Friday, March 04, 2011

Extraordinary Russian Stamp Collection Found in Smithsonian Vault

"One of the best collections of Russian stamps in the world was recently found within the deep recesses of a storage vault at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum. The collection, composed of more than 14,000 Russian stamps, is truly exceptional in terms of its quality and rarity, according to a leading expert in Russian stamps," writes Sally R. Rountree on the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, Belgium website.

Leon Finik, a frequent contributor to the Journal of the Rossica Society of Russian Philately, one of the world’s leading publications on Russian stamps calls the find, “one of the greatest collections outside Russia,”

He goes on to say, “Certainly this collection ranks as one of the top three collections in the world... rivaled only by collections at the Popov Museum of Communications in Russia and the British Library. The quality of the stamps is outstanding for this type of material.”

According to the article, "The stamps have not been seen since 1984, when they were first donated to the Museum by the estate of G.H. Kaestlin, a Russian philatelist living in England.

Thomas Lera, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum’s Winston Blount Chair in Research, had  'no idea' of the collection’s existence." “The museum has over 5 million stamps stored in its facility; not all have been fully processed and catalogued,” Lera told

Apparently, the discovery was the result of a recent query from State Department officers working on U.S.-Russian cultural relations.

Lera pointed out in the article, “It would have been many years before the Postal Museum worked on this collection had the State Department not inquired. Elizabeth Schorr, collections manager at the museum, remembered another Russian donation, and together we located it in one of the cabinets in the vault. Once I realized the extent of what was there, I spent three days turning over 1,000 pages!”

A special display of the collection is being planned by the National Postal Museum for viewing in the new Gross Gallery, scheduled to open in late 2012.

Shown above, one of the rare stamps from the collection.

To read the entire article, click here.

For more on  the collection, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM