Notes from the Past

"Good Old Days" -- Rarities Cheap

Every so often (too often, in fact), someone finds an old dealer's price list or a stamp catalog published in pioneer days and in perusing the prices dashes off an article for the philatelic press, frequently embroidered with nonsense that wasn't in the list, such as "Superb" condition, etc., words totally unknown to the older collectors in relation to stamps.  Likely something is featured such as the Brattleboro provisional, of 1846, priced in the neighborhood of $5, as against today's Scott listing of $1,250.  Wild fancy zooms from there.

The leading stamp dealer in the United States, in ancient days, was John Walter Scott, in New York.  Here is what "J. W." had to say about the Brattleboro in his monthly magazine, the American Journal of Philately, October, 1871.  He said that 5,000 of the Brattleboros had been printed, then added, "These stamps are fearfully scarce, and are held at prices far above the pockets of ordinary collectors."  This was only twenty-five years after the use of the stamps!  For a realistic guide to the "great rarities" that were being offered for a pittance in the old days -- the "rarities" were seldom in stock -- look over the advertising columns.  Those are the stamps the dealers actually had for sale. 

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
October 12, 1957

Posted August 1, 1999

Editor's Note:  In the 1997 Specialized the Brattleboro was priced at $8,000 and $17,500 on cover.

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