Consumer Reports Rates USPS
The December issue of Consumer Reports, the monthly journal of the non-profit Cosumers Union reports on the three major package delivery services in the U.S., UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service. The tests were performed back in 1997, during the Christmas rush. The Consumers Union tested a variety of services, sending a total of 838 parces throughout the U.S. All parcels weighed six pounds, and carred dimensions of 12 by 10 by 3 inches. In addition, all parcels contained a hidden shock sensor, which Consumer Reports remarks would be set off by the approximate equivalent of a seven-foot free fall. The Consumers Union scored the services in three areas-cost, on time performance, and care in handling. When testing overnight services, the Consumer Union found that all three were comperable in price. It was found FedEx delivered on time 97% of the time and UPS 94%. Express Mail from the USPS delivered the next day only 65% In addition, Express Mail can not deliever overnight everywhere in the U.S. and the Consumers Union only tested the areas to which overnight delivery was promised. Two day services were tested with the Postal Service’s “two to three day” Priority Mail being counted as a two day service. In many cases, Priority Mail was half the price, but the parcels reached their destinations in two days only 60% of the time. FedEx and UPS recorded 97 and 90% on time delivery respectivly. Finally, Parcel Post from the USPS and UPS Ground Residential were tested. Parcel Post was cheaper, but took a bit longer. The Consumers Union gave the two services the same score. In all cases tested, the Postal Services were easiest on the packages. The “rough handling” sensors were set off only 8-11% of the time, compared to 15-16% for UPS, and 20-34sensors were set off only 8-11% of the time, compared to 15-16% for UPS, and 20-34% for FedEx. Surprisingly, eight of the 838 parcels never showed at their destination. Five of the boxes were carried by UPS, and three by the USPS. The full, 5 page, results of the study are printed in the December, 1998 issue of Consumer Reports, avaliable for $2.95 in most places magazines are sold.

US Post Office release results of '50s voting

The USPS has announced the top fifteen vote getters in the poll to decide which stamps will be issued to commemorate the 1950s. The winners are, in the following catagories:

People & Events: Desegregation of Public Schools; The Korean War; Arts & Entertainment: Rock 'n' Roll "I Love Lucy"; Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat"; Sports: Rocky Marciano, Undefeated; World Series Rivals (N.Y. Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers); Stock Car Racing; "The Shot Heard 'Round the World"; Science & Technology: Victory Over Polio; U.S. Launches Satellites; Lifestyle: Teen Fashions; Tail Fins and Chrome; Drive-In Movies; Movies Go 3-D

Canadian letter from 1677

OTTAWA (UPI) _ A British stamp dealer claims he has a letter that went through the postal system in Canada in 1677, making it the oldest such letter known. The Ottawa Citizen says Colin Harding of Surrey, England, is selling the letter for $46,000 ($65,000 Canadian). Until now, the Canadian postal system was believed to have originated about the year 1685, based on the date of the hitherto earliest known mailed letter. Harding, an expert on postal history at Scotia Philately Ltd. in Surrey, says the rarity of the letter is not its age, but that ``it went through a form of postal system.'' The letter, dated Feb. 13, 1677, reportedly carries markings from the French postal system that say ``8 sols'' (sous), the postage rate then. The 14-page letter was written by the mother superior of the ``Religieuses Hospitalieres de Quebec en Canada'' to the head of her religious order in Eu, Normandy, describing the death of two nuns in Quebec. Harding, who is selling the letter for a family in Normandy, pointed out the Canadian historical value. He said: ``It should go to Canada, it's Canadian. It would be disappointing if it went to Switzerland, or somewhere like that.''

