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A Childhood Dream

by George Dean

Member 5954
September 17th, 2016
  1. I was born 1945 in San Francisco.  Yes, it was convenient that there was an active "Japan Town" near Geary and Fillmore streets that would bring the culture alive during numerous visits.  There were restaurants, antique shops, a book store, a theater, and so on.   Further out Fillmore, up Divisadero hill and down a steep hill to Union Street you would find the Rio Theater (more later). 


  1. In about 1951 or so an uncle from Chicago visited our home.  He just happened to be an avid stamp collector.  I remember him showing me part of his collection during the visit and presenting me with a used U.S. Scott #103 (Trans-Mississippi Fremont on the Rocky Mountains). It was a beauty (even though it had a thin) and perfect as a presentation at my 1st Grade "Show and Tell."  "Here is a rare stamp that my uncle gave me....."  


  1. That first stamp introduced me to collecting world wide stamps in about 1952.  I remember the thrill of the hunt for large packets of stamps that you could buy ten cents for 100, or even 25 cents for 250.  The first album was purchased and I learned how to mount stamps with a hinge (but the first try was really difficult not knowing which end was up or down). The Fifties in my mind was the "Golden Era of Stamp Collecting" with so many choices of stamps and albums. I continued with worldwide collecting until about 1960.


  1. By the time I began high school I had discovered that it would make more sense to specialize in a single country.  I had seen all of the wonderful country albums available, all with colorful dust jackets from Minkus and Scott.  The local shop on Monterey Blvd. opened by Mr. Seebohm provided a place we could buy individual stamps at reasonable prices.  But what would be a country that best suited me?


  1. My Father, being a WWII veteran, introduced myself and my brother to Japanese culture as he had several friends who had been sent off to camp after the start of the war.   He admired Japanese culture especially the martial arts of Jiujitsu, Judo, and Karate.  He also told us stories about the Samurai during the Edo Period and introduced us to historical stories.  By then, my brother and I really enjoyed our many adventures during the evening when my Dad took us to the the Japanese Samurai double bill at the Rio Theater on Union Street.  Up one hill, down another, quite a long drive.


  1. It was then that we initially found Japanese stamp albums printed by the Ginza Stamp Club and both brother and I began collecting Japanese Stamps.  From there, we both went on to Minkus Specialty Albums for Japan.  It was always nice to have a brother you could discuss stamps with.  Our conversation often went: "When do you think you will be able to buy the 1949 Purple Geese sheet of five" or "Take a look, I just bought a Daisetsuzan 1940 Park sheet." We learned Japanese Philately by sharing our two collections!


  1. After high school I joined the Navy Reserves and was sent to Taiwan for two years of service.  What a disappointment, as it wasn't Japan as I had requested!  But wait a minute, I sought out the places shown on the 1941 Park Sheets.  What about Mount Daiton, and how about Taroko Gorge?  I visited all of the places on the Park Sheets and more.  I learned Mandarin and Chinese Characters.   When I returned I refined my Japanese and Chinese language skills at San Francisco State.


  1.  1970, I also began collecting Chinese and Japanese Antiques.   I bought and sold porcelain, scrolls, and other items and kept the better items for myself.   I particularly enjoyed the art work in the landscape scrolls with mountains.   That was it, I now realize that enjoyment of those landscape scrolls had its origin in Japanese Park Stamps.  The photographers of the early Park Series I, were not only photographers, but they were landscape artists.   Look at the 1938 Nikko Park Scott #283 20 sen blue.  It is a perfect landscape with foreground, a lake further back, trees further back, with Mount Hiuchi looming in the background.  This is exactly how Japanese classic artists would depict a beautiful landscape scroll.


  1.  Now that I am retired I spend more time on my collections (Japanese Stamps, Landscape Scrolls, Other antiques.  What wonderful pieces of art are the Japanese Park Stamps.  Look at the beauty of landscapes printed on the Japanese Park Stamps.   Fuji, Nikko, Daisen, Aso, Daisetsuzan, Kirishima, Daiton-Niitaka Arisan, Tsugitaka-Taroko, Yoshino-Kumano, Akan, Towada, Chubu Sangaku, Bandai-Asahi, Shikotsu-Toya, Ise-Shima, Unzen, Jo-shin-etsu, Chichibu-Tama, Rikuchu Coast, Saikai.  All are masterpieces of photographic art.  A childhood dream - do you have  them all?

