Friday, March 25, 2005

World-famous stamp engraver, Czeslaw Slania, dead at 83

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN ( - Master engraver Czeslaw Slania, 83, died in Stockholm.

Mr. Slania was born near Katowice, Poland, in 1921. When he was six years old, his family moved to Lublin. Even as a small boy, he demonstrated advanced talents for drawing and producing miniature engravings.

When he was older, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, recognized as one of the best art graphic centres in Europe. Mr. Slania’s diploma engraving was an interpretation in the small format of the Polish artist Jan Matejko’s grand painting “The Battle of Grunwald” about the battle of Grunwald/Tannenberg in 1410.

For this work, Mr. Slania was awarded his diploma with a special honour. While still a student, Mr. Slania was employed by the Polish Stamp Printing Works, where he learned to engrave in steel, a harder, more demanding metal than copper.The first stamp by Mr. Slania was issued in Poland on 24 March 1951.

Having engraved 23 stamps, the young engraver went out into the world to seek his fortune. He came to Sweden in 1956. Since 1959, Mr. Slania has been faithful to the Swedish Post Office, but he is also a cosmopolitan who has visited numerous countries and areas and made stamp and banknote engravings in many of them, including for Denmark, Iceland, France, Monaco, Israel, Brazil, Tunisia, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, Germany, Singapore, China, Belgium, Poland, the Vatican, Thailand, Spain, Hong Kong (SAR) and others, as well as the United Nations.

Having learned his craft so early and also having it as his hobby, Mr. Slania has come to engrave more stamps and banknotes than any other engraver. His stamps have received the highest awards.

He has been Court Engraver in Sweden since 1972. He has also received the Order of Saint Charles and the order Mérite Culturel in Monaco and the Dannebrog Order in Denmark. In 1983, he received the Robert Stolz Music Prize for the “Music” stamps in Sweden. In 1999, he was awarded the highest order from Poland, the Commander Order, by the Polish President.

In 1986, he produced engravings for six United Nations stamps on the theme “Philately — The International Hobby”. Two of these stamps reproduce engravings that show Mr. Slania at work, hunched over a polished steel die. In 1997, six stamps incorporating the 1986 designs were issued to pay tribute to philately.

His 1,000th stamp was issued in March 2000 for the Swedish Post. In commemoration of this milestone, a commemorative stamp on a souvenir sheet was released, which remains one of his finest pieces of work.
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posted by Don Schilling at 3:32 PM

Friday, March 18, 2005

At the Reagan stamp first day of issue ceremonies at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.
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posted by Don Schilling at 9:09 AM

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Cheapo Penny Blacks and Soccer Players Abound

By Hunter Davies

About 20 years ago, I became a born-again stamp collector. By born again, I mean I collected them as a boy, then forgot about them for decades. I was so busy with other things. Such as living.

This is typical of many stamp collectors.What sparked me off again was giving up playing weekend football. I just could not bear to see the lads playing without me. I thought, what shall I do now? Is there a hobby which isn't going to knacker my poor old knees any more?

For about ten years, I collected GB stamps, including a special collection of Wembley 1924-25 stamps. I also collected US Columbus stamps and GB covers for the postmarks, mainly 19th-century Cumbrian. Oh, lots of daft things. Too many, really.

That's what born-agains do. Rush at things.Today, I collect stamps on one theme only - football.

The earliest football stamp, as you've asked (ie, a stamp connected with football), was issued by Uruguay in 1924 to celebrate their footie victory in the 1924 Olympics. It doesn't actually show a footballer. The earliest of these came out from Bulgaria in 1931.

One of the things I used to collect was penny blacks. These are not as expensive as you might think, as 68 million were printed. I specialised in cheapo blacks with thins (meaning the paper had got thin over the years) and poor margins (meaning no margins, and a good black should have four white margins).

I paid no more than £20 each, as opposed to £200 for a decent black in good nick. I collected them for their letters (oh, I'm too tired to explain what that means). To me, the condition didn't really matter much. It was having them that mattered.When I came to sell, I lost money on every one.

Now, if I had been a sensible collector, splashed out and gone for tried and proven quality, I would have bought one half-decent black at £200 instead of ten tatty ones at £20. I would then have doubled my money over ten years.

Are you getting my drift? Are you with me? Or ahead?

Yes, friends, isn't that just like football?