USPS releases vote leaders for Celebrate the Century
The top 15 vote leaders in Celebrate the Century 1950s stamp subject balloting, with total individual votes Feb. 3 - 11:

1.Victory Over Polio 87,455
2.Drive-In Movies 84,286
3.Tail Fins & Chrome (cars of the ’50s) 81,121
4.Rock ‘n’ Roll 76,619
5."I Love Lucy" 75,542
6.Dr. Seuss’ "The Cat In The Hat" 69,401
7.World Series Rivals (N.Y. Yankees/Brooklyn Dodgers) 69,095
8.Desegregation of Public Schools 62,255
9.Teen Fashions 61,011
10.U.S. Launches Satellites 60,199
11."Shot Heard ’Round The World" (N.Y. Giants/Brooklyn Dodgers) 57,904
12.President Dwight D. Eisenhower 56,226
13.Interstate Highway System 54,207
14.Rocky Marciano, Undefeated 52,423
15.Stock Car Racing 50,784

Huge Rush For British Diana Stamps

(UPI & Reuters) British postal officials report a crushing nationwide demand for stamps commemorating the late Diana, princess of Wales. British Post Office Chief Executive John Roberts said the five first- class stamps, which went on sale Monday, are in such high demand that the production of six times the normal issue of a new set ``appears not to be enough.'' The stamps, bordered in purple, make up the only set issued by Britain with Diana's image on them displaying the dates of her life, which ended in August 1997 in a Paris car crash. Each stamp costs 40 cents with photographs by Lord Snowdon, Terence Donovan, Tim Graham and John Stillwell. Roberts said this morning, ``For the first time we have gone ahead and already reprinted more stamps of a special issue.'' The stamps are available in all 19,000 post offices nationwide. "The demand is huge, we had queues here before we opened at 8 o'clock this morning," said Adam Novak, general manager of London's Trafalgar Square Post Office and chairman of the Stamp Advisory Committee. "People are not really buying in singles but rather presentation packs and sheets, so buying in quantity," he said. Novak said two very large orders from abroad had already been placed, one of which was an order for five million stamps from a private buyer in the United States. There's been a particular rush to obtain first day covers at the Great Brington post office, near the Althorp estate where Diana is buried. The covers bear a picture of Althorp's main gates. Postal officials described the demand for covers as ``staggering.'' In London, a spokesman for famed stamp dealer Stanley Gibbons said the set would be the biggest-selling of all time. Spokesman Ian Boulton forecast sales would beat the 415 million Coronation stamps sold in 1953 and the 87 million sold in 1981 to mark the Royal Wedding. Postal officials have promised an initial donation of more than $10 million to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. The stamps will be on sale through 1998 and are available from the British Philatelic Bureau in Edinburgh, Scotland, as well as from stamp agents around the world.

Bugs Bunny Most Popular Stamp of 1997

The USPS has issued its stamp retention numbers for 1997, showing that Bugs Bunny was the most popular issue with collectors. Much of that may have been due to the STAMPERS program focusing on kids. The USPS estimates that 45.3 million Bugs stamps were saved, making it the 8th most popular issue all time. Bugs was followed by the Classic American Aircraft issue (35.6 million stamps saved) and the Dinosaurs. (35.3)
Bugs did not come close to touching Elvis' record of 124.0 million stamps saved set back in 1993. However, the USPS does estimate that overall stamp retention was up from last year's levels.

Commemorative Stamps Saved By Collectors

Bugs Bunny- 45.3 million stamps
Classic American Aircraft- 35.6 million stamps
World of Dinosaurs- 35.3 million stamps
Endangered Species- 28.8 million stamps
Classic American Dolls- 24.4 million stamps
Humphrey Bogart- 18.1 million stamps
Legendary Football Coaches- 17.8 million stamps
Songwriters- 11.6 million stamps
Lunar New Year- 8.4 million stamps
Pacific '97 - Franklin- 6.55 million stamps

