At the First Day Ceremony for the Mister Rogers forever stamp, APS Editor Martin Miller had the opportunity to talk with Jessica Manack. Jessica, in attendance with her husband and their children, offered a modern perspective on Mister Rogers, stamps and collecting.
Listen to that interview here:
After the event, Jessica explored the APS website (www.stamps.org) and became one of the newest members of the APS. She has become a vocal proponent for both the hobby and the society.
In 2016, I asked a question at a stamp show I never thought I’d ask, “Excuse me, are you Hillbilly Jim?” For those of you who don’t know, Hillbilly Jim, born James Morris, was a wrestler popular in the World Wrestling Federation, now the WWE, in the 1980’s. I’m reminded of the meeting as we head into the biggest weekend of the year for professional wrestling− Wrestlemania Weekend and the induction of Hillbilly Jim into the Hall of Fame.
I have been a professional wrestling fan since I was 10 years old. In my childhood, wrestling became something of a national phenomenon as the World Wrestling Federation, now known as the WWE, rose to prominence. It all started on January 24, 1983 when Hulk Hogan won the World Heavyweight title from the Iron Sheik and the MTV crossover of “Rock-n-Wrestling” made wrestling cool for teenagers like me.
Being a wrestling fan and a stamp collector share one similarity, no one understands you if they aren’t a part of it. So, it is a bit surprising when the two worlds collided for me at World Stamp Show – NY 2016. Every ten years in the U.S., the philatelic community comes together to invite collectors and exhibitors from around the world. In May 2016, this show took place at the Javits Center in New York City for ten days.
During the show setup, the APS booth was not far from a booth operated by Champion Stamp Company, the only stamp store in all of New York City. Since the show was local, Champion purchased a large booth, so they could bring sizeable inventory. There were several large guys helping move material in and make sure no one thought about taking anything, including Morris.
In 1984, Jim Morris started appearing in the audience of WWF matches. At 6’7” and 320 pounds, he was hard to miss, but to make sure you didn’t he wore denim overalls and had a huge beard. Eventually, the popular Hogan took “Big Jim” under his wing and the world met Hillbilly Jim. He was a nice country boy, supposedly from Mud Lick, KY and was wildly popular with fans because he was a giant guy with a big smile and a great personality. Due to his popularity, the WWF added family members, like Uncle Elmer and Cousin Junior to join him in the ring, accompanied by Hillbilly Jim’s theme song, Don’t Go Messin’ with a Country Boy. Morris retired from the WWE in 1992 with occasional appearances, but he never enjoyed the same visibility he did in the 1980s.
To his credit, Hillbilly Jim did not run into some of the out-of-ring issues, like drugs, alcohol, or jail. Instead, he made appearances and greeted fans with the same warmth that he was known for in the ring. This was true even when a grown man comes up to him at a stamp booth in the Javits Center in New York. When I walked over to say hello, Jim cracked a smile and we talked wrestling, stamps, politics, and life for 30 minutes or so. When we got finished, he stood up and said, “Let’s get a picture my man” and rounded up a volunteer. Morris doesn’t frequent stamp shows, but usually provides muscle and security at coin shows around the country. He will do stamp shows if it’s a big deal. You can hear Morris every Saturday on Outlaw Country on Sirius XM Channel 60 doing Hillbilly Jim’s Moonshine Matinee.
This Friday, Morris will add Hall of Famer to his biography and I can’t think of a nicer guy. He probably won’t mention he’s been to a stamp show during his speech, but hopefully we’ll see him again soon!
Cheryl R. Ganz, Ph.D., has been selected to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists, regarded by some as the world’s pre-eminent philatelic honor. The roll was established in 1921 by the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain with the approval of King George V, who was the first signatory.
