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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Are those old newspapers worth something?

(Note: This story is a continuation of an article I wrote for The Patch. Read here.)

When ever I find old newspaper at a sale, no matter the condition, or the location I am immediately curious about the date and any reference from the scrap I’ve found. If it was saved it must have been for a reason. Was it the headline, or a more personal reference or association? Or was it just to line a steamer trunk? I have to know. 

The Connecticut Herald and weekly Journal came to me while checking through a pile of papers at a recent sale. Seeing 1871, I was happy to drop 2 dollars for it and see what I could find within. It is a good example of rag or linen based paper stock. Though fraught with strong creases this paper is as pliable as a fresh rubber band. 

A quick scan of the articles and I've found the reason why it was saved, or so I think. This being found at a Bridgewater, CT estate sale the longtime resident may well have known, befriended, or just taken great pride in the relationship of a member of the Boardman family to the history of Connecticut. The Boardmans were the founding family of New Milford and served the State and community through every generation. If you take the time to read this obituary you will see that it goes more in to the family history than the deceased himself.  

 My scanner, unfortunately, made short work of the document.

The second paper I discovered at this sale was an even earlier edition of "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper" 
This paper may have been kept due to the report of the imminent threat of War between the States. This early report from February 1861 features a profile of Major Armstrong who was in control of Fort Sumpter in Virginia. This letter from a correspondent in Charleston tells of the confusion and feelings of vigilance toward the Federal government.

 It was a confusing and scary time for residents of those States and must have also weighed heavy on the shoulders of a new president.
In just a few months, tensions would rise further as supply ships were turned back from aiding Fort Sumpter, Major Armstrong held off the threat until supplies ran out. The attack on the Fort began the war and the rest was, well, ...a bloody mess. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

News Flash! Hollywood is Big on Ham

I don't know how even back in1940 some ad executive wouldn't have seen this ad and thought, "Hmmmm, Ham + Hollywood, may not a good association." Nope, saw the ad, thought it was jim dandy.

Me,? I would have picked another big city.
Here's another gem.

Again, maybe its my politics, but I just don't see the benefit of cooking with gas and then lighting candles in the same room.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

This Post is Abe Lincoln Approved (of Alex Lobdell)

When someone says to you "There's a document in here from Abe Lincoln, but I haven't found it." What would you do? That's how excited I was to be able to search through this 150+ year old estate recently.

Having arrived too late to enjoy the invitation-only preview sale, I was doubly fortunate to have a private tour and learn about how it came to the state it was in now- sadly neglected. I fired up my camera and began recording as I walked through.

The document from Abe Lincoln was likely a standard proclamation sanctioning Alexander Lobdell as the new Postmaster for Brewster, NY. I wasn't able to find it, but it if was found it would hopefully end up in the local historical society. 

You can see some of the items from this home at an auction to be held at the Southbury, CT Volunteer Firehouse, 461 Main Street South, October 25th at 6pm. Applebrook Auctions is handling the liquidation of the estate's interior items and you can learn more about them here. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

One Stamp Could Be Worth A Million (words)

A bog of stamps $10

We’ve all heard of or have seen the rare stamps that fetch thousands or millions at auction. So, when we come across a few that look old, peculiar, or unique we immediately think, “Is this one worth something?” As I peered into an envelope holding a large collection of domestic and international stamps at an estate sale I thought the same thing. By their look I knew they were old, but I would prefer to find out in the privacy of my den. I was excited and a little taken aback when the price came back as ten dollars, which included other things I was buying. “Did they just make a mistake?” “Did they even look?” I asked my daughter who accompanied me on this dig.

