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The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: Posta Pneumatica Update

The Philatelist | 2008-12-17.1015 LMT | Pneumatics | Technology | Cascadia

Welcome to a special addendum issue of Stamp Nook that contains no stamps. Shocking, I know. It does, however, contain a footnote on postal history, so we shall maintain an air of patience while hearing it out.

The blog Division of Labour has found an interesting New York Times article from Dec. 15, 1908 on the rejection by the office of the Postmaster General of a proposal for the U.S. government to own and operate pneumatic tube systems for the delivery of mails. The article in full:

"That it is not feasible and desirable at the present time for the Government to purchase, to install, or to operate pneumatic tubes," is one of the most important conclusions reached by a commission appointed by the Postmaster General to inquire into the feasibility and desirability of the purchase and operation by the Government of pneumatic tubes in the cities where the service is now installed.

The report was to-day transmitted to Congress by Postmaster General Meyer. He approves its conclusions. The commission, however, recommends a further investigation of the subject of Government ownership of the pneumatic tube service in five or six years. The pneumatic tube service is in operation at present in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and Brooklyn.

The report commends the service as an important auxiliary for the rapid transmission of first-class mail and special delivery mail. It, however, adds these conclusions:

That pneumatic tube service appears to be still in an experimental condition, although progress has been made toward the development of a fixed standard of machinery;

That with the above reservation the regularity and efficiency of the tube service are commendable.

The commission was composed of Postmasters Campbell of Chicago, Mansfield of Boston, Roberts of Brooklynm Wyman of St. Louis, and a number of officials of the Postal Service.


The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: Rove & Roosevelt, Contrasting Philatelists

The Philatelist | 2008-11-26.4890 LMT | Polydactylism | Politics

Welcome again to Stamp Nook! Today we spotlight two powerful, yet very different, philatelists: Karl Rove and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

It's hardly a secret that philatelists run much of the world. Philately is, after all, an elite pastime that appeals to those accustomed to luxury and ultimate wealth, so of course those who reach the pinnacles of power are privileged to partake in it. But beyond that, there is a natural affinity between the collecting of stamps from various nations and the collecting of various nations themselves that appeals to the Imperial-minded. (Interesting fact: World War I was orchestrated as part of a gentleman's agreement among philatelist leaders of the Allied and Central Powers for no other purpose than to create a pretext for the independence of more nations from which new stamps could be issued.)

Kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, heads of state and potentates -- philatelists all! Those who aspire to power would do well to start a stamp collection, if for no other reason than to have something to chat about while hobnobbing at Bilderberg conferences.

Given philately's ubiquity among the world's ruling class, it's no wonder that Karl Rove -- the Republican strategist who, unable to acquire the power he desperately desires through conventional means, has instead ingratiated himself into the company of the elite as a sort of modern-day Kingmaker -- all-too-readily admitted to being a 'practicing philatelist' last year at a Radio-Television Correspondents' Association dinner. However, when asked if he had any rare stamps in his collection, he conceded that he did not.

That's probably for the best as he's wont to use items from his collection for actual postal transactions, as was the case when he mailed a note to the owner of a soap-box derby car named in his honour, plastering the envelope with a 'hodgepodge of vintage stamps from his collection, including an eight-center with a stylized image of a bobsled, commemorating the Sapporo Olympics, in 1972' (Scott #1461).

In a recent New York Times interview, Rove acknowledged his predilection for using his stamps to humourous effect:

Are you going to send [US President-Elect Barack Obama] a little note congratulating him?
I already have. I sent it to his office. I sent him a handwritten note with funny stamps on the outside.

What kind of funny stamps?

To Rove's boorish mind, stamps themselves are funny. His unsophisticated use of stamps to express messages, apparently often of a trite nature, is more akin to the Language of Stamps once used by novice philatelists than to true philatelic steganography as practiced by those elite philatelists who fully embody their positions of power -- philatelists whom Rove unconvincingly emulates. For an example of the latter, we need only look to FDR.

Unlike Rove's irreverent, if not dilettantish, take on philately, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a serious philatelist who took great pride in his collection and interest in the philatelic arts at all levels. While President, he was very active in the design process for new stamps, exercising veto power over proofs that didn't meet with his exacting standards. He even sketched original designs for several issues, including a Mother's Day stamp (#737) intended to encourage Americans to write their mums.