Ganz, of Winfield, Illinois near Chicago, is a 40-year member of the American Philatelic Society with a long list of philatelic accomplishments, including being a 2016 recipient of the prestigious APS Luff Award and the Alfred F. Lichtenstein Award for Distinguished Service to Philately. In February, Ganz won the Single-Frame Champion of Champions at AmeriStamp Expo for her exhibit, “Zeppelin LZ-129 Hindenburg Onboard Postmarks.” Ganz is curator emerita for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum, where she served as curator from 2005 to 2014.
Ganz will be the lone American among four signatories in 2018. The others are Robert Abensur, of France; Gustaf Douglas, of Sweden; and Geoffrey Lewis, of Australia. The Signing Ceremony will take place on July 27 at The Assembly Rooms in Newcastle upon Tyne, during the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain.
Not including the newly elected RDPs, 380 philatelists from 40 countries have achieved the distinction of signing the roll. There are at present 78 signatories from 26 countries including 16 from the United Kingdom, 14 from the U.S., seven from Germany, four each from France, and Belgium, and three each from Australia and Italy. Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and Thailand each have two, with other countries including Austria, Canada, Colombia, Finland, Greece, Israel, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, The Russian Federation, and Switzerland, having one.
At a recent meeting of the Board of Election, comprising Jane Moubray (chair), Tomas Bjäringer, Christopher Harman, Alan Huggins, Rolf-Dieter Jaretzky, Robert Odenweller, Christopher King and Raymond Todd, the members unanimously decided to ask the four named to sign the Roll.
In its formal news release, the RDP notes that Ganz “is known for her lifelong philatelic outreach at local, national and international levels, engaging a vast spectrum of collectors from specialists to new audiences. Her collections, exhibits, research and writing, and speaking focus primarily on her specialty of zeppelin posts.”
Philatelic recognitions include the Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award, Luff Award for Exceptional Contributions to Philately, Alfred F. Lichtenstein Memorial Award for Distinguished Service to Philately, American Air Mail Society Research Award … She has written and edited books, articles, and online content, putting philately in a wider context to reach larger audiences without sacrificing philatelic scholarship. Her service to organized philately is multi-faceted in a variety of positions of influence and accomplishment.”
The news release offers the following about this year’s other signees:
Abensur has researched widely and his main collecting and researching areas are the postal rates and regulations of France and Alsace-Lorraine. His latest book published in 2017 is The Franco-Sardinian Route in International Relations (1818-1851) and his articles on various subjects number more than 100 in France and elsewhere. He has been president of the Académie de philatélie since 2002 and was awarded the chevalier dans l’ordre des Art et des Lettres in 2009, and gained a Large Gold Medal at FEPA 2015.
Douglas has formed what are considered to be the most complete collections of both Sweden and Finland in existence. His monographs are always of the highest standard and he has attained Gold and Large Gold medals in international exhibitions since 1971. He co-authored Sweden Number One, in 2005. He was awarded the Tilleard Medal of the Royal Philatelic Society London as well as the Strandell Medal, the highest philatelic recognition in Sweden, in 2014 and is presently working hard as Head Patron for Stockholmia 2019.
Lewis’ collections have included the postal history of Spanish Philippines, Cuba, New Orleans and stampless mail entering Spain. He has won FIP Large Gold medals in postal history with exhibits on the subject matter of each of the three continental areas: Asia, Europe and the Americas. In 2013 he attained a Large Gold Medal for his well-written study – The 1836 Anglo-French Postal Convention. He was president of the Philatelic Society of New South Wales between 1998 and 2013, was chairman of the jury at Sydney 2015 and president of the organizing committee of the National Philatelic Exhibitions held in Sydney in 2007 and 2011.
The U.S. Postal Service announced today it will return to producing only soakable stamps by next year and it expects postage rates to drop 10 percent!!! Haha! April Fools!
I don’t suppose we caught too many of you with that one. How about the return of the penny postcard? Maybe stamps that are mini-drones and will fly special delivery letters to their destinations? Hey, we tried.
