Apr 06

Deutsche Einheit – German Stamps

German Stampsby Ken Perkins

“Deutsche Einheit” read two ordinary looking stamps issued by Germany on October 3, 1990.

Two words, two stamps; the hopes and fears of millions of people.

Conrad Schumann, John F. Kennedy, Günter Litfin, Ronald Reagan, Peter Fechter, Erich Honecker, and Chris Gueffroy.

“Ich bin ein Berliner.” “Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this wall.”

“You are leaving the American Sector.” “Checkpoint Charlie.”

On the 9th of November, 1989, at the end of a routine evening press conference, East German spokesman Günter Schabowski is asked about a new law allowing East Germans to cross into West Berlin. ‘How soon will the new law go into effect?’ asks a reporter.

Schabowski, who has been handed information about the new law just minutes before the press conference, mistakenly answers “…sofort, unverzüglich”… “immediately, without delay.” Schabowski’s comments are the lead items on both East and West German evening news at 8PM. By 11PM some 11,000 incredulous East Berliners have gathered at the Bornholmer Strasse gate, shouting ‘Open the gate’. Faced with an unstoppable crowd, the dreaded Vopos do just that. All over Berlin that night, the gates are opened. The Wall has fallen.

On October 3, 1990, an event occurs which was unimaginable just a few years before. Four days short of it’s 41st anniversary, the German Democratic Republic is dissolved and Germany, with the agreement of the World War II victors, is once again a united country.

Deutsche Einheit…German unity, didn’t come without problems. Despite reunification being approved by the governments of the World War II Allies who defeated Germany, many citizens of those countries feared a more powerful, reunited Germany. The economy of the former East Germany was a wreck: in order to develop it, Germany has transferred between €100 billion and €140 billion each year to the 5 new states added to the Bundesrepublik in the former East Zone. And the 5.5% income tax surcharge, devoted to rebuilding the new states and slated to last until at least 2019, is quite unpopular.

An equally serious problem is what Germans call the ‘Mauer im Kopf’…the ‘Wall in the Head’. Many West Germans (‘Wessis’) see the Easterners (‘Ossis’) as being lazy and poor, while the ‘Ossis’ see the ‘Wessis’ as selfish snobs. So despite all the money being sent to the East to revitalize the economy, and the migration of some 18% of the East’s population to the West since reunification, social integration has been slow.

But the reunited Germany has become the economic powerhouse of the Euro Zone and a key player in dictating the terms of the recovery packages offered to weaker Euro Zone partners whose economies are in deep trouble. And East German raised and educated Angela Merkel, who became Germany’s first female Chancellor in 2005, has proven herself one of the most powerful leaders in the world.

Mar 27

Cats on Stamps

by Marsha Brandsdorfer

Cats on StampsTopical collecting of cats on postage stamps can be fun. Cats have been around for thousands of years. An old Arabian legend connects the cat’s creation with Noah’s Ark. A pair of mice was taken on the Ark but the mice reproduced multiplying very quickly and the Ark became infested by these rodents. Noah consulted with the lioness for assistance. He passed his hand three times over the lioness’ head and the lioness squeezed out the very first cat, which was to aid as a natural mouse trap.

The history of the domestic cat began in Egypt and there is evidence of this as tombs had mummified cats. The cat was identified with the powerful moon goddess Pasht. Egyptians also established cats were important in their role for mice control.

Cats have survived through the ages as independent solitary hunters. Capable of surviving and adapting, a cat, without someone to help feed and take care of it, can manage on an imperfect diet. If it needs to survive on its own without nutritious cat food, the cat can eat mice, birds, fish, and insects. They may eat scraps of food left over from human meals that they find in the trash. However, a cat can be finicky about what it eats. Cats rely strongly on their sense of smell and make decisions about food by smelling it, as a good scent means good food to a cat.

A cat’s vision is exceptional at night, and even better than a human’s sight. However, in the daylight, their vision is like other nocturnal animals and poorer than a human’s eye sight. Their hearing is not necessarily better than humans, but they can hear a different range of sound frequency. They are smart and they can learn. Occasionally, there is a cat that appears not to be trainable, but most cats can be taught how to use the indoor litter box, or taught not to jump on the dining room table to steal food. Also scratching posts should be provided to allow cats to claw when they need to do so, so they don’t claw on one’s furniture.

