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Nature of America Stamp Series (USPS)

Nature of America, a highly successful stamp series of the United States Post Office, ran from 1999-2010 and includes 12 panes of 10 stamps each.  The series covers the wide range of natural environments found in the United States, starting with the Sonoran Desert pane (Scott #3293) and concluding with the Hawaiian Rain Forest pane (Scott #4474).


Makeshift Vending Machine Booklets

This is a story about the United States Postal Service being the good guys while doing a good job of responding to the needs of its customers.

The Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers includes a section on Booklets: Panes & Covers and in that listing you will find a listing for MAKESHIFT VENDING MACHINE BOOKLETS.  While the editors of the Scott Catalog initially refused to include these “jury rigged” booklets, the booklets are now included with major Scott Catalog Numbers.


Exonumia: The Art of Casino Gaming Chip Collecting

Casino Gaming ChipsCollectors are discovering a relatively new and fast-growing hobby with the high-handed name of Exonumia. We call it simply casino chip collecting and some casino chips can represent substantial value.

As with most collectibles, the first question that seems to come up is that of value. What are my chips worth? The first thing to do is to distinguish between casino gaming chips and poker chips that are mass-produced and widely sold for private play. Only the former has value as a collectible.

Casino chips are most often made of clay composite, tend to be marked with the name of the casino, the city, state, and denomination. Casino gaming chips are treated like money at casinos and are often destroyed when removed from circulation. For these reasons, vintage chips won or bought at a casino are rare and highly collectible, particularly ones of higher denominations.

There are five basic factors to be considered when determining the value of a casino gaming chip:


Finding an Album for Your Champagne Cap Collection

Ah! The memories of a great bottle of champagne, and as a memento of the pleasantry, every bottle opened and savored leaves a collectable memento: the metal capsule that covers the cork. Champagne Caps usually feature bright colors, strong design, and the maker’s brand identity. They are not easily thrown away, accumulating in a drawer along with corkscrews, foil cutters, corks, or other wine paraphernalia.

Thus is born a collection out of the enjoyment of champagne that leads to the imbiber to becoming a ‘placomusophile’, a French term for “collector of champagne caps.”


Early Rural Free Delivery Mail Service Covers


R.F.D. – Rural Free Delivery was, in its day, one of the great social equalizers bringing to rural America something that had been enjoyed by urban America for years, delivery of the mail. John Wanamaker, of the Philadelphia Department Store fame, who served as Postmaster General from 1889 to 1893 had the very logical idea that it made more sense for one person to deliver mail than for 50 people to ride into town to collect their mail. He cited business logic and social philosophy as reasons to give rural dwellers free delivery

Of equal significance was the political pressure of the National Grange, National Farmers’ Congress, and State Farmers’ Alliance advocating for the farmers and rural America. The actual implementation of Rural Free Delivery came about under the administration of William L. Wilson, Postmaster from 1895 to 1897. On October 1, 1896, rural free delivery (RFD) service began in Charles Town, Halltown, and Uvilla in West Virginia, Postmaster General Wilson’s home state.

Since the RFD carriers simply delivered mail and picked it up to take to the post office in town, these early letters do not carry postal markings to identify them as RFD mail.

However, in August 1900 carriers began marking the mail picked up on their routes with pencil cancels. Within a few years carriers were outfitted with rubber stamps bearing R.F.D. the post office town name and the date plus a bar cancel and a number (known as a Doane Cancel). Use of these cancelling devices was discontinued by June of 1903.

Postal bureaucracy was simpler in those days, but just as important, as the charge to be responsible for the mail was to be taken seriously. Here is a page from the Form 1977 of June, 1913 entitled INSTRUCTIONS TO APPLICANTS FOR THE RURAL CARRIER EXAMINATION. Included is a listing of the possible reasons for not being considered to be admitted to the exam, including a person not a citizen or not owing allegiance to the United States, handicapped persons including insanity, epilepsy, and TB, or one addicted to the habitual use of intoxicating beverages to excess.

Those persons chosen to take the examination and passing signed a CERTIFICATE OF THE OATH OF MAIL CONTRACTOR AND CARRIERS required by Act of Congress of March 5, 1874

Tendering ones resignation from the post of rural letter carrier was done with the Post Office Department form 2520-P which was mailed as official Business bearing penalty mail postage exemption.

Finally, here is a photocopy of a letter from the Postmaster General in 1897 to a Wm.B. Gaitree designating Mr. Gaitree a special agent for the experiment of rural free delivery. Payment is to be $5.00 per day plus up to $4.00 per day for expenses. Employment will cease with the expiration of the special appropriation  intended to fund the experiments in rural free delivery.

History is littered with postal and other enterprises that foundered on the rocks of an administration change caused by a different party taking office, RFD survived and expanded beyond humble beginning in West Virginia until in 2012, nearly 41 million homes and businesses were served by the Postal Service’s rural letter carriers.