During January, while my back was turned, Martin Jol of Spurs bought nine cheapo players, most of whom I had never heard of. All a bit thin, and poor at the margins, I'm sure. This was in addition to the 15 new signings earlier in the season. Spurs now have 36 players in the first-team squad, enough for three teams, yet I haven't personally seen half of them on the pitch yet.

I'm dying to see a defender called Defendi; read the back of Emil Hallfredsson's shirt, as I'm sure they'll miss out some letters; and salaam to Mounir el-Hamdaoui. As it is, I wouldn't recognise any of them if they turned up in my porridge.Arsene Wenger has also gone for bargain basements, buying unknown kids, all of them very thin.

Several of these have in fact appeared and done quite well - Francesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Robin van Persie, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, Jeremie Aladiere - but as the season went on, most of them faded. Jose Antonio Reyes cost a bit of money, but he hasn't proved to be a bargain, so far.Wenger, in reality, keeps on buying the same, as I did with my cheapo blacks.

He has a clutch of midfield players, young, inexperienced, white, slender, medium height, dark-haired, vaguely Latin, who look much the same. When I stare across to the bench to see who's coming on, I can't tell the difference. Or even when they get on the pitch.

At the moment, Wenger has £30m to spend, so we are told, but then he's had this mythical money for two years. Will he be able to change the habits of a lifetime, go against his personality, and splash out on one real, proven, top-quality player at the height of his powers? Or will he buy ten cheapo players, hoping that one will come good?

Alex Ferguson has always been willing to splash out on top players, like Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney. Ah, you say, hasn't done him much good, not this season. Well, Man United would have done even worse without them. But the main point is that, like a good penny black, if you buy proven quality, like Ferdinand and Rooney, you'll more easily get your money back.
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posted by Don Schilling at 5:38 PM

Monday, March 14, 2005

Stamp Collecting in an E-Mail Age

NY Times

Along a remote stretch of Northern California's redwood coast, Oliver Seeler painstakingly tracks down stamps from around the world. But not just any stamps. He collects only those with images of bagpipes.

Mr. Seeler, the 60-year-old chief of the Albion-Little River Volunteer Fire Department, came to his hobby through his work selling bagpipes and bagpipe music. Pursuing such a niche might once have required a trip to a collectors' convention, or a chance find at a shop or show. Now, he uses auction sites, catalogs and other Web resources to identify stamps that can augment his collection, which he showcases online.

"The stamps are often difficult to find even after you have identified them," he said. "If you had to track them down by phone or by mail, it would just be prohibitive in terms of time and money."

After five years, his collection numbers 148 stamps, and has inspired a friendly rivalry. A little over a year ago, he received an e-mail message from a 41-year-old piper in Yorkshire, Sean Stewart, who had found Mr. Seeler's site and informed him about a bagpipe stamp from New Zealand that he had once seen. Their e-mail exchanges about finding that stamp transformed Mr. Stewart into an avid collector.

"Now we communicate almost daily. We are always on the hunt for stamps," said Mr. Seeler, adding that their e-mail correspondence now numbers nearly 800 messages. "We compete with each other to see who can come up with the next bagpipe stamp." (At the moment, Mr. Stewart has 218 of the 240 bagpipe stamps that they have identified.)

Mr. Seeler and Mr. Stewart's intercontinental rivalry represents just one facet of how stamp collecting has adapted to the rise of the Internet. Many enthusiasts worry that the pastime may slowly fade in the blare of video games, satellite television and iPods. But for all its emphasis on paper, ink and glue, stamp collecting has found new life in the digital age.The hobby's online dimension is striking because most collectors are from an older generation less familiar with computers and the Internet.

Still, the lure of meeting other stamp collectors, locating that one elusive stamp for a collection, or showcasing entire collections has drawn many onto the Web.

Linn's Stamp News, a weekly publication for collectors, found that 44 percent of its subscribers used computers for their collecting last year, compared with 34 percent in 1996. (And the average age of its readers last year was 65.8.)

An unintended result of displaying stamps on the Internet is the creation of galleries by individual collectors to help document and preserve the images and history of stamps. There are hundreds of exhibits broken down by themes, like stamps of birds, or by region or period.

