I was one of those boys who took the stamps off old postcards. My aunt had quite a collection and, rather reluctantly, she let me peel off the stamps. So I got damaged stamps and she was left with damaged postcards.
It's called, Not being able to see the wood for the trees. I know better now, but it took a long time.
Postal history should always be placed in the biggest context possible:
Who sent What to Whom? From Where, When and Why?
How much did it cost and how was the cost shown (the Franking)? By what Route did the item travel and how long did it take (Receiver cancellation - Despatch cancellation = Transit time)?
How was it handled en route? Did censors open it? Was it delayed by conflict?
Was it a typical item? Was everyone doing it? Was it specific to a particular time and place?
Some times the answers to these questions are obvious and sometimes they require a lot of research.
Today I was looking at Dr Raymond Casey's collection of Russian Post in China and Mongolia, as illustrated in two fine books The Russian Post in the Chinese Empire (David Feldman) and in the catalogue for the forthcoming sale of that collection (also David Feldman). This is how postal history should be done. Dr Casey pays attention both to the traditional philatelic matters - stamps, cancellations, tariffs - but also to the wider contexct of this mail. And what he has done can be done for items costing a dollar, not just for those costing thousands.
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