Robert Markovits – Unannounced –Reminiscences

Feb 1 , 1997

The seminar leader was Robert Markovits and his topic was ‘Short Perfs.’

The subject was Mr. Markovits reminiscences of how he got involved with stamps and some of his adventures along the way from a young collector at Cornell University in 1960to the present.  He noted his father was also a collect, but who was appalled at Bob’s expenditures.  He narrated how he first got involved with Special Delivery having visited the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in 123 degree weather or, better to the point, that the workmen (no women) were in underwear and how they stripped the verdigris from the original die for him.  He also mentioned going with George Turner to the top of the Smithsonian tower where some interesting correesp9ndence was kept. He then narrated how he bought major collections and was constantly in debt to Bob Siegel, who would find another important collection almost as soon as the first was paid off.  This also happened with Richard Taylor in the case of another important holding.  Among those he cherry-picked or acquired were Rae Erinburg’s and Morrison Waud’s holdings.  He also noted it was his interest in special deliveries that first brought him to Lou Robbins who was also a collector and how at a later date he spit the world with another key collectors with Markovits winning the U.S. and the other guy the rest of the world until recently.  (Bob has subsequently acquired that holding). He also described how he obtained the Tom Morris holding of Official Proofs as well as other major proof collections by repeatedly going into debt and buying on credit.

Early on Markovits became acquainted with Larry Fisher and helped him build the collection that recently sold at Shreves, advising him that 40% of the money at least would be wasted because earlier classic covers would turn up. He told the story of repeatedly buying the earliest 15¢ Lincoln cover until he finally found it in a Siegel box when working Siegel’s boxes alongside Ed Siskin who had the other box and how Miriam Siegel shouted no discounts so he had to pay the full $85, but turned around and placed it in the Siegel Rarities sale where it sold for thousands.  He also noted the problems of getting into literature and how the mover who first moved him from New York City to Middleton complained and asked to be relieved of moving him again, although he did do it.  When the collection of literature was picked up for the Firby literature sale it weighed six tons.  He also remembered an early literature purchase of Mekeel’s and Gossip where the postage was considerably higher than the purchase price.

Among other stores was that of Count Diablo, who used a series of strange names including his own, his wife’s cousin’s and versions thereof to obtain philatelic materials.  This all related to his original purchase of a registry cover that was franked because of a quirk in the law relating to damaged and cancelled money.  He suspected that the man was a con artist.  Another interesting cover was a WWII one with a POW contents written from Germany and the letter arrived with a U.S. Special Delivery.  He contacted the Houston postmaster and learned the story which involved a prisoner believed to be dead with this being notice that he was alive; the family lived next to the postmaster, so the postmaster put on the stamp because the letter arrived over the weekend.  The family made an initial donation and it swelled to the point where every Houston POW letter received special delivery treatment for the next two years of the war.