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Main Street's Stamp Dealer

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Beginnings in the Stamp Business:

Jacques Minkus (1901-1996) always loved to tell the story of how he emigrated to the U.S. from Austria in 1929 and how by 1931 he had convinced Gimbels department store in New York City to give him six feet of counter space to sell stamps. At the height of Minkus' success he had counters in 38 department stores around the U.S.

Attuned to Stamp Collectors' Needs:

Minkus was sensitive to collectors, creating a whole world around stamps, including celebrities and notables like Ayn Rand, Eleanor Roosevelt and philatelic kid's show star Captain Tim, who visited his stores. He also commissioned or underwrote special flights, using celebrity pilots like Dick Merrill whose Anglo American Good Will Coronation flight to England in 1937 produced a popular air mail cover that still turns up for sale on eBay on a regular basis.

Changes in Philately over 80 Years:

With the Internet, the methods used by stamp collectors to obtain their stamps has changed immensely over the past 20 years. In the early years of the hobby the newsletter/pricelist was a popular way for stamp collectors to sell their wares. They would either advertise in an existing newsletter or start their own. The first price list is said to have come out of France, in 1861.

Price lists grew into catalogs quickly, the better to sell stamps to distant collectors who couldn't make it to dealers' shops. It was from this European tradition that many years later Jacques Minkus started what would grow to be his philatelic empire.

Success from Six Feet of Stamps

One of the beauties of the Minkus counters was that it was one stop shopping. Already beyond producing the simple price list or newsletter, Minkus published the Minkus Stamp Journal, numerous stamp albums and eventually a worldwide catalog, the Minkus New Worldwide Stamp Catalog.

But it seemed when adding up the pluses and minuses of the Minkus stamp business that if there was one disappointment it was that his cataloging system -- a challenge to Scott's numbering system and choice of stamps to list, or more to the point not to list -- never really took hold.

Everything for the Stamp Collector

In the 60s he noticed topical collecting was catching on with collectors and did his best to cater to these interests, sometimes at the expense of angering the larger collecting community. His support of Trucial States stamps, aka Dunes stamps or "wallpaper" went so far that he published a separate catalog for the unpopular issues. They were also included in his worldwide catalog.

He was a business man before anything else. As the stamps from the Dunes were produced and sold by agents, not the country of issue, Minkus, who himself was eventually an agent for China and Israel was just carrying on in his usual manner. Still, some argued with the stamps The Man Who Brought Stamps to Main Street, USA actually brought to town.

What was Jacques Minkus' favorite personal collection? Ironically, one that didn't rely on stamps for effect. It was called Bouquets and Brickbats and was personal mail from President Franklin Roosevelt's collection. The letters had been delivered to FDR with unusual addresses: a sketch of the president with only "Washington D.C." beneath it; The Man in Charge, Washington, D.C.; and the one Minkus imagined was FDR's favorite: To The Greatest Man In the World.

A Stamp Dealer for His Time

Minkus exhibited the patriotism of his times, coupled with a true appreciation for the opportunities America had afforded him. Although he may have been accused of wrapping his products in the American flag to achieve better sales, he actually walked the walk and talked the talk. His WWII patriotic covers were big hits with collectors and general mailers. He was on the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration and was instrumental in getting the colonial artisan stamps issued.

Minkus had a deep appreciation for the American version of success, which he felt he epitomized by taking those six feet of counter space and ultimately turning it into a nationwide network that thrived until the 1980s.

The world of stamp collecting remembered Jacques Minkus with numerous accolades and prizes, including the Service to Philately award from the American Stamp Dealers Association. He was also inducted into the American Philatelic Society's Writers Unit Hall of Fame in 2011.

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