Some have suggested that the only reason FDR ran for president was so he could create new material for his collection. He certainly was unabashed at using the power of his office to further his philatelic goals, going so far as to have the Post Office Department create a commemorative Polar Stamp (#733 -- his own design, naturally) and establish a post office at Admiral Byrd's expedition base in Antarctica just so he could have for his own collection a cover with a special postmark from 'Little America'. Now that's a dedicated philatelist.

Roosevelt's love of stamps was of such international renown that it became the subject of a 1947 stamp from Monaco (#C16). Besides commemorating the tenacity with which he pursued philately, this stamp was the only depiction of a physical abnormality FDR possessed that was kept hidden from the public. I am of course referring to the extra finger he had on his left hand:

Monaco, Scott #C16

Not wishing to alarm a nation already made nervous by Depression and War with the possibility suggested by his sinister sixth digit of a physio-transformative morphogenic awakening -- a 'New Deal' for human physiology, if you will -- brought on by the sympathetic gravity of unfolding historical events, Roosevelt insisted that his extra finger be airbrushed out of all official photos (a technique suggested to him by Stalin, who often used it to erase sore thumbs). He even took to pretending to have suffered from polio in order to distract attention away from his hand, such was the level of secrecy surrounding his asymmetric polydactylism.

But being a philatelist to the end -- his last phone call, less than an hour before his death, was with his Postmaster General, Frank C. Walker, about the first day ceremonies for a United Nations stamp -- Roosevelt made certain his secret would be revealed only to his fellow stamp collectors, whom he knew could be trusted with the information. Thus a seemingly innocuous airmail stamp from a seemingly innocuous Monaco was used to reveal his secret from beyond the grave.

The stamp was issued to commemorate the principality's participation in the Centenary International Philatelic Exhibition. Obviously this rarefied subject would garner the attention of the philatelic elite more than that of the non-stamp-collecting hoi polloi. Notice the details of the design: FDR seems to be using his magnifying glass on a stamp from his collection, but there is something amiss that only a true philatelist would note... he is not using philatelic tongs! A dedicated practitioner of philately such as FDR would never risk exposing his precious stamps to finger grease, making it clear to the philatelist that the magnifying glass is actually a prompt to use one's own glass to examine FDR's hand more closely, allowing his polydactyl secret to be known.

To this day FDR's condition is denied to the public; but we philatelists, who carefully study the signals and hidden messages delivered through stamps by our compatriots in positions of power throughout the world's governments, know the truth -- about this and many more important things I shan't divulge in mixed company.

So until next time, keep studying your stamps for further instructions and happy philateling!

The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: Hyperinflation

The Philatelist | 2008-07-30.7920 LMT

Welcome to Stamp Nook! Today we look at hyperinflation and stamps.

Amateur notaphilists across the Internet have recently been gawking at a Z$100 billion bank note from Zimbabwe. While the economic situation in Zimbabwe is certainly troubling, it is not the worst incident of inflation run amok, and other, more shocking, hyperinflationary scars can be seen in the world of stamp denominations:

The most famous incident of hyperinflation during the stamp-issuing era was in Germany in the early 1920s. Regular German postal stamps issued just prior to 1922 ranged from a couple of pfennig to no more than 20 mark. In 1922, values went up a bit, with one series ranging from 100 to 500 mark, but it was 1923 when things really started to go south (or rather north). The pfennig gave way to the mark, which soon gave way to the tausend mark. The inability to keep up with inflation by printing new, higher denominated stamp series required that older issues be hastily surcharged with denominations in the thousands to millions.

200 mark stamp surcharged 2 million (#269)
and a 200 million mark stamp (#291).

German postal hyperinflation reached a crescendo with two stamps (Scott #299 and #305) both denominated at 50 milliarde (50 billion) mark. These were, of course, the highest denominated stamps in their respective series, used for mailing packages and the like (at least until inflation overtook their value). However, the lowest denominations in those series were still an impressive 500,000 and 10 million, respectively.

Even worse than the Weimar Republic's hyperinflation was what Hungary experienced in 1946, when the highest denominated stamp (#774) was a dove and letter design with a printed value of 500,000 billio-pengő -- that's 500 quadrillion pengő! (A few years earlier, a comparable, high-end stamp would have cost only 80 fillér, which was less than 1 pengő.) The cheapest stamp in that series was 1 trillion pengő -- convenient for sending a postcard to Aunty Yllona!

