Falconry Meets Philately at Vermont First Day Ceremony

An Indian Summer morning in Vermont provided the perfect venue for four stamps celebrating a quartet of Birds of Winter Forever stamps September 23.

The stamps were designed by art director Antonio Alcalá with original artwork by Nadia Taylor. As the USPS puts it, “The somber feeling of winter, evoked by the stark white backgrounds, is enlivened by the bold colors of the birds’ plumage in the simplified shapes of the digital rendering.”

Sharon OwensAlthough not a seasoned collector, USPS Dedicating Official Sharon Owens had clearly studied up on her subject when she introduced the new stamps at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee, Vermont:

“The Postal Service has a long tradition of putting birds on stamps to celebrate and raise awareness of these amazing creatures. Over the years our stamps have featured countless displays of our feathered friends ─ lovebirds, songbirds, coastal birds, hummingbirds, migratory birds, birds of prey, parakeets, parrots, as well as the state birds for all 50 states.” First and most frequent of these was and is the bald eagle, first pictured on both 10-cent and 30-cent stamps in 1869.

Best Supporting Actor at the first-day event was a hunting falcon that flew back and forth over the audience between two trainers after the stamps had been dedicated, a highly skilled raptor that would be delighted to make a nice lunch out of any of the four birds on the stamps:  the black-capped chickadee, northern cardinal,  blue jay and the red-bellied woodpecker.

Issued in booklets of 20, the Birds of Winter Forever stamps are always equal in value to the first class domestic one-ounce letter rate (currently 50 cents).

New Literature Competition Focuses on Shorter Works

A new literature competition will be inaugurated February 1-3, 2019 at the Sarasota National Stamp Exhibition in Sarasota, FL in cooperation with Writers Unit 30, the society for philatelic authors. The format for this show will be different from the literature events currently held at CHICAGOPEX and StampShow. The Sarasota exhibit will be open only to articles of less than 8,000 words. The “articles only” show is intended to recognize the hundreds of authors of philatelic journal articles who each year contribute to the hobby with new information for collectors, exhibitors and researchers.

According to Liz Hisey, Chairperson of the Sarasota show, “At one point, single frame philatelic exhibits had difficulty gaining the attention they deserved until becoming a separate category in exhibit competitions. The same can be said for shorter articles, many of which provide outstanding research for us, yet are lost among larger philatelic works. We want to set them apart and recognize the authors.”

“This type of competition is needed to focus on shorter pieces that are sometimes overshadowed by longer, more complex works in regular literature exhibits,” says David Crotty, Writers Unit 30 Director and editor of its journal. “This is a real opportunity to help develop philatelic authors which is a major focus of our organization.”

Journal editors and authors are encouraged to submit entries for the show no later than December 1, 2018. A complete prospectus and entry form are available on the show’s web site – www.sarasotastampclub.com/show.html

Five-Stamp Salute for Canada’s Emergency Responders

Canadian First RespondersOn Monday, September 10, Canada Post unveiled a new stamp celebrating the nation’s paramedics − the first of five stamps to be unveiled this week in honor of Canada’s emergency responders. Shown here, the first stamp, which pays the basic “P” domestic letter-rate (currently 85 cents) was unveiled at Ambulance New Brunswick headquarters in the provincial capital of Fredericton.

Canada Post and the stamp designers consulted with the Paramedic Association of Canada, which represents more than 20,000 practitioners, to ensure the stamp image is representative of paramedics in Canada. The stamp shows a black and white sketch of a female paramedic in the foreground while a pair of paramedics assists a victim of a medical emergency an ambulance and a helicopter wait ready nearby.

Canadian Army Emergency ResponseThe second stamp, saluting the Canadian Armed Forces in the Emergency Responder role, was unveiled at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier just northwest of Quebec City September 11.

