Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bibliography: Christopher West and Mekeel's Weekly Stamp News

The Revenue Stamps of the United States
Christopher West
Castenhoz and Sons 1979

This is an essential reference for the collector of US Scott-listed revenue material and for the collector of 1898s.  It is something of a complement for a volume commonly called The Boston Book, which I will write about in a future post.

Both the name Christopher West and the publishing date are deceiving.  Christopher West was a pen name for Elliot Perry.  And the writing was all done in the early part of the 20th century.  Bill Castenholz, in his preface for the book, tells the story of the appearance of this material in Mekeel's Weekly Stamp News from 1916 to 1918 which was in turn put together by Mekeel's in book form.  Castenholz then saved the book for posterity and reprinted the book in hard back form in the 1970s.   Reasonably inexpensive new copies can be purchased from Eric Jackson's website.  For sale on the same site are copies of the original Mekeel's bound version.

More on the Christopher West book in the next few days.

Mekeel's Weekly Stamp News
August 25, 1898

The August 25, 1898 edition of Mekeel's Weekly Stamp News, with a lead article projecting a "philatelic boom" with the conclusion of the Spanish-American war.  Stamp journalism in Mekeel's would include the ground-breaking work of Elliot Perry nearly 20 years after this edition was published. 

Mekeel's is a great source of information on trends and information regarding the 1898s, and not just because of its articles.  Notice the "WAR REVENUES" advert in the upper left corner.  That advert follows:

A few items of note in this ad: 
1.  Perry noted in his aricles for Mekeel's and the book shown above that the 1/2 cent gray appeared "soon" after the issue of the documentary battleship set, but he gave no date or range for the gray stamp's appearance.  The ad above was typeset probably 7 1/2 weeks after the debut of the series and Morgenthau & Co. was already advertising for sale the gray stamp, here called "slate".  So we know that soon was prior to the end of August.
2.  The orange documentary was already trading at a substantial premium to the gray, less than two months after the debut of the set.  The mark-up from 1/2 cent to 8 cents is huge.
3.   By the 7th week of use there was already a second shade of the 1 1/4 cent proprietary.

Copies of articles from Mekeels are indexed in a bibliography published by the American Revenue Association called Riley's Fiscal Philatelic Handbook.  A copy of Riley's and a membership in the American Philatelic Research Library would enable you to refer to and request virtually any revenue-related item in almost all stamp-related publications going back more than 100 years.

Mekeel's is currently published by John Dunn as Mekeel's and Stamps at .

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