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Monday 28 June 2010

Nothing is Ever Lost in the Post

Nothing is Ever Lost in the Post.

How come then that on a daily basis I get "Alerts" from the Philatelic Traders' Society and others telling me that such-and-such a consignment of stamps was lost in the post between A and B?

The consignment has either been delayed - the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland did disrupt mail deliveries - or, more likely, it has been stolen. If it has been stolen, either it has been stolen in transit by someone responsible for its handling or by someone at the destination who has picked it out from a batch of communal office or domestic mail. This may sometimes include the person to whom it was addressed...

Dealers and auction houses encourage theft by two methods.

First, to save a few pennies, they use "Postage" making up colourful frankings from old commemorative stamps and such like. This helpfully indicates to anyone looking to steal from the mail that inside this small and lightweight package there are stamps or covers, and possibly valuable ones.

Dealers and auction houses who use "Postage" are a nuisance. "Postage" is fine for sending out catalogues and lists, but not for sending out valuables.

Second, and more controversially perhaps, senders' make the mistake of using Premium Rate services - Signed For, Registered, Insured. The most important fact about these expensive services is that the mail so labelled generally receives no special handling or, if it does, the handling increases the risk that it will be stolen. To begin with, it has to be handed over a Post Office counter and not dropped in a box. But that is also true for a second class letter handed over the counter and dropped in the bag.

It may be taken out of the stream for "tracking".

At the end of its journey it comes out of the general stream when a signature is requested. From start to finish, the labelling indicates to anyone who handles it that the envelope or package contains something of value.

Put together "Postage" and "Signed For"/ "Registered" and you are just asking for trouble. Someone, somewhere may well pick up the message you are sending out. "Steal Me!"

PS. A Return Address often signals that your letter contains something of value. If the return address is "Valuable Stamps Company Ltd" you could not make it clearer. And, for goodness sake, what are you doing sending stuff in the mail if you are not sure that you have got the right address for the recipient? If you are sure you have got the right address, what is the return address for? Are you covering yourself against the eventuality that the Post Office might need to return it marked "Deceased"?

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Classic Romania: stamps and cancellations

Yesterday I wanted to spend a quiet day at home. So I re-organised my stock of Classic Romania. Maybe not everyone's idea of a quiet day, but there you are ...

Two or three years ago, several large Romania collections came on the market at David Feldman, Corinphila and so on. I bid on the small accumulations which were left once the top items had been pulled out to be offered singly. Because these were very good (Gold medal level) collections, the material in the accumulations was nearly all of excellent quality. I spent a lot of money.

Dr Fritz Heimb├╝chler, the BPP expert for Romania, was kind enough to look over the bulk of my acquisitions on my Stands at the Briefmarkenmesse in M├╝nchen and then Sindelfingen and pulled out many items to sign or provide certificates for. We binned a handful of forgeries, but the nature of the collections meant that they weren't a major problem.

Re-organised, the material looks better and the stamps for each Michel number easier to compare. I start at Number 6 and stop at Number 34. The stock still runs to hundreds of stamps.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Two Collecting Tips

I am always forming small collections which I then show at Club meetings (normally the annual meeting of the British Society of Russian Philately). Sometimes these collections are put together from my dealer stock, sometimes they are quite separate. After a few years, or less, I normally break them up.

The kind of collection you are making determines where you should best look for material - on ebay, in auctions, by post from dealers, at stamp fairs and exhibitions. Some collectors are always looking in the wrong place. If your wants are very limited or very highly specialised, a general stamp fair is unlikely to yield very much. So my first Collecting Tip is this: Look in the Right Places.

Since I spend a lot of time in stamp fairs, I try to form collections from material which can be found in general dealer boxes - which is to say, anything involving modestly priced postal history. Choose the topic right, and the collection builds up quite quickly.

My second Tip is this: Always work on (at least) two collections at once. Maybe one more specialised and expensive, and one less so and maybe just for fun. This way, if going to a Fair or studying an Auction catalogue or a trawl through ebay yields nothing for one collection, it may at least yield something for the other. So your time is not wasted.

I have two collections - projects, really - in hand at present. I am collecting examples of the lowest tariffs in Imperial Russia - 1 , 2, 3, 4 and 5 kopeck frankings. You will rarely see these in auction catalogues, which concentrate on high value frankings (some of which are over valued in my opinion), but you will find them in dealer boxes.

And while I am going through the boxes looking for these, I also look out for anything with a 1917 cancellation - very easy to find and usually very cheap since they rarely look pretty. I don't know yet what I will do with these, but eventually an idea or two will emerge and I will then mount the material