Monday, November 30, 2009

Cancel for November 30: The Bay Terminal Railroad Company



The B. T. R. R. Co.
NOV 30
=1898=

This company was organized in Ohio on April 4, 1895, and ran its line from Presque Isle, Ohio, to Rockwell Junction on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, near Toledo, Ohio, a distance of 1.2 miles.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cancel for November 29: Farmers State Bank



FARMER'S STATE BANK.
NOV
29
1898
Emerson, Neb.





Reverse side of draft


Google Farmers State Bank and you'll get a ton of hits for a whole bunch of Farmers State Banks all across middle America.  There is limited information on the Emerson edition.  Whatever the case, this is an interesting draft, routed from Emerson, Nebraska to Rock Island, Illinois, to New York.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Graded Stamps: Perpetuating the Decline of Stamp Collecting

This past year I've posted a couple of satirical criticims of stamp grading.  This post will be more direct.

As you may know the hobby of stamp collecting has been hemorrhaging collectors for years.  The membership roll of the American Philatelic Society has been in long term decline.  There are fewer dealers now than 50 years ago.  Kids have many other very compelling distractions -- like the computer and internet connection that I am using.  Now there is another threat to the hobby: stamp grading.

I've been watching the phenomenon for years.  In one sense I don't get it.  Take a common stamp, say a US C19 like Tom Vaillancourt of Croton Stamps wrote about in a post this past fall.  $4.00 catalague value, sells at auction for more than $500.  He says this is sane.  Sane?  +$500 for an +XF stamp that catalogs at VF for $4.00?  For me, that kind of price differential defines insane.  I do get this phenomenon in the get-rich-quick sense, though.  If you can con somebody to pay such a premium, why not?  Its a P.T. Barnum world.

I guarantee that if I look hard enough I can find a C19 of similar quality to the stamp that Vaillancourt referred to above.  Without a graded certificate, the stamp would be worth some fair multiple of the catalog price of $4.00, even if it is identical to the graded stamp.  The price has nothing to do with the stamp or its quality in the case of the graded stamp.  The purchaser of the graded stamp is paying for the certificate, which is created by a panel or some individual expert.  Why should philatelists care and pay for a certificate?  Don't we care about stamps? 

For the most part, I would guess that true philatelists don't care for the certificates, though  I suppose some are culling their collections to see if they can make a big haul by getting their superb stamps graded and putting them up for sale to speculators that believe full-out in the greater-fool-theory. 

I am not an expert in this type of commoditization process, but here is how I figure this charade could play out if taken to its logical conclusion:

1. Phase 1: Free market demand vs. limited supply: The situation we have now. Supply controlled by graders. Not by availability of stamps of gradable quality. E.G., 1000 total Scott US C1 stamps could be 98J, but if only two have been graded, that is the supply. In this situation, price is determined by what people will pay due to the condition of limited supply. Supply is determined artificially by stamps seen and certified, not by those that would otherwise be graded similarly.

2. Phase 2: Manipulation of supply. The coming and inevitable phase. More modern stamps cannot tolerate endless grading by grading agencies, whatever the fees generated by these firms. 10,000 98Js of C1 would overpopulate the graded market for this stamp and ruin the business. As the market approaches these situations on more common stamps, the grading agencies will have to control and regulate supply by actively managing the numbers they grade against projected demand.

3. Phase 3: Consolidation of graded stamp market. If and when supply becomes controlled, meaning all stamps of a gradable type have been graded, or graders collude to control the release of graded stamps, the market population is finally known. At this point prices can be set based on expected demand given fixed or controlled availability of a given grade. This is how DeBeers attempts and fairly succeeds to control the diamond market. All diamonds are graded, assigned a classification, and released onto the market varying with demand to maintain price equilibrium.  If diamonds of every quality were released onto the market the value  of a 1.5 carat white VS1 would fall like a stone.  Not something DeBeers, jewelers, or wives and husbands everywhere would want to see.  Yikes!  The loss of the cartel would mean the destruction of the institution of marriage?  See how savvy businessmen perpetuate their business models?  Build'em on sand but make sure you jack up the house and pump in concrete once your done.