How I got involved with philately, and how it came to be focused on Japan and the ISJP.

by Ken Kamholz

Vice President & Publisher JP
August 25th, 2016

 Seeing the blog posting from Lois M. Evans-de Violini made me think a bit about how I got involved with philately, and how it came to be focused on Japan and the ISJP.  So here is my I remember things in some cases after more than 60 years.

 When I was just six years old, an uncle brought me an old, nearly empty stamp album, and introduced me to collecting.  I remember no details about those early discussions, but I do recall doing things that would be expected from a little kid whose knowledge was limited.  For example, there was a US postage due stamp in the album, but it was loosely attached to the page (by what I later learned to be a stamp hinge).  I got out my cellophane “Scotch” tape and securely taped it down so it wouldn’t move.

 I also recall the very first non-US stamp I added through my own efforts.  It was a very common stamp from Mexico, Scott 858 (or one of its later look-alike variants).  I don’t think I still have that stamp, but my recollection of it eventually led me to build a collection of Mexican stamps.

 As a kid, and up to my mid-teenage years, I had everyone in my family saving stamps from their mail for me.  And a few friends and I also did what kids do: buy inexpensive stamps from dealers, directly and on approval, and engage in lots of swapping.  I got an album more suitable than the old one given to me by my uncle, and it quickly became unsuitable too since it didn’t have space for new stamps.

 My later teenage years saw my interest in stamps take a back seat to academic interests, as I completed high school and went on to college and graduate school.  Philately remained my most important secondary interest during that time, and I frequently used spare cash to enhance my (rather pedestrian) collection.

 The stamp albums available never quite fitting the accumulation of stamps I had, I set about (in my early 20s) making my own albums simply by typing the country name on ordinary unlined three-holed loose-leaf paper.  That enabled me to expand where necessary, and ensured that I would not have to be cramped for space.  Of course, I knew nothing about using materials with archival qualities, but then again the stamps were generally not very valuable.  I still have these homemade three-ring binders filled with stamps, about 25 of them.

 Once I got out of school, got married, and started my career, I had more money to put into philately.  It was still my main recreational interest, so I could devote enough time to it to keep it current even though the rest of my time was filled with family, work and other critical pursuits.  But, during that time, I came to recognize that some focus in my hobby would be a good idea.  I would still be happy to collect stamps from anywhere, but maybe I would spend money only in selected areas.  Although in retrospect it wasn’t an especially good decision, I started new-issue subscriptions for most of the Western European countries and Japan.  When that got too expensive, I had to narrow my focus, and I decided to concentrate on just one country.  I selected France because their stamp-issuing policy did not tend toward proliferation, because their stamps were generally quite well executed, because dealers tended to have good stocks of the stamps, and because I had studied French in graduate school and could, therefore, read French philatelic literature.  I stopped all new-issue subscriptions, and focused on filling my new Scott Specialty album for France.

 Over the ensuing years, I built two separate French collections.  I tried to obtain as many of the stamps as possible (mint where affordable).  I was not at all interested in postal history or postal stationery, so the collection was exclusively adhesives.  A few French booklets came my way, and I started a second collection of the wide variety of French booklets.  Eventually, the French booklet collection became my main focus, and, when I finally sold it, it contained over 1,200 items.

 At some point, adding more stamps to the collection of French adhesives was too costly, and I decided to try a new country, Japan, and later, due to the same issue, I added Mexico.  In both cases, as I had done with France, I built mint collections to the extent that my finances allowed, using Scott Specialty albums.  Along the way, I joined the relevant specialist societies, FCPS, ISJP and MEPSI.  I came to regard my collection of French booklets as the gemstone, and Japan, Mexico and France, in that order, as my subsidiary interests.

