Sunday, February 17, 2013

Reader comments: Stamp collecting, mysteries solved & Whirley mugs

It's truly humbling that Papergreat's reader comments are becoming so prolific that I can't repeat every single one in these roundups. Continued thanks to all of you who add your thoughts to posts and help me solve mysteries and broaden my knowledge. I treasure every time that you share something.

A few captivating vintage stamps, including one for Project Mercury: Jim Fahringer, who wrote a wonderful piece about QSL cards last year, submitted these poignant memories of collecting stamps:
"Thank you so much for including the subject of stamps in your ephemera website. The World of Stamp Collecting is one of the most intriguing and educational hobbies anyone could have. I learned more about world geography and the cultures of other countries by collecting stamps than all my high school and college classes combined.

"I still remember coming home from Noel Elementary School (in York, Pennsylvania) one afternoon when I was in second grade in 1954. I was walking down the 300 block of East Poplar Street, where I lived, and I happened to see an orange and black tiger striped envelope in a garbage can which advertised the stamps from around the world that were included inside. Gleefully I snatched that packet from the garbage can and clutched it in my hands all the way home. That day so very long launched a lifelong joyful learning experience for me.

"Unfortunately, not many young people are collecting stamps anymore. At one time, stamp collecting was the world's most popular hobby. The U. S. Post Office has not helped matters very much. They switched to self-stick stamps, which immediately did not allow for plate block collecting anymore because the self stick stamps are all separate stamps and cannot be collected with plate block number unless you leave them on the sheet. Also, the way most of us got stamps was by soaking them off envelopes in lukewarm water, blotting them between sheets of newspapers and allowing them to dry with a weight on top. Today, self-stick stamps are almost impossible to soak off envelopes. Instead of being able to purchase one mint stamp from a sheet of stamps, today's stamp collector must purchase the whole sheet because it is impossible to mount just one mint self-stick stamp in your album. Most kids cannot afford to buy a whole sheet of these self-stick stamps so they don't bother collecting them. Thanks, Post Office, for destroying this hobby which actually required no money on the part of the collector — just a few discarded pieces of mail and a pan or bathtub full of water. Often I filled my bathtub with lukewarm water and dumped hundreds of clipped corners from envelopes bearing the stamp. In a few minutes the stamps would separate from the envelope paper and float to the top or sink to the bottom of the tub. I would them take them out and blot the excess water from them using newspaper. Then I would lay them face down between two pieces of paper and put a weight on them such as a brick or an antique flat iron to keep the stamps flat and prevent them from curling. I would let them dry an hour or so or sometimes overnight. The sorting of the stamps and mounting them in my album came next. The use of those yellow or green tinted translucent stamp hinges was sometimes a problem. They often didn't stick and you would have to re-apply them two or three times. And the duplicates that each collector had were used for trading stamps with other collectors at school or in your neighborhood. A tear comes to my eye when I remember how much joy my stamp collection brought to me and that now, very few kids are pursuing the hobby of stamp collecting these days. How sad!"
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Coupons from the E.H. Koester Bakery Co.: Jim Davenport writes: "I worked in the Easton, Maryland, branch of the E.H. Koester Bakery from 1966 to 1972. We had tractor/trailers deliver fresh baked bread and sweets from the Baltimore bakery and we had 22 regular routes in Easton. Salisbury, MD, also had 20+ routes as well, and there was also an agency in Silver Spring, MD. I was a truck loader, working on the docks. It was hard work, but Koester was an extremely good company to work for at the time. Fond memories on my end."

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1800s envelope featuring a surprising red wax stamp: PostMuse writes: "I have received a number of envelopes with sealing wax. Most from Europe arrive in beautiful condition. Some from the US do, too, but mostly the wax is broken, or gone and there is just a residue. I think the condition might have more to do with the quality of wax used than the rough handling of postal machines. That envelope is quite amazing. I love the seal, but I love that the envelope is actually a piece of political history more. So much cooler than campaign buttons! The envelope reminds me of one of the new postage stamp issues."

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"Jim and Judy," a 1939 grade-school textbook with a York connection: Two comments on this one.
  • PostMuse writes: "Amityville Horror has nothing on Little White House."
  • Anonymous writes: "In 1947 I was in first grade. I remember the Jim and Judy book's, along with their dog 'Tags'. How I and my classmates loved those beautiful and colorful little books!"

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Postcard: Dinner at the King's Arms Tavern in Williamsburg: My wife writes: "#1: Are you calling me a Cheesemonger? #2: Past Gelatin Coverage might make a pretty good album title."

#1 — Absolutely not.
#2 — Agreed.

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Two quickies: Nifty book cover and Tom Swift illustration: Man of la Book writes: "I miss those books with great illustrations on the inside cover and first page. As an adult you don't get that pleasure anymore."

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Mystery photo of an old, old relative: Tyler Putman of Ran Away From The Subscriber writes: "Your tintype (a 'sixth plate' in size) is of an infantry soldier some time just after the Civil War, likely in the 1870s. It's post-war because he is wearing a five-button "sack coat," which wasn't issued to enlisted men, or common soldiers like him, until after the war. You can tell he's an infantry soldier because he has the same crossed rifles hat insignia as the girl-riding-a-donkey photo you also posted recently. In this case, the numbers or letters are harder to make out. This sort of insignia is also post-Civil War. I hope that's of some help!"

That's a tremendous help. Thank you very much, Tyler!

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Friday night mystery: Crown? Medal? VM logo? And here's a mystery that was solved in near-record time by Nicole Belolan of Picking for Pleasure: Understanding Antiquing Acquisitions. She writes:

"Hi, Chris. Well, I noticed that the medal also includes a C in a purple or pink color behind the M. I did some Googling, and it turns out the medal design is associated with a beneficent fraternal organization called Royal Arcanum, established in 1877. According to this source, 1105 has some mystical meaning. V.C.M. (or V.M.C), according to this source, stands for virtue, mercy, and charity. There are several medals associated with the group for sale on eBay. Based on the design, I would suspect that this ephemera dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth-century. It’s a lovely item! I wonder what the paper itself was used for.

"[Also], I think this one is very similar."

Wonderful work, Nicole! Thank you very much. The C was right there staring me in the face, and I totally missed it. I'm looking forward to reading more about Royal Arcanum. It sounds like an organization that could make a cameo appearance in one of those Nicolas Cage "National Treasure" movies.

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A groovy response from the CEO of Whirley-DrinkWorks! Bob Charest writes: "I found your posts while searching for these mugs online. I just lost my cup that I'd gotten when the John F. Kennedy had visited Portland, Maine, many years ago. Hopefully someday I'll have your good fortune as I don't like other cups anywhere near as much."


  1. I also wished more people would be interested in collecting stamps.

  2. I'm a huge fan of the space race stamps. Great collections :)