Composition of Philatelic Interests

by Ken Yates

Revised 03/12/07


The "Common" versus the "French" School of Philately

The Future of Stamp Collecting

These Stirring Times

Whither Watermarks?

By Gum! It's Stuck

Music in Philately

Fiscal Collecting

The "Common" versus the "French" School of Philately
The Eagle Philatelist (Kansas City, Kansas) for July 1892 offered Harry F. Kantner's account of an early schism within the hobby.

Philatelists who have pursued our hobby for thirty years or more will possibly remember the famous controversy occasioned by the introduction of the French School of Philately. For the benefit of the younger element, I will give a brief account of the controversy and the principles advocated by the debaters on both sides.

The young collector will first be contented with the many types to be found, but as his collection becomes larger, he will find minute varieties, some stamps being exactly of the same type but may differ in the shade, the quality of the paper, the watermark, or may exist with or without perforations. Then again in some countries he may find that on a sheet of fifty or more apparently similar stamps there may be fifty or more varieties because of some minute difference in the types, due to inaccuracy in the engraving. If the collector has an abundance of the "useful," he will usually purchase such minute varieties, often at a very high price. If he pursues this course he is said to belong to the French School of Philately, because the Parisian Stamp Collectors adopted this method as early as 1862. Their principle was "specialism and completeness, every variety and every specimen." The collectors who disagreed with the French School were termed the Common School of Philately. Many were the arguments in the debates between the two schools, and at last things came to such a stand that the members of the French School were accused of being afflicted with soft spots on their craniums, and the collectors of the Common School adjudged by their opponents as being of the "small boy" class.

So the contest went on, all the stamp journals of the time taking an active part. At last no interest was taken in the debate, and they all with one assent agreed with Charles Mackay to "Let the long contention cease. Geese are swans and swans are geese."

Many collectors may regard this controversy as being of no importance but I believe it was the cornerstone of philately. And why?

Well, had the Common School triumphed there would have been very few scientific collectors and certainly very poor, if any, philatelic literature of a scientific nature, and collectors would rarely, if ever, have become acquainted with each other had there been no stamp journals.

The collectors of the French School, while they knew there were more varieties issued than they could secure, took to a sort of specializing, the result of which lead to scientific collecting, which has laid the foundation of philately.

In the United States today there are many who do not take into consideration the qualities of the stamps. For instance, how many collectors concern themselves about the sizes of the grille in the embossed stamps of the U.S.? In revenue stamps, how many make a distinction between perforated and unperforated stamps or the quality of the paper? In U.S. envelope stamps, how many collect the various sized entire envelopes according to the Homerian method? Very few indeed, but the few they are, are collectors according to the French School. They are scientific collectors - philatelists. The many who do not collect thus are collectors of the Common School. They are non-scientific collectors - stamp collectors.

There is a wide chasm between the two schools which can only be crossed by study. Have you crossed it?

The Future of Stamp Collecting
The Rev. R.B.Earee's forecast appeared in Nunn's Philatelical Annual and was reprinted in Vindin's Philatelic Monthly (Sydney) for January 1889

When I first set up as a collector, some twenty-eight years ago, albums, catalogues, and, I may add, dealers' stocks were very modest affairs compared with their present proportions. Mount Brown's catalogue was a monument of philatelic knowledge and research, and a shilling was an extravagant price to pay for a stamp. But in those twenty-eight years there have been so many new stamps issued, and so many new countries have been added to the list of stamp-issuing states, that the young people just commencing to collect are apt to feel rather frightened at the task which they have set themselves. During the last few years, also, since the postal union has been organized, we have seen an enormous increase in the number of stamps to be collected; and it seems to us that we shall have to think seriously of the future of our favorite pursuit.

Now, in most trades and manufactures, division of labor has long superseded the fashion of past days, when the handicraftsman turned out articles made by his own hand from beginning to end; and now-a-days this subdivision of labor has been carried so far that it takes twenty or thirty persons to even make a pin, or a steel pen. This is, of course, greatly to the advantage of the public, whose pins or pens are turned out by millions every week; but of course each workman merely learns that particular stage of the manufacture which is committed to his charge; the fact being that single workmen, endeavoring to cover the whole ground by themselves, would soon be left far behind. Well now, I think it cannot be denied that stamp-collecting in its entirety is getting to be too much for any one person; and, if we go in for adhesives, envelopes, postcards, wrappers, and their corresponding official representatives (not to mention the thousands of fiscals of all sorts), we shall only succeed in getting together a poor stock of each.

My idea is, therefore, that, in the time to come, collectors will have to choose which branch they will take up, in order to have any chance of success. I think that this is already being done in some cases; one of my friends confines himself altogether to postcards, I go in for adhesives, and another of my friends makes a specialty of envelopes. Then, too, in the years to come, I suppose that many stamps, even now very rare, will become altogether extinct, as regards all practical purposes; for, if collectors increase for the next fifty or a hundred years at the same rate as they have done for the last ten years or so, what likelihood will there be of their obtaining obsolete stamps, which, even now, exist perhaps only in the finest collections of Europe?

Some will say that long before the period named has elapsed the rage for stamp-collecting will have passed away. I think not. I know many boys take up the pursuit eagerly for a year or two, and then thrust it aside altogether; but I fancy that, at the very least, one out of every ten perseveres; and so we find the ranks of the philatelic army are yearly swelled by new recruits, who far more than make up for our losses by death and desertion. And then, stamps are like coins; they must always have a special interest of their own, even as coins have, far beyond the artificial interest which has been created in old china, bric-a-brac, etc.; so that it must be many a long year before the dealers, philatelic publishers and album makers find their occupation gone.

A generation ago, now, people would have laughed at our pursuit; indeed, as it is, I don't know any other hobby that has been so ridiculed; and yet I know one dealer alone at the present moment who has 8,000 worth of stamps in stock; and has taken sixteen tons of paper for the printing of an album now in the press! Then, too, the proportions already assumed by our pursuit are so great, and the demand of collectors so constant and so pressing, that even great governments have found it worth their while to reprint their obsolete stamps, solely for the sale to philatelists; and smaller governments have, I am sorry to say, even manufactured (forged, I call it) new dies to print obsolete stamps of which the original dies have long since been destroyed. Of the former category I would take the United States as an example; and of the latter, Moldavia.

I think, then, we may take it for granted that none of those now living will see the end of stamp-collecting; and we must remember that it is, perhaps, the most innocent and most instructive of all the hobbies yet invented; so that the worst people can say of it is, that it is, in their idea, a waste of time and money.

But I am not writing an apology for philately; I am only supposed to be considering what will be its future. Well, I think that, as I said before, there will be a division of labor. As soon as collectors find that the matter, as a whole, is getting beyond the range of their time, understanding, and purse, they will be tolerably certain to make up their minds that a single branch of our pursuit is about all that can be properly attended to at once. Let it be distinctly understood that I am not advocating this subdivision of the subject, but merely pointing out that there is a strong probability of its becoming a necessity in the future, when the world's stamps will be numbered by millions.

These Stirring Times
The late 1890s were an exciting period for philately, according to Charles E. Jenney in the June 1898 issue of The Columbian Philatelist (New Oxford, Pennsylvania).

That we live fast in these latter days, the present exciting state of affairs in philately well attests. New issues are following one on the heels of the other, almost overlapping perforations, so to speak. Errors pursue hotly. The Omaha stamps are upon us. Our army and navy are making the way for sweeping changes in colonial issues. And a vast new revenue issue is going into circulation.

The philatelist has scarcely time to ponder a moment over one move e'er another glides before him and withdraws his attention. The daily newspapers are filled with the decrees of the post office department. The Omaha circulars, the establishing of army post offices, the regulations for mail facilities in Cuba and the Philippines, the methods of circulating the revenue stamps, and a dozen other matters claim public attention and add to the distraction of postmasters and mail clerks, but most of all they keep the stamp collector on an eternal qui vive. Not only has he scant time for speculation as to the results of this or that late addition to the annals of philately, but scarcely for the watching for and picking up of each new set of stamps.

The editors and writers for the philatelic press, gladly and eagerly seizing on so much material for news-giving and discussion, are no longer forced to grind and rehash antediluvian subjects, and so the fast-flowing productions of their pens swell the interest that is upon us. With such conditions, how can the summer of 1898 be a dull one in philately? I prophesy that we shall not soon see a more vigorous ampaign. The uninitiated, having constantly before them so many sources of information, not only through the philatelic press, official circulars, and the daily papers, but even in the popular magazines and periodicals (for instance, the July Strand Magazine contains two articles appertaining in a degree to philately - one on the Postmen of the World and the other on Stamp Designs) cannot help but soon become the initiated, and, as their insight into our fad grows and the panorama of new issues floats before their gaze, will not the mania seize upon them - will not Philatelia cast her spell over them and once under her influence become hopelessly entangled?

I may almost say that a crisis is taking place in the annals of stamp-collecting. While we are staring aghast at the rapid succession of anniversary issues, jubilee sets, commemorative stamps, and speculative ventures of national post offices; while we are scrambling for the latest issue of Canada, the Newfoundland surcharges, New Zealand reprints, and Cannibal Island errors; while we are awaiting with bated breath the Omaha set and the new revenues in all the combinations which the reading of the decrees seems likely to multiply interminably; while we are striving to keep abreast of the rapidly moving events, there is taking place a metamorphosis in philately, and eight months from now conditions will prevail that have been unknown hitherto. I believe that our ranks will receive a vast increase soon and that a general knowledge of stamp-collecting will become almost universal. But aside from this I dare not prophesy. Whither are we tending? In what direction will the fancy of the collector turn? Will the old collector, the collector of today, be left behind or side-tracked, the fads of the newcomers leaving his collection hopelessly unfashionable and valueless? The new collectors will be numerous enough to form the majority and set the pace. But the enthusiasm of the older collectors will have its influence, and it behooves every ardent lover of stamp-collecting, as it has been and is, to train and direct, by example, speech, and the pen, all the newcomers within his radius, in the good old way.

Whither Watermarks?
In the Metropolitan Philatelist (New York) for April 23, 1910, editor J.W. Scott advised against collecting varieties of watermarks.

A correspondent desires to know why we discourage the collection of watermark varieties. There are two ways of conducting a business. The commonest plan is for the seller to strive to get rid of his stock on hand. To induce his customer to spend all his available funds and if the customer has reserve capital to sell him on credit as much as he can be cajoled into buying. Some dealers have accumulated considerable capital by this method of doing business. Our plan is exactly the reverse. We do not desire our customers to spend one dollar more than their income warrants or that will curtail in a measurable degree their expenditures in other directions. Moreover, for the money they spend on stamps we desire them to get the utmost value.

When we advise the purchase of any particular line of stamps it is because our own stock is deficient and we have been unable to replenish when wanted, under these circumstances we know that collectors will do well in filling up the spaces in their albums as advised. The collector to buy to advantage must decide how much per year he can devote to his hobby. If his limit be one hundred dollars or less he should buy on a wholly different plan to the man who expects to spend a thousand dollars in the same time.

For instance the collector having the set 1902 St. Vincent could not sell them for more than he would receive for the same values of the 1904 issue yet they would cost him considerable higher, but if he was the fortunate possessor of a complete set of all the issues of St. Vincent he would doubtless receive more for the C.A. set than for the issue with multiple watermark.

The thousand-dollar collection always realizes a much higher percentage of catalogue price than one cataloguing one-tenth of the sum named. The completed page always looks better in an album than one only partly full, and herein lies the popularity of the Seebeck stamps. They have been anathematized and decried for the past fifteen years but they still remain amongst the best sellers.

The British Colonials with their sets with the C.C. or C.A. and later "multiple" watermarks require double the amount to collect and for the amateur of moderate means spoils the looks and appearance of every page designed for their reception provided spaces have been left for the different watermarks. When every design and value has been secured it will be ample time to look for the different watermarks and by that time there will be no difference in the prices except for the rarest varieties. If two British Colonials should be collected because one has a C.A. and the other a C.C. watermark, why do not American amateurs take three sets of the current stamps of their own country, one set being watermarked with a U, the second with an S and the last with a P?

By Gum! It's Stuck
In The Philatelist (London) for January 1939, L.N. and M. Williams traced the variety of adhesives used to mount stamps to pages.

By dint of much experimenting and infinite care the philatelist has reduced the mounting of stamps to a fine art.

The affixing or one part of the mount to the stamp and the other portion to the album page so that subsequent removal will result in neither tearing the mount nor damaging the page, is an operation requiring patience plus skill plus a good mount.

It was not always so. Once upon a time the most barbaric methods were used for mounting stamps. That is why many old stamps bear evidence to having been maltreated in their youth.

