Part 4- Expertizing and Forgers

                    Back-of-the-Book Collecting

Along with the development of specialized country collections, the hegemony era also saw a growth in specialized back-of-the-book collecting.  The acceptance of postal stationery at the 1890 show has already been noted.

Private posts, particularly American ones, were discussed in the earliest catalogs, and descriptive lists of the stamps were published by J. W. Scott between 1868 and 1872 largely based upon Coster’s work.  In 1874 he bound his catalog into his stamp albums noting,

“The great and increasing demand for ‘local,’ as the stamps of the various private express companies are incorrectly called, has induced our publishers to incorporate a complete list of these interesting labels in the present edition…  The first column gives the price of good imitations, printed in the correct color only, of nearly all the rare and almost unobtainable originals; these are offered at the uniform rate of 2¢ each. They have been prepared for the express purpose of familiarizing collectors with the appearance of these rare stamps…  The second column gives the prices of those stamps, which have been reprinted either by the original owners or by dealers to whom the plates or dies have been sold…  The third column gives the prices of those stamps of which our publishers can supply genuine original copies…”

Local collecting was given an important impetus by publication of Charles Coster’s 1874-77 “series” on U.S. locals, reprinted by Scott in 1877 and brought out in 1882 in French.  Dr. William Mitchell, a New Jersey dentist, wrote a history of locals in 1889 and in his magazine publications noted,

“General history, postal history and philately are so closely interwoven that the study of one necessarily includes the others…”

This seems to be a pickup on the earlier History of the Posts published by Rothschild in 1879.  Seeking uniquities, Ferrari was a major market for locals, a number of which were created just for him by fakers.  Beginning in 1913, an American lawyer, Henry Needham (1866-1939), wrote an extensive “Concise History” of locals in the Philatelic Gazette, which unfortunately included much deliberately erroneous material.  The problem of determining genuine items caused a drop-off in this area of collecting until Elliott Perry began publishing his research into the field in Pat Paragraphs in the 1930s.

The proofs and essays field also began to develop in the 1880s.  About 1886 these items began to appear in auction catalogs, and in 1889 John Tiffany wrote a catalog for them.  Around 1882 Dr. Petrie (1844-1918), the famed forger, had persuaded the American Banknote Company to make up the 1869 invert card proofs; just about the time that a company official, Henry Mandel (1857-1902), began putting together an awesome collection of U.S. proofs and essays, in many cases having examples printed especially for himself.  He also got the surviving engravers of the originals to sign the Mandel productions.

By the mid- 1890s proof interest had grown to the point that the Crane Paper Company proofs of the U.S. 1847 issue appeared in 1895, made from the suddenly reappearing 1847 transfer rolls.  About the same time John Luff (1860-1938), working with the American Banknote Company, began his detailed study of proofs by which he identified the secret marks that differentiated the U.S. National and Continental issues.  The idea that American printing firms used secret marks on stamps was not new.  Miss Fenton had read a paper before the Royal in December 1873 on ‘Secret Marks on the Stamps of Peru’ — stamps that were printed in America. The interest in proofs for collectors of the period was that they represented the quintessential face-free example of what a stamp’s design should look like; further, most proofs were ‘post office fresh.’

Proofs and essays caught the attention of one of the world’s major collectors, the Earl of Crawford, and at the turn of the century he had formed a most impressive collection, picking up the Mandel and Petrie holdings of rare material.  Crawford redefined the way in which stamps were collected.  As Luff commented when Crawford’s collection was shown at The Collectors Club in New York, he had never seen one of such craft and individuality, with arrangements in elaborate detail to describe the various essays and proofs in the minute detail of their history and manufacture.

Crawford’s approach was to show: a) original design or essay, b) die proof as approved in black, c) die proof in color, e) plate proof on India, f) plate proofs on card, g) issued stamp with Specimen overprint, regular stamp, printing varieties, perforation varieties, etc., and finally h) reprints, reissues and special printings in the order of die reprints, plate proof reprints and stamp reprints.

One area of ‘back-of-the-book’ collecting that did not win favor in the Anglo-German hegemony era was that of fiscals or revenues.  The English philatelic establishment did not favor them; it was left to the French and Americans to support whatever work was done in the field.  As noted, Sterling and Hiram Deats led the revenue field in the United States.  The Scott catalog did list them, and George Toppan, Hiram Deats and Alexander Holland published a major research study in 1899 as the Boston Revenue Book.

France was still a major center of revenue collecting; J. B. Moens had published a periodical entitled Le Timbre Fiscal from i874 to 1893, while A. Forbin had published a general revenue catalog covering the world. Unfortunately, the catalog’s last issue was 1914; its demise was one of the reasons revenue collecting did not pick up after the war.

The Anglo-German hegemony era ended with World War I and the decimation of a generation of European collectors in the muddy fields of France and Flanders or in the bogs of Tannenberg and the Masurian lakes.

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