Three legendary philatelists — Robert Markovits, Barbara Mueller, and Irwin Weinberg — have all been named to the American Philatelic Society’s Hall of Fame. The Hall honors deceased philatelists who have made outstanding contributions to philately.
Robert Markovits (1937–2015)
Robert Markovits, a lawyer by profession, was an internationally recognized researcher, collector, exhibitor and writer on numerous philatelic subjects, particularly back of the book material, notably, U.S. and worldwide special delivery, U.S. officials and U.S. postal stationery.
Markovits’ service to organized philately is recognized by his contributions to several philatelic organizations, especially the United States Stamp Society.
Perhaps his most notable contribution to the hobby was his research and writing about special delivery stamps. Markovits started collecting postage due and special delivery plate blocks under the tutelage of Louis K. Robbins, who with his brother, Phil, and W. Parsons Todd, were early special delivery specialists.
From 1963 through 1969, Markovits wrote extensively for The Bureau Specialist in a column called the “Numbers Game,” contributing more than 50 articles. He published a checklist for special delivery plate numbers with Morris “M.X.” Weiss, and worked on the pricing for several of the early Durland Standard Plate Number Catalogs.
Markovits received the Hopkinson Memorial Literature Award in 1960 for his “The United States Special Delivery Issues,” research and commentary on special delivery plate numbers. His research has also been published in many other important philatelic journals. In 1989, he received the Best Article Award in for his three-part article on the Taylor 5-cent issue of 1875 and its reissue on soft paper in the Collectors Club Philatelist. His pamphlet on the 10-cent registry stamp of 1911 detailed his collection and is the definitive work on this stand-alone issue. Markovits also collected and issued the Brazer proof price lists to make this research available to collectors. Two articles on special delivery issues have appeared in the Congress Book.
Among his many eclectic philatelic interests was the Westervelt-Chester, New York local issue, the subject of an extensive article in the Locals and Carriers Journal. Other back of the book material he collected, researched, and wrote about include the airmail City of New York issue of 1948 and several specialized classic issues of U.S. postal stationery. He made available an outstanding bibliography of the U.S. special delivery system along with numerous articles and exhibit pages on his website, www.specialdelivery.com (no longer active).
In addition to his contributions to philatelic literature, he was a prolific exhibitor of “back of the book” material. In 1962, Markovits received the Hopkinson Trophy for his exhibit “The 1895 Special Delivery Issue.” He won three international large gold medals for his special delivery classic period collection, 1885 to 1901, which was shown in the Championship Class in 2011 in Delhi, India. His exhibit of the 1908 Helmet of Mercury stamp, his favorite, won the Collectors Club single-frame competition in 2006.
His collection of “U.S. Official Stamps, 1873–1884” won the 1999 APS Champion of Champions Award. This exhibit, which featured the $2 State Department stamp on a package front, received four international large gold medals, culminating in a showing in the Championship Class in France.
Markovits was a governor and trustee of the Collectors Club, serving for more than six years as program chairman and as a member of its Editorial Board.
Markovits’ generosity was shared by a stamp collector who offered comments on an online memorial, who noted that Markovits sent him a couple of covers shortly before he died. “That this world-renowned philatelist would take the time to send this material to a complete stranger, but a stranger he knew was interested in [a specific] subject . . . leaves me practically speechless,” the collector wrote. “Generosity of spirit seems almost inadequate to describe his actions, which I think I can safely assume was something routine to him.”
Barbara Mueller (1925–2016)
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” Many of us are fortunate to have someone like this in our lives that have pushed, coached, and cheered us to better things.
The stamp collecting world this past November lost someone who embodied that for so many people individually and the hobby at large, Barbara Mueller.
Barbara joined the American Philatelic Society in 1944, not just as a dedicated collector, but one who loved to share knowledge with others. In 1956, Barbara authored Common Sense Philately, a book that made the hobby accessible to collectors just beginning their journey or those who needed some encouragement along the way. That same year, Barbara earned the Luff Award, the highest recognition for a member of the APS, for Distinguished Philatelic Research.
One could have easily stopped or slowed down, but Barbara not only kept going, her impact to individual collectors and the hobby continued to grow with it.
