Classics society offers Ashbrook photo archive access online

The United States Philatelic Classics Society has obtained the Stanley Ashbrook collection of about 9,800 black-and-white photographs of classic stamps and covers.

The archive photographs can be viewed on the society’s website and are available for anyone interested to review and study.

According to the society, this newly obtained archive is not the collection illustrated in Special Service, the biweekly newsletter published in the 1950s by Ashbrook, a preeminent stamp and postal history writer and researcher.

These photographs were taken by Ashbrook of objects sent to him for study; the photos were kept by him as a private reference.

Years after Ashbrook’s death in 1958, the collection was obtained by philatelic researcher Jerome S. (Jerry) Wagshal, who had hoped to make it available to the collecting public.

Michael Perlman acquired the photograph collection from Wagshal’s widow Mary, with the stipulation that the images would be made available to philately at large.

At his own expense, Perlman had high resolution scans made of all 9,800 photographs and donated these scans to the society.

The society contracted with Wyzaerd Consulting Inc. to format the photos and post them online.

“Due to the random way in which the original images were shot, they cannot be organized any better than they are in the folders in which Ashbrook kept them,” the society reported.

Most of the photographs are group shots of two to three covers per photo, or 12 to 15 stamps.

The society reports that it is now exploring the technology for adding electronic tags to each photo to allow organizing by groups, such as Scott catalog number, postal treaty, origin, destination, and so on.

“We will consider ‘crowd-sourcing’ — using qualified volunteers as one way to approach this challenge,” the society notes. “This would obviously be a long-term effort.”

The Ashbrook archives can be viewed online at

Visitors using an older Internet browser can examine individual items by accessing with a right-click, then opening the image in a new window.

The United States Philatelic Classics Society is not-for-profit association of people interested in the pre-1894 stamps and postal history of the United States. Visit the society website for additional information.