A substance widely used by early collectors for affixing stamps in their albums was gum arable. According to "An Amateur," writing in 1866, this adhesive had many advantages over paste, chief among them being that it was more fluid and would keep fresh for a long time. However, its use on India paper was not recommended because "it soaks through to the upper surface and completely spoils the stamp. The best thing to use for India proofs seems to be a paste made with the flour of rice."

Gum arabic was not used by everyone, and some collectors preferred to affix their stamps more firmly to the page. One of the substances strongly recommended by another writer was liquid india-rubber. The writer extolled its virtues and praised its cleanliness, adhesiveness, ease of removal, and the fact that it left no stain. The economy of its use also was mentioned, and its advocate stated that a shillings worth would last for years. It seems doubtful, however, whether a stamp mounted with it more than once would retain its freshness "for years."

Another adhesive used quite extensively was gelatine. A method of purification before use was suggested, as the gelatine was obtainable in long, thin slips which were to be boiled in water. It was recommended that the resultant liquid be passed through a sieve of linen.

Although the strength of the preparation cannot be doubted, it would seem, from the description given, to have been endued with magic powers. "Whenever it is required for use," wrote its supporter, "it must always be warmed, and a small quantity of it applied with a brush on the back of the stamp, which fixes itself at once on the book."

The need for an efficient adhesive attracted the attention of chemists, and a Mr. S. Ray, of Stockport, advertised a glue of his own manufacture. He called the substance "coagaline," and marketed it at sixpence a bottle. He claimed that, being perfectly colorless, it would disfigure neither the stamps nor the album.

A somewhat similar concoction, of French origin, was sold under the name of "coll en batons." In writing of it, the editor of Stamp Collectors' Magazine stated that the gum was very different from the sticky-glue of English bazaars; for which fact present-day philatelists should be truly grateful.

A suggestion for quite an appetizing preparation was put forward early in 1867. It was made by a philatelist who stated that he was a collector also of monograms, and always used the adhesive for mounting them in his album.

The substance consisted chiefly of the white of an egg, carefully kept clear when being separated from the yolk, and put into a small bottle together with half a teaspoonful of the best brandy. The proposer was emphatic concerning the quality of the brandy, and this may have been prompted by some ulterior motive. At any rate, there must have been a strong temptation to apply the gum to the tongue instead of to the stamps it was intended to mount.

Considerably less appetizing was the potato starch recommended consistently by one stamp journal. However, collectors were warned to use the starch sparingly otherwise the stamps on which it was used would adhere only too well to the album page.

One of the earliest suggestions for mounting stamps by means of folded strips of gummed paper, after the manner of hinges, was put forward in Stamp Collectors' Magazine, dated January 1869. Although the use of gummed paper had been advocated earlier, the previous suggestions had been that the paper be folded twice, the part where the two edges met to be fixed to the stamp, the other side to be fixed to the album page. This resulted in the stamp's becoming an almost permanent fixture.

The new hinge was suggested in the correspondence column, in answer to a reader's query, and was accompanied by a rough diagram. The use of stamp edging was suggested as the gummed paper. Astonishing at it may seem, this idea did not catch on at once, and as late as March 1 1870, a writer in the same magazine recommended gum arabic as being superior to any other adhesive for mounting stamps.

Not until a year or two later was there a general move towards the mounting of stamps with strips of thin, semi-transparent paper, and the days of the stamp's martyrdom were over - but were they? When considered carefully the use of even the stamp mount seems rather barbarous.

Perhaps some day a philatelist with a brilliant turn of mind will arise and forever banish even that small remnant of a gummy age. Then, and only then, will a mint specimen be able to retain its pristine glory until the end of time.

Music in Philately
This article by "Post Master" appeared in the first issue of The Western Philatelist, published in Chicago in January 1887.

There is perhaps but a very small proportion of the stamp collectors of this country that are aware of the fact that music has contributed in a small way to their hobby. The writer has met with three American pieces of music, which, from the appearance of their title-pages, are wedded to philately.

The first is the "Stamp Galop" by Arthur O'Leary. This piece was published by Oliver Ditson & Co., of Boston, in 1864. The title-page is embellished by facsimiles of forty-three stamps, in their original colors. They are quite correct in their general appearance and some are representations of very rare stamps. The principal stamp-issuing countries of that period are represented. This title is no longer in use, as among the number of stamps are three of the United States, and the law making it an offense to print facsimiles of this country's stamps has since gone into effect. To philatelists who have a library, this piece of music is quite an addition, and very few are fortunate enough to own a copy. There may possibly be copies in some of the old stocks of music, but it is doubtful, as they have been in demand of late and most of those remaining on hand have been sold. The price of this piece was sixty cents; the music is of a pleasing character, being spirited and lively.