Many philatelists say they would never see the collections were they not displayed on the Web. "Some of the stamps on my Web site are quite valuable," said Ross Taylor, a collector of Victorian stamps who lives on the outskirts of London and maintains a site at

"The stamps are in the bank - and before, I could not even view them unless I took them out of the bank."While traditional places for collectors, like conventions and stamp shops, still exist, stamp clubs on the Internet are proliferating.

"Basically, you were on your own," said Lloyd A. de Vries, president of a site for enthusiasts, the Virtual Stamp Club (, and secretary of the American Philatelic Society, the nation's largest stamp collecting organization. "I think stamp collecting is growing because in effect we've all suddenly discovered that there are more people like us out there to talk to."

Also gone are the days of cataloging a collection in a tattered spiral notebook. Specialized database software like Stamp Keeper Deluxe, Stamp Collector's Data Base and StampCAT allows philatelists to track their inventory. Some collectors simply turn to commercial databases or spreadsheet applications.

One great challenge for collectors is to identify the lineage of a stamp. Which historical painting was it based on? When was it released, and in what quantity? What variations of the stamp exist, either in denomination or in size? The Web has transformed this arduous research task into one that is usually far more manageable.

"People post images of their stamps and ask others for help to identify the history of a particular stamp," said William F. Sharpe, the secretary of the Philatelic Computing Study Group (, an association dedicated to improving the hobby through computer use.

"Newsgroups are another way to gather this information."Stamp dealers also digitize their collections and post the images online or provide catalogs on CD's. But collectors often have to search each dealer's Web site for a particular stamp, making it a time-consuming process.

Some entrepreneurs, however, are creating searchable databases that include the inventory of as many dealers as are willing to pay to be included. Such portals include Zillions of Stamps, PostBeeld and StampFinder. Online auctions are increasingly important for buying and selling stamps.

While there are many sites that specialize in collectibles, eBay is by far the largest source for stamps, according to stamp enthusiasts. "EBay and its auction cousins are really increasing the number of people collecting stamps," Mr. de Vries said. At any given time, there are 40,000 to 50,000 lots of stamps on eBay alone, by the estimate of several collectors interviewed.

In Mr. Seeler's bagpipe quest, eBay, including its German and French sites, is a primary source for acquisitions - for which he pays $1 to $80, often buying an entire lot for a single bagpipe stamp within it. Mr. Seeler then scans each new stamp and posts the image to his expanding Web gallery (, part of a site he maintains on bagpipes and their history.

The stamps available on eBay range from garden varieties to rarities in the $6,000 range. Watchers of stamp auctions note that they have seen some available for as much as $35,000.Buyers can also take a chance by bidding on grab bags that contain hundreds of stamps in see-through garbage bags or cartons. These lots are often sold by the pound. Potential buyers have no idea how much the contents are worth, but hope to find a gem that allows them to double or triple their investment. On Friday afternoon, one grab bag sold for $975 after 23 people bid on it.

But buying stamps online - especially through auction sites - can be risky. Consumer advocates warn that with stamps, unlike with other valuables, fraud artists need few special tools or skills. Counterfeiting a valuable coin takes special tools and dies; reproducing a painting requires a skilled artist."In other words, entrance requirements are steep - not in stamps," said George Kopecky, co-founder of Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers (, a site that regularly exposes fraudulent auctioneers and dealers on the Internet.

"There are many things you can do to stamps to make them look like other much more valuable ones with as little as a pair of scissors."A knowledgeable con artist can increase the value of a stamp with a few cosmetic changes. One common ruse is to clean up a used stamp to make it appear new, a step that may drastically increase its value.

When investigators at Scads are suspicious of a seller on eBay, they refer to the seller's eBay ID to examine the person's buying record, comparing the digital images of the stamps he bought to the ones he is selling. "The Internet, particularly eBay, has been a boon for collectors knowledgeable enough to spot these frauds," Mr. Kopecky said. "However, the average collector is not skilled enough to know when they're being taken."

Stamp fraud predates the Internet, of course. The main difference now is how quickly con artists can move a large volume of altered stamps over the Internet compared with earlier times. Connoisseurs can also pull a fast one on neophytes who sell stamps without realizing their value. People troll for such bargains on the Internet.

"There's a bit of greed involved in the buyer - like I can pull one over on the seller because he does not know what he has and I do," Mr. Kopecky said.It is not the fear of being hoodwinked, however, that keeps a small group of old-timers from tapping the power of the Internet for stamp collecting. This group fundamentally believes that stamp collectors should use the postal system to communicate with one another and to buy and sell stamps.

"My feeling is that today people want instant gratification," said Estelle A. Buccino, a 71-year-old collector from Bethesda, Md. "When you have to wait to hear back from dealers or people you want to trade stamps with, that is delayed gratification."

People like Mrs. Buccino acknowledge that the Internet has enhanced stamp collecting over all and that they are among the holdouts. "It doesn't bother me," she said. "I see stamp collecting as being part of a larger social pastime. There is a pleasure in seeking stamps the old way."The new ways are evolving.

One idea that recently percolated across the Internet called for people to collect, trade and sell not the physical stamps but their digital images. With many rare stamps costing thousands of dollars, collecting digital images presented a low-cost alternative.That proposal got little response, but a variation is slowly catching on. Mr. Taylor says he posts some images of Victorian stamps taken by permission from dealers to fill in the blanks in his collection.

Other collectors keep a digital image to remind them of a stamp they badly want for their collection, a stamp they could perhaps never afford."I am never going to afford the $5 Columbian," a rare United States issue from 1893, said Mr. de Vries, noting that it can cost thousands of dollars.

"But I can have a tie with the image of it, so why not have a digital image?"
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posted by Don Schilling at 8:02 PM

`Joan of Art'

Joan Adams Mondale, wife of former Vice President Walter Mondale, and James Miho, an award-winning graphic designer and photographer, will become the newest member in April of the U.S. Postmaster General's Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee.

Joan Mondale's diligent efforts to support America's cultural life during President Jimmy Carter's administration, the USPS noted, earned her the unofficial title "Joan of Art." Miho, an art director of campaigns for Champion Papers and Container Corp. of America, is a design educator and photographer.

A graduate of Pasadena, Calif.'s Art Center College of Design, Miho began his design career at the N.W. Ayer & Son advertising agency in Philadelphia. There, he worked with Charles Coiner on the "Great Ideas of Western Man" campaign for CCA.Miho introduced to that series the works of pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Larry Rivers. Miho is best known for his concept, design and photography for Imagination, the annual book of papers for designers.

After studying art at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., Joan Mondale worked at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in Minneapolis.In 1977, she was appointed honorary chairwoman of the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities by President Carter, where she was affectionately named the nation's "Joan of Art," for her work in supporting cultural life across the nation.

The USPS also announced that Meredith Davis will leave the advisory committee after 12 years of service.

Established in 1957, the CSAC receives about 50,000 cards and letters a year from the public proposing and supporting stamp topics. It's responsible for making subject and design recommendations -- about 30 a year -- to the postmaster general.The 15 members are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the postmaster general. Their backgrounds reflect a wide range of educational, artistic, historical and professional expertise. All share an interest in stamp collecting and fulfilling the needs of postal customers.,0,3600300.story?coll=sfla-features-aetv
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posted by Don Schilling at 7:16 PM

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Stamp collector and secretary of Peterborough and District Phiatelic Society Alan Berrisford.

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posted by Don Schilling at 7:33 PM

'Stamp collecting is not dying out'

STAMP collectors have criticised an auctioning firm for claiming the hobby is dying out in the area. Experts from Stanley Gibbons recently visited the Moat House, in Thorpe Wood, Peterborough, to appraise collections belonging to people in the city.

They bemoaned the lack of youngsters willing to take up the hobby, because they are more interested in playing computer games and watching DVDs. However, members of the Peterborough and District Philatelic Society said it is premature to think the past-time is on the wane.

Bill Pile, club spokesman, said: "Without collectors like ourselves, Stanley Gibbons would be out of business."It is true there are fewer young people interested. "That's a shame because even a passing interest in stamps would teach children some of the geography and history of the countries they have been collected from."

Secretary of the club, Alan Berrisford (66), said the hobby's main problem is getting youngsters to take it up.He said: "It is difficult to get youngsters involved but it is not necessarily an older person's hobby."But I think the future of stamp collecting is secure at the moment."

The Peterborough and District Philatelic Society currently meets at Peterborough Museum in Priestgate, Peterborough city centre on the first and third Thursday of every month, between September and June.This year, the club is celebrating its 75th anniversary by holding a stamp auction day and a club open day later on in the year.The club also holds regular talks by experts.

