By Janet Klug
Every once in a while, something happens that reminds me of the importance of being a member of stamp collecting societies. Besides the invaluable social aspects of finding friends who enjoy the same things you do, stamp societies and clubs disseminate knowledge about the subjects you collect that cannot be obtained easily any other way.
As an example, I was recently reading the January 2009 American Philatelist, the journal of the American Philatelic Society. One of the articles was "A New Look at the Small Guayanas of Venezuela" by Don Avery. Being a collector of worldwide stamps up to 1935, I have some of these stamps in my collection, albeit in rather grubby, much-loved condition.
These stamps are listed as Scott 1-5 in the Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940, but at the back of the Venezuela section under the heading "Local Stamps for the State of Guayana." A footnote discusses a control mark, and the fact that there are counterfeits of the 1-centimo and 50c stamps.
I knew these stamps with their quaint steamboat design had been reprinted, and I had always figured the stamps in my collection were reprints. The article in the American Philatelist told how to easily distinguish the reprints from the originals, and the different types of reprints from one another.
I could hardly wait to pull my album off the shelf and compare my stamps with the text and excellent illustrations in this article.
I was able to confirm my suspicion that all four stamps were reprints from plate II. It took only a couple of seconds to figure that out by looking at the word "Estado" that runs up the left side of the stamp. On my stamps the word is indented and does not line up perfectly under the C of "Correos" at the top, so they are plate II second reprint or forgery stamps.
The article further describes plate varieties for plate II reprints. The most presentable stamp I have is shown in Figure 1. This stamp, according to the article, is a plate II reprint. It is also a type 3, because there are big breaks in the masts and jib rigging, only one dot between the ornaments in the bottom frame, and the top left ornament is defective, resembling a triangle.
Learning more about these interesting objects in my collection was fascinating. The article also taught me how to quickly discern one of the scarce original stamps from the common reprints. The key is the flag that juts at an angle from the back of the steamship. If the outer line of the flag is broken or missing, it is an original. If the flag's outer line is completely intact, it is one of the reprints.
Maybe I will find an original at the next stamp show I attend, or for sale online. In any case, I figure I got my year's worth of value from my APS membership with this one article. Membership information is available by writing to the APS at 100 Match Factory Place, Bellefonte, PA 16803 or by visiting the web site at www.stamps.org.
I am working on a couple of first-day cover collections, so I am also a member of the American First Day Cover Society.
The society's journal, First Days, is published eight times a year, and is chock full of interesting articles that tell the stories behind the stamps as well as the stories behind the cachets that appear on the FDCs.
One of my FDC collections is of the block of four se-tenant United States 6¢ stamps (Scott 1379a) for the 11th International Botanical Congress, issued Aug. 23, 1969.
The date of issue happens to be the day my husband and I married.
I have a good many cacheted FDCs for this issue, but pictured in Figure 2 is one of my favorites. It is a simple design that repeats some of the elements from the stamps, with a flower-filled outline map of the contiguous United States. The cover was serviced by cachetmaker House of Farnam.
The Jan. 15 issue of First Days has a lengthy article about the later days of the House of Farnam enterprise.
For information about the AFDCS, write to Box 16277, Tucson, AZ 85732 or visit the web site at www.afdcs.org.
Journals from stamp hobby organizations arrive every month, full of interesting articles that enlighten me about parts of my collection. Writers present history in ways most of us have never thought about. Stamps connect us to the past, saying "I was there and here is my story!"
Even if the journal is the primary benefit of joining, it is still well worth the money.
Journals and newsletters might be the glue that holds a stamp collecting organization together, but meetings and other social activities are equally valuable and fun.
Some collector organizations have regularly scheduled or occasional auctions. Some publish books or monographs and offer discounts to members. Some offer expertizing services.
Some societies have sales books with which you can make money by selling your duplicates, or build your collection by buying the duplicates of other members. A few groups have libraries that house books and catalogs you can borrow.
The Post Mark Collectors Club even has a museum. The Margie Pfund Memorial Post Mark Museum was founded in 1957. Named for its first curator, it holds the world's largest collection of postmarks, and many other types of postal history. It is located in Historic Lyme Village in Bellevue, Ohio.
The club also maintains an extensive collection of post office photographs and publishes the Post Office Directory, the most accurate list of U.S. post offices available.
Postmarks can be collected by location, by type, or just about any other way that you might want to collect them. In the past, postmarks were often collected as clippings from envelopes. Nowadays, saving the entire cover is more popular.
A cover bearing a March 21, 1918, Oxford, Ohio, postmark is shown in Figure 3.
To join the Post Mark Collectors Club, write to Robert J. Milligan, 7014 Woodland Oaks Drive, Magnolia TX 77354-4898; or visit the web site at www.postmarks.org.
There are many good reasons to join a stamp club or society. Don't overlook the value of joining your local stamp club.
Most local clubs meet at least monthly and might feature a speaker, an auction, a stamp hunt or some other fun program.
It is a good place to meet other collectors and make new friends. It is also a wonderful place to find stamps for your collection by swapping duplicates with others.
To find a stamp club near you, check out the listing on Linn's web site at www.linns.com/reference/clubs/club_a.aspx.