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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 9, March 2, 2008, Article 5

BOOK REVIEW: 100 GREATEST AMERICAN STAMPS BY DONALD SUNDMAN AND JANET KLUG

Although not numismatic, I thought I'd make a few notes on
'100 Greatest American Stamps' by Donald Sundman and Janet
Klug.  Another in the great Whitman series of '100 Greatest'
books, this one, published in 2007, covers our sister hobby
of philately.  Adhering to the same format as the other books
in the series, the large coffee-table size hardbound is filled
with great glossy photos of top American stamps.  It may be a
surprise that the famous "Inverted Jenny" (the 24-cent 1918
misprint with the upside-down biplane) was NOT number one.
It came in at number three.  But as a numismatist more
interested in historical importance than flashy accidents,
I was heartened to see that the number one and two stamps
were the nation's first postage stamps, the 1847 5 cent
(Benjamin Franklin) and 10 cent (George Washington) stamps.

I enjoyed reading the text and learned more than a few useful
tidbits about U.S. postal history.  Along the way I discovered
a number of photos of U.S. coins and paper money, perhaps not
so surprising given the publisher's general focus on numismatics.
I was disappointed in the introductory text, though.   Perhaps
I was spoiled by the thorough scholarship of the introduction
to '100 Greatest American Currency Notes', but the few pages
here on the history of stamps in the U.S. are paltry, and the
"America's Story on Stamps" section seems like wasted fluff.

One tidbit worth mentioning is the discovery of another invert
error, the 1986 $1 Rush Lamp error (#66, p89).  There was a
great deal of secrecy surrounding their discovery.  As it
turned out partial sheet of the inverted stamps was purchased
by an on-duty employee of the Central Intelligence Agency near
his office in McLean, VA.  A few days passed before the error
was noticed, but a group of CIA employees sold the stamps to
a dealer and split the proceeds.  They had also kept one
error stamp each without telling the dealer.  Ultimately
some of the employees resigned over the incident.  The book
lists the stamps' value today at $22,500 each.

There are many other stories worth reading, but in deference
to the numismatic interests of our readers I'll stop there.
But for numismatists who'd like to have one book in their
library on the topic of U.S. stamps, this is not a bad one
to have.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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