Friday, April 1, 2016

The Early Days of the American Revenue Association

The American Revenue Association is one of the oldest collector's organizations in philately, as is its flagship journal, The American Revenuer.  In 1898, the Association made its first bond issue to pay for expansion of its offices in order to cope with rapidly expanding demand for the The American Revenuer.  Today at 1898 Revenues we present an exciting find of a tax stamp from that bond, with the prominent cancel, T. A. R.

T. A. R.
Oct 28.

John Langlois scan

Often known as TAR to organization members, The American Revenuer is the journal published by The American Revenue Association.  The stamp above was undoubtedly used on an 1898 bond floated by the The ARA's bank to finance early capital improvements to the extensive printing works of the Association.

Two summers ago, at a meeting of the American Revenue Association in Minnesota, I asked some of the members who were there at the association's beginning what it was like at the ARA during those heady times of bond floats and construction projects:

Herman Ivester:  "I didn't have much to do with the ARA back then.  I was mostly interested in tracking down the St. Louis provisionals, working everyday to stay a step ahead of Charlie Nast.  Many thanks to Bob Hohertz for his help.  Bob gave himself the internet handle rdhinstl from his days in St. Louis back then.  He helped track down a few of the rarities with me.  

Ron Lesher:  "I was teaching physics in those days, but it was a more basic job in 1898.  Marie and Pierre (Curie) only discovered radium that year; the curriculum was more Isaac Newton than Albert Einstein.  I taught a basic revenue stamp collecting course for the ARA in 1899, and had hundreds attend every lecture.  

Richard Friedberg:  "I was the Mayor of Meadville when the ARA moved its headquarters into an old fireworks factory in town.  The city was grateful for the move.  The ARA put an old property to use that was derelict.  The bond used to finance the purchase of the building to house the new TAR printing presses used the 50c documentary battleship tax stamp.  This is the first of these stamps I've seen in years.  Its a shame it is off-document, but I'm still prepared to offer Langlois $75,000 for the stamp.

Bob Hohertz:  "I was a young member of the ARA back then.  A bunch of the older guys (including Mort Joyce) put me up to a stunt sometime in 1903 where they distracted the agents in the Pere Marquette ticket office in Detroit while I sneaked out with a box of cancelled parlor car tickets.  It was a youthful indiscretion, but look what was preserved for philately!...It didn't occur to me in 1898 that I would have become an actuary.  If I had known that me and Herman and Ron and all the rest of us would live as long has we have, I don't think I would have had the confidence to be an actuary -- Sheppard Homans' table doesn't seem to apply to any of us.  I think all of my employers would have gone bankrupt.

Frank Sente:  "Nassau Street in New York was the center of American philately in those days.  Unfortunately, it was also the center of philatelic fraud.  I ran a special program for the ARA to monitor and report this fraud.  Now that we've entered the internet and Ebay age, the bad guys are more technically sophisticated, but in 1898, preventing fraud was still a major challenge.

Mike Mahler:  "I was an active member of the ARA in those days.  But it would be years before I would become involved with TAR, as I was working day and night helping to put together what we call today The Boston Book.  The plan was to have the book come out in '98 but we missed.  It went to press in 1899.  Thanks to Ken Trettin for all the work he had done for years on the book before I came in to help out starting in '97.  Thanks to the new presses in the Meadville facility, we were able to produce an initial run of 10,000 copies.  They sold out in days and we had to go to a second printing.

David Thompson:  In 1898, The Air Force was limited to a couple of squadrons of balloons, but we used them for observation over San Juan Hill during Roosevelt's charge.  When I returned to the States in '99 I started collecting the battleship series, and I've also been a member of The American Revenue Association ever since. 

Eric Jackson:  "This stamp with the T. A. R. cancel is one of the rarest in revenue philately.  I'm prepared to offer John six figures for this stamp.  John, where should I mail the check?"


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  2. Hi,

    I have almost the same but the value is 2 and the stamp has a cancellation stamp " B.& Mcc MAR 1 189 " the last number in the year is missing(error) but I guess is 8.
    Can you tell me more about this one I have?


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