Friday, March 27, 2009

Postage stamp speculation scheme makes Charles Ponzi infamous

(It was not that long ago that people in Spain were duped by a postage stamp investment scheme run by Afinsa and Forum Filatelico. Afinsa was the third largest trading collectibles dealer in the world after Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Some things never change. - A.C. Dwyer)

As defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a Ponzi scheme is a type of illegal pyramid scheme named after Charles Ponzi. So who is Ponzi and how did he manage to get an investment scheme named after him? He used postage stamps.

Back in the 1920s, Ponzi duped thousands of New England residents by encouraging them to invest in a postage stamp speculation scheme, according to the SEC. Ponzi told investors he could provide a 40% return in just 90 days. He thought he could take advantage of the differences between U.S. and foreign currencies used to buy and sell international mail coupons.

The SEC uses an exclamation mark to explain how well his scheme worked at first: “Ponzi was deluged with funds from investors, taking in $1 million during one three-hour period—and this was 1921!” Ponzi, an Italian immigrant, paid off a few early investors to make the scheme look legitimate. Later the investigation found he had only purchased about $30 worth of the international mail coupons.

And that is why, almost a century later, we use . . .

Full story at: Link

Smithsonian National Postal Museum Launches Online Exhibit, 'Women on Stamps'

In honor of Women's History Month, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum is featuring an online exhibit called "Women on Stamps: Part One." This collection is the first in a series of four stamp collections that focus on the accomplishments of women.

View exhibit online at: Link

U.S. Postal Service delays new stamps, citing weak economy


WASHINGTON (AP) — Economic woes are forcing the post office to delay release of several new postage stamps scheduled for this year.

Battered by rising costs and declining mail volume, the Postal Service lost $2.8 billion last year and is facing even larger losses this year, despite a rate increase — to 44 cents for first-class mail — scheduled to take effect May 11.

"Given the state of the economy they made the decision to take another look at the 2009 program and have decided to make these modifications," spokesman Roy Betts said.

Set four of the "Flags of Our Nation" series has been postponed until 2010, Betts said. The postponed set includes the flags of . . .

Full story at: Link

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

U.S. Postal Service could run out of money in 2009

Call for Help: Postal chief says agency crashing

WASHINGTON — The financially strapped U.S. Postal Service will run out of money this year without help from Congress, Postmaster General John Potter warned on Wednesday.

"We are facing losses of historic proportion. Our situation is critical," Potter told a House subcommittee.

The agency lost $2.8 billion last year and is looking at much larger losses this year said Potter, who is seeking congressional permission to reduce mail delivery from six days to five days a week.

Potter also urged changes in how it pre-pays for retiree health care to cut its annual costs by $2 billion.

If the Postal Service does run out of money, the lingering question, Potter told the House Oversight post office subcommittee, is which bills will get paid and which will not.

He said ensuring the payment of workers' salaries comes first, but other bills may have to wait.

Potter first raised the possibility of delivery cutbacks in January, but the idea has not been warmly received in Congress.

"With the Postal Service facing budget shortfalls the subcommittee will consider a number of options to . . .

Full story at: Link

Monday, March 16, 2009

Canada Issues Spring Flower Stamps


To welcome the pending arrival of spring, Canada Post today issued a set of two blooming stamps. With its delicate flaring petals, clusters of vibrantly coloured blossoms and deep evergreen leaves, the rhododendron (Ericaceae family) is one of the most beautiful flowers ever to set root in Canadian soil. But the rhododendron is far more than just a pretty face.

The rhododendron - the name is derived from the Greek word meaning "rose or red tree" - has blooms that can be found in magenta, purple, pink and white shades, often infused with blotted speckles and splashes of colour. The rhododendron is a genus of flowering plants with more than 700 species (of which only eight are native to Canada), including more than 300 which are believed to have . . .

Full story at: Link

Rare U.S. Inverted Jenny postage stamp fetches $260,000 at UK auction


LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A rare U.S. stamp from 1918, showing an aircraft printed upside down in error, fetched 184,000 pounds ($260,000) at a British auction on Wednesday.

Warwick and Warwick auctioneers had expected the stamp, one of a sheet of one hundred discovered 90 years ago, to fetch 150,000 pounds when it went under the hammer. The final price includes buyer's premium.

Although it exceeded pre-sale estimates, two other "inverted Jennys" were sold in 2007 for $825,000 and $850,000 before the buyer's premium was added . . .

Full story at: Link

Australia Post issues postage stamps on climate change


Australia Post will join the growing chorus of voices raised on the subject of climate change with the release tomorrow of three stamps commemorating Earth Hour.

The specially designed stamps feature an owl, a possum and an orang-utan and carry messages to conserve energy. Australia Post expects to sell several hundred thousand of them.

"Australia Post is a committed supporter of this important environmental initiative," said the Group Manager of Philatelic, Noel Leahy.

"The health of the environment is an important global issue and through this stamp issue we hope to . . .

Full story at: Link

Rare stamps and old-world charm

If you were a youngster in Korea during the 1970s, chances are you probably collected stamps as a hobby.

Back in those days, long lines resembling a celebrity autograph event formed in front of post offices every time the government issued a new stamp.

The stamp stores of Seoul’s Hoehyeon underground shopping arcade have seen fewer customers since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. It’s fair to say that stamp collecting has lost some of its appeal over the years, so it’s no surprise that Hoehyeon stamp shopping center, a mecca for stamp collectors in Korea, looks like it’s seen better days. Adjacent to the colossal main branch of Shinsegae Department Store in downtown Seoul, the underground arcade today looks worn out.

Connecting Shinsegae Department Store and Seoul’s central post office in Myeong-dong, it’s home to 17 antique stamp and antique coin stores plus shops selling used vinyl LPs and casual clothing.

At the stamp stores you can buy stamps [of course], old banknotes and coins. But it’s not just old stuff for sale. You can also get hold of lottery tickets, telephone cards and even maps.

Kim Dan, who runs Samseong Stamps in the underground arcade, was one of those kids back in the 1970s. He was a fanatic about getting his hands on the rarest stamps he could find.

“In the 1970s and 1980s, stamp collectors were mostly kids,” Kim said. “But now, hardly any kids visit my store. The people who buy now are mostly adults who collected during their childhood or collectors who want to sell their stamp collections,” he said.

If you are still obsessed with collecting postage, the Hoehyeon underground is a place you should visit. There you can find just about every stamp, banknote and coin ever issued in . . .

Full story at: Link

U.S. Postal Service Stamp Images Travel to the Internet


Family-focused Travel Website Sends “Greetings From…”

WASHINGTON — The travel-planning website, Trekaroo.com, whose visitors share information about child-friendly hotels, resorts, activities and travel packages, has a new addition to its itinerary. Images from the U.S. Postal Service “Greetings From America” stamp series now provide a colorful enhancement to the site’s My Passport feature.

My Passport allows online visitors to collect virtual passport stamps from places they’ve visited. They can choose from eight of the 50 state images depicted in the series — California, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. The remaining stamp images will be “all aboard” by the end of this month.

Issued in 2006, the “Greetings from America” commemorative stamps bear an antique postcard design and exhibit nostalgic watercolor-like scenes of each state’s prominent characteristics, poised behind their bold, block letter-style names.

Postal officials cite the presence of the organization’s . . .

Full story at: Link