So much for the great conspiracy.   There is more.

There is the reliability of the stamp grading services.  The key to any accurate survey, which this business actually conducts (some services even use sampling terminology like "population") is an accurate and reliable measurement of each variable in the survey.  In this case, every service should grade the same stamp the same way, everytime, regardless of changes in the expert or time of assessment.  But the example of coin grading points to a future of unreliabilty.

In the magazine Coin World in May 26 2003, the editors announced they had investigators conducting a year-long study of several grading organizations.   In their investigation, Coin World used the same coins to send to these grading organization.  The magazines investigators found that none of the grading services agreed on the grade of any given coin, "and in some cases the difference in grading was as much as seven points off".
So we will likely have a future of wildly different grading practices and expert judgments. 

And there is counterfeiting. Yikes. We used to have to worry about counterfeit stamps, or counterfeit cancels, counterfeit overprints or counterfeit covers. Now we get to add counterfeit grading certificates. A history of coin grading is instructive here as well:

At the 2004 Long Beach Coin Show, American Numismatic Association members identified counterfeit "slabs" or the holders of graded coins.  These slabs were produced by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.  The next year and in subsequent years similar counterfeit slabs were found on eBay.  By 2008 the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation took action and published the following statement:

"NGC has identified and confirmed that (counterfeit replicas) of its holder has been produced.......The holder has been seen housing counterfeit dollar or foreign crown size coins. While the enclosed coins are also counterfeit, the label information matches the coin type enclosed. The label information is copied from actual NGC certification labels, and the certification information therefore will match the NGC database. Most frequently, Trade Dollars and Bust Dollars are found, although Flowing Hair Dollars and foreign coins have also been seen. A range of grades is also represented."

If the difference between a VF C19 and a highly graded C19 is more than $500, you can be sure the counterfeiting is yet to come. 

One measure of how far the rot is spreading would be to count mentions of stamp grading or graded stamps for sale in advertisements in US Scott Specialized Stamp Catalogs.  The catalog is annual and the gold standard for US collecting.  At hand I have the 2009 and 2010 catalogs.  Here are my counts:

2010

Page 19  Full Page  PSAG, Philatelic Stamp Authentication and Grading
Page 21  Third Page  Steve Malack
Pages 36, 37  Full Pages  Casper Coin
Page 43  Full Page  Gary Posner
Page 49  Half Page  Century Stamps
Page 79  Full Page  Heritage Stamp Auctions
Page 85  Third Page  Casper Coin
Page 303 Third Page  Casper Coin
Page 315 Third Page  Casper Coin

2010 Totals:  6 Advertisers
                     5.83 Pages

2009

Page 7  Full Page Matthew Bennett
Page 25  Third Page Steve Malack
Page 37  Full Page  Jay Parrino
Page 39  Ninth Page Steve Malack
Page 41  Full Page  Momen Stamps
Page 49  Full Page  Rupp Brothers
Page 51  Half Page  Century Stamps
Page 57  Full Page  Professional Stamp Experts
Page 71  Ninth Page Steve Malack

2009 Totals:  7 Advertisers
                     6 Pages

Curious this.  Two data points do little to define a trend.  But total pages and the number of dealers or grading services mentioning graded stamps declined slightly from 2009 to 2010.  Maybe there is hope.  Also, only Steve Malack Stamps and Century Stamps were repeat "graded stamp" advertisers.  Not sure what that means.

To those who want to speculate in stamp "slabs", or even in graded stamps without a slab, caveat emptor.  To the philatelists reading this message, sell your XF stamps for a fortune to the highest bidding speculator.  And use that money to invest in a world of fabulous sub 95 stamps.  You'll have better access to more material than ever before.

11/29/09 BTW:  Check out page 37 in the 2010 US Scott Specialized Catalogue. It is the second page of a Michael Casper ad. Here is what you see: a dark page, a man with long hair at a desk, inspecting a stamp in a plastic case with piles of graded and certificated stamp material around him and a box of "slabs". In the upper left corner is this statement: "Collecting stamps is a hobby for some, a serious hobby for others, and for a few people its just plain serious". The implication being that those engaged in the collecting of stamps in slabs is somehow serious. Seems like a carpet bagger from the coin world showed up and is trying to become a market maker in graded stamps, in part by buying a bunch of ad space in the 2010 catalog. 

