Golf season ends, writing begins

October 15, 2016

carstairs-slide2I admit it. I haven’t been posting a lot lately. Too busy outside hitting the links. Golf is another of my passions. What do I like about chasing that little white ball?

What does the game of golf do for me? This the most often asked question from non-golfers. Well thinking about it I came up with the following,

  • It’s a great excuse to get outside for fresh air and nature.
  • The walking part is fantastic exercise. I always walk never ride the power cart.
  • Challenges my physical and mental skills. Not only is golf a physical game but it requires thinking and concentrating.
  • Golf is a social game. Great way to develop and maintain friendships.
  • Most of all it’s just plain fun.

Now having said this I stress that I am an average player, but one who plays well enough to find it enjoyable. I make an effort to emphasis fun and not get frustrated. When I was younger I took it far too seriously. I’m enjoying the game more than I ever have since I retired.

If you’d like to try this great game here are a couple of suggestions, 1) take basic lessons from a reputable pro and practice what you learn, and 2)rent or borrow clubs the first few times.

Finally just enjoy being alive and outside playing an interesting game.

Inverted “Jenny” Sold for $970,000

November 16, 2007

jennysingle.jpgOne of the rarest and most popular U.S. stamps was sold at auction November 14, 2007 for a whooping $850,000 plus 15% buyers premium for total of $970,000!!

This was one of the famous 24c U.S airmail stamps issued in 1918. Yes that’s right the face value was 24c which was actually quite expensive in those days.

There was only ever one sheet of 100 of these stamps, the inverted error, sold to the public. The post office did find some others but they were defaced and then shredded to prevent profiteering.

I won’t go into the complete story because a book and many articles have been written which detail its fascinating history.

It was sold by the auction firm of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, Inc. of New York City on behalf of the owner. In 2005 they also sold a plate block of four of the same stamp for a record of $2,970,000 for a U.S philatelic item. How much higher can these go? Only time will tell. Read more at the Robert Siegel Auction website:

The sale catalogue (sale #946A) has wonderful write-ups on the history or the invert error by Scott R. Trepel (“The Allure of the Inverted Jenny”) and a great introduction by Joe R. Kirker ((“…and my heart stood still”). The catalogue can be downloaded in PDF format.

Airmail Speeds the Mail, snail mail that is!

September 24, 2007

Last night I was working on an exhibit that I have entered in an airmail philatelic exhibition coming up in October.  I thought I would try to explain the fascination with the collection of airmail material to non-collectors.

First of all a definition.  Simply put “Airmail” or “Air Mail” is mail that is carried to its destination by aircraft.  Obviously this is faster than by truck or train.  It was one of the great innovations of mail delivery which was made possible by the invention of the airplane.

Until recently airmail was a premium service of the post office and the user paid more for it.  Special airmail postage stamps were issued to indicated payment for this service. These stamps were only allowed to be used on airmail, not for other mail.  Later on that changed.

The first regular airmail flights in the U.S. began between New York City and Washington, D.C. in 1918. The planes were operated by Army pilots.  Later the government contracted the routes out to private contractors.  Some famous aviators who carried mail were Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart.

Early commercial airline routes were really paid for by the carriage of mail.  There were not enough passengers to pay for the airlines expenses.  Even today mail is a lucrative cargo for airlines.  Passengers do take precedence today though.  If weight is an issue the first thing off the plane is not passengers or their baggage, but mail bags. 

Today in Canada and the United States airmail has been abolished as a separate service. All first class (lettermail) mail is delivered by the speediest method of  transportation.  International letters are charged a premium for airmail service, but it is still technically not an airmail service. Both countries charge substantially more for international lettermail than domestic lettermail.

Collectors have always been fascinated with mail and aviation.  So much so that specialist societies exist dedicated to the pursuit of airmail stamps and covers (envelopes).  One such society is the American Air Mail Society.  For the first time ever the American Philatelic Society (APS) is hosting an exhibition that is entirely airmail related.  It is called Aerophilately 2007 and has been given “World Series of Philately” status.  This means that it has national level judging and standards. The grand award winner is entitled to compete against the award winners of all the other WSP shows.  It is being held October 19-21, 2007 at the APS headquarters in Bellefonte, PA.  Coincidently, Bellefonte was one of the mail refueling stations along the first trans-continental airmail route in the United States. 

My exhibit is entered in this exhibition and I am very proud to have mine displayed alongside some of the greatest airmail collections of our time.


Above: Early airmail pilot “Wild Bill” Hopson.

Here are some facts about early airmail:

– messages were carried prior to airplanes by homing pigeons.

– first mail to be carried by an air vehicle was January 7, 1785 on a balloon flight from England to France.

– first official airmail delivery in the U.S. took place August 17, 1859 via balloon from Lafayette, Indiana to New York City. Weather forced him to land and the mail was carried by train to its final destination.

– first official airmail flight was February 18, 1911 in India.  6,500 letters were carried a distance of 13 km (7.8 miles).

