Notes from the Past

Remembering the Mail - Part V

By 1940 or 1941 I had begun to concentrate my interests on United States stamps.  I had acquired a Scott's American album.  This was an excellent album for the beginning U. S. collector.  It had almost the same spaces as the National but was much less expensive.  Annual supplements were published to keep it up to date (and to provide the publisher with continuing revenue).  Along with Planters Peanut stamp premiums I had been exposed to the wares of H. E. Harris & Co.  Their catalogs of U. S. stamps and collectors supplies were a wonderful education for me.  The catalogs  provided both the opportunity to purchase specific stamps but also conveyed the knowledge of an orderly stamp framework.  They filled the need for a stamp catalog.

I must have made lists for 10 dream orders for every order blank I actually sent.  Stamps were things of dreams and my limited resources had to be spent wisely.  I concluded that wisely meant filling as many spaces as possible for my order.  My orders were, more often than not, less than $1 but their planning took much time.  I would first buy all the stamps priced at 1¢ which I did not have.  Then I would add those priced at 2¢ followed by 3¢.  Harris would pick them from their stock book and send them.  I was thrilled with them although I later discovered that most of them were defective or poor copies.  I didn't know any better and they always looked wonderful in my album.  A letter with stamps from H. E. Harris was a thrill.

I think my collector neighbor introduced me to the broader world of stamp collecting through publications.  He showed me Weekly Philatelic Gossip published by The Gossip Printery in Holton, Kansas.  This was an excellent publication and I became a subscriber in 1940 or so.  It provided me access to other wonders of stamp collecting.  I soon found another dealer to provide me with U. S. stamps I could afford.  He was David F. Chassy of Babylon, New York.  He provided wonderful lists of U. S. stamps with grades from Poor (space fillers) to Superb.  I learned that his Very Fine grade set a standard which was very pleasing to me.  I soon rebuilt my American Album collection from his lists.  My technique of planning for the order and filling the most stamp spaces had not changed but the value of the individual stamps rose to 10¢.

- Jim Watson
Posted November 22, 1999
© 1999, Jim Watson  

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