Michael Casper's own mini-bio is here:  Caspercoin.

Cancel for November 28: Menasha Wooden Ware



M.  W.  W.  CO.
NOV
28
1898
MENASHA

Menasha Wooden Ware is now the Menasha Packaging Company.  Turn over a brown corrugated box in the United States and it is quite likely that it was produced by a Menasha company.  Yet this now large packaging business started make wooden buckets and other wooden items that would have been in demand during the 19th century. 

This stamp was cancelled the year before the death of the company's founder, Elisha Smith.  At that time the company was a well established brand across the midwest and well known in other parts of the United States.





Model railroad box car

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cancel for November 27: Mahoning Valley Railway



Manuscript
11/27/98.
M V RY

Today the Mahoning Valley Railway is controlled by Genesee & Wyoming Incorporated, which owns and operates short line and regional railroads in the US, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands.    The MVR runs from Youngstown, Ohio to Struthers, Ohio.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cancel for November 26: Michigan Central Railroad



M.  C.  R.  R.
NOV  26  1898

Right side and bottom guidelines with blue handstamp cancel.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Whitpain Auction December 2 & 3 - Robert Siegel Auction Galleries

Next week some of the greatest rarities from the 1898 revenue series will be put on the block by Robert Siegel in its auction of the Whitpain Bureau Issues collection.  Below are images of a few of the stamps to be auctioned.  Some of these appear very rarely in the open market, as with the Daprix overprint immediately below.  Siegel is also auctioning the Morton Dean Joyce collection of Dr. Kilmer & Company overprints, which was sold to Mr. Whitpain in a private sale by Mr. Joyce.  Joyce literally wrote the book on the Dr. Kilmer overprints in "The Case of Dr. Kilmer's" which was published in 1954 and serialized in The Bureau Specialist (now the US Specialist) in 1957. 

Anyone can view the complete auction of the Whitpain Bureau collection by going here: Siegel Whitpain Auction.  Below are a few examples from this sale. 




Perhaps the greatest rarity of all the 1898 revenues, Scott R158B above was overprinted for the use of P.I. Daprix and Son for use on its steamboats that operated on the Erie Canal.  There are only 3 recorded examples of this stamp.  The stamp catalogs for $32,500 used.  As such this stamp is rarely available in the market.



Scott lists R156 above as nearly an afterthought.  After extensive and detailed listing for the overprinted 1 and 2 cent postage stamps of this series are listed R156 through R158, and only in used condition.  All are priced in the thousands.  R156 above currently catalogs for $5,750. 

In George Sloane's column in Stamps for July 31, 1948, Sloane reported that the Michigan Mutual Life Insurance Co. handstamped copies of the 8c, 10c and 15c regular issues over a period of five days in July 1898.  In the stamp above the manuscript writing (MMLIC + date) was made by Michigan Mutual.  Less clear is the "I.R." surchage in magenta. 

Sloan reported that these provisional revenues were brought to the philatelic market by J.E. Scott, a collector and employee of the company. J.E. Scott reported that the company used 41 copies of the 8c, 66 of the 10c and 28 of the 15c.



What a fabulous plate and imprint strip of R159.  The top stamp is the "ocumentary" variety, as it is missing the D.  And the strikes from E. Smathers & Company are perfect.  The strip is priced at $600 by Siegel but should bring much more. 




This happened on the 2 cent variety as well.  Unfortunately, the right stamp has a large tear, but the pair is probably unique, as the stamp with no overprint on its face is overprinted on the back.  The Scott value for a pair, one without overprint, is $10,000.




Lastly, here is a unlisted variety of R155, with two overprints, including one that is split with the once adjoining stamps. 


I don't have the wallet for most of the stamps above, but its great to see them come to market.  After the sale I will review the prices realized for the stamps above.  Lets see how popular these 1898s are.

