Notes from the Past

Alfred H. Caspary Dies

Alfred H. Caspary, who, in my opinion, assembled the finest collection ever put together of classic stamps of the world, passed away peacefully January 7th, his age about 77.  He consistently avoided publicity so his name will be unfamiliar to most collectors, but to those who saw the magnificent spread of rarities in Life last May, he can now be identified as "Pacificus," and without his cooperation, this feature could not have been published, since the emphasis was on rarity.  He was the "prominent Eastern collector" often referred to in the philatelic press.

"Cas," as he was affectionately known to those of us who were close to him, owned pieces that were almost unbelievable, things most collectors just dream about: extraordinary early United States, and all the rarest and best of Postmasters' stamps, Locals, Pony Express, and Carriers'.  The greatest collection of Confederate Postmaster' issues, the finest Hawaiian "Missionaries" on covers, glorious early German States, and other classical Europeans -- a collection that may run to several million dollars in value.

He was a member of the New York Stock Exchange for more than half a century, through retired many years, an extremely wealthy yet modest gentleman who early retreated to a background of anonymity for obvious reasons.  In consequence, entrée to his home was limited, and I regard it as one of the great privileges of my life that I enjoyed this entrée whenever I wished to exercise it.  On these occasions, almost countless over the years, he loved to show his stamps and discuss them.  A visit to Caspary was to sit before a master whose philatelic experiences and knowledge were profound, his memory remarkable.

Annually, for more than forty years, he spent prodigious sums for the finest the market could offer, and in this long period usually got first choice from every big collection that came up for sale.  He knew the story of every great find that had been made, and the history of all the world's rarities.  I never saw him consult a philatelic reference book; he'd just rattle it off out of mind.  He was an expert in his own right, one whom the "committees" often consulted, yet few ever knew it, but it was mighty important if "Caspary O.K.'d it."

In late years his eyes troubled him, due to advancing cataracts.  The last two years were lonely ones, after the loss of his wife in January, 1953, ending a marriage of 52 years.  An accident at home soon after made him a virtual shut-in; thereafter he failed perceptibly.  If I couldn't visit with him, I'd telephone him frequently; he always wanted to know what was going on in stamps.  He was a loyal friend and these notes cannot do justice to his great character.

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
January 22, 1955

 Posted February 8, 2000

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