Mauritius Ball Envelope Sold

ZURICH, Switzerland (Reuters) - A penny postage stamp issued 150 years ago on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius and stuck to a worn white envelope was sold Thursday for $1.42 million, including a $142,350 commission. Auctioneer David Feldman called the object "one of the world's top five or six philatelic items outside museums." The "Mauritius Ball Envelope" is one of only three invitations to a formal dance in the then British colony known to have survived out of around 200 or 300 issued. The envelope, with its dull orange stamp, was bought for an anonymous investor by a retired Geneva banker. "I consider this item a good opportunity to diversify the holdings of my client," he said, adding that he expected its market value to appreciate. The stamp and envelope have been owned by legendary collectors such as King Carol II of Romania. "Of course it is just a piece of paper," said one dealer. "But it is the story," he added. The stamp was printed and issued in a period of unrest in Mauritius after British Gov. Sir William Gomm enforced a ban on the use of the French language in July 1847. The move led to a small-scale revolt among the island's French-speaking community. Historians say his wife, Lady Gomm, later organized a ball to help ease tensions on the island, which had been seized by the British in 1810 after a century of French rule. The invitation envelope is addressed to "H. Adam Esq. Junior," -- Henry Adam, then 18 and the son of a couple linked to the French community. He later became a leading member of the Mauritius government. After retiring to France, he sold the envelope in 1899 stipulating that his surname be erased from the envelope, though it remains partly legible. Of the two other "Mauritius Ball Envelopes" one is owned by the British Museum Library Collection and the other was purchased at the turn of the century by King George V and is still in the British Royal collection.

German Stamps Recalled!!

BONN (Reuters)- A couple of harmless-looking squiggles has prompted the German government to order millions of commemorative stamps to be pulped because of Nazi connotations. The symbols are runes, regarded as the earliest form of Germanic script. They appear on the edge of sheets of stamps launched earlier this month to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the German poet Heinrich Heine. Unfortunately for the German post office, the runes were also used extensively during the Nazi era and were particularly associated with Hitler's elite SS fighting force. "Around 44 million of these stamps have been printed and delivered to post offices," a post office spokesman told Reuters Wednesday. "We don't know how many have been bought so far but the remainder will be destroyed." The use of symbols associated with German nationalism is particularly embarrassing in Heine's case, because the poet was of Jewish origin and a leading advocate of liberalism and greater understanding between France and Germany. The stamps were launched on November 6 without any great fuss. Only when the German media picked up the story about the runes did alarm bells start ringing in the post ministry, which asked the post office Tuesday to stop selling the stamps. The post office has agreed and customers asking for Heine stamps Wednesday morning were told they would have to wait until new sheets were printed without the offending symbols. Experts estimate the bill for the whole operation could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. "The post ministry's reaction is understandable as there are special sensibilities in this case," said Carl-Heinz Schulz, the president of the German Stamp Trade Federation. The three-pronged runes in question symbolize life and death and do not even appear on the stamps themselves -- only on the corners of the border of each sheet of 10 stamps. But the post office has decided it would be easier to pulp all the remaining sheets and stamps rather than attempt to tear off the offending portion of the margin. The runes are still used by neo-Nazi groups in place of more traditional right-wing extremist symbols such as swastikas, which are banned under German law. It remains a mystery why the graphic artist who designed the stamp, Gerhard Lienemeyer, chose to add the runes. A message on the answering machine at his studio in Offenbach near Frankfurt informed callers that he was on a study tour and not available until later this month. "He's a very nice elderly gentlemen, who certainly would not have meant anything bad by using this symbol," Schulz said.
It will be interesting for German collectors to watch the market prices on these sheets. It is likely they will immediatly skyrocket.

Large Donation to APS

The following is a news release from APS member Ken Martin.

The American Philatelic Society recently received a contribution of $25,300 in stock from James (Jamie) P. Gough of California. At Mr. Gough's request the contribution will go to the Society's John K. Tiffany Endowment Fund. Mr. Gough was one of the original members of the Future of Philately Committee which was instrumental in the establishment of the Endowment Fund.
Unless the donor specifically designates a contribution for a special purpose, contributions to the Tiffany Fund are placed in the Society's endowment fund. Earnings from the Fund are made available for special projects to benefit philately and to provide improved services to the membership. Contributions to the Tiffany Fund were used in 1996 to acquire specialized forensic equipment for the expertization of stamps.
Mr. Gough joined the American Philatelic Society in 1973. He has written on postage dues for The American Philatelist. He was the Junior National Champion in 1972 with his exhibition of Ireland. He was the Champion of Champions in 1992 with his exhibit The Evolution and Use of Adhesives for Postage Due, 1790-1954.
Mr. Gough's gift was an important contribution because it pushed the endowment fund over the $200,000 mark. The endowment fund for the Society currently stands at $221,856.
The American Philatelic Society is very grateful for the generous support of its members over the years. For information about the Tiffany Fund, write the American Philatelic Society at P.O. Box 8000, State College, PA 16803, call 814-237-3803 or send e-mail to Information on membership in the 56,000 member organization is also available from the same address.