Over two years ago, when Siegel conducted the Tolman sale that included 1898 documentaries and battleship proprietaries, they sold intact Tolman's collection of J. Elwood Lee printed cancels and ancillary material.  The collection sold for $4,250, even though Siegel listed the range for the collection as $1,500 to $2,000.  While the economy might get in the way, I expect Joyce's Dr. Kilmer material will sell far above the $10,000 to $15,000 range listed by Siegel.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cancel for November 21: C. L. Millhouse



NOV     21      1899

C. L. MILLHOUSE
================



C.L. Millhouse started the firm McHenry-Millhouse, a manufacturer of roofing materials with factories in South Bend, Indiana, and Fulton New York.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Cancel for November 20: C. A. Jennings



C. A.  JENNINGS,
NOV   20   1900
CHICAGO.

C.A. Jennings appears to have been a health and sanitation expert in Chicago. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cancel for November 19: Durfee Embalming Fluid



DURFEE EMBALMING FLUID CO.
NOV
19
1898



ALLEN DURFEE

Allen Durfee (deceased), the pioneer funeral director and embalming fluid inventor of Grand Rapids, Mich., was born in or near Palmyra, Wayne county, N.Y., January 15, 1829, and lived on the farm on which he was born until 1853, when , on October 5th of that year, he married Miss Phebe B. Thayer, who was born in the same county of highly respected parents. To this union was born one child-a daughter---who died young. On the 8th of October, 1853, Mr. Durfee brought his bride to Michigan and located about four miles below the city of Grand Rapids (if city it might then be called), buying a part of the Bernis farm. While there engaged in agricultural pursuits, Mr. Durfee became very popular with the republican party, whose principles he had imbibed before leaving his native state, although, as a party, republicanism had not then assumed tangible organization. In 1856 he was elected a justice of the peace, and in 1862 and 1863 served as treasurer of Walker township, and in 1866 was again elected justice of the peace, In 1868 he was nominated for supervisor, but failed at the polls, his competitor carrying the day by a meager majority. In September, 1868, Mr. Durfee sold his farm and came to Grand Rapids, purchased a home, and in June, 1869, engaged in the manufacture of funeral goods, with J. H. Farwell as partner. Two years later, or on October 15, 1871, Mr. Durfee engaged in the undertaking business on his sole account, and began the manufacture of a preparation of his own for use in the preservation of the dead, his place of business being in the Ledyard block on Ottawa street. In 1889, A. D. Leavenworth was admitted as a partner in this business, which was pushed still more vigorously than ever. It was through the efforts of Mr. Durfee that the association of Funeral Directors of Michigan was formed, and from and after which sprang similar associations in many other states, which were allied into the National association of Funeral Directors, which in now vigorous association, holding annual meetings in different portions of the Untied States, and of which national organization Mr. Durfee served as president. This brought him in close fellowship with all the funeral directors of the Union, and as he was known to be a "pioneer" embalmer and used a preparation that had perfect operation, his advice was sought, as well as the preparation he manufactured for his own use, and, always being alive to the demands of the trade, he manufactured his embalming fluid on a large scale, and the business grew to such proportions, even without advertising or any efforts on his part, that, about 1886, A. W. Brown, who was then employed as embalmer and assistant undertaker, was put upon the road to introduce the Durfee Embalming Fluid among undertakers who had already learned of its superior qualities through personal contact. From that time on the business was pushed with judgment and vigor, the company employed four traveling men, covering the entire United States. Besides that manner of sales, the company sold its goods through seven commission salesmen and fifty-seven different casket companies in various cities of the country. In 1889, Alvah W. Brown, who had been so successful in sales of the Durfee Embalming Fluid, purchased an interest in the business, and gave his entire time to the manufacture. Up to December, 1893 Mr. Durfee and his partner in the undertaking business, A. D. Leavenworth, were the members of the partnership, and then the company, reorganized and incorporated, removed from the building used by Durfee & Co., undertakers, to more commodious quarters and in its own building on Spring street, and the business thereafter was carried on under the style of the Durfee Embalming Fluid company until the death of Mr. Durfee, which occurred May 25, 1897. In upwards of twenty-eight years in the undertaking business, Mr. Durfee had charge of over 28,000 funerals. He was also very fond of bric-a-brac and was great curiosity hunter, and his widow has still in her possession his cabinet filled with geological and conchological specimens and other curios, including whales’ teeth, horns of wild animals, etc., all of which latter he himself polished or otherwise prepared. He was kind and amiable in disposition and extremely affable and courteous in deportment, and of broad mind, liberal views, and sympathetic instincts. Fraternal with all mankind, he enjoyed the society of his fellowman, and sought his companionship by becoming a member of several societies, among them the Knights of Honor, the Ancient Order of United Workmen the Covenant Mutual association of Galesburg. And of the Old residents association of the Grand river valley. He was charitable and benevolent, and a true Christian in thought and deed, and died a member of the Park Congregational church. His loss was deeply mourned by the community of Grand Rapids, but none more deeply deplored him that his bereaved widow.


