Those objects start their histories outside of our collections and when they arrive in our collections, one of our responsibilities is to conserve them in the best state we can, so that they endure and can pass on to others. In this, our collection - however modest - is like a museum collection. It is a small part of a heritage - sometimes our own, sometimes somebody else's - and we should look after it.
This is better understood now in stamp collecting and postal history than it once was. Most collectors no longer put hinges on anything, stamps or postal history items, and they no longer write on them as if they were scrap paper. Dealers still scribble prices on covers and cards and they need to be told not to. Some damage - however minor - is always caused when those prices are rubbed out by a collector or the next dealer along.
Because these things have only been understood in the recent past, we inherit a great deal of vandalised material. Different philatelic cultures have different traditions, some worse than others. Italy is home to one of the worst philatelic cultures from the point of view of understanding and valuing the collectible object and I feel sorry for collectors there who have to live with the legacy of their past.
I still get sent Italian auction catalogues but I rarely look at them - it is so depressing - and I don't bid. Today I glanced at a new Bolaffi catalogue which arrived in the post and my eye was caught by a Romanian cover:
Click on Image to Enlarge
Well, there is a very beautiful 54 Parale Bull's Head - just look at the margins! But then look at the cover. Autographs and handstamps and annotations all over it. Just count them up! Worse, they have changed since the photograph was taken which appears in Dr Heimbuechler's Bull's Heads of Moldavia:
Click on Image to Magnify
Compare them carefully: some new graffiti have appeared and some old ones have been removed. The latter is a warning: where the old graffiti have been removed, there will be surface damage to the letter.
The letter is estimated at 7500 euro. I am always on the look out for Bull's Heads but I won't be bidding. There is too much unattractive damage here to what was once - a very long time ago - a very desirable collectible object. Unfortunately, it fell into the hands of people who I don't think understood that.
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