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2012: the Philatelic Year that Was


Though it may seem too soon to look back on the philatelic year, edition 2012, when October arrives it's pretty much all down hill, with Christmas releases the high point of the U.S. stamp program until the new year. So then, to review a somewhat interesting year in stamps:

The USPS backed away from issuing stamps with living people. Enough has been written about this, so I won't reheat these cold leftovers. Many collectors were looking forward to the plan that would leave the dead for five years before philatelic honors bestowed plan. Perhaps just as many were not looking forward to it at all. Whatever, at this time the plan is said to be on hold, with reports of its demise exaggerated. We'll see.

Farley and Roosevelt, stars of the Follies of the 30's, were back in the philatelic news as the collecting world considered the uncut press sheets for the baseball heroes stamps. Not only was the USPS accused of producing an intentional error with the low print run of the uncut press sheets of stamps, but the first day of issue ceremony at Cooperstown was protested, as, rather astonishingly, stamp collectors were kept out, to leave room for players and their families. With the USPS at bat and a full count they went down swinging, as far as many collectors were concerned.

The joining of libraries and museums to collect philatelic information seemed to point to the consolidation of philatelic research and literature into a database. While old guard philatelists like John Apfelbaum rightfully bemoaned the lack of collectors interested in researching their philatelic area of choice, another of his gripes -- losing original research that has gone unsaved from it's original periodical source -- might be answered by the new efforts in digital archiving and preservation.

Nothing helped turn around the greying of philately in the US, although world-wide there was more interest in the hobby from the young as well as a female cohort. As American youth is blessed with so many options, stamp collecting finds itself far down the list topped by computer oriented pursuits. The wag's comment on the situation is "My kid doesn't even know where our local post office is." Collector's organizations attempting to attract younger collectors have had minor success, though their efforts are like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.

Letter writing and mail art groups were healthy and active in 2012. While some of them believe they are helping the USPS, their efforts are a raindrop in the ocean as far as helping to lessen the post office's debt. Their efforts are noble, but the future of communications is electronic, not postal.

A little dog was a major player in bringing attention to the hobby, especially for the young. Owney the Railway Mail Service dog from the turn of the 19th century got an additional 15 minutes of fame, and a more charming way to introduce the history of mobile mail to young and old alike probably doesn't exist.

Events at the National Postal Museum featured the taxidermied presence of the postal canine, which welcomed those in to take part in readings and events related to the Forever Stamp released in Owney's honor. He even got his own Facebook page where he reminisced about past trips on the rails (he took many!) and what it meant to be a mascot for the postal service. Surely it was all enough to melt even the most hardened philatelist's heart.

Another central exhibit at the NPM was the Fire and Ice presentation, which showed philatelic items and related ephemera and relics from two of the greatest disasters of the 20th century: the sinking of the Titanic and the explosion of the zeppelin Hindenburg.

A collector/dealer from the Netherlands who went to Korea to do a bit of philatelic business ran into a bit of trouble when he may have tried to buy stamps directly from an individual in that country, a practice that is against the law. Willem van der Bijl eventually returned home safe and sound, but not before he was compelled by the government to write a glowing report in a major North Korean newspaper about the country's election system and its fairness.

The temporarily most famous Frenchman, ex-president Sarkozy, served his term and wasn't re-elected, meaning that there would be no more Royal Palace stamp club meetings. The president/philatelist was the most visible stamp collector to hold high office since FDR and I'm sure he will be missed by his club meeting's fellow attendees. If any.

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