Cats that are lucky enough to have owners are enjoying a longer life span thanks to veterinarians and are eating well thanks to commercial cat food. Nonetheless, there is a huge homeless population problem. When I was in Greece in 2007, I discovered that it was mandatory for the community to oblige itself to the care and treatment of stray cats and dogs. The United States is not so strict, but there are good hearted people who take care of strays and many cities have non-profit organizations to help unwanted animals. We can collect stamps to celebrate and promote cats. There are many different kinds of cats. As there are dozens of cat stamps available in the US and internationally, you can try to collect one species or just collect cats in general.

Most of my information was researched from the book, Wholly Cats by Faith McNulty and Elisabeth Keiffer.

Mar 20

President’s Message – March 2014

Kristin Patterson

Kristin Patterson

As I write this, I have been in office two months as SSC President and have enjoyed every minute of it. People have commented that they are grateful for putting a speaker system in place. One 5-year member said that this was the first time he had heard an entire meeting.

At the meeting on February 25, each attendee was given a SSC 2014 Yearbook which included a list of committee members, complete 2014 SSC schedule, photos from last year activities, and a current and up to date member roster. Also, a Member Handbook was distributed to members who had not received the 2012 SSC 65th Anniversary Book. I want to thank Ken Perkins, Jim Giacomazzi, Paul Swierstra, and Dar Hickok for helping me get the two books to members so quickly. Paul is now actively delivering the Yearbook to members who could not attend. In April, members who have not received a Yearbook will be mailed one.

I also want to thank Leroy Harbaugh for serving as SSC librarian for the past 15 years. As the librarian, Leroy has made available to members the club’s current Scott Catalogues along with many other resource books. Leroy has decided to pass on the role to Craig Butterworth, who has graciously volunteered to serve as the current SSC librarian.

Remember to check the website for the most recent schedule, which includes local stamp shows. The newest Member Handbook is always available on the Sequoia Stamp Club page. I look forward to seeing you at a meeting soon.

Kristin Patterson, Sequoia Stamp Club President

Mar 13

U.S. Stamp History 100 Years Ago – the Stickney Rotary Press and U.S. #459

A Stickney Press from the 1930s.

A Stickney Press from the 1930s.

It was one hundred years ago that a new innovation was introduced by the United States Postal Office with the production of stamps by rotary press.  The demand for coils of stamps was growing but traditional flat bed press production could not keep up with the demand.

The USPS looked for a way to speed production and turned to a Bureau of Engraving mechanic, Benjamin Stickney, for a solution.  His invention, a rotary press, printed stamps from a continuous roll of paper feed through the press over the engraving plate.

The Stickney Press, as it was called, eliminated the “paste-up” stage of the printing process and saved a good deal of time.    After some testing the rotary press was adopted as the method of printing all coil stamps.

The rotary press was later used to print sheet stamps and booklet panes as well. By the mid-1920s, production rates had jumped from 1 million stamps per day to nearly 6 million.  The Stickney Press is one of the most productive pieces of equipment ever invented by the Bureau.  It was for many years the workhorse of U.S. stamp production, with 29 Stickney presses in service by 1931. The Bureau retired its last Stickney press in 1962.

U.S. #459 Washington Coil Stamp

U.S. #459 Washington Coil Stamp

U.S. Stamp #459 is the very first stamp produced by rotary press – and the only imperforate rotary press coil in U.S. postal history. The 2¢ Washington stamp was issued June 30, 1914.  In a Mystic Stamp article, it is stated that U.S. #459 was produced in a single printing – only 21,000 stamps were issued. Most were privately perforated by the U.S. Automatic Vending Machine Company and used for commercial mailings in two New England states. Three full years passed before collectors realized the existence of this variety of the 1914 2¢ Washington stamp. Remarkably, two rolls of U.S. #459 had survived in mint condition – a roll of 500 stamps and another of 1,000.


Feb 26

Fountain of Youth – 2013 Year in Review

youthstampLast year’s Youth Room at PENPEX was probably the most interesting one in years. Committee members Coleman, Bertsch, and Shoolman covered the room assisted ably by Joan Doherty and my son, Billy. We signed up ten (10) new members, many from the Cub Scouts and private schools.

