Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Systems at Work - How the Postal Service Moves the Mail

Last December the National Postal Museum opened a new permanent exhibit titled "Systems at Work" that explains how the postal service moves the mail.

According to the museum, "The exhibit recreates the paths of letters, magazines, parcels, and other pieces of mail as they have traveled from sender to recipient over the past 200 years. In 1808, a stagecoach carries newspapers and the latest news to people hundreds of miles away. Two hundred years later, the integration of ZIP Codes™, bar codes, intelligent mail, automated sorting machines, and advanced technologies enable the U.S. Postal Service to process and deliver mail to 150 million homes and businesses across the country."

It goes on to say, "At the exhibit’s core is a 270-degree high-resolution film experience that puts visitors into the middle of the mammoth world of a mail-processing center, surrounded by examples of automated machinery that moves mail through the system at astonishing speeds."

To learn more and watch the 9-minute and 30-second film, click here.

To view the exhibit on line, click here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sav-A-Stamp Postal Scale

The Sav-A-Stamp postal scale is the Object of The Month on the National Postal Museum's website. The scale was first manufactured in 1933 during the Great Depression and were used to weigh letters so as not to waste a stamp.

According to National Postal Museum Historian and Curator of Postal History Nancy A. Pope, "The amusingly named Sav-A-Stamp scale could weigh items up to four ounces. The attached clip held letters or small mail pieces to be weighed by the pendulum balance. The scale [shown here] bears a postage rate chart that places its manufacturing date between March 26, 1944 and September 30, 1946, when the U.S. airmail rate was eight cents per ounce."

She goes on to say, "Manufacturers in the U.S. and other nations produced letter scales for use at home. Personal letter scales were popular through the mid 20th century. They could be purchased for relatively low prices. The Sav-a-Stamp scale sold for 69-cents in the early 1940s. Businesses purchased items such as this to give to current or prospective customers."

To learn more, click here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Philatelic Estate and Financial Planning

Columnist Kristi Ellington writes on California's Gilroy Dispatch website, "Your estate could wind up paying substantial and unnecessary taxes and administrative costs – further, your wishes may not be met – the ring from your grandmother that you want to leave to your granddaughter, the stamp collection you worked so hard on that you want to leave to your son and so on."

According to Ellington,"We tend to associate estate planning with significant wealth, and while those who are fortunate enough to fall into that category are generally motivated to perform more formal and complex estate planning – it is not just for the very rich. Every one of us has an estate; as I mentioned last month, no matter your financial situation, you have an estate."

She goes on to say, "...I have witnessed on too many occasions the results of lack of planning. Beyond the financial costs there are emotional ramifications – both of which can be reduced significantly with a little advanced effort. This may be the last gift you leave to your loved ones - I urge you to take the time to put your affairs in order sooner rather than later – an added benefit is that you will have a greater peace of mind knowing you have planned for the well being of your loved ones in the event of an unexpected ability to continue to provide for them yourself. Unless you are confident that all is in order, I urge you to seek professional legal advice to alleviate potential problems down the road."

To read more and get some good planning tips, click here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rare Perot Stamps To Be Displayed

The Bermuda News website is reporting, "Bermuda’s Post Office will be celebrating its 200th anniversary next month with an exhibition that will include eight of the 11 known Perot stamps."

According to the article, "Bermuda’s first postage stamps were produced locally in 1848 by Hamilton postmaster William B. Perot at his Queen Street post office, consisting of the words 'HAMILTON BERMUDA' in a circle, with the year and Perot’s signature in the middle. Known as the Perot provisionals, they are among the greatest rarities of global philately. Only 11 examples of the stamps — issued until 1861 — are known to still exist."

The Perot provisionals have appeared on several Bermuda stamps as shown above. Note the flowers along the side.

Apparently Perot’s postal duties though were just a sideline. Gardening was his primary passion according to a write-up on the Bermuda Biographies website. His five-acre garden at Par-la-Ville on Queen Street, Hamilton, where he lived for most of his life, was a horticultural showpiece.