The second piece is called "Postal Card Galop," by Wm. H. Pond, Jr. It was published in 1875 by W.H. Pond & Co., of New York. The title-page is illuminated with a reproduction of the first issue of the U.S. Postal Card. It is an exact facsimile as regards color, size, and general appearance, but the wording is not exactly the same. On the face it says: "This is not a lawful U.S. Postal Card, and you may write the address and message where you like, and send it." On the stamp there appears: "Not U.S. Postage. Not one cent." The wording was changed so as to conform with the law and at the same time give a good illustration of the card. This is also a fine curiosity for collectors and will no doubt be in demand. The price of it is forty cents.

The third piece is a song entitled "Good-Bye Old Stamp. Song and chorus, by Uncle Sam, author of all the stamps; words by Sam, Jr." It was issued in 1883 when the old three-cents green was succeeded by the present two-cents stamp. The publishers are H.S.Perkins & Co., Chicago. On the title-page, in the center is printed, in green, a large three-cents stamp, about three times as large as the original stamp. Above the center is the inscription: "To those who buy, by those who bought," followed by an epitaph which says:

"By an Act of Congress into being I came,
With a smiling face and a noble name.
I met my death by an act of the same,
In March '83, I say to my shame."

There is also a stamp of the original size in each comer, making five in all on the title-page. Above the first page of music is a condensed history of postage and stamps. The words of the song are very humorous, and all musical collectors when they hear of it will want a copy, which may be had for forty cents. The words of this song will be found familiar by many collectors, as they were published in most of the philatelic papers about the time of the old stamp's demise. The writer has heard of several foreign pieces of music that are of interest to philatelists, but has not been able to obtain copies of them, or information concerning them. Should any of my readers chance to know of any other music of a philatelic nature, either American or foreign, the writer would be thankful for such information as they can afford.

Fiscal Collecting
A coming boom in revenues was touted by R.S.Walters in The Canadian Philatelist (London, Ontario) for March 1893.

It is but a matter of time ere revenue collecting becomes general. Every month sees its adherents increasing, and the demand for revenues and telegraphs becoming greater, and there is no reason, as far as I can see, why this branch of philately should not become as great or even greater than the sway exercised by the postage stamp at the present time.

Now, how is it that revenue stamp collecting did not, and is not as general as the collection of postage stamps? The revenue stamp was in use centuries before the idea of the postage stamp was conceived. The leading cause is the regulation regarding the use of this class of stamps. They are placed on documents, and usually the law requires that they be left there, otherwise the document in question shall have no legal value. This is not always the case. Again, papers such as are required to be stamped with revenues are not so commonly seen as the letters which are flying to and fro before our eyes daily. Their partial obscurity is one reason why they have not been generally collected.

A time of changes is coming. New adherents to fiscal collecting are becoming very numerous. Take the beginner, and it will be found that he almost invariably mixes revenues in with his collection of postage. He sees no reason why one has any more claim on him than another. He has an eye for beauty of color and design. It will generally be found that he considers his revenues the pink of his collection.

Specialists of their native country invariably include revenues in their collections. Today we find many who collect nothing but revenues, and again others who collect both postage and revenues.

Revenue collecting is steadily gaining ground. We now have numerous catalogues of revenue stamps published. An enterprising London firm have recently commenced the publication of the Fiscal Philatelist, which will do much for the cause. The leading journals are beginning to take hold of the subject, devoting their space and effort to its advancement.

Do you collect revenues? If not, you should remember they have a strong claim on you, whether specialist or general collectors. You find in them a range of variety greater than in postage stamps. The size is, on the average, larger. The increased size gives room for artistic design such as is seldom seen in postage stamps. Taken all around, examination will show you that for beauty, coloring and exquisite original design, revenue stamps have this even more than postage stamps. Reader, think this over, and let your decision be that you will collect revenues, even though it be on a small scale. Now's the time to begin. The demand at present is, comparatively speaking, small, and revenues can be bought at very low rates. But prices are steadily on the rise. As collectors increase, the prices do likewise. "A word to the wise is sufficient." Those who begin before the demand becomes general are the wise; and the result will be apparent in the near future. "Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today."

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