Envelope of Central and South American Stamps
I hadn’t really looked at the stamps before I’d bought them; the mystery is half the fun. However, I had inspected a piece of folded newspaper in the envelope and found written on the outside in dip-pen “Irish.” The newspaper itself had had a partial date of 1930 and one of the stamps had a cancellation date of 1915. I was hooked.
Numerous tiny enveloped from the 1930's each with a country's stamps inside

My parents once tried to start me stamp collecting, but my short 11-year-old attention span couldn’t sustain the interest in the maintenance of an album and a sandwich bag of starter stamps. I find that many years later not much has changed, the quantity, age, and uniqueness was staggering my brain. I was amazed at what one manila envelope could hold. The envelope, when I spilled it out on the table contained over 500 stamps from all over the world and most were pre-1925. However, before I started counting my money I needed a reality check
Newer enveloped contain 100 year old stamps from every country

In researching stamps and their value I found website after website with tips designed to burst the bubble of anyone who was holding a collection of stamps. All of the sites gave advice to the effect – “Don’t Get excited…” “…probably worth nothing.” “…usually not even worth face value.” The overall impression was that while you may have some that could be worth a small fortune, there are still a multitude of steps you need to go through to verify their value. 

Possibly Weimar republic stamps no?Chinese Express Letter stamp fron early 1900

First, There’s the age. Basically, any stamp from 1930 on is not likely to hold anything more than face value. This is because it was around the 1930’s that stamp collecting become popular and the US government and possibly other governments began printing stamps in higher quantities to feed this passion. If they are older, there is yet another list of variables on which value is based: gum/no gum, franked/un-franked (canceled), centered/un-centered, thin, faded, hinged/unhinged. After reading through all of these I was becoming unhinged!

Then there’s the Scott manual, the bible of stamp values, which is a useful tool for understanding the categories and variables that give stamps their value. But even with the knowledge in Scott you still have very little chance of walking away with a tidy sum. The slightest difference from your stamp to the one in the catalog, and I mean microscopic difference, can render your stamp worthless. Additionally, you may need a certificate of quality drawn up by a qualified expert sanctioned by one of the Philatelic institutions so you can verify your stamps are the real (valuable) deal.

Exhausted? After all my digging, researching and hoping I just became tired and resolved to the fact that I probably hadn’t found the lost treasure of the Sierra Madre. Heck! I hadn’t even found the stamp commemorating it. 

But, what I did find was an appreciation for the hobby of collecting stamps. For all the reasons I dig through the past, stamps contain a lot of the same qualities. They are tiny time capsules, in effect “time” stamps of a period in a country’s history. They note changes in country name, leadership, and currency. The process by which they are created, printed, cancelled, and collected is interesting. While I probably should go out and buy an album to sort these, it will be hard to separate them from the unique little folded papers and other odd methods (see below) used by the original owner to do the same. I am still going through these and trying to learn about what I’ve found.

In the end I got what I paid for. It won’t secure my daughter’s future Ivy League college bills, but then again, by the time she’s ready for college, they just might. I bought someone's appreciation for collecting and in return it has spawned and renewed my interest as well. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Secret History Behind the Old Farmhouse

How many times have you driven by a farmhouse that was clearly older than the road it was on and said, "I wonder what's in there?" Well, if you want to take up the hobby of Urban Archeology, I can help you learn how to answer those questions without feeling like a busybody or a burglar.

Such was the case when I found a sale in a nearby town at a very old farm. Once on to the property I was able to get the owner in a good conversation about it's history. I immediately thought, "I should be recording this."  and returned to my car for my camera. Not having the benefit of a full production team, I had to settle for my Canon T2i and the limited footage I could collect as this sale came to a close.

What I did get was a very interesting look back at Connecticut's early history as the American Revolution was beginning.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Video Dig Report - The Road to Ithaca

Sure, It's happened to you - You're driving the family down the road and sprawled across someone's lawn are some of the coolest gadgets,antiques and junk you've ever seen. Can you get the family to vote your way and stop the car? Most of the time I can't, but during one vacation my persistence paid off and we got to stop at a building packed with all kinds of interesting nooks and crannies to explore.

Until I get my own show on some cable network, with researchers who will choose my digs for me, I’ll have to settle for my ability to spot the true “digs” and convincing my wife to stop. No, I didn't buy anything at this mall, but if you've been reading this blog you'll know that it's not the kill, it's the thrill of the hunt.