Monday, March 23, 2009

News and Views

Here's a recap of some interesting philately news:

The U.S. Postal Service went from a $1.4 billion (US$) surplus to a $2.8 billion deficit in about 3 years according to this Yahoo article. Even with postage rates increasing this May, the post office may need to drop 6-day home delivery down to 5 days.

Don Shilling of Stamp Collecting Round-Up published a short article detailing one side effect for stamp collectors when the U.S. Postal Service has to cut back -- the stamp schedule for 2009 has been decreased. Even the iconic Flags of Our Nation coil stamps have been affected -- the fourth series of stamps, originally due in Fall 2009, has been delayed until 2010.

Could a 20 million pounds (UK) collection have actually been discarded by trash collectors? According to this article, collector Jim Ford is planning on suing his city council for the actions of the trash men who discarded the albums. There are lots of holes in this story; would such a valuable collection really be "aired out" after being soaked by a burst pipe? And would such a valuable collection have escaped the eyes of local philatelists for all these years? At least one expert says no. Update -- be sure to see the first comment from a reader who indicates he is collector Jim Ford! --

A ten-year old postage stamp has helped authorities in Chicago to arrest a man for mailing a bomb threat to a Jewish school. The Chicago Tribune reports in this story, that the threat was mailed with a stamp bearing a design of two swans forming a heart shape. A subsequent search of the suspect's home found a book of the 10-year-old stamps with one stamp missing. The authorities have found other evidence, including a fingerprint, which led to the arrest.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Hi There,
I love the way that the story changes from Blog to blog and paper to paper, I am Getting a laugh out of this, if I don't laugh I may kill somebody!
Now As to the Stamps, the collection was started towards the turn of the century, as letters sent from relatives who had emigrated to South Africa / Rhodesia / Canada / The USA / New Zealand / Australia and various other Countries.
Initially it was not a collection but just stamps on letters, soon because of my Grandfather it became a collection, a collection that he built up over the years from a boy, He severed in the merchant navy, which allowed him to indulge in his hobby collecting stamps from all over the world in both Mint form and Used via the letters he sent home.
My Uncle Robert was in a wheel chair with the disease, and did spent most of his time either collecting Stamps or model making, and did expand the collection with a lot of help from relatives and friends.
I was encouraged to collect the stamps for Educational purposes, you learn languages / Geography / History and Engineering from stamps, as in Magyar is Hungary - Dansk Vestindien is the Danish West Indies, where in the world these places were, what became of them and how the stamps were produced.
This continued through my life, taking a sabbatical when my hormones discovered the opposite sex! Then after an accident in work left me disabled it once more became a full time hobby.
unlike my forbears I had the advantage of the internet, and a large disposable income, I would buy whole stamp collections then split them up into 3 sections - Mines for my collection, Single Valuable stamps, for sale on EBay and the likes, and bulk sales of the remainder online. with the money I made from this I generally made a good profit, which I went out and bought more stamps with. So as you can guess over 9 years 18 hours a day 7 days a week the collection got rather large! A pile four and a half feet long by three feet wide and about four feet high.
Now to what actually happened to them!
The central heating system died in December 2005, the part required was not held as a spare by the local authority, and a botch job was done to get it working until the part could be sourced. That never happened and in December 2007 they heating system died again, the engineer sent out turned off the gas as the Botch job was dangerous, and it was decided that a new heating system would be installed.
In January 2008 they came in to fit a new heating system, 2 gas Engineers and a Joiner, the youngest Gas Engineers first request was to use the toilet, where upon he managed to urinate over the floor and walls, he then went outside and was physically sick up the wall, and stank like a brewery, much to the amusement of the other 2. he was given the jobs well away from the Gas!
The young engineer was to change all of the valves on the radiators, remove the hot waster tank and the gas back boiler, instead he did fit the valves but did not tighten them, he removed the hot water tank but did not cap the pipes, he physically ripped the gas fire from the wall disconnected the gas and electric, but only turned off the gas, he left the electric live!
Whilst that was happening the other gas engineer fitted the heating system (back to front) the joiner gave up trying to drill holes in the wooden floor for the pipes and instead then drilled though the sides of the units, on requiring access under the floor for the pipes he was told that the floor was sheeting and all he needed was a cross head screwdriver and 6 screws held the panels down. Whilst I went to get a screw driver for him, he used a rip saw and sawed up the middle of the floor through the joists. Then used the screwdriver to lift the now separated floor in 2 sections. They finished the heating system and nailed the floor back down at a V angle, it was then they ground out the heating was not working and I was asked for a Manual to the system they brought with them. up came the floor again and they cut the pipes and crossed them over. once working they left 4 - 5 hours.