– first international airmail delivery flown by Theodoro Fels from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay on September 2, 1917.

– Scheduled airmail flights begin between New York City and Washington. DC May 15, 1918

-first airmail flight in Canada was June 24, 1918 from Montreal to Toronto.

– first woman to fly airmail: Katherine Stinson from Calgary to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on July 9, 1918.

– regularly scheduled transcontinental U.S airmail flights begin in 1924.

– In 1927 regular international airmail flights begin.

– Trans-Pacific airmail begins in 1935.

– In 1939, Canada implements regular trans-Canada and trans-Atlantic airmail.

So remember when you mail that letter that today it flies to overseas destinations in hours.  Before air transport it went by train or ship and took days or weeks to arrive. Of course now it is possible to send an e-mail letter to someone anywhere in the world and it will arrive in seconds.  The only thing about an e-mail is that it doesn’t have a colorful airmail stamp on it that I can collect.

Stamp Collecting: Still Relevant in the 21st Century

June 5, 2007

The first postage stamp, the “Penny Black”, was issued by Great Britain (United Kingdom) in 1840. Postage stamps were introduced as a means of prepaying for mail delivery. Prior to this innovation, mail was paid for by the addressee when it was delivered or picked up at the post office. Many letters went undelivered because either the addressee would not or could not pay the fee.The United States followed Britain’s lead in 1847 with its first stamps. Canada issued their first stamp in 1851.

Almost from the beginning people began collecting them. At first they were soaked from the envelopes and stuck on walls and other things as decoration. Later they were mounted in albums in the true collector’s format.

Collecting was most popular during the 1930s and 1940s in the United States and Canada. When a stamp collector named Franklin Roosevelt was elected President of the United States in 1933, the hobby received a tremendous boost in popularity.

Today it is still ranked as one of the top two or three hobbies with an estimated 20 million collectors in US alone.

Collectors are an important source of revenue for postal authorities. They purchase stamps for their collections. Because these stamps will likely never be used on mail, the post office wins because they do not have to provide a service in exchange for the cost of the stamp. Talk about a winning situation for them.

Human beings tend to be packrats. It is in our make-up. What person at some time in their life has not collected something? Kids start off with rocks, bugs, stickers, sports cards, and the list goes on. Stamps are a natural item to collect because we see them everyday on mail. Some of the reasons stamps and postal history are collected include investment (bad idea), relaxation and social interaction with other collectors. Investment is possible, but there are far better instruments for making money than the collection of postage stamps.

Stamps are still relevant today. They are still used to prepayment of postage on mail. Even with email the mail system is still relevant in a country as vast as Canada. Granted volumes of first class letter mail have decreased because of email, but ironically eBay and other on-line auction houses have increased the need for shipping via the postal system. There is more and more on-line shopping being done on the internet. A delivery system is still a requirement to make this work. The postal system is aggressively competing for their share of this market.

Young people today tend to want instant gratification. Video games and the internet give that. People need to be shown the benefits and fun that collecting can provide. The baby boomers entering their retirement years are looking for a hobby. Many were exposed to stamp collecting when they were children. A substantial number are returning to the hobby.

Ironically the internet can and has encouraged people to get into collecting. Dealers are moving their retail stamp stores to virtual locations on the net. This provides them lower overhead and a worldwide versus local exposure to customers.

Auction sites like eBay have been invaluable to collectors. They can obtain material for their collections that is just not available from local dealers. A collector can sit at his or her desk at home able to browse and purchase material at their leisure.

My hometown of Calgary, Alberta (population 1 million, 2007) for example only few years ago had three or four retail locations. Now there is only one and he has been forced out of the downtown core to outlying area. Even this individual is selling on eBay. Quite a few of the others did not go out of business but just moved to on-line stores.

Stamp clubs and specialized philatelic societies can add a social aspect to the experience of stamp collecting, and provide a forum where newbies can meet and talk to experienced collectors. Stamp clubs, even in urban areas, are sometimes difficult to set up and sustain. The internet has provided a partial solution to this problem because the number of collectors in the virtual world on-line is not limited by geographical distance. Because of this many stamp clubs and groups have been established on the web, with international membership. These are booming. What can be more exciting then chatting with like-minded collectors from all over the world and receiving almost instant feedback?

For now the future of collecting is strong. I believe that it is in our nature to want to collect things. The internet actually makes it easier to network with other collectors and to obtain material from dealers. It is an exciting time to be a collector if you embrace the technology and use it to get involved in this great hobby called “stamp collecting”.

Websites with information for new and experienced collectors can be found on the home page of this blog under “Philatelic Resources”.

Definitions Used in this Article
Covers – envelopes with stamps still affixed. Postal history is collected this way.
Letter mail – personal or business mail usually in form of #8 or #10 envelopes and mailed at the First Class rate. Rate in Canada in 2007 is 52c per ounce (30 grams) and in United States 41c per ounce.

Postal History – the collection and study of postal rates and usages. Collectors retain the envelopes with stamps and cancellations still on them. Stamps are not removed.

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