For more on this story, click here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Australian Stamp Show Features Pieces of Polar Postal History

Australia's Canberra Times reports after finishing an economics degree, and working briefly for a major bank, Melbourne businessman Tony Shields decided to quit the world of banking finance and do something he was really passionate about. So he opened a stamp dealer's shop in Melbourne.

According to reporter Rosslyn Beeby,"His specialty is Antarctic philately (stamps, postcards, postal stationery) and this weekend's Canberra stamp show is showcasing the centenary of Sir Douglas Mawson's polar expedition. Such is the global demand for polar postal memorabilia that Mr Shields recently sold several items to a keen collector in the Czech Republic for $30,000. At the Canberra show, he has a rare letter ($9500) from Robert Scott's polar expedition in 1901, and postcards ($1500) issued to raise funds for the Mawson expedition."

Robert Scott was a Royal Navy officer and explorer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions. During the second expedition Scott and his four comrades all perished from a combination of exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold. Following the news of his death, Scott became a British hero according to an entry on Wikipedia.

Also according to Wikipedia, Sir Douglas Mawson was an Australian geologist, Antarctic explorer and academic. Along with Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton, Mawson was a key Antarctic expedition leader in the early 1900s.

Shown above, a letter to Robert Scott.

To read the entire article, click here.

For more on polar postal history, click here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Investing in Comics and Stamps

Reporter Antonia van de Velde writes on the CNBC business website, "Since 1856, Stanley Gibbons has been buying and selling rare stamps. Its index of Britain’s 30 rarest stamps has risen by almost 70 percent over the past five years, outpacing equities and gold."

However, she notes, "If superheroes conjure up happier memories than those of your stamp collection the market for collecting comic books could offer solace."

Vincent Zurzolo, COO of vintage comic book auction website ComicConnect.com is quoted as saying, "Vintage comic books have definitely appreciated over the last 30, 40, 50 years. You never see the best of the best going down in value."

An early Superman comic book just sold for $63,000, Zurzolo said. Superman made his first appearance June 1938, with an original price tag of 10 cents. Last year that edition sold for over $2 million, making it the most expensive comic book ever.

To read the entire article (and watch a video about investing in rare comic books and stamps), click here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Congressman Urges USPS to Release Secret Report

Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly has filed a motion with the Postal Regulatory Commission to make public a study on the impact of mail service cuts on United States Postal Service revenue.  The USPS has filed a request with the Postal Regulatory Commission to keep the study secret.

According to a write-up on the PotomacLocal.com website, "The Postal Service study quantified the impact on revenue of reducing mail service from 6 to 5 days, eliminating next-day mail service, closing mail processing facilities, and closing thousands of Post Offices.  The study may also have considered the impact of stamp price increases on projected revenue."

It goes on to say, "Congressman Connolly has argued that Postal Service reform should begin with the development of a new business model for the 21st century that would allow it to raise new revenue through innovative products and services.  He has introduced legislation, HR 1262, that would allow the Postal Service to co-locate with private facilities and state and local governments, sell new products and services through the mail, and expand voting by mail."

To read the entire piece, click here

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Highway Post Office Bus

The National Postal Museum's Pushing The Envelope blog posts, "This advertisement, for the White Motor Company, was published in a number of magazines, including the May 24, 1941 issue of 'The Saturday Evening Post.' The company touted their longevity, 'for 40 years the greatest name in trucks' appears at the bottom of the page, and used their connection with the U.S. Post Office Department to promote itself. The bus that appears in the advertisement was used in the Highway Post Office (HPO) bus service. As railroad passenger traffic declined, railway companies were pulling more and more trains out of service. As a result, the Department began to outfit buses with mail sorting equipment for use on lines as Railway Mail Service to some towns was cut."

It goes on to say, "The advertisement refers to the first HPO bus, which was put into service that year. That bus, manufactured by the White Motor Company, is in the collection of the National Postal Museum. The ad references America’s most famous mail moving service, the Pony Express, at the top of the image. Although the Pony Express was not operated by the U.S. Post Office Department, it has become connected to the system in popular memory. The ad also includes a map of the first HPO route, which operated between Washington, DC, and Harrisonburg, Virginia."