-Michigan Geneology website
http://www.migenweb.net/

Cancel for November 19: Chautauqua Steamboat Company



Chautauqua Steamboat Co.
SUPT'S
NOV
19
1900
OFFICE.

Operating on Lake Chautauqua in New York State, the Chautauqua Steamboat Company was primarily a pleasure cruise company.
 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cancel for November 18: The Aultman Company


THE AULTMAN CO.
NOV
18
1898
CANTON, O.
***
The Aultman Company of Canton Ohio, formerly known as the C. Aultman Company before financial problems forced a reorganization a few years before this stamp was cancelled, was a major agricultural implement and steam engine manufacturer. The company was part of a family of companies started by Cornelius Aultman, including Aultman, Miller & Company in Akron and Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company in Mansfield. For several decades of the 19th century the Aultman Companies were some of the best known agricultural machinery manufacturers in the United States. In 1860 C. Aultman was the largest reaper manufacturer in the world.

The C. Aultman Company of Canton, however, had a bad product in the 1880s they called the Buckeye Banner Binder. The product failed, Cornelius died in 1884, and the financial panic of 1893 sent C. Aultman into a spiral that led to reorganization and its rebranding to the name The Aultman Company. Even this company did not last long, declaring bankrupty in 1904.


The cover of the Aultman Company catalog for 1900.


The rear cover the 1900 catalog showing the Canton plant.


Cornelius Aultman
1827-1884
Founder of The Aultman Company
***
A New York Times obituary from December 27, 1884 listed Aultman as 50 years of age when he died. The obit is in error. He was 57.

Cancel for November 18: Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Company



DETROIT & CLEV'D NAV. CO.
CANCELED
NOV
18
1898
DETROIT, MICH.



The "D&C" plied a route between Detroit and Cleveland at the turn of the century.  Its primary business was passenger transport at a time when lake travel was still a competetive option with land travel.  The company operated from 1868 to 1951.

The D&C operated huge and luxurious steam powered vessels.  The Greater Detroit above was built in 1923 and was powered by side wheels. 




The ship the City of Cleveland III, above, was struck by a Norwegian freighter in 1950 and severely damaged.  The accident along with general declining business conditions for the line forced the D&C to close up operations in 1951.   All of its ships have been scrapped.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cancel for November 16: Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway



L.  S.  &  M.  S.  R'Y  CO.
FREIGHT OFFICE
NOV  16  1898
Youngstown, Ohio




The LS&MS ran a line southeast from Cleveland to Youngstown, Ohio where the stamp above was cancelled. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cancel for November 15: Weis Brothers



WEIS BROTHERS
NOV
15
1898


A dry goods business based in Galveston, Texas, Weis Brothers had an office and factory in New York City at 466-8 Broadway. 

From GALVESTON PAST AND PRESENT
Edited by Andrew Morrison for Geo. W. Engelhardt.
1890:

WEIS BROS., leading wholesale dealers
in and importers of staple and fancy dry
goods, boots, shoes, notions, hats, trunks,
etc., in the substantial brick structure at
62 to 70 Strand (old numbers), do a busi-
ness of metropolitan character and pro-
portions. They carry a stock of goods
valued at $500,000 to $600,000, have ten
traveling men selling for them, besides
twenty-five salesmen and clei'ks here, and
dispose of $800,000 to $1,000,000 worth
of goods a year, chiefly in Texas, but con-
siderable also in Louisiana and Arkansas.
They have offices and the various lines of
dry goods on the first floor, notions and
furnishing goods on the second, boots,
shoes and hats on the third and fourth,
and a surplus stock in a warehouse in the
rear.