A PENPEX exhibitor from Sedona, Arizona, SIGNED UP, and will be replicating our Youth group in that state! She won the Silver Award for her Victorian exhibit at PENPEX. An educator, retired from the French International School in San Francisco, realizing the value of our hobby to entice children away from dangerous alternatives, will be promoting philately in the Redwood City school system.

Learn more about our stamp youth program.

Respectfully submitted, Darlene Hickok, Chair

Feb 18

A Topic on the Back – Maps on Stamps

map1‘Maps on stamps’ has long been a popular theme for topical stamp collectors. There’s something for everybody; the CartoPhilatelic Society offers a list of 40,000+ items which runs to 750 printed pages. Map stamps have been issued by almost every country, and some of them have led to diplomatic
crises and played a role in wars.

But how about ‘stamps on maps’? A stamp printed on a map…does such a thing even exist? Indeed it does, but ‘stamps on maps’ would be an awfully small topical collection. I know of only one instance of stamps being printed on maps.

From the era of the first postage stamps down to the present day, nations have used stamps as one way of announcing their sovereignty to the world. On November 18 of 1918, in the aftermath of World War I, Latvia declared it’s independence from Russia, and newly independent Latvia needed stamps. But the Latvian postal authorities immediately ran into a problem. Soviet troops were
occupying Latvian territory as fast as German troops were withdrawing from it. There were shortages of everything, including paper stock on which to print their first stamps.

map2Among the many things the retreating Germans left behind were maps; large numbers of unfinished maps which were stored in their Riga headquarters. So many, in fact, that they were being used in the Riga market to wrap fish. The map side of these foldable maps was finished, but their backs, which were to show the region name, scale, etc, were not yet printed. And they hadn’t been folded yet, so they were nice and flat, just waiting to be run through a press again.

Thus were born Latvia’s first stamps; Scott #1 and #2. Both stamps pay the same postage, 5 Kapeikas. Scott calls the imperforate stamps #1 while the stamps perforated 11.5 are #2. This is purely arbitrary since all 2.7 million stamps were produced by the same printer at the same time with the same design. About half were perforated, half were not. The stamps, printed in red, show 3 ears of grain in the center of a rising sun, with 3 stars spaced around the edges of the sun’s rays, the name ‘LATVIJA’ curving across the top of the sun, and the value of 5 Kap. printed at the bottom.

map3The German military maps on the back of these stamps, which are upside down versus the stamp design, are usually printed in brown and black on dark cream gummed paper. At least 68 different types of maps of Latvia and parts of Lithuania are known to have been used to print these stamps, with about 11,000 maps in all being fed through the presses. As you can see from the scans illustrating this article, the maps themselves, made to a scale of 1:1,000,000 are filled with fine detail such as roads, railroads, buildings, fields, rivers, and forests. At the lower left corner of the map on the upper left stamp in the block of 4 shown there is even what looks like a windmill.

Even though these map stamps have never been rare or expensive, there are forgeries believed to have been made in the 1920s.

One curious aspect of the maps used which is not apparent on most of the stamps is the longitude scale used. Western Latvia, for instance, is shown at longitude 39 degrees east. Current maps show the same area as 21 degrees 20 minutes east. What’s going on here? Even though Germany agreed in 1884 to use Greenwich as the prime (0 degrees) meridian, for some reason these maps use a prime meridian centered on the little town of Ferro (Hierro in Spanish) in the western Canary Islands. Ferro, at the western end of the Greek world, was the prime meridian used by Claudius Ptolemy in the second century AD!

The Latvians must have been pleased with using the back of pre-printed paper for their stamps; a few years later another couple of issues were printed on the backs of unfinished banknotes. So there’s another small topical collection: ‘stamps on money’.

Most of the information in this article was found on a marvelous website on the Latvian map stamps established by Bill Apsit (www.apsit.com/mapstamp.htm).


Feb 12

New Life Member

Steve Morger

Steve Morger

Congratulations to Steve Morger, a club member since 1992, is the newest Sequoia Stamp Club Life Member. Steve has been collecting stamps for over 70 years and his main interest is worldwide stamps up to 1940. He enjoys trading stamps and attending local stamp shows. He is a life member of the American Philatelic Society.

Steve has served as secretary of the Sequoia Stamp Club and currently is involved in both the silent and live auctions at club meetings. His honesty and integrity are above reproach, and he is highly respected by his fellow club members. He started the original PENPEX silent auction and continues to work at the show each year as a valued volunteer.

