on 6 June, 1840, and known as the Penny Black, simply showed Queen Victoria, and until her death, all British stamps bore her face. Into the 1930s the face of the regent was about all that one would see on British stamps, which, to this day, do not bear the name of the country. They are recognized by the language and currency; and yet again, by the head of the regent, currently Queen Elizabeth II, which is on most British stamps, but only as a small design in the corner.

Spain, Portugal, German states, Holland and most other nations started with the head of state for the first several decades and gradually turned to other themes to put on their postage stamps.

The United States started using stamps in 1847, with the heads of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin on the first issues, then the heads of deceased presidents. As with US currency, the policy is to not use the image of a living politician. Franklin’s image was used extensively as he was the first postmaster general.

As images on stamps began to include art, plants, buildings, and historical vignettes, stamps became small posters in effect, showing the history and culture of an era. At times they are very unique in their historical value, as when territories changed hands and overprints, made by the new occupying power, appeared on local issues. Puerto Rican stamps are an example of this, as Spain would print stamps for Puerto Rico and Cuba that were similar to the stamps of the mother country. When Puerto Rico was annexed to the United States after the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States overprinted existing American stamps with “Porto Rico” which was then corrected to “Puerto Rico”.  Similar overprints appear on stamps used for Guam and the Philippines, also taken from Spain in 1898.

Wars are not the only events to occasion overprints that tell a story: inflation, such as that experienced in Germany in the early 1920s, tells a story a century later, with overprints designating stamps to be worth millions of marks. The economy was made stable in late 1923, with the lower values re-appearing on German stamps in December of that year.

Stamps were also used as propaganda, with Nazi logos and ideas on most German stamps from 1933 until 1945. As Germany took over the Sudetenland and other areas, German overprints and special occupation issues tell us this story; and when the Allied powers won the war, stamps bearing the letters ‘AM’ appeared in Germany. These letters stood for “Allied Military”. Shortly afterwards, the victors split up Germany and more specifically designated stamps were printed, some for Russia, some for France.

By now hundreds of nations have issued stamps, and hundreds of languages are represented on them, making them useful tools to learn a language as they convey a sense of the culture of a specific country.

Which is making stamp collecting more and more popular after it went through a decline from the 1980s to recent times. In these days of COVID 19, families are faced with the prospect of having to educate and entertain their children at home. All over the country deliverymen are dropping off more and more swing sets and backyard pool sets. These are costing families a chunk of money, and another chunk of time and space.  For inner city families, swings and pools are not options.

But stamps are; they are an efficient way to teach a child history, languages, and other subjects. A useful collection can be acquired for little money, and added to later if there is long term interest.

Daby also collected stamp in his day, so he understands how much fun they are, and how valuable they are – not in terms of their price at auction, but in real terms as educational tools. Let a child see the images from over 300 countries in over 100 languages, let a child look at them for hours each week, and that child will be learning from that experience.

With that in mind, the Daby Carreras campaign is not only encouraging this as a past time to help parents stuck at home in the COVID 19 pandemic, but will be giving away sets of stamps to those parents in or near the district that request them. Postage is included, the campaign will use older US stamps to post these to those families that wish to get involved in this hobby.

Just email Ken or Daby on this site and let us know where we can send a pack of stamps to get you and your child started. This is just one of the many ways that we are helping the community in this time of the pandemic. Another way is by way of a map of Central Park, 50 of which have been set aside to be sent free of charge to any household in the district.


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.