In 1947, when stamp collectors and stamp dealers commemorated the 100th anniversary of America’s first postage stamp, the city was New York, the show was CIPEX, and our world was obviously a much different place.
When you walked along Fifth Avenue, men wearing hats were commonplace. So were stamp dealers and their shops. Each was a natural part of the landscape.
The Star Stamp Company at 503 Fifth Avenue would sell you a Montserrat KGV Five Shilling chalky paper for $14.75. And there was no shortage of competition…on the same block you could visit The Mercury Stamp Company, Nicolas Sanabria, Carl Pelander, Walter Gisiger, Vahan Mozian, Sylvester Colby, F.R. Ferryman, and F.W. Kessler.
If you stopped in to chat with Mr. Kessler he might tell you about a shipment due to arrive from Paris which would contain the first two airmail issues from the Kingdom of Yemen.
Heading down into the subway on 42nd Street you could stop in at Spencer Philatelic Service. Above ground on 42nd Street you could visit Stampazine, the Longacre Hobby Shop, The Booklet Stamp Company, and the auction firm run by Fritz Billig and Fred Rich. In Rockefeller Center Nathan and Edna Deutsh ran the Coronet Stamp Shop.
The Stamp Dealers Enclave in Lower Manhattan
Downtown on Beekman Street postage stamp wholesaler M.J. Stern welcomed dealers to his “House of a Million Stamps.” On Washington Street was Aero World. On Park Row were Harvey Dolin, David F. Chassy, Hugh C. Barr and Stanley Gibbons.
Famed Nassau Street, the epicenter of America’s stamp dealers, remained home to John A. Fox, the Ohlman Galleries, H.E. Swift’s Wakonda Stamp Company, The Broadway Stamp Company, M. Meghrig, Lee Gilbert, A. August Tiger and George Herzog.
But in 1947 you would not have found legendary stamp dealer Herman Herst on Nassau Street…Pat was in Shrub Oak, New York, “1392 miles from Houma, Louisiana on US 6.” offering “…the Famous Americans complete, all 296 blocks, every number in every position, at $397.50.”
And out on Long Island from where it continues to serve collectors today, was the Herrick Stamp Company. Herrick offered the mint Mauritius Jubilee set for $20.00. Bermuda 81-98 for $32.00 and the St. Kitts Centenary set for $170.00.
The Grand Stamp Collecting Show at Grand Central Palace
If you happened to be in the city May 17th-25th you would have made the pilgrimage to Grand Central Palace for the “Centenary.” The Centenary International Philatelic Exhibition or CIPEX.
CIPEX may have been the greatest stamp show America ever hosted. Our collecting world, much more visible and mass appeal, was different then.
The doors opened Saturday, May 17th at ten with the New York Athletic Glee Club and the New York Post Office Band on hand. Admission was fifty cents. Stamp dealers and stamp collectors who journeyed to New York from Chicago could have spent time together on a private coach provided by the Pennsylvania Railroad with a special CIPEX return fare of $38.41.
The CIPEX Court of Honor paid tribute to Alfred Lichtenstein, the great collector who was to have chaired the show but suffered a heart attack on a Fifth Avenue bus a few months earlier. The Court of Honor, showing collections by invitation only, served as a focal point for collectors.
Gimbel’s moved some of its stock up from 33rd Street and Broadway to Booth C at CIPEX where it featured FDR material. Gimbel’s rival, Macy’s, was in the process of exiting the stamp business. Its stock was put on for auction by J & H Stolow…7,000 lots in a 240 page spiral bound catalog.
Winnipeg, Manitoba stamp dealer Kasimir Bileski came to New York, stayed at the Waldorf Astoria during CIPEX and manned booth 75. Booth rental was $400. Philatelic societies and organizations could rent a lounge area for $200.
Ten major auctions took place during the show. Billig and Rich took eight days and used two catalogs and four different auctioneers to put 5500 lots to bid. More than fifty nations of the splintered post war world put their stamps on sale and on display. And more than one stamp collecting hundred volunteers were busy guiding wheelchair bound disabled veterans who were avid collectors through the throngs.
It may have been the greatest philatelic exhibition of all time, the high water mark of stamp collecting. Then again, with the internet connecting so many dealers with so many collectors, and helping so many people new to stamp collecting, the best days of may not yet have arrived.
We can remember the importance of the CIPEX exhibition, its stamp dealers and its stamp collectors fondly, and to pay our appropriate respects, we can even collect the stamps issued to commemorate the great event.