How about this: With the multitude of castles, knights and heraldry on stamps, we wondered if perhaps the best known symbol of April Fool’s – the jester – is found on our commemoratives.
Like fools, we rushed into our hunt and started scanning page after page of our favorite catalog. You can call us foolish, but we found a few. (If you like the idea of jesters or fools on stamps, don’t forget this year’s American Philatelic Society StampShow in Columbus, Ohio will be co-hosted by the American Topical Association, the go-to society for ALL collecting themes.)
So let’s get to our jesters. The jester – the king of fools – was the one character in a royal court that could get away with clowning around about the monarchy and its ways. But he’s not a real clown, so we disregarded clown stamps. Medieval court jesters wore bright, gaudy clothing – the color of the leggings are often different – and often wears a signature three-point Fool’s Hat with a bell on each point. He also carries a mock scepter called a bauble, which was adorned by a carved head or the inflated bladder of an animal (yuck, no foolin’).
We start with a couple of real-life jesters, the first from Spain. A masterpiece painting by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) – Portrait of Sebastián de Morra (1645) – appears on a 1999 stamp (Scott 3009) from Spain. De Morra was a court dwarf and jester in the court of Philip IV of Spain. The painting is in the Prado in Madrid.
Let’s stick to masterpieces, where we turn to a Polish stamp issued in 1968. The stamp features the 1862 painting known in short as Stańczyk, or The Jester, by Jan Matejko (1838-1893). Stańczyk (c. 1480-1560) was a popular figure who was jester to three kings. The painting shows the jester at a ball where he has just learned that the Russian army has captured Smolensk. Matejko created at least one other painting of him and there is a monument of the jester sitting on a bench in Niepołomice. The stamp (Scott 1607) is part of a set of eight stamps featuring Polish artworks.
In 1959, Belgium issued a semipostal (a charity stamp) featuring a jester and cats (B658). The stamp raised money to fight tuberculosis. (Yes, we noticed the single-pointed hat; he’s a true fool to be misdressed.)
We may be foolhardy but we think Germany is king of jester stamps.
In 1970, Germany released a set of four marionettes semipostal stamps with one of them (B463) depicting a jester puppet.
Next comes the 1977 issue (Scott 1230) showing Scenes from the Till Eulenspiegel Folk Tales (c. 1350). Four scenes are shown with the jester-like Till in all four. In 2011, Germany commemorated the 500th anniversary of the first printing of the Till tales with another stamp, this one showing a jester in the center of the diamond-shaped stamp (Scott 2633) surrounded by other iconic items from the stories.
Germany in 1988 issued a stamp (Scott 1544) honoring the 150th anniversary of the Mainz Carnival. The character does look a bit more like a clown than a jester, but we’ll accept him because of his Fool’s Hat.
In 2000, the 175th anniversary of the Dusseldorf Carnival, is honored with a jester doing a cartwheel (Scott 2070).
Great Britain may have been home to several foolish monarchs over the centuries, but we really couldn’t find any pure jester stamps from the Brits.
Britain has, however, honored the jester-like figure of a puppet – Punch, from Punch and Judy fame – on a few occasions.
The famous puppet and his cast of characters date back to 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte, where it eventually moved and morphed. The figure who later became Mr. Punch made his first recorded appearance in England on May 9, 1662, traditionally reckoned as his birthday in the U.K. His outfitted like a jester, though his hat has but a single point with a tassel that flops over the front.
In 1990, Mr. Punch is one of eight stamps (Scott 1306) in the Smiles set, which also includes the Queen of Hearts and Stan Laurel. In 1991-92, an image of Punch showed up on the covers of a couple of booklets marking the 150th anniversary of Punch magazine. Mr. Punch is featured along with five other puppet characters on Punch & Judy set of 2001. Punch is listed as Scott 1987. The stamps came in various formats, including a presentation pack.
Thanks for playing along with our fool’s game. Next time we’ll tell you all about…