(Note that the Hungarian billio is in the traditional long scale, so it is equal to a modern trillion. They also printed three stamps, #757-759, in milliards, or modern billions, before inflation made even that unit impractical.)

For comparison to Zimbabwe's current currency situation, the highest denominated bank note issued by the Reichsbank was 100 trillion mark in 1924, while Hungary had the highest denominated bank note ever at 100 quintillion pengő in 1946. That's a lot of pengő!

I have only lightly scratched the surface of this topic. Hyperinflation is especially interesting to philatelists who collect covers, as the drastic changes in postal rates often led to envelops being themselves enveloped in increasingly devalued stamps. For more on hyperinflationary topical collecting, see "Hyperinflation offers an engaging pursuit", by Rick Miller.

Until next time, happy philateling!

The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: Pytlicek Retiring

The Philatelist | 2006-12-07.1115 LMT

Good Morning. This breaking-news edition of Stamp Nook brings a shocking announcement from the competitive world of philatelic exhibiting.

In a fitting follow-up to his wins at the first World Philately Championships in Singapore in 2004, world-champion Czech philatelist Ludvik Pytlicek took two gold medals in Monte Carlo over the weekend, beating out rivals Queen Elizabeth II and hometown-favourite Prince Albert II.

Pytlicek won gold for his collection -- the largest of its kind -- of Czechoslovakian stamps from the country's formative years of 1918-1939. However, his most impressive win was for a unique telegram -- which Pytlicek narrowly won at auction 15 years ago -- announcing the triumphant arrival of the first Czechoslovak President, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, to his newly-founded state. This Czech national treasure, which bares a 10-heller scout stamp and was delivered on November 21, 1918 by scout couriers from the southern borders of Bohemia to the National Committee in Prague, handily beat Prince Albert's topical collection of kitty cats, charming as it was.

These wins bring Pytlicek's career total to 20 gold medals, with a collection valued by foreign insurers at over 100 million crowns -- securing him a place in the Philately Hall of Fame upon his death.

But crowds were shocked when, shortly after winning, Pytlicek announced his intention to retire from competitive stamp exhibiting, citing concern for his collection's safety: 'Stamps suffer when displayed, mainly light harms them. Moreover, I fear for them and their transportation is difficult.'

This surprising announcement comes as the ten-year embargo on the exhibition of Czechoslovakia's rarest stamp, the only 1919 Austrian reprint known in existence, expired in September. Pytlicek, who is in possession of the stamp, had promised to exhibit it in Monaco next year, but now the world's ability to view this rarity is uncertain.

The stamp world is abuzz with questions: Will Pytlicek retire before his full potential as a stamp exhibitor is reached, leaving philatelic historians to wonder what might have been? Will this decision jeopardise Pytlicek's chances for a lucrative 3SY endorsement deal, or will it only increase his marketable mystique? Will the power-vacuum created by Pytlicek's bowing out finally give Prince Albert the opportunity to attain the recognition from the stamp-collecting community that he has so desperately desired, allowing him to live up to the philatelic legacy of his father Prince Rainier III, or will the shadow of Pytlicek's undefeatedness loom over His Serene Highness's every win like an accusation of forgery? Stay with Stamp Nook for news in this developing story.

Until then, happy philateling!

The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: UN Stamps-For-Money Scandal

The Philatelist | 2006-04-26.4940 LMT

This special edition of Stamp Nook looks briefly at the international scandal that has rocked the cloistered, esoteric world of UN philately.

On May 12, 2003, the entirety of the United Nations Postal Administration's historic archive collection -- containing over fifty years of unique UN philatelic materials including original stamp artwork, printing proofs and other artefacts -- was auctioned off to a single bidder for US$3,068,000 -- a low value according to most experts. Questions continue to swirl as to who authorized the auction and whether they had the required consent forms of the UN Secretariat.

UN stamp artwork
Peoples of the World, a painting used as source
for the first UN stamp issue, now auctioned off.

Now, according to a very detailed FOX News story, the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services is finalising its long-overdue investigative report into the auction, to be handed to Kofi Annan who will make the final decision on how to act on its findings. (Interestingly, Annan is an alumnus of the Sloan School of Management, which, as I noted previously, is the alma mater of US Postmaster General John E. Potter -- surely a coincidence.)

What is known for certain is that the collection has since been broken up and sold in pieces at other auctions for undisclosed amounts, making it virtually impossible to reassemble it should wrong-doing be found. A tragic loss for UN philatelic historians but a boon for private collectors. It is speculated that some of the collection could show up in private exhibits at the upcoming 2006 World Philatelic Exhibition in Washington, DC. Should be a smashing show!