“Barbara is, and was, in a class by herself. Period,” former APS Vice President Steven Rod said. “What a role model! What a source of inspiration! What passion! What commitment! What fun! What laughter! What scholarship!”
In 2007, the United States Stamp Society began sponsoring the Barbara R. Mueller Award to recognize the best article published each year in The American Philatelist. The aim of the award is to encourage our members to embrace that same love of research and sharing knowledge by promoting new research or previous works with new and interesting ideas that are relevant to today’s collectors.
The tributes to Barbara are a reflection of the meaningful life she lived and the generous spirit of sharing her passion with others. Our hobby is at its best when we can take what we know and share it with others, and hopefully, all of us can take a moment to do just that this year.
Mueller’s later publications range from those for beginners to highly specialized works, such as “John E. Javit, American Engraver and Printer,” which received the McCoy award for the best article in the American Philatelic Congress Book, 1995.
Mueller formed a number of research collections to support her writings, including an outstanding collection of Pomeroy’s Express labels.
Her many awards and memberships included the United States Stamp Society (Hall of Fame induction in 2006); the Postal History and Markings Committee and the Essays-Proof Committee; contributor and editor (1972 through 1977) of The United States Specialist ; editor (1986–1990) of the annual American Philatelic Congress Book; editor (1963–1993) of the Essay Proof Journal; recipient of the Alfred F. Lichtenstein Memorial Award of the Collectors Club of New York, and the Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award from the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.
Irwin Weinberg (1928–2016)
Irwin Weinberg, who spent much of his adult life in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was a stamp enthusiast with a high brand of integrity and a flair for the dramatic.
Weinberg traveled the globe during his career and he owned in his lifetime, several (as many as 11 one source noted) U.S. inverted Jennys, the 24-cent upside-down biplane U.S. airmail stamp of 1918. Only 100 of the error stamps reached public hands. After his death, Weinberg’s collection sold in four separate auctions for more than $4 million.
But nothing brought more fame to Weinberg than a single stamp.
For a decade, Weinberg — a near lifelong collector and longtime stamp dealer — was the face of the world’s most valuable stamp, the One-cent Magenta of British Guiana of 1856, which as of today has only had nine owners.
Weinberg knew about the one-of-a-kind rarity as a child. In 1970, it came up for sale and Weinberg convinced eight friends — all businessmen and no philatelists among them — to join with him to purchase the stamp in 1970 for a then-record price of $280,000. (He convinced his colleagues that the stamp would be a good hedge against inflation.)
Weinberg grabbed the national and world spotlight now and then with the stamp in tow. Once, he hired an armor car to take him to the airport with the stamp safely tucked inside a briefcase, which he attached to his wrist with handcuffs.
In the most famous (perhaps infamous) incident with the stamp, Weinberg traveled in 1978 to Ottawa, Canada with the stamp, which was inside the briefcase and attached to his wrist with handcuffs, which is son had purchased. After Weinberg met reporters in Canada, we started to unlock with handcuffs with its key, which promptly broke inside.
Pins and other devices couldn’t open the cuffs, nor could a firefighter’s saw. Eventually a police officer’s key popped the cuffs off.
People magazine helped spread the story and Weinberg himself appeared on such television shows as To Tell the Truth and the Mike Douglas Show to tell the story about the stamp.
“I was trying to introduce it to the world and maybe find a buyer,” Weinberg said, according to reporter James Barron, who wrote a recent book about the Magenta and wrote the stamp dealer’s obituary for The New York Times.
In 1980, Weinberg attracted a buyer, John E. du Pont, who paid $935,000 for the stamp and died in prison still as the owner. In 2014, the stamp was sold in an estate sale for $9.5 million.
Weinberg published his Miner’s Stamp News (he operated out of a building known for years as the Miners Bank Building) for more than 70 years and in 2009 was inducted into the American Stamp Dealers Association Hall of Fame. He was on the board of the National Postal Museum.
In addition to stamps, Weinberg was a proponent of human rights and met longtime hero Nelson Mandela at the White House. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Dickinson School of Law.
Information from the New York Times, Linn’s Stamp News, The Citizens’ Voice of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and Legacy.com contributed to this report.