August 5, 2023

A trip down memory lane with Vincent Green.
I’ve surrounded myself with stamps since I was 8 years old, I find everything about them fascinating and as is typical of the firmly middle-aged I am fond of relating my ‘firsts’

My first Penny Black

My first valuable discovery (an “extra flagstaff” on a Falkland Islands 1935 Jubilee stamp)

My first expensive mistake (OK, perhaps I’m not so keen on relating every story!)

Whilst looking at our current catalogue I noticed some beautiful and inexpensive early USA proofs… and I recalled another ‘first’.

I was 17 and working in a stamp shop when an elderly gentleman called in to see my boss, who had already left for the day. He explained that he wanted to sell his collection of Canadian stamps, so I offered to write him a receipt and give the collection to my boss the next day.

He agreed and handed over an elegant old album. It was green and tall, produced over half a century before by the veritable French firm of Yvert & Tellier. To write such a receipt I would have to scribble out a basic description so I turned to the first page…

…and almost fell through the floor.

The page was large with spaces for maybe 30 or 40 of the earliest Canadian classics, in fine condition every one of those stamps would be valuable but this, well, this was something I couldn’t quite comprehend. Every stamp was perfection itself! Imperforates with huge margins and colours so bright it almost hurt to gaze at the page…

“Ah yes, my proofs” the old chap could see how impressed I was “you see, I really love mint stamps but I simply can’t obtain these particular stamps in mint condition, so instead of leaving the pages empty I collected them as proofs”

I will always remember those proofs. Of course many collectors obtain proofs to enhance a specialised collection, not to save money as my old friend had done. Such collecting has been around for over 100 years, when followers of the “French Method” as it was quaintly known, had advocated not just obtaining basic stamps but the artwork, trials, proofs and all manner of items associated with the production of that stamp.

So that day I fell in love with proofs, you may not want to own them yourself but I believe it’s impossible not to love them if you find stamps beautiful. Usually the paper, or card on which they are printed is surfaced or dense to avoid microscopic ‘bleeding’ of the impression, allowing the printer and engraver to study the unadulterated design. Later on in the process, when entire plates had been constructed, full sheets of proofs were often produced, which is why ‘die proofs’ made from a single impression are usually more expensive than ‘plate proofs’ taken from a sheet.

I can be a bit of a bore when it comes to expanding basic collections. There comes a time in the life of a typical collection when finding new stamps becomes difficult, either through scarcity or budget. Rather than give up it is much more fun to hunt additional, supportive items, such as proofs, postal markings, varieties and so on. By expanding your collection you expand your pastime, and what could be better than that?

I’ve put together a selection of proofs from our current sales, you will see a broad mix of different types, from old die proofs to more recent issues with a topical interest. Whatever your tastes it is certainly worth considering enhancing your stamp collection with a proof, or two…

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