For more on the Highway Post Office Bus, click here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Kiribati is Disappearing Underwater

The Sydney Morning Herald reports, "The Pacific nation of Kiribati is negotiating to buy land in Fiji so it can move islanders under threat from rising sea levels, in what could be the first climate-induced relocation of a country."

According to the article by reporter Paul Chapman, "Anote Tong, the Kiribati President, said he was in talks with Fiji's military government to buy up to 2000 hectares of freehold land on which his 113,000 countrymen could resettle. Some of Kiribati's 32 flat coral atolls, which straddle the equator over 3.5 million square kilometres of ocean, are already disappearing. The total land area is 811 square kilometres and the average elevation is less than two metres above sea level."

Kiribati is a member of the Commonwealth and was known as the Gilbert Islands until independence from Britain in 1979.The islands were named after Thomas Gilbert, a British naval captain who navigated the archipelago in 1788. Kiribati is the local pronunciation of Gilbert.

For more on this story, click here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"First Days" Digital Archive Now Available

009The American First Day Cover Society is pleased to announce the availability of the entire run of the Society journal, First Days, in electronic format.

According to a write-up on the The American First Day Cover Society's website, "Every issue of the journal from 1955 to 2011—that’s 395 issues—has been scanned in high resolution and converted to PDF format, viewable on any computer. What’s more, each issue is completely searchable by keyword. So, for instance, when you want to find information about cachet artist Dorothy Knapp, a simple search of the word ‘Knapp’ will produce results in seconds. No more flipping through musty old back issues trying to find the article you remember reading twenty years ago."

It goes on to say, "From a humble 4-page quarterly newsletter beginning in 1955, it quickly became an authoritative semi-monthly magazine under editor Gerald Strauss. Sol Koved took the helm in 1960, a position he held without interruption for 30 years. Under Koved the magazine grew in frequency (eight issues per year starting in 1982) and in size (some issues in the 1980s topped out at 180 pages). Sol’s editorials, always thoughtful and direct, became the magazine’s most-read feature. When Koved retired in 1990, Barry Newton maintained the journal’s standard of excellence for a dozen years. Since 2002, Richard Sine and Peter Martin (now in his second stint as editor) have kept First Days among the best of philatelic journals."

The entire collection is priced at $79 on DVD. There is also a USB flash drive option for $89. 

For more on this story, click here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Philatelic Chocolate Candy Bar Wrapper Contest

The American Topical Association (ATA) is having a contest that encourages kids to design a chocolate candy bar wrapper that promotes stamp collecting.

The winning design will be featured in the September/October edition of the ATA's Topical Tidbits and free packet of stamps will be sent when your candy bar wrapper is received.

You can use markers, crayons, paint, or whatever else you like. Just make sure it’s about stamp collecting and mail your entry by May 15, 2012, to:

Mary Ann Bowman
Topical Tidbits- Fun Foods
P.O. Box 1451
Waukesha, WI 53187

In the meantime, check out the ATA's latest edition of Topical Tidbits which features Fun Foods. On page 20 you'll find the entry form for the philatelic chocolate candy bar wrapper contest.

Click here to view Fun Foods

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Institute for Analytical Philately

Two years ago an organization was formed with the mission of solving philatelic mysteries by applying modern scientific technology. Called the Institute for Analytical Philately, Inc. (IAP), the nonprofit corporation offers funding to researchers who would like to explore scientific approaches to solving philatelic mysteries.

According to a press release issued in January 2010, "The Institute was founded by a group of dedicated philatelists who, in their 'other' lives, are scientists and researchers. More importantly, they were also senior managers responsible for getting results."

In an article, Philately and DNA, that appears in the March 2012 issue of the American Philatelist, The Institute for Analytical Philately is mentioned as possibly becoming involved in researching how analysis of traces of DNA on stamps and covers that were licked can reveal the identity of unidentified persons who died many years ago.

In November of this year the First International Symposium on Analytical Methods in Philately will be held at the National Postal Museum.

Click here to visit their website.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Persistance Pays Off in Getting Danny Thomas His Stamp

Alabama's Al.com website reports an Alabama business man, Raymond Zoghby, spent nearly four years leading a volunteer effort to have St. Jude Children's Research Hospital founder Danny Thomas' image placed on a postage stamp.

