A letter from D.B. tells a happy story about a stamp collector:
"My dad has been saving stamps since he got started from his father. It's a large collection, going back to stamps that were hand canceled by a quill. I once asked him how much he thought he had invested in his collection.
"He thought for a moment and said: 'Oh, probably $300 or $400.' So for Christmas that year I got him a Scott's catalogue and another book, the title of which escapes me. My dad was shocked. The stamps he estimated at 16 cents were catalogued at something like $20. Others were more, some were less.
"We stayed up until 2 in the morning. I've rarely seen him that excited.
"He never sold his collection and didn't think of it as an investment. But he was thrilled to know that his stamps were worth more than his original guess of $300 or $400. The Scott's catalogue turned out to be one of the best Christmas presents I ever gave. Thought you might be interested."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said: "I owe my life to my hobbies, especially stamp collecting." And somebody else, whom I can't remember, said: "Happy is the man who has a hobby, for he has two worlds to live in instead of one."
Question: Some time ago you mentioned the American Philatelic Society Expertizing Service. Do they do one stamp or large collections?--W.F.
Answer: One stamp per certificate. This service is used to get a professional certified opinion on a stamp's genuineness and its soundness. If a stamp is judged to be counterfeit or damaged, it will say so on the certificate.
Prices for expertizing are based on the Scott catalogue value of the stamp. Members of the American Philatelic Society are granted about a 30% discount on expertizing fees.
For more information and a blank form for stamp expertizing, send a No. 10 (business-size) envelope that is stamped and self-addressed to: A.P.S. Expertizing Service, P.O. Box 8000, State College, Pa. 16803.
Q: I own a stamp collection that hasn't been touched in about 25 years. Where should I go to find out the value, if any, of this collection? I know nothing about stamps and don't want to get ripped-off.--J.P.J.
A: The place to start is a local dealer found in the telephone book Yellow Pages under "Stamps for Collectors." If you can show your stamps to two different dealers for an informal appraisal (about how much is this stuff worth?), then you can get a rough idea of what you can expect when selling the collection.
Remember, though, that old doesn't necessarily mean valuable. There are some production errors made a few months ago that are worth hundreds of dollars per stamp. There are stamps 80 years old that are worth pennies.
Q: These stamps (photocopy enclosed) were found on the back of very old photographs. Are they revenue stamps? Are they worth anything?--E.C.
A: Yes, they are United States revenue issues from the Civil War Era. By Act of Congress, 2 cents revenue was charged for checks and photographs in 1862, and appropriate revenue stamps were usually affixed to pay this tax.
Most American commercial photographs of that time period have revenue stamps on the backs, like the ones you have. The photo is often worth more than the stamp. If it shows a Civil War soldier or famous person, it could be worth $10 or more. Common anonymous civilian photos with revenues attached are worth about $1 each.
Q: Is there a stamp club that meets in the West Hollywood area?--F.McD.
A: My latest information from the Collectors Club of Hollywood indicates that it meets at the California Federal Savings & Loan building, 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, on the second Tuesday of each month at 8 p.m.
Q: Are pointed or rounded tips considered best for stamp tongs for a beginner?--R.B.
A: Rounded, so that you are less likely to poke a hole through the stamp. Pointed tongs are usually preferred by experienced collectors and dealers who have learned how to handle stamps.
Q: One day, while walking through a local park, I saw some stamps on the ground. These were $5 American stamps with a picture of a lantern and the words "America's Light Leads Her Generations Onward." I would like to know when this stamp was produced and its value.--L.F.
A: If it was mint (uncanceled), this stamp would be worth $5 face value. But it sounds like your stamps were canceled, which means they are worth only a few cents each, as you describe them in "fair" condition.
First issued on Aug. 23, 1979, this $5 regular issue has been for sale in post offices since then.
Q: I am getting interested in the stamps of Switzerland. Are these a good investment? Can I order Swiss issues directly from the government?--R.T.
A: Swiss stamps are popular both here and in Europe. The older issues have proven to be a good investment, but recent stamps have been well-designed and issued somewhat conservatively (not too often) in the last 20 years.