The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: Masters And Postmasters

The Philatelist | 2006-04-23.3030 LMT

Good day, and welcome to another enthralling edition of Stamp Nook! Today we look at the hubris that lurks in the hearts of men of great power -- Postmasters-General.

In 1859, Charles Connell, Postmaster-General of the then British colony of New Brunswick, was entrusted by Lieutenant-Governor J.H.T. Manners-Sutton with procuring new stamps for the switch from pence to decimal currency for postal use by May 1, 1860. These would include 1, 5, 10, and 12½ -cent denominations. Connell, foreseeing the need for overseas postage, added a 17-cent stamp to list. Late that year, Connell went to New York to oversee their production by the American Bank Note Company, whom he had contracted to do the printing.

Connell Stamp (Scott #5)

In April when a set of the new stamps arrived at the office of the Lieutenant-Governor, furore erupted upon learning that the 5-cent stamp -- the most commonly used denomination, being the rate for domestic first class mail -- bore a portrait of Postmaster-General Charles Connell himself! Unprofessional behaviour even today, but positively scandalous at a time when nearly every stamp featured the likeness of Her Majesty or one of Her Majestic Offspring.

This controversial stamp (Scott #5) resulted in Connell's resignation on May 18. Writing to the Lieutenant-Governor, Connell unrepentantly declared: "I have fulfilled my duty and did what I supposed I was fully authorized to do ... At all events I have violated no law." Quite.

The stamps were never issued. Connell's replacement, James Steadman, had new 5-cent stamps printed bearing Queen Victoria (Scott #8). Connell supposedly purchased all 500,000 of his stamps and burned them "sheet by sheet in his garden". Still, some of them managed to escape the conflagration, including a set of printing proofs up at auction by Sotheby's next month that are expected to bring US$50,000. (See here for more on how many Connell Stamps actually survived and insights into Connell's anti-Royalist sentiments.)

While a bold move on Connell's part, the idea of placing Postmaster-Generals on stamps is hardly novel; the first regular postal issue by the United States in 1847 (Scott #1) bore the image of Continental Congress Postmaster-General Benjamin Franklin, who was stripped of his Crown appointment as Colonial Postmaster-General for his role in fomenting anti-Royalist rebellion in order to form a new society based on Philatelic Enlightenment. Undoubtedly, Franklin served as a role model for Connell.

Even today, this position of postal power leads its holders to controversial and subversive acts. The current US Postmaster General, John E. Potter, is embroiled in an attempt to "circumvent the will of Congress" -- apparently there's one Sioux too many for Gen. Potter. (Interestingly, Potter is an alumnus of the Sloan School of Management, which is aligned with the Tavistock Institute, a crypto-Royalist faction of the NWO. Of topical interest to Mr Zapato, the SSM is based at MIT, that hotbed of mind-control boffins.)

But are these acts of hubris or a justified movement toward a new and natural Postal Paradigm? The essence of the post is the flow of information -- and hence power. This has been so since the time of Xerxes and his Angarum, without which the mighty Persian Empire wouldn't have been possible. All the military might in the world won't be of any use if you're not up on what's what.

Those who control the post are the gatekeepers to this power, and while Postmaster Generals are the most powerful agents of the post, they are still subservient to other political masters -- uncomfortably so, as can be seen in the actions of Franklin, Connell and Potter. But if the King is only the King because the mail is addressed to him, what happens if the mailman stops delivering?

In 1516, King Henry VIII established the office of "Master of the Posts", a title that eventually became "Postmaster". That subtle name change was an act of deliberate irony by those who hold the office as post-master is in fact a crypto-anarchic statement -- a call to put our masters behind us. Postmasters want nothing less than the overthrow of our current power structure, replaced by their own system of information-power flow in which we will all be post-men (little do parents suspect that Postman Pat is actually conditioning their children to accept a form of transhumanism!)

According to my connections in philatelic circles, when the Postmasters finally take their rightful place as the informed leaders of a post-master society, the collective Postmaster Generals of the world will unite under the command of a more powerful post officer -- Postmaster Ultra:

Postmaster Ultraman photo from Mainichi Daily News

I, for one, eagerly await the Philatelic Golden Age he will bring. Can't be much worse, can it?