According to the article by Casandra Andrews, "Zoghby served for about a decade on the Board of Governors of St. Jude, and chaired the special events committee that erected a statue of Thomas there and pushed hard for the stamp."

She goes on to say, "When the stamp campaign began, Zoghby was undeterred by predictions that the effort was a long shot, at best...In 2008, Zoghby sent a 50-page presentation to the committee that included a 30-minute CD about Thomas, who died in 1991...The next year, Zoghby and others at St. Jude asked national lawmakers to write letters of endorsement. A petition for the stamp garnered about 15,000 signatures."

Then, Zoghby said, he would call the head of the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committtee every six months to get a commitment which finally came in January of this year.

To read the entire article, click here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Operation Cornflakes

Business Insider reports on how the Allies during World War II got the Nazi postal service to deliver their propaganda for them. After bombing a German mail train near the city of Linz, Austria on Feb. 5, 1945, Allied aircraft dropped eight bags of mail among the wreckage.

"Inside each bag were 800 propaganda letters, all addressed to homes and businesses along the train’s route and appropriately stamped. When the train was discovered, German postal workers recovered the bags and delivered the letters without being any wiser about their contents or origins," writes .

According to the article, "Operation Cornflakes (named so because the subversive mail was usually delivered just as its targets sat down for breakfast) had many advantages over simple airdrops, but required a lot of legwork to get off the ground. The inner workings of the German mail system had to be learned, so POWs who had been postal workers were interrogated about everything from postal cancellation markings to the ways mail bags were supposed to be packed and sealed. Spies and sympathizers gathered samples of stamps, postal cancellations, mail sacks, and envelopes while OSS staff pulled names and addresses from German telephone directories."

It goes on to say, "Every aspect of the German postal system, down to the smallest details, were replicated, with some small changes. Forgers manipulated the standard stamp with Adolf Hitler’s face to show the Fuhrer’s exposed skull. Other stamps had their country tag on the bottom changed from 'Deutsches Reich' (German Empire) to 'Futsches Reich' (Ruined Empire).

To read the entire article, click here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Zealand Collector Uses Hobby to Raise Funds for Church

New Zealand's Aucklander website reports, "Victor Sutcliffe has put his own stamp on philately. His house in Titirangi has stamps everywhere you look. You could say he has this hobby licked. He has boxes of stamps in his lounge, dining room, kitchen sink and his 'operation' room. He has drawers bursting with stamped envelopes and a cupboard full of albums."

Sutcliffe, shown here, is the exchange superintendent for the Auckland Philatelic Society. He also sorts, values and sells stamps on behalf of the Baptist Church according to the article by reporter Rowean Orejana.

"His volunteer work is almost a full-time job. It takes him six hours a day to go through boxes and boxes of stamps from churches around the country," pens Orejana.

Orejana goes on to say, "Mr Sutcliffe then painstakingly sorts stamps that are valuable from those that have little value. The ordinary stamps are put in a bag and sold per kilogramme. The others are put in books and priced accordingly. These books are the ones that go to Auckland Philatelic Society collectors who buy them.

Sutcliffe is quoted as saying, "In round figures, around the country, I've constantly got about a thousand books in circulation. And every three months, I send the Baptist Church of New Zealand a cheque."

To read the entire article, click here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Signed Mercury 7 Sheet Up For Auction

The Live Auctioneers website reports a rare Project Mercury stamp sheet that is signed in two different places by each of the original Mercury Seven astronauts will be put up for auction tomorrow by Blue Moon Coins, Inc.

According to the site, the sheet was obtained by the son of a Navy captain who was working on top-secret missile technology with Lawrence Livermore Laboratories and was invited to a signing event when he was working at Cape Canaveral in 1962.

It goes on to say, "Mercury Seven was the group of seven Mercury astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959. They are also referred to as the Original Seven and Astronaut Group 1. This was the only astronaut group with members that flew on all classes of NASA manned orbital spacecraft of the 20th century — Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle. These seven original American astronauts were Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper and Deke Slayton."

