US Stamps

Anthony S. ‘Tony’ Wawrukiewicz, 1943-2023

Jul 19, 2023, 1 PM
Anthony S. “Tony” Wawrukiewicz, whose vast knowledge of U.S. postal rates and postal history spawned essential reference works and an online repository of key USPS publications, died July 11 at the age of 79. Photo courtesy of Mary Wawrukiewicz.

By Charles Snee

Esteemed philatelic researcher and scholar Anthony S. Wawrukiewicz, whose books on myriad aspects of United States postal history have become must-have reference works, died July 11 at the age of 79.

Known affectionately to collectors near and far as Tony W., Mr. Wawrukiewicz maintained a regular presence in the pages of Linn’s Stamp News with his monthly Modern U.S. Mail column that debuted in the Nov. 8, 2004, issue.

At the time of his death, two Modern U.S. Mail columns remained for future publication in Linn’s. The first, dealing with an aspect of third-class mail, is scheduled for the Aug. 14 issue. His final column, about the application of a 1¢ special penalty in relation to short-paid first-class mail and airmail, is planned for the Sept. 11 issue.

Mr. Wawrukiewicz’s wife, Mary, told Linn’s that he collected coins before pivoting to stamps and then postal history.

“In 1971 when silver got valuable, a friend in Kentucky interested him in stamps,” she said. “He began with Australia. In 1980 he switched to US stamps, and in 1981 he switched to covers.”

More than 30 years ago, a conversation with Henry Beecher (1918-92), another storied postal historian, set Mr. Wawrukiewicz on a journey that would solidify his well-earned reputation as an expert on U.S. postal rates.

“In 1991 at an Oregon Stamp Society meeting Henry Beecher spoke, and Tony asked him some questions about the [U.S. 1954-73] Liberty series,” Mary recalled.

“Henry had prostate cancer and ended up asking Tony to help him finish Henry’s book on US domestic postage rates. Henry gave Tony his notes which were written on the back of 12,000 IBM punch cards! Henry died, and Tony did complete the book, his first of ten, in 1993.”

That first book, U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-1993, was published in 1994. The second edition, U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-1999, appeared in 1999. Beecher is listed as a co-author of both volumes.

In 1996, Mr. Wawrukiewicz published U.S. International Postal Rates, 1872-1996, with Beecher as co-author.

U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-2011 was published in 2001, again with co-author Beecher.

Mr. Wawrukiewicz’s other significant works about U.S. postal history include Insights into U.S. Postal History, 1855-2016; Further Insights into U.S. Postal History, 1794-2019; The Forwarding of Mail by the U.S. Post Office Department, 1792-2001; and New York City Auxiliary Markings, 1798-2002 (co-authored with Thomas C. Breske).

His final book, The Uses of U.S. Postage Due Stamps and Their Substitutes, 1879-2023 (co-authored with Arnold H. Selengut), was published earlier this year.

Mr. Wawrukiewicz joined forces with fellow U.S. postal historians Ken Lawrence and C. David Eeles to publish The Liberty Series in 2007. That book, which is still in print, is an essential reference work for one of the most popular and enduring U.S. definitive series.

Among his most important legacies to the hobby is the digitization of the U.S. Postal Service’s Postal Bulletin and Postal Laws and Regulations.

He hired Australian dealer Michael Eastick to create digital copies of those publications, which are freely available on the Digitized US Postal Bulletins and PL&Rs website.

In the immediate days following Mr. Wawrukiewicz’s death, a number of his stamp hobby friends and colleagues posted online reflections that captured his generosity with his time and encyclopedic knowledge.

“Henry Beecher was helping me compile 1981-1989 U.S. postal rate tables for my book, Linn’s Plate Number Coil Handbook, when he gave Tony my number to call about gathering comparable rates for the 1954 Liberty series,” Lawrence wrote on the Stamp Collecting Forum, an online chat board, on July 13.

“That led to our joint authorship with David Eeles of our book The Liberty Series,” Lawrence said. “Scarcely a month has passed in those 30-plus years without a phone conversation with Tony. Rest in peace, my friend.”

Len Piszkiewicz, an expert on Chicago postal history, was among Mr. Wawrukiewicz’s closest friends.

“I’ve known Tony since the late 1980s when I looked up his phone number and called him to ask about mail forwarding,” Piszkiewicz wrote July 13 on postal historian Richard Frajola’s PhilaMercury online chat board.

“We met in person at the APS show in Oakland in 1990 and then at every APS show afterward for the next 25+ years,” Piszkiewicz said.

“His books on U.S. domestic and international postage rates are indispensable standard references for our hobby.

“His contributions to postal history research are tremendous additions to philately and it’s impossible for me to think of anyone else in the last several decades who has left a greater legacy for philatelic researchers than Tony.”

Postal historian Mike Ludeman, in a post on PhilaMercury, echoed Piszkiewicz’s assessment of Mr. Wawrukiewicz’s efforts to make U.S. postal information widely available.

“Tony had a long-range vision to see that most of the modern USPS postal manuals were digitized and made available to the collecting community,” Ludeman said. “This was a vision I shared with Tony, and many of our conversations this past year were focused on how to make that happen. I hope to continue that effort in the future.”

Collector Keith Palevsky, in an email to Linn’s, said he saw Mr. Wawrukiewicz less than a month before his death.

“When I shared that I had recently purchased some of his books, he insisted I come over so he could sign them,” Palevsky said.

“He signed my books beautifully, and he made a point of saying, ‘The reason I write these books is so that collectors like yourself have a resource from which they can learn about these various topics and that the knowledge can be shared into the future.’ ”

Mr. Wawrukiewicz was an American Philatelic Society accredited philatelic judge for many years. He retired from judging and was placed on the emeritus list in 2015, according to Darrell Ertzberger, chairman of the APS Committee on Accreditation of National Exhibitions and Judges.

Mr. Wawrukiewicz was also an accomplished exhibitor. His love of science was evident in two topical exhibits, “Comets” (one frame) and “The Sun, Myth, Science, Culture” (multiframe).

Numerous other exhibits showcased his vast knowledge of U.S. postal rates and consistently received gold and large gold awards. For example, “The Ways U.S. Postage Due Stamps Were Used, 1879-1986” received large golds at the Florex, Pipex and Seapex shows in 2019.

Among Mr. Wawrukiewicz’s numerous hobby recognitions are the 2002 APS Luff award for distinguished philatelic research, the 1998 Diane D. Boehret award of the American Philatelic Congress for the best philatelic publication (U.S. International Postal Rates, 1872-1996), and the 2001 Stanley B. Ashbrook cup of the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society for The Forwarding of Mail by the U.S. Post Office Department, 1792-2001.

In reflecting on her husband’s impact on the hobby, Mary Wawrukiewicz captured the essence of what motivated him.

“He loved to get questions from other folks about covers they could not figure out,” she said. “He was always consulting his books to answer their questions, and usually it would turn into a Linn’s article.”

On a personal note, I knew Mr. Wawrukiewicz for almost as long as I have worked for Linn’s. We met for the first time in August 1999 at the American Philatelic Society Stampshow in Cleveland.

I often consulted his U.S. postal rates books when researching covers for my monthly Dollar-Sign Stamps column in Linn’s. When I sent him a picture of a letter with a perplexing franking, he invariably came through with a clear explanation of the rate.

It was an honor to be his editor, and I will miss our cheerful email exchanges and phone calls.

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