The second stamp in the series again shows a black-and-white image of a female soldier with beret and binoculars in the foreground, while Army personnel in the background answer a flood with sandbags, rescue sodden survivors using a rubber raft and truck in needed supplies in a large transport vehicle. Just last May, troops with such vehicles and supplies from CFB Valcartier traveled six hours to bring much-needed relief when floods ravaged the Gatineau region of Quebec along the Ottawa River.

Three other Emergency Responders stamps will pay tribute to important roles played by search and rescue experts, firefighters and police. All five stamps reflect Canadians’ respect and gratitude for the skills, service and sacrifices of the men and women who protect Canadians, sometimes by risking their own lives.

The stamp for search-and-rescue experts will be unveiled in Banff, Alberta September 12, the firefighters stamp will be unveiled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, September 13, and a stamp to honor Canadian police officers will be unveiled in Ottawa on Friday, September 14, when all five stamps will go on sale simultaneously.

Special stylized pictorial cancellations and overall-design Official first day cover envelopes also will be available on the dates of unveiling for each of the stamps. Emergency Responders stamps and OFDCs will be available for purchase on canadapost.ca and at postal outlets across Canada. Orders also can be placed by phone from Canada and the United States at 1-800-565-4362.

One Down, One More to Go

Its whereabouts unknown since the year it was issued, the 99th of 100 inverted bi-colored 24-cent Jenny airmail stamps has come to light, safely reposing in a bank vault and part of collection in Illinois. The story was reported September 6, 2018, by James Barron in The New York Times(“An Inverted Jenny Surfaces. The Flawed Stamp Had Not Been Seen Since 1918.”)

The stamp surfaced and the story came to light when Curator Lewis Kaufman identified it from a cellphone image sent to the Philatelic Foundation in New York City. Very lightly penciled numerals on the back of the stamp confirmed Kaufman’s suspicion that it was number 49 from the discovery sheet of 100 of this error, Scott C3a, in which the blue central vignette showing the biplane had been printed upside-down with respect to the carmine rose outer frame.

The best-known American stamp error by far is also one of the most sought-after of all American issues. It has a 2018 Scott catalog value of $450,000, which soars to $850,000 in mint, never-hinged condition.

PF Executive Director Larry Lyons called the owner back and confirmed the identity of the stamp. According to Lyons, “A great-uncle apparently bought it after the sheet of 100 was broken up, and after the great-uncle died, the great-aunt left it to the man’s mother in the 1930s.

The long-awaited re-emergence of No. 49 leaves the whereabouts of only one inverted Jenny unknown, as it has been since the block of four from which it was broken was stolen from a stamp show in 1955 in Norfolk, Virginia. Its owner was Ethel Stewart McCoy, daughter of one of the co-founders of Dow Jones & Co.

The Breaking of the McCoy Block

After the theft, the block of four was separated into four single stamps to make them harder for potential buyers to recognize as stolen. In 1958, the first of these came to light as belonging to a stamp dealer from northeastern Illinois, although there was apparently not enough evidence to charge him with possession of stolen goods. Because Ethel McCoy transferred her ownership rights for the stolen block over to the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL), it took possession of the recovered stamp, and for the second stolen Jenny broken from her block that was identified in 1982.

The third of the four singles was discovered turned at Spink USA, a Manhattan auction house, in April 2016, delivered to the head of Spink’s philatelic department by Keelin O’Neill, a young man from Northern Ireland who had emailed him previously. The story he told was that had recognized the potential value of the invert among a box of stamps his grandfather had had left to him in 2001.

In Siegel Auction Galleries May 11, 2017, the third of the recovered Jenny Inverts opened in the bidding at $120,000, and quickly more than doubled. It was hammered down at $295,000, including the buyer’s premium of 18 percent.

$60,000 Reward Awaits

In 2014, the American Philatelic Research Library offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the last two purloined airmail errors, and prominent second-generation dealer and stamp hobby promoter Donald Sundman, president of Mystic Stamp Co., handsomely topped it with a reward of $50,000 for each stamp.

Now only one of these rare errors remains undiscovered: No. 66. Who will be the fortunate philatelist to find this last upside-down Jenny and claim the reward? Could it be…you?