Stamps Collecting: If I were rich, how would I enjoy stamp collecting?

By Breck Pegram/Ky. Stamp Club, Published:

It is very interesting to see how wealthy stamp collectors of the past acquired their collections. Many would agree that having the financial means to acquire outstanding collections made it much easier and probably a lot more fun, too.


John F. Seybold was born in this country in 1858 to a German family that had come from Wurttemberg. He began his stamp collecting career at 14 and even as a lowly clerk in a mercantile establishment, he took a portion of his meager earnings to purchase stamps.

Later, as he was successful in business and had expanded financial resources to invest, he was drawn to the beautiful stamps on letters coming from overseas. At this time he moved with his increasingly adequate means to build an outstanding cover (stamped or stampless envelope) collection.

One of the areas that interested him most was Confederate Provisional Covers. Interestingly, one of the covers in this collection has a family connection for me. My great, great grandfather, James Harper, was the Postmaster at Lenoir, N.C. at the outbreak of the War Between the States. He and his son, G.W.F. Harper, carved a block of holly wood with a design for the Lenoir Provisional stamp.

These were stamps that were used in post offices of the Confederacy beginning in 1861 just before the regular stamp issues were put on sale. Only 500 of these were printed, so they are highly sought by Confederate collectors and others today. Incidentally, I do not have one of these.

When Seybold’s collection was sold in March and April 1910 following his death, J. C. Morgenthau Co. handled the sales, which drew the attention of many wealthy collectors and their agents because of the sheer size of the collection. The sale itself has become an important part of philatelic history.

Here you can see that you have two things running on parallel tracks: the hobby of stamp collecting and the history of stamp collecting. This at least partially explains why so many stamp collectors have very nice philatelic libraries. They enjoy reading about the history of the hobby and also becoming more educated about it.


Henry C. Gibson Sr. purchased items from Seybold’s collection at Morgenthau’s auctions and began his serious collection at that point. Born in 1885 into a wealthy Philadelphia family, Gibson worked for several Philadelphia financial institutions handling affairs for wealthy clients.

Like the other prominent philatelists of his time, Gibson used his considerable financial resources to build a collection of his liking and the great thing is that he didn’t have to worry about the large sums of money he had to spend to do it.

While I enjoy reading about the John Seybolds and the Henry Gibsons, I dare say there are many stamp collectors who spend much smaller amounts on the hobby today and probably enjoy it more.


One way they do this is to narrow your interests.

If you want to collect stamps worldwide, for instance, that becomes an almost impossible undertaking because of the large number of stamps issued to date. You must then narrow your scope by determining what part of the world you are most interested in and what are the countries in that area that produce some really excellent quality stamps.

Once you’ve decided that, you can help yourself further by narrowing the dates you collect the stamps of these countries. For instance, let’s say you like the stamps of Switzerland and perhaps Italy and Spain and even Portugal. Across the years the number of stamps issued has expanded greatly or some political change has occurred that you’d just as soon not have as part of your collection, you need to adjust your collecting activities accordingly.

You might want to collect Italy, for instance but you’d just as soon leave out the stamps issued under Mussolini or if you collect Spain, you don’t like the Franco era, just leave it out and collect the stamps before or after Franco.

I collect some British colonies and I have tried on occasion to collect stamps through King George VI’s reign. That is somewhat hard especially since some really neat stamps have been issued during the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth. You could just start with Queen Elizabeth and ignore the stamps issued before her reign.

The whole idea is to enjoy the hobby of stamp collecting. My advice would be to read about the John Seybolds and the Henry Gibsons and then go about collecting what interests you. That is the great thing about collecting stamps – you can do it your way.

The Kentucky Stamp Club meets on the second Saturday of the month, 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Baptist Church, 130 Holmes St. Breck Pegram is the president.

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