oBy Ken Perkins

And another one gone
And another one gone
And another one bites the dust.
(lyrics by John Deacon of Queen)

The Globe Stamp store of Oakland. Richard Wolffers in San Francisco. Laurel Stamps in San Carlos. The Stamp Shoppe, with two locations: San Carlos and San Mateo. All places where a collector could walk in and actually handle stamps before buying them, or just sit and talk stamps, and all of them gone.

And now, as Freddy Mercury tells us, ‘another one bites the dust. This summer, Warren Sankey closed the United States Stamp Company, located at 368 Bush Street in San Francisco. Possibly the last street-level stamp shop in the City, and certainly the oldest; the United States Stamp Company was founded in 1928. Mr. Sankey’s father bought it from the founder, and Warren in turn bought it from him in 1980.

When I was working in San Francisco, a walk up to his shop was a fine way to spend part of a lunch hour. He never got rich off of me, but I learned a lot from his knowledgeable employees.

But stamps must have been providing Mr. Sankey with a good living. He owned and drove vintage road racing cars, including a Formula 1 McClaren (think 600 horsepower in a single-seat car weighing about as much as a VW Beetle…you do not handle those with stamp tongs!). On one long ago visit to his shop, I mentioned that I had seen him drive one of his Formula 1 cars at a recent vintage car race. He lamented that the event had seen him blow a gear in the car’s transmission. You do not just go down to your local dealer for a new 3rd gear for a vintage F1 car; he was waiting for a new gear to be manufactured for him in England.

Mr. Sankey also at one-time was owner of one of the rarest Ferraris, a 1949 166MM, one of only 25 made. He was also active in San Francisco Bay yachting, at one time owning the ocean-going Yacht Rowena, which finished 3rd in class in the 1992 Master Mariners Race in San Francisco Bay.

But, according to a 2011 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, he eventually had to reduce his staff from 8 down to 2: himself and his daughter. And a few years ago I noticed an ad in Linn’s offering to sell the store. In a brief call to the United States Stamp Company last week, I learned that Mr. Sankey will continue in the stamp business, but the retail store is gone. In fact, like any good dealer, he asked me if I had any stamps to sell, so he will be around. So go visit your local stamp store before the Internet eats them all up. If you can find one.

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