Steve does a lot of work behind the scenes at the club. Every year he drives out to Armadillo Willy’s in Foster City to pick up the food for the summer picnic. Because he is a member of Costco, he volunteers to shop for the PENPEX snack bar. He has even picked up a second cake for the awards banquet! He put together an interesting Disney exhibit when club members were asked to participate in a one-page exhibit project.

Steve is one of the friendliest and most active members of the Sequoia Stamp Club, rarely missing a meeting and always stepping up when asked to perform some service for the club. In 2012, he was selected for the APS “Sparkplug” Award which is given to a member who has gone out of his way to help the club. Steve is a deserving life member of the Sequoia Club.

Feb 03

State Narcotic Stamps – Feb. 11, 2014

Texas Marihuana Tax Stamp

Texas Marihuana Tax Stamp

Join the Sequoia Stamp Club for our Feb. 11 program, a presentation on State Narcotic Stamps. If you enjoy finding the loophole, you will enjoy the story of the State Drug Tax stamps issued in the 1980s (and later). Each side in the War on Drugs continually sought to find an advantage. This series of stamps – issued by a variety of states – illustrates a number of battles in that war.

The presenter, Craig Butterworth, SSC Director-at-large, is a collector of U.S. stamps, and has an additional interest in Christmas Seals, Precancels, Revenues (including State Revenues), Malay and Malay States, U.S. joint issues, and (recently) U.S. Perfins.

Guests are welcome to all Sequoia Stamp Club meetings. Doors open at 7:05 pm with a short meeting at 7:30 pm. The presentation will start around 8 pm.

Jan 31

February 2014 eBlast

As I have mentioned in the past, PENPEX’s success is due to its great volunteers, experienced dealers, willing exhibitors, and enthusiastic attendees. Without any of these, the show would be lacking some of its fun. All shows are looking for more of all these people. If you are interested in volunteering at PENPEX, there is room for everyone. We are always looking for people to help before, during, and after the show. If you can write, organize, plan things, and enjoy being with stamp collectors, then we have a task for you. Please contact Kristin for more details at PenpexRedwoodCity@yahoo.com.

PENPEX is holding its 2013 Wrap-up meeting and Appreciation Brunch on February 1 @ 10 am at Sizzler, 1011 Veterans Blvd., Redwood City. All PENPEX volunteers are invited to attend. If you have not already RSVPed, please do so immediately to Kristin Patterson, 408-267-6643.

Included in this monthly PENPEX eBlast are the upcoming Sequoia Stamp Club activities and bay area stamp shows. 2014 schedule glimpse covering the next two months.

  • Feb 1 – PENPEX Wrap-up and Volunteer Appreciation Brunch. 10:00 am at Sizzlers, 1011 Veterans Blvd, Redwood City. (Date Change)
  • Feb 11 – State Narcotics Stamps by Craig Butterworth. Silent auction.
  • Feb 18 – Stamps R Us Youth Group Work Session (noon to 4 pm)
  • Feb 25 – Members Live Auction.
  • Mar 11 – The Story of the Penny Black (video). Silent auction.
  • Mar 25 – Mystery Box by Miriam Thurston. Silent auction.
Hope to see you soon.

Kristin Patterson, PENPEX Chair

Jan 29

New 2014 Sequoia Leadership

2014 Stamp Club Officers

2014 Stamp Club Officers

The selection of officers for 2014 took place at the November 26 meeting.  Kristin Patterson was elected as our new president by a vote of  33 to 9. She will be taking over from current president Hank Shoolman after her official inauguration at the first meeting in January.

Her goal is to make the club a warm and welcoming place for fellow collectors. It will be a busy year for Kristin, as she is also an APS Director at Large, on the board of WESTPEX, editor of the Women Exhibitors’ newsletter, and Chair of PENPEX for the 8th year. Let’s all do our best to support her by stepping  forward when asked to help out with club activities. The  following club officers were reelected to their positions:

  • Steve Sexton – VP
  • Darlene Hickok – Secretary
  • Richard Griffone – Treasurer
  • Jim Mosso and Craig Butterworth – Directors at Large.
  • Also elected as a new Director was Kjell Enander, who will be serving his first term on the Board.

Congratulations to all our newly elected officers.