Great Stamp Collections of the Past

[This is taken from Edward J. Nankivell's Stamp Collecting As a Pastime, originally published in 1902.]



Great collections of postage stamps, like great collections of pictures, in these days acquire an international rank and reputation. The great stamp collections of to-day are in a few hands, and have been built up by lavish wealth and lavish industry. Wealth alone will not suffice to gather together a really great philatelic collection. There must be patient research, and there can be no research apart from that full knowledge which comes only to the industrious and painstaking Philatelist. The gem that is wanted to complete the finest page in the rich man's collection has not unfrequently to be personally sought for in the byways, the alleys, and lanes of stamp collecting; and despite the keenest search of the wealthy, it sometimes, after all, falls by grim mischance into the laboriously gathered collection of the man of very limited means.

The Prince of Wales is known to be an enthusiastic and keen stamp collector. He is the acting President of the Philatelic Society of London. During his recent tour round the world he displayed his great interest in the postal issues of the colonies which he visited, and brought home much valuable philatelic information and a number of proofs of sheets of old colonial stamps which will help to clear up many doubtful points. H.R.H. collects only the stamps of Great Britain and her colonies, and he possesses many specimens that are absolutely unique.

The collection which was made by the late Mr. T. K. Tapling, M.P., is now in the keeping of the British Museum, having been bequeathed to the nation by its possessor, who was one of the most cultured and shrewdest collectors of his day. His collection was his life-work—from boyhood till his early death in 1891. It was largely made up of the amalgamation of great collections. In his day Tapling had the first pick in every direction, and, as a result, his collection is today one of the grandest and richest and most scientific general collections extant. Great rarities may be said to be conspicuous by their prominence and by their matchless condition.

But the greatest collection of all is that of M. Philipp la Renotiérè, of Paris, known to most collectors as Herr von Ferrary. In the course of the last thirty years he has purchased many well-known old collections, amongst which may be mentioned that of Judge Philbrick for £7,000, Sir Daniel Cooper's for £3,000, W. B. Thornhill's Australians, etc. M. la Renotiérè has been a large buyer in the leading capitals of Europe for a great many years. His expenditure with our own publishers is said to average from £3,000 to £4,000 a year. He employs two secretaries who are paid large salaries, one to look after the postage stamps and the other the post cards, envelopes, and wrappers.

Mr. F. Breitfuss, of St. Petersburg, who has been collecting since 1860, is credited with the third finest collection in the world. He is an omnivorous, but scientific general collector.

Mr. H. J. Duveen, the well-known art connoisseur of London and New York, although he did not take to stamp collecting till 1892, has already got together the finest collection, outside the British Museum, in this country. It is celebrated not only for the beauty of its specimens, but also for its completeness, neatness, and scientific arrangement. The value of the collection is probably close on £80,000. It is enclosed in seventy handsome Oriel albums.

Mr. W. B. Avery, head of the well-known firm of scale-makers of Birmingham, has one of the finest general collections. It is justly celebrated for the large number of great rarities that it contains, amongst which are the two rare "Post Office" Mauritius in superb unused condition. The collection cannot be worth at present far short of £50,000.

Mr. M. P. Castle, the Vice-President of the Philatelic Society of London, who succeeded the late Mr. Tapling in office, is one of the keenest of keen collectors. His general collection became so large that he parted with it in 1877, and then specialised in Australians. This latter collection he sold, in 1894, to our publishers for £10,000, at that time the largest sum ever paid for a single collection. He subsequently made a grand specialised collection of Europeans. This, arranged in sixty-seven volumes, he sold, in 1900, for nearly £30,000, and he has now returned to his love for Australians.

The Earl of Crawford and Balcarres is a collector of only recent date, but he has already formed a really magnificent collection based on broad historical lines. He confines himself mostly to the stamps of the British Empire, the United States, and the Italian States. His lordship is a member of the Council of the Philatelic Society of London, and, when in England, a regular attendant at its meetings.

The Earl of Kintore is also the possessor of a very fine collection of English Colonials, etc.; among his greater rarities being the "Post Office" Mauritius, the complete set of Hawaiian Islands (first issue), the 2 cents, rose, British Guiana, and many other gems. He also is a member of the London Philatelic Society.

In France the place of honour, after M. la Renotiérè, is deservedly taken by M. Paul Mirabaud, the well-known banker of Paris, whose magnificent collection of Switzerland was shown in the last Paris Exhibition. It forms, however, only a small portion of his fine collection.

In Italy probably the most famous collection is that of Prince Doria Pamphilj, which is exceptionally rich in the interesting issues of the Italian States.

In the United States of America there are many notable collections, several of them being worth from £30,000 to £50,000, amongst which may be mentioned the Crockers', of San Francisco, Mr. F. W. Ayer's, of Bangor, Maine, and Mr. Paul's, of Philadelphia.

In Germany the greatest collection is doubtless that of Mr. Martin Schrœder, the well known merchant of Leipzig.





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