 I enjoyed the publications provided by each of the societies, and at some point in the early 1980s responded to a request for a volunteer to fill an Assistant Secretary role in ISJP.  That position eventually led to being centrally involved with the management of ISJP, where I am today its Vice-President and Publisher of its journal, Japanese Philately, having previously been Secretary and Treasurer.

 I had hoped that someone in my family would share my interest in stamps, but that never happened.  My children each developed completely different interests, and so, I decided about 10 years ago that I would eventually have to divest of my collections rather than pass them on to family members.  The first portion to be sold was the French booklet collection.  I truly enjoyed going through it one more time as I prepared it for sale.  Later, I sold the Mexico collection as well as a number of small side-collections.  I still retain the collections of Japan and France, but I plan to offer them for sale shortly, along with the residue of my early general collections, largely still housed in those three-ring binders.  I have kept the French collection until now because it is not very well organized and needs a bit of attention prior to sale.  I have kept the Japanese collection because I often need illustrations of older stamps for the journal, Japanese Philately.  Recently I finished scanning all of my Japanese stamps, and now I can feel free to offer the collection for sale.

 So, now in my 70s, I no longer collect, and I am actively selling what is left.  But this is still my hobby, and I get great enjoyment from my roles in ISJP.  Working closely with the Editor of Japanese Philately, Ron Casey, I get the journal into printable format, and then arrange for printing and mailing to ISJP’s membership.  It has been a lifetime of great fun, but I still regret that my kids (and their kids) have never developed an interest in this pursuit.

Collecting Japanese stamps

by Lois M. Evans-de Violini

August 15th, 2016

Why do you collect Japanese stamps?

Was it love of postal history?  The beauty of the stamp?  Curiosity about how the stamps were  produced?  A need to acquire, collect, or have something unique to you?  Are you a closet collector, or do you want to show off your stuff to other collectors?  What is your passion?

 Some form of the questions above is what I am asked most often.  The unasked part of that question is why Japan instead of the stamps of the US, Canada, Great Britain or another English speaking country.

 The question is difficult to answer because there were many reasons.  My father was a stamp collector. He collected US, Canada, and Great Britain.  I wanted something different and unique.  I wanted beauty, history, a challenge to my mind, and a collection that would be uniquely mine.

 Then I purchased a dragon stamp.  It took a great deal of effort and many months to discover whether this stamp was a forgery or genuine.  It was declared genuine by a US expertising  service.  I had a genuine certificate.  But I still questioned the status of the stamp, I didn’t like the way it looked.  It was long before the internet, so I don’t remember how, but I found the ISJP and sent the stamp to their expert at the time.  It was declared a “common forgery.”    It was a common forgery and thus started my desire to learn how to know what was genuine or forged for myself.

 The early issues are challenging.  The early postal history is entwined with the postal history of the US, Great Britain, France and other countries.  Japanese stamps throughout all the years are some of the most intricate and beautiful  in the world.  These stamps have history and uniqueness.  Japan has some of the most interesting aspects of postal history, and production.  The designs tell a story of a nation. 

 What other country in the world produced their first issues of stamps by hand etching each position separately on copper plates of 40 stamps.  I have never counted the number of plates that were produced this way, but I know there were over 100 plates for the stamps.  Also, there were postal stationery plates of a different size produced this way as well. That makes over 4000 different designs intricately hand etched from 1871 to1876.  In my opinion, the work in those early issues in incredible and beautiful.  Take a look at the graphic below of the stamp in Plate 2, position 27 of the 48 mon stamp issued in 1871.   This stamp is called the “Mikazuki Ryu” or crescent moon dragon.  1. Is the big curved slip that gives the stamp its name.  2. Is a much small slip which is hard to see.  3. Is a black plate crack.

Each individual stamp in these phates can be identified like this in some way.

 Later issues have a different kind of beauty, but beauty is always there.

 So my readers, I ask, " Why do you collect Japanese stamps?  What are your favorite stamps?"

For posting:

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Lois M. Evans-de Violini, ISJP Director and Mini Service Expert