At the moment, the club has 66 members but is appealing for people of all ages to join.
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posted by Don Schilling at 7:06 PM

Upcoming US military commemoratives
US POst Office Photo
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posted by Don Schilling at 11:15 AM

Lejeune, Puller, Basilone, Daly expected to visit station

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Four Marine legends will be visiting the station Nov. 10, via the postal service.

Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, Lt. Gen. John A. Lejeune, Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone and Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly are being honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a new set of first-class stamps bearing the images of these Marines.

Every Marine is taught of the legendary heroics of these four Marines, among others, in recruit training though seldom have battlefield heroes been commemorated in such fashion.

"This represents the Marine Corps," said Staff Sgt. William A. Cooper, Station postal custodian of postal effects. "In my time in the Corps, this is the first time I've gotten a chance to see the Marines represented like this. It lets you know what kind of light society sees the Marine Corps in."

Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller is the most decorated Marine in Leatherneck history earning five Navy Crosses and remembered as a fearless leader.

"So they've got us surrounded, good, now we can fire in any direction. The bastards won't get away this time," a famous quote of Chesty's during the battle for the Chosin Reservoir.
Lt. Gen. John A. Lejeune, the 13th commandant of the Marine Corps, is known throughout the Corps as being the standard for Marine Corps leadership. Not only was he the first Marine to lead an Army Division in combat, Marines all around the globe recite his birthday message on Nov. 10 every year.

Stories of Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone's courage under fire at Guadalcanal, where he was awarded the Medal of Honor, and Iwo Jima, where he ultimately gave his life on the battlefield.
One of only two Marines in history to be awarded the Medal of Honor twice, Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly distinguished himself in combat during the Boxer Rebellion and in Haiti.

"This means a great deal to the Marine," said Cooper. "To receive a letter...from a Marine, with a Marine hero on the stamp is an honor in itself."

The set of 37-cent stamps will also be a collector's item for many Marines and civilians alike.
"I'm getting a sheet just to keep for me, not to use," said Cooper.

Along with the new set of Marine hero stamps, the Station Post Office will introduce four new sets of stamps; Black History, Ronald Reagan, Disney and Muppet characters due to hit the Station in May.
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posted by Don Schilling at 9:51 AM

NJ Post Office to Reopen After Anthrax Cleanup

(Hamilton, NJ) The postal facility in Hamilton that handled anthrax-laced letters soon after the nine-eleven attacks will reopen Sunday.

The building has been decontaminated and has sensors to detect anthrax. All the old equipment was replaced under a renovation with an estimated cost of 80 to 100 million dollars.American Postal Workers Union Trenton Local president Bill Lewis says most of the 500 or so workers are looking forward to returning.

However, the four workers who were sickened will not be among them.No one has been charged in the October 2001 attacks that killed five and sickened 17 across the country.Newark-based FBI spokesman Steve Seigel wouldn't comment on the investigation.
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posted by Don Schilling at 9:48 AM

Etisalat releases prepaid telephone cards carrying images of Emirates Post's stamps on traditional fashions

The stamps on the traditional fashion of the UAE issued by Emirates Post has been reproduced on the prepaid telephone cards of Etisalat, as part of a new collaboration between the two organizations.

More than 6 million telephone cards will carry the images of these stamps. 'As two leading service organizations, Emirates Post and Etisalat have joined hands to create beautiful telephone cards bearing images of UAE stamps,' said Abdullah Ibrahim Al Daboos, Director General of Emirates Post.

'One objective of this is to promote philately through the widely used telephone cards. The second aim is to encourage people to collect telephone cards, which have become a hobby with many people.' Mohammed Al Fahim, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Etisalat, commented:

'We are constantly seeking ways to make our prepaid telephone cards more beautiful. As Emirates Post has gained a reputation for creating visually attractive stamps, we decided to make use of the images of postal stamps on our telephone cards. We are delighted with the result. We hope our telephone cards will become collector's items, just like the stamps of Emirates Post.'

The stamps used in the new set of Etisalat telephone cards portray a variety of traditional clothing of UAE women, such as Al Serwal or drawers which are worn under the jalabia; Al Thob (Robe); Al Abaiah (Gown): Al Kandoura (Jalabia); various types of Al Shailah (Scarf) used for covering the head and Al Burga (Yashmak) used for covering the nose and mouth.
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posted by Don Schilling at 9:43 AM