Reminiscences - Part X

by Michael Rogers
The following appeared in Michael Rogers' regular column in
The American Stamp Dealer & Collector Magazine -June 2011 Issue





   I would like to tell you of my friend Judd Nevenzel, a charming man of high intelligence. He was one of the original Los Alamos “Atomic Bomb” scientists, and an accomplished philatelist, yet quiet and modest. From time to time I think of Judd, remembering how we came together, developing the friendship. Warm feelings.

As I prepared for my first WESTPEX show in the 1980s, I ran ads saying I’d be in San Francisco. My ads were chatty, asking if I could bring anything of particular interest for customers. I received a letter from a Jack Service, asking me to bring an accumulation of used Chinese stamps for him to purchase as he was a collector of postmarks. His name clicked, so when I went home, looked him up. Turned out, he was the