The successful issue of their venture is
indicated by the number of other concerns
in which the house, or the partners indi-
vidually, are interested. Major Weis,
senior member of the firm, is president of
the Citizens' Loan Company of this city,
president of the Galveston Water Com-
mission, president also of the Galveston
Cotton and Woolen Mills, ex-president of
the Island City Savings Bank, and is a
director of the First National Bank, of the
Texas Land & Loan Co. and Galveston
Canning & Packing Co. Mr. R. Weis
also has interests of this sort that are
valuable. He is the credits and accounts
man of the firm; Major Weis, the mana-
ger of the buying and sales and other out-
side details.


Maj. Weis derives his title from service
upon Gen. Oppenheimer's staff, Texas
contingent Confederate service, he having
abandoned his business in Oakland, Col-
orado county, in this State, to enlist with
.the San Antonio banker and merchant.
In 1865, he returned to Oakland and re-
embarked in business as one of the firm of
Weis & Bock. In 1867, he sold out to
Bock and came here, and was a partner in
Strauss & Co., cotton and merchandising,
for a time, and until he and his brother
bought out Strauss and effected the part-
nership with Halff. His brother had
been with him in Oakland and came with
him here. In fact, their business interests
have been identical, so to speak, ever
since the war.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cancel for November 14: Pittsburgh Coal Company



PITTSBURGH COAL CO.
NOV
14
1900


The Pittsburgh Coal Company was a bituminous coal mining company, controlled by the Mellon family. It later merged with Consolidation Coal Company, controlled by the Rockefeller family. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cancel for November 12: Muller and Schall Company



MULLER, SCHALL & CO.
NOV
12
1900
NEW YORK



           

80 cent documentary hyphen hole block of 6 with Muller Schall oval handstamp cancels. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cancel for November 11: G.S.B. Company



G.  S.  B.  CO.
NOV
11
1898

Unknown company, great "gear" style cds.  Top guideline and arrow.

Cancel for November 11: De'Coppet & Doremus



DE'COPPET & DOREMUS
NOV
11
1898
NEW YORK

This Wall Street firm was headed by Edward J. De Coppet at the time these stamps were cancelled. 

Mr. De Coppet was well known in New York as a patron of the arts.  He organized and sponsored the Flonzaley Quartet which had become one of the finest of its kind in the United States.  It played for Mr. De Coppet on the night of his death.

De Coppet and Doremus was founded by Edward De Coppet in 1891. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cancel for November 10: Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa Railroad



THE I. I. & I. R. R. CO.
NOV
10
1899
CHICAGO.

The Indiana, Illinois and Iowa RR was a shortline railroad that ran from South Bend to Churchill Indiana.  The road ran south of Chicago giving it great advantages in moving through-freight that did not need to be transfered in the busy Chicago train yards.  The 3 "Is" was purchased by the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad in 1901.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cancel for November 8: Union Pacific Railroad



UNION PACIFIC R. R. CO.
NOV
8
1898


Today the Union Pacific is the largest railroad in North America.  The UP is also one of North America's most famous railroads for its work building west from Nebraska to create the first transcontinental railroad,  completing the most track before it met up with the Central Pacific which was being built east from a start in Sacramento, California. 

By 1898 when this stamp was cancelled the UP had expanded its operations, come under the control of the Goulds, and would soon purchase a controlling interest in the Southern Pacific. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cancel for November 4: Central of Georgia Railway


CENTRAL of GA. RY. CO.
NOV
4
1899


One of the great southern railroads.  The Central of Georgia Railway controlled major routes through the heart of the deep south at the time of this cancel.   The railroad was started in 1833 as the Central Rail Road and Canal Company.




Update April 12, 2010:
R155 with Central of Georgia Railway cancel sent in by Dave Thompson