In the mean time, happy philateling!

The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: Ultimate Wealth Investment

The Philatelist | 2006-02-11.7700 LMT | Crass Commercialism
US tulip stamp (Scott #3902)

Exciting news for those intrigued by the rare stamps featured in my previous two posts. Stanley Gibbons, the world's foremost philatelic company, has a new investment opportunity for sophisticated savers looking for diversification in their pension plans: Stanley Gibbons Rare Stamp Investment Fund.

Those unable to afford an OCM or 3SY of their own will be able to buy into ultimate wealth with a starting subscription of a mere £20,000 -- what better way to start investing in the world's most valuable commodity by weight!

According to Gibbons, rare stamps were rated by a Salomon Brothers study among the top four investments of the 20th century, giving an average annual return of 10% between 1907 and 1990. Now you too can share in this heritage of timeless value.

No word yet if investors are allowed to visit the stamps. It would be a bloody shame if you couldn't get your tongs around your Penny Black, even if you only own one three-thousandths of it. High returns on investment are all well and good, but a philatelic timeshare would be smashing! Otherwise you might as well be so crass as to invest in numismatics.

(ZPi Note: The Philatelist is not a qualified financial advisor.)

The Philatelist

Stamp Nook Addendum: One Cent Magenta

The Philatelist | 2006-02-09.7380 LMT | NWO

Controversy is brewing over the Treskilling Yellow's claim to be the most valuable thing in the world. Mike writes in to defend the One Cent Magenta's claim to the heritage of ultimate wealth:

One Cent Magenta

A quibble about the Treskilling Yellow

On the treskilling yellow being the most valuable thing per weight in the universe, as a partisan of the One Cent Magenta I beg to differ. There's been no recent sales data for the One Cent Magenta due to the fact that its multimillionare owner, John Du Pont, was the victim of an NWO murder frameup and is now serving 30 years. Mr. Du Pont bought the One Cent Magenta for $935,000 in 1980, which given the dollar's higher value, was substantially more than the 977,500 Swiss francs laid out for the Treskilling Yellow in 1984.

Jolly good point, and a pity that Du Pont didn't invoke the sacred right of philatelic anonymity which would have kept him from being a target of an international conspiracy of Wrestlers.

Unfortunately, until the One Cent Magenta is put on the market again or the Du Pont family launches an OCM brand, its true value will remain a mystery. For now, those who want a brand that embodies the rare and singular desire of the most valuable thing in the world will have to stick with 3SY.

The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: A Brand Worth Its Weight In Antimatter

The Philatelist | 2006-02-09.5600 LMT | Crass Commercialism
the Treskilling Yellow (3SY)

Hello, and welcome again to Stamp Nook.

In this edition we look at the most valuable individual thing in the world: the Treskilling Yellow, an 1855 Swedish stamp misprinted in yellow instead of green, estimated to be worth upwards of £40 billion per kilogram (or £2 million per unit, which is the only way it can be purchased since only one is known to exist).

This is a celebrity among stamps! Much has already been written about it and the controversy and mystery surrounding its ownership. I won't repeat all that here. There is, however, exciting news in the world of the Treskilling Yellow.

As with any celebrity, it's important to turn fame into successful name marketisation. So it comes as little surprise that the brand management consultants at FutureBrand (creators of the Aflac duck), in conjunction with Stamp Collection AG, have developed 3SY (Three Skilling Yellow) into a brand.


Lyle Zapato

Fonts: Duarte Centenario y Duarte Juramento

Lyle Zapato | 2005-04-20.6000 LMT | Fonts

Here are two fonts I just created...

Type sample

Duarte Centenario is a somewhat irregular title font. Good for your resistance movement's posters calling for the overthrow of foreign rule.

Type sample

Duarte Juramento works well for comic lettering. Or serious lettering.

This pseudo-family is based off of hand lettering from a 1938 Dominican Republic stamp (Scott #335) honoring the centennial of La Trinitaria, an underground resistance movement led by Juan Pablo Duarte that helped repel the Haitians from the eastern side of Hispaniola. The country name and the names of the three founding Trinitarios (Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, and Ramón Matías Mella) were written in what is now Centenario. The entire Oath of the Trinitarios (including vexillogical directives) was squeezed into a triangle of microprint, which I have made into Juramento. (Both the originals had no accents, but the fonts have full sets of accented glyphs.)

I have also created a fonts page to house them and any future fonts I make.