The “Pony Express” – many have heard of it, but the name truly outlived the business. The business model for speedy mail delivery with ponies between the Midwest and California began as a business in the mid-1800’s, while attempting to maintain efficiency & the safety of information moving through the Civil War. People were thronging to California fast and the need for express mail was evident. Three men produced Leavenworth & Pike’s Peak Express Company which was later known as the Pony Express. Hundreds of horses and approximately 80-100 men were recruited. The company would offer $50 a month and expect the delivery to take ten to thirteen days spanning about 2,000 miles, a tall order considering the conditions of war. Months into the beginning of Pony Express the government subsidized the building of a transcontinental telegraph line which was completed by The Western Union Telegraph Company. According to History.com “On this day in 1861, workers of the Western Union Telegraph Company link the eastern and western telegraph networks of the nation at Salt Lake City, Utah, completing a transcontinental line that for the first time allows instantaneous communication between Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Stephen J. Field, chief justice of California, sent the first transcontinental telegram to President Abraham Lincoln, predicting that the new communication link would help ensure the loyalty of the western states to the Union during the Civil War.” Now that San Francisco was in direct contact with New York City via the telegraph line, after only 19 months in business, the Pony Express was no more. The ways that we send information have been ever changing from generation to generation and the internet could be considered the new telegraph line but mail still exists!
This year, in 2017, the Postal Museum of London opened and is the public identity of the Postal Heritage Trust. We all know the birth of the stamp and our modern postal system began in England but it actually owes its inception to King Henry the Eighth of England in 1516. This King appointed a Master of Posts and had many wooden posts around England with messengers at each post. Each messenger would go from their post to the next and then back to their post, similar to a relay race!
This fun fact along with so many others is the kind of information available in the museum for any philately lover! Of course, you will also find stamps & collectibles, celebrated letter writing, royal mail ships, post office rifles, and so much more!!
Last, if you are going to visit the museum you must take a ride on the newly opened underground Mail Rail on a miniature train and immerse yourself in the history of how things used to be. For more information visit the Postal Museum website https://www.postalmuseum.org/
Once you have decided you would like to join the philately community one should consider how they will collect stamps; what to collect, where to get stamps, how to identify stamps, & what tools to collect. I would suggest new collectors also inform themselves of stamp jargon. Stanley Gibbon’s suggests “buy the largest packet of whole-world stamps you can afford, together with a medium-priced album and some gummed stamp hinges to mount the stamps. This simple start will be your ‘apprenticeship’, and you will have the pleasure of sorting the stamps by country and arranging them in the album. You will be able to identify most of the stamps without hesitation: put aside any which you are doubtful about until you can trace them in the catalog. To keep your interest alive, you will be seeking more and more stamps, and there are numerous sources of supply”. When you know what type of stamps you are collecting it can be fun to invite family and friends to keep an eye out for you! Of all the tools a philatelist may need it is essential to have stamp tongs, magnifying glass (at least 5-10x magnification), stamp album, hinges/mounts, stamp catalog, & perforation gauge. Finally, I would recommend joining a local stamp club as it is always exciting to meet people with the same interests and to share each other’s insights about a common hobby. We may have an event or meeting posted on our home page of a club near you please check it out! Happy stamp collecting!!!
Recently I inherited a stamp collection which began 3 generations ago. I know that just being an old stamp does not mean it is valuable so I started to search the best way to have them evaluated. The valuation of stamps can be a complex process in identifying details accurately, although my knowledge is vast I recognize I should probably have an expert help me to determine the value. Perhaps you have inherited a stamp collection and want to sell it which means you want the right people to give you a fair price, the best place to start is to contact the American Stamp Dealers Association of New York where they have member’s which must adhere to a code of ethics, if abroad contact the Philatelic Traders Society of London. These qualified collectors will guide you in the right direction and assist you with the best way to accrue the highest return. The Philatelic Trade Society suggests a collection may have value if:
- They were issued no later than about 1960
- The stamps are in good condition
- They are of an individual country or countries
- They include higher face values
- They are arranged neatly in albums and look as though care and money has at one time been spent on them
Stamp collections are less likely (unlikely) to have value if:
- They are loose and/or unsorted in a bag
- They are a general “all world” collection with fewer than 100 stamps for each country
- They comprise First Day Covers of the last 30-40 years
- They commemorate a Royal Wedding/Birth/Anniversary or similar
- They comprise any sort of manufactured “instant” collection
- They are in poor condition and/or untidy and/or look in need of TLC
For further information on this subject, you can visit their websites: http://thephilatelictraderssociety.co.uk/value-my-collection/ https://www.americanstampdealer.com/
Stamp design remained a monarch bust of Queen Victoria for 60 years until other creative ideas such as national symbols, coat of arms & pictorial images came to be. The idea of a bust was a borrowed feature from currency design. Along with design, all countries must place their name on the stamp except for Britain. Britain is exempt from this rule as it is the founder of the postal service along with the conceptualisation and implementation of the stamp. In addition, Great Britain has never had the country name placed on their stamps. Shared global stamp attributes include showing the monetary value which is a postal standard around the globe. Postage stamps used for international mail must all use Arabic numerals. The Arab – Hindu numerals are the most widely used symbols to communicate numbers by global cultures across the world. Specifically in the United States “Most stamp subjects are suggested by the public in more than 50,000 letters each year” (postalmuseum.si.edu). These letters are handled and sorted by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Meeting or CSAC. Once a theme, event or person to celebrate is chosen the postal administration will nominate an independent artist. The Artist will be required to submit their work to be approved by the CSAC with the final decision declared by the Postmaster General. The whole process of stamp design development from inception to completion can take up to two years.