Opening bid is $6,000 with an estimate of $6,000 to $10,000.

According to the Sky Image LAb website, "The stamp was designed, printed, and distributed to 305 post offices across the United States in secret. The postmasters did not know what the stamps were or resembled until official word was sent to unseal the packages and begin the distributions and sale of the stamps. The Project Mercury stamp was released for sale at 3:30 pm, Feb. 20, 1962 upon the spectacular mission and successful splashdown of the astronaut, John Glenn Jr."

For more information and to bid, click here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Philatelic Crossword Puzzles

If you like to do crossword puzzles (and happen to be a stamp collector as well) then check out the Philatelic Database.

Each month they offer a different on-line crossword puzzle to perplex philatelists. Actually, they're pretty easy so you won't go crazy trying to figure them out.

The Philatelic Database is an excellent online resource for stamp collectors and others where you will find lots of information pertaining to the hobby. 

To try your brain on the March puzzle, click here.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Stamps Authorized on This Day in 1847

The Golden Gazette News reports that on this day in 1847 the U.S.Post Office Department was authorized to issue postage stamps.

According to the article, "Private enterprise, however, beat the government to the punch, with a carrier service in New York City issuing the first-ever adhesive postage stamps to be produced this side of the Atlantic and then requiring those stamps to be used on all mail that it processed. The City Despatch Post, which was founded by London merchant Henry Thomas Windsor (then a resident of Hoboken, New Jersey), had as its agent one Alexander M. Greig—whose name, ironically, is far more remembered than that of Windsor by both stamp enthusiasts and historians."

It goes on to say, "On March 3, 1845, an Act of Congress established consistent postal rates, but it was not till two years later to the day that the production of stamps was authorized—again, by Congress. While most of the earlier stamps used by the United States City Despatch Post were somewhat crude, once stamp production was authorized the Postmaster General contracted for engraved stamps with artwork that is still sought after today by philatelists."

Shown above, the first U.S. postage stamps.

To read the entire article, click here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Appointment with Danger

Appointment with Danger (1951) is an American crime film noir starring Alan Ladd as a U.S. Postal Inspector investigating the murder of another Postal Inspector in Gary, Indiana and bust up a mail robbery.The film has a good deal of footage of a large metropolitan post office including vintage mail trucks which makes it a lot of fun to watch..

According to a write-up about the film on the Greenbriar Pictures website,"It was part of a noir cycle where enforcement agencies were methodically glorified badge by badge. T-Men, C-Men, and immigration watchdogs had been celebrated. Now it was the post office's moment. That institution could use a back-pat right now for all I'm hearing about them going broke, but we're too cynical to extend plaudits for fed employees on any job, so Appointment won't likely get remade, but 1951 being that simpler time we keep hearing about, Paramount sent out bands blaring for the USPS and put flyers into (wow!) 21,000 post offices tieing-in across the land."

And there's even a letter endorsing the film from the Postmaster General!

The film also features both Jack Webb and Harry Morgan as villains. Both would later work on the Dragnet television show as fictional police detectives for the Los Angeles Police Department.

For more background on the film, click here.

Click here to watch Appointment With Danger.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Royal Mail Fears Anger Over Stamp Prices

Britain's Telegraph reports, "Five million people will be able to buy cut-price stamps to protect them from steep rises in the cost of sending a letter, the head of Royal Mail has disclosed."

Christopher Hope, Senior Political Correspondent, pens, "For the first time, stamp prices will be frozen for some pensioners and benefit claimants to help them with the cost of sending Christmas cards this year. The deal will be limited to a few weeks in December and Royal Mail said customers would be rationed to prevent abuse of the scheme. It is preparing for a public backlash when it announces large rises in the cost of first and second-class stamps."

He goes on to say, "The price of second-class stamps is expected to increase from 36p to as much as 55p in April, and then rise by inflation every year for seven years. The price of a first-class stamp – currently 46p — will no longer be capped by the regulator."

According to the article, "Royal Mail is planning to write to households later this year setting out how the scheme will operate. A spokesman said it would be limited to the five million people who claim pension credits and other employment-related benefits."

For more on this story, click here.