Loss of Money At Pacific 97 Spells Trouble

Pacific 97 is $480,000 in debt and seems to have no means of making up that money. It appears that the only way the show will be able to recover from this huge loss is if the U.S. Postal Service bails it out. Pacific 97 still has several assets it has not sold off yet, and can expect to recieve some additional donations from patrons, but at the most that money would only total $150,000. That figure includes the APS forgiving Pacific 97 for the $20,000 it owes the organization. A lot of money is owed from the stamp hobby to outside businesses. This is not a debt that will disappear if it is ignored. It is a major drain on the hobby.

Sales of PACIFIC 97 Souvenir Sheets Low

It is doubtful that we will see the Post Office limit its sales of a stamp to a single event anytime soon. This is because of the failure of the George Washington and Benjamin Franklin souvenir sheets. When the USPS limited sales to just Pacific '97 and through mail orders it made a large mistake. The USPS had printed about 5 million sheets of each stamp. They sold just 507,334 sheets of the Ben Franklin design and only 507,211 sheets of George Washington. With only about 10% of the sheets sold, the USPS is surely disappointed.

USPS issues Bogie Stamp

HOLLYWOOD-Humphrey Bogart, whose name is synonymous with the golden age of American film, took center stage again today when a U.S. postage stamp bearing his likeness was issued here.
Lauren Bacall, legendary actress and wife of Bogart, and their children, Stephen and Leslie, were on hand when the stamp made its premiere in a ceremony at Mann's Chinese Theater -- a Hollywood landmark and the site of some of Hollywood's most glamorous and star-studded movie premieres.
Bacall and her children joined Tirso del Junco, M.D., chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors; Postmaster General Marvin Runyon; Jean Picker Firstenberg, director and CEO, American Film Institute (AFI); and Sandy Reisenbach, executive vice president, corporate marketing and strategic planning, Warner Bros., in dedicating the stamp.
Anjelica Huston, whose father John directed Bogart in "The Maltese Falcon" and "Across The Pacific," was the master of ceremonies. Jim Moret, host of CNN's "Showbiz Today," conducted pre-event interviews with arriving participants and guests.
"Today, we mark another chapter in the Bogart legacy. With an image that is small and yet as powerful as the ones he left in celluloid, we will begin today to bring his artistry, his power, his unique star quality, to the messages that travel the world," said del Junco.
Born on Christmas Day in 1899, Humphrey Deforest Bogart began his career as an assistant stage manager in the theater, becoming an actor by chance -- taking over for an actor who missed a performance.
After that, he appeared in seven hit Broadway shows in a row culminating with his 1937 enormous success as Duke Mantee in Robert Sherwood's The Petrified Forest, with Leslie Howard later reprising his role in the film version.
With a career that included more than 75 films, he appeared in supporting roles in many Warner Bros. pictures, finally moving on by starring in such classics as High Sierra, Sahara, The Maltese Falcon, and Across The Pacific, both of which were directed by John Huston.
Then came Casablanca, To Have And Have Not, The Big Sleep, Key Largo and many more. Bogart was nominated for an Academy Award for Treasure Of The Sierra Madre and The Caine Mutiny, and finally won the Oscar for The African Queen.
"Bogie died more than 40 years ago only to re-emerge as possibly the biggest star the motion picture industry has ever seen. This event is a tribute to him, not only as an extraordinary actor, but as an extraordinary man. We will not see his like again," said Bacall.
Firstenberg said, "For thirty years the AFI has advanced and preserved the art of film, television and all forms of the moving image. Humphrey Bogart played a starring role in the rich heritage of American film history and it gives us great pride to be part of the ceremony that will forever immortalize this movie icon on a U.S. postage stamp."
Bogart joins Marilyn Monroe and James Dean as the third star in the Postal Service's "Legends of Hollywood" series, which showcases individuals who had a major impact on the development of American films.
Michael Deas, who illustrated the stamp, based the image on a movie poster produced for The Big Sleep (1946). Deas, who has won awards for his stamp artwork, also designed the Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Tennessee Williams stamps.
Of the 40,000 or more suggestions for stamp subjects received by the Postal Service each year, only about 25-30 are selected, making an appearance on a U.S. postage stamp a unique privilege and honor. HOW TO ORDER THE FIRST DAY OF ISSUE POSTMARK
Customers have 30 days to obtain the first day of issue postmark by mail. They may purchase the new stamps at their local post office, affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes (to themselves or others), and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:

Humphrey Bogart Stamp
7001 S. Central Ave. Rm. 051
Los Angeles, Calif. 90052-9991

After applying the first day of issue postmark, the Postal Service returns the envelope through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark. All orders must be postmarked by Aug. 30, 1997.

I didn't write the article above. It's actually the Post Office's press release regarding the Bogart stamp. I thought it was well done, so I put it up here.

Mekeel's Becomes Magazine

Over the past year and a half, the saga of Mekeel's stamp newspaper has been quite interesting to observe. First, it merged the dying Stamps newspaper. The transition period was not hastle free, but together, the two papers emerged as one, Mekeel's and Stamps.
However, John Dunn, Publisher of the newspaper, was not yet satisfied. So when the July 4th issue of the paper reached its subscribers, they were in for another surprise. The paper was now being printed in standard magazine format, and was now being called Mekeel's and Stamps Magazine. It now has the same size and binding of many magazines such as Time and Newsweek. This is a nice touch, and it fills a void in the hobby. A subscription to the magazine is $27. The address is:

Box 5050
White Plains, NY 10602

I've long supported what John Dunn has done for the hobby since he took over a faltering Mekeel's. Soon after the first issue of his magazine came out, I had the privilege of meeting him for the first time. I didn't talk to him much, but I did find out that the reaction to the new format of Mekeel's was very positive indeed.

Bugs Bunny Popular

The Bugs Bunny stamps appears to be popular with collectors and non-collectors alike. In fact, the Post Office has now ordered 100 million more stamps to be printed so they can stay up with demand. This will bring the total printing to 378 million. Compare that to a normal run for a commemorative stamp of about 40 to 60 million.
The Post Office says that the same plates used to create the first stamps will be used again, and no variety will be created.

Free Fake Label Literature

In recent years, there have been several fake stamps issued by non-countries and sold to collectors. Les Winick and Jim Czyl have put together a booklet to help you identify them. It is avaliable for only 32 cent self-addressed stamped envelope. From what I read, this is a great piece of work, you should be surprised. The address is:

Collector's Club of Chicago
1029 N.Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60610

Pacific 97

From May 29th to June 8th the biggest U.S. stamp show in years will grace the Moscone Center of San Francisco. You could spend every hour of every day at the show and still not see everything. There will be 3,589 frames of exhibits not including the 20 Court of Honor exhibits which show some of the world's rarest stamps. You can choose from more than 200 dealers and 130 postal administrations. You will have a chance to buy the Washington and Franklin souviener sheets at the show. Best of all, admission is free! Any questions you can e-mail the Pacific 97 organizers here at

Post Office Cancels Wreath Stamps

The United States Postal Service has announced that its 32 cent Christmas Wreath stamps will not be released this year. These stamps were designed to be sold through ATMs and the Post Office said that it already had enough stamps left over from the last two years to fill the ATMs. The stamps will instead be released in 1998. Azeezaly S. Jaffer, the Post Office’s managerof stamp services, said that the Post Office may try to improve the quality of the stamps given the extra year. One possibiliy could be die cutting the stamps in the shape of wreaths.

Free FDC and Stampmounts

In an attempt to promote its stamp mount business and its Artcraft FDC service, the Washington Press is giving away a sample packet of stampmounts at its site. Along with a bunch of different sized stamp mounts, Washington Press sent me a free cacheted first day cover when I sent away for the mounts. Those interested in the offer can find it at

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Old Stamp News


Mekeel's Weekly and Stamps
Linn's Stamp News
The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1996