history

Postage Stamps

Stamp 1

I read a piece in the New York Times the other day: An Inverted Jenny Surfaces. The Flawed Stamp Had Not Been Seen Since 1918 and it got me thinking about my own stamp collection (and yes, I was hoping I might have another copy of the inverted Jenny).

My late father inherited his father’s and his uncle’s stamp collection and I inherited my father’s collection and his younger brother’s. The stamps in these various collections are spectacular: both U.S. and lots of other countries. My father liked French, Belgian, and English colonies in Africa and I have many of those (see above and below), his father liked U.S. commemoratives and air mail stamps. The collections are far ranging and fascinating as many countries represented don’t exist anymore. So, collections like this one are a wormhole into a time that’s long gone, except for Wikipedia and the like.

I merged all the collections into fewer albums and kept it up until I went away to college in 1971. The collection was in my mother’s house until she died in 2016, then I had to bring it home.

There were two large boxes of albums, tools, smaller boxes of loose stamps, some of them needing to be soaked off of envelopes. You see, even though I wasn’t actively collecting since 1971, I was still corresponding with people all over the world and when I got envelopes back with interesting postage I tossed it in a box.

Last year I went down to New York and the Javits Center for a big philatelic (stamp) show. It was mind boggling and fun although one thing I learned for sure: stamp collecting is out of vogue and my collection is probably not worth much to anyone except me.

What to do with all of these great stamps?

Understand that not only are these stamps pieces of history, many of them are also marvels of printmaking and they’re beautiful as art objects.

Besides my now old and musty stamp collection (I have to take an antihistamine when I open one of the boxes) I also collect matchbooks and boxes, and many other pieces of interesting ephemera.

A while back I posted a video on Collectors and collections and another on Jane McDevitt’s Eastern European matchbox labels which sort of zero in on what I’ve decided to do with my stamps.

I was all set to set up my camera on a tripod and photograph stamps but then I realized that my flatbed scanner would do a better job and it would be a lot easier.

So, I experimented and came up with a process that I think works. Feel free to comment with ways to make this better.

1. Clean stamp (blow it off to get dust and hair off).

2. Clean scanner glass (scanner is an inexpensive Canon Lide 220).

3. Place stamps on scanner with enough space between them (white space) to rotate them to straiten once scanned.

4. I use MacOS and I don’t like Canon’s software so I use Apple’s Image Capture to run my scanner. Settings are Color, Millions of colors, 1000dpi, JPEG.

5. Run overview scan, then scan each stamp with enough border so as to straighten it later.

6. Drag all the scans into Apple Photos.

7. Crop and straighten, adjust white balance, enhance color if needed.

8. Export at full size JPEG.

9. Drag each stamp into Preview, choose “Show Markup Toolbar” then use the “Instant Alpha” tool (the magic wand on the left) to drag over the stamp’s background to make it transparent. One has to be careful with lighter colored stamps to not “leak” into the body of the stamp. This takes practice. Practice on copies. Alternatively use Photoshop or Pixelmator do do the same with dedicated tools.

10. Save the stamp as a JPEG and you’re done.

I reached into a box and pulled out a few hundred stamps of various kinds that weren’t mounted. These are just a random sample of French and Belgian colonies from the 1900’s. I have thousands of these from Africa, the Pacific islands, and other places that were colonized at the time. Not to mention all sorts of other stamps. This is my start…

Stamp 30

Stamp 21

Stamp 60

Stamp 50

Stamp 5

Stamp 2

Stamp 6

Stamp 3

Stamp 4

America’s Shameful History of Housing Discrimination

America’s Shameful History of Housing Discrimination

This is a brilliant comic by Jamie Hibdon and Sarah Mirk.

For what it’s worth, the very first place I lived with my parents was a Levitown development in Hicksville, New York. I have pictures of the little white cape, white picket fence and all the houses looking pretty much the same. My father was a returning GI who no doubt qualified for a loan to buy there. Given my parents’ politics I doubt the reason they bought there was racially motivated but my father was a real estate broker so no doubt he was well aware of the policies noted in this piece. We lived there for four years, then moved to an apartment closer to where my father was working.

The Fresh Air interview with Richard Rothstein noted in the comic is here:

A ‘Forgotten History’ of How The U.S. Government Segregated America

Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?

"Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?" from Dial M Films on Vimeo.

The story of the charming, honest ad campaign DDB created for VW… universally acknowledged to be the greatest and most influential of all time.

This is brilliant, both the ad campaign and the documentary. If you’re not old enough to remember these, just enjoy the idea that this was a revolution in advertising.

Note: I had a lot of VWs, from bugs and buses. I bought them cheap, worked on them, and used extras for parts or working models. How to Fix your Volkswagen for the Compete Idiot by John Muir was my bible.

[via Kottke.org]

Bill Atkinson on the birth of the Macintosh computer

Leo LaPorte interviews Bill Atkinson on the 40th anniversary of Apple, Inc. on the birth of the Macintosh computer.

I was a very early Mac user, met Bill Atkinson numerous times in the HyperCard days when I demoed it for Apple, and met various members of the early Mac team after Steve Jobs gave me my first Macintosh in late 1984.

This is great stuff and Atkinson (and Andy Hertzfeld) were pioneers in the history of personal computing. I met Andy when he gave me an early (beta) copy of Switcher at Macworld.

[via The Loop]