We then went out, the other half to her work me to my pals, they heating stopped working and the child called the local authority Plumbers. they came out and diagnosed a leak, and showed him how to recharge the boiler to 2 BAR and told him to keep doing this to keep the heating going. He did exactly that!
When we came home after picking the other half up from Work 8 hours later the house was flooded, The emergency plumbers were called and the valves all tightened, there was still a leak somewhere though as the pressure continued to drop.
The Bottom 1 foot of the stamps were soaked the upper 3 feet of the stamps were them put into the airing cupboard for safety, and the local authority put a sealant into the heating system to stop any leaks!
They then came in over the next month to repair the damages, 54 of them! initially they wanted the kitchen the hall the living room and a bedroom emptied for 4 days, the simple question was "Too Where?" they then decided that I would empty one room around the flat at a time and they would work on it over the next 5 days.
The other half went to stay at my parents house, luckily they were staying in Spain for the winter. I was left to move the house around myself. Not a big task you would think but with 3 fractured vertebrae / 2 prolapsed discs / 3 compressed discs / Spinal Stenosis and a shattered shoulder a big job to me!
They replaced all of the floors, one of the radiators, the patio screen, 3 doors, the kitchen units, removed the back boiler, and bricked up the fireplace. During this time I will openly admit that I dropped items whilst moving them, a 42" flat screen TV may not weight that much, but with only one arm it is difficult to lift, hence I dropped it!
After it was all put back to order, the house was redecorated, and all of the damaged items were left lying about the house for the insurance to inspect, and we had pathways through the debris.. After 2 weeks they had not turned up, my other half fell over a pile of items and ended up in hospital. the insurance were notified as were everybody that enough was enough, this was a health and safety issue, and that the items were going to be moved outside the house to the back.
Now having space the Airing Cupboard was going to be emptied, and the items that were meant to actually be in there put back, it was then we discovered that the pipes in there for the water tank had not been capped. Everything was soaked as well.
I should in retrospect have emptied out each of the boxes, and examined the contents for damage, but I was expecting the insurance loss adjusters and thought that they could do this, added to the fact that I was just plain Livid and wanting somebody's head!
All of the items were bagged up boxed up and sealed, they were stacked against the back wall and covered with sheeting, the sheeting was held down with a full weight lifting set.
Now there was space on the Evening of the 27th February 2008 the Childs room was emptied out into the front hallway and through the house. His room was painted and left to dry over night. in the Moring we lifted his carpet and put down the new one, and brought in the first piece of new furniture to build up.
The idea was that we would build up the room, then go through what was left, anything he wanted stayed, anything he did not wasn't would be taken to the refuse site. At 1:35 pm I took as I do every day the other half to work, on the way out we passed 4 council workers on the way in, nothing new there, we had just had 57 over the last month!
upon my return I found that everything at the front door was gone! I went in to see if the child had brought them all into the house, he was standing doing some gloss painting with his MP3 player on, He said he knew nothing of it!
I went back out the front door and met my neighbour, who informed me that 8 council guys and 2 vans had removed all of my stuff, I called the cleansing department who knew nothing about it, and after checking found that another department the street cleaners had been instructed to uplift some items. He gave me the Supervisors mobile, and I asked him to return everything. He informed me that they did not know what they had taken as it was all boxed and bagged and now in the dump.
I contacted the Area manager and told him what had happened, he told me he would get back to me. I went out the back and into the rubbish area, I telephoned the supervisor on his cell and asked him, were you meant to lift a bed headboard, some bags, a TV unit, carpet, and shelves. He confirmed that was exactly what they had removed, I then asked him if he would like me to send him a picture of the items as I was standing looking at them right then.
He was at the rubbish area 15 minutes later shaking his head, he handed in another third party claim form to add to the ones I already had.
The local authority sent me a letter admitting that Items were uplifted, and listed once more the items that were meant to have been uplifted! Items that remained until the 23rd of March 2008.
The insurance loss adjuster finally arrived and wanted to see all of the items, 2 weeks after they had been removed.
This was being dealt with via my own home insurance, I thought as a third party claim on my behalf, they actually were dealing with it as a Home insurance claim, the Stamps were not covered as they were not insured by them, nor were nay items covered by other insurance policies nor items That I din not personally own! They then asked for a list of every item in my possession at the time of the incident, I telephoned them and asked what they meant by "Every Item" they said exactly that "EVERY ITEM", so they got their list and then sent a letter out telling me that they were cancelling my policy "due to a breach of utmost good faith", as i was underinsured!
I pointed out to them that the "home contents list" they requested included items not insured by them but buy other companies, items that did not belong to me, Items that were not insured and 2 motorcycles and a car which could not be covered by a home contents policy, and in fact that amount of cover that was taken with them was actually more than I required for household items. The told me that it made no difference as they should have been made aware of the items and were cancelling in any case.
After that the insurance loss adjuster called me and told me that He had been De-instructed and that the insurance company had used this as their only way of avoiding payment.
The claim was then put back in to the local authority as a third party, on the first 2 occasions they lost the claim files, they then could not get the files out of the emails as they did not have office 2007, they finally got them when I hand delivered them!
The claim was handed to Carol Darcy of Gallagher & Basset, in September 2008. She did nothing until October 2008 until She got the initial loss adjusters report, she then informed me that she was not going to use this report as it would be detrimental to my claim and said that she would conduct her own investigation.
She then did next to nothing until February 2008, when she interviewed 13 council employees including management (who actually had never been out at the house!)
She then et the end of February sent a letter say that there was in her opinion no claim to be answered.
I telephoned her and asked what she was talking about, she informed me that in her investigations she found no evidence of leaks, I pointed out that 54 Council employees had been required to put right the damage, and she said that these were normal repairs! I pointed out to her that one of the repairs was actually a radiator that was leaking and that had stripped threads, and that the plumber had "paddled" his way into the house, she referred to this as a minor leak of no significance, I asked her is she was sure that a leak leaving a pool of water a quarter on an inch deep14 foot long and 2 foot wide was not significant, she said yes.
I then asked her about the items that were removed, she agreed that there had been items removed, but only rubbish, in fact when she had interviewed the workmen they had informed her that it was all Brocken and in an abhorable condition, so I asked if she had interviewed the correct workmen? because less than an hour after they removed everything, their supervisor, their area manager and myself were told they could not identify anything as it was all bagged and boxed, yet practically 1 year later they can give full descriptions, a little hard to believe.
She told me that she had made her decisions, and that I was not allowed to approach the local authority about this, all communications had to go through her. I sent Photographs, Council Job Sheets, Video, and letters proving it all. And she stated that she was not going to change her decision. And that All I was doing in contacting the council was wasting her time, She advised me to see a lawyer if I wanted this dealt with any further, She went on to say that the original Loss adjuster found the value of the Claim inflated and unreasonable, and the insurance company wanted on out, that is why the policy was cancelled.
I pointed out to her if the claim was inflated and unreasonable, to the extent of the value I was claiming, and insurance company would not "cancel" the policy but start a Criminal Fraud Investigation (which I would have welcomed), and asked how video / photographic / witness statement evidence supporting the claim could have been made to match the claim prior and during?
She informed me that she was not going to change her views.
The Lawyer was brought in and then the media got a hold of the story and here we are.
The stamps that were left were the "Auction" and "Identification" books. These were stamps all ready for putting up for sale, or stamps that I was not to sure about or still to be properly identified. in that lot there is a possible Washington 3c B grill. and a couple of possible pigeon bloods, the letters and the dates correspond correctly but they have not been checked definitively. There are also Several "Tuppeny Blues" and Blacks needing plating.
In one of the letters was a folded sheet of Stamps, brand new mint (with the exception of folds on some) these were stamps being sent for use on returning letters. These were All B grill 3c Washington's, easily identified as they had never been used and the grill was perfectly visible from the back of the stamp, B Grill - points up, 22 x 18 points.
Everybody wants to know if I had pictures of the collection, the answer is no! I had the collection, why did I need pictures. another question is why was it not made public, well because nobody but stamp collectors would have been interested, and it was my collection not theirs and it was not for sale.
I have pointed out that the collection had been scanned and catalogued on computer, This would have been a great help, but for the fact that they had taken that as well.
As to the value of the collection, well that's a guess, The only way to have got the true vale would have been to sell them and see what I made!
A practically complete set of Collected Commonwealth in both Mint and Used, with several Duplicates. Accidental finds of Other countries all rare expensive stamps as well as "famous personalities" Gordon of Khartoum, Adolf Hitler, Von Bismarck, The letters through the civil war all of a historical value, how do you replace that? The Washington's were not values at the $1million, but the previous sale amount of $520,000, so you can double the figure already on them! the rest of the values came from Stanley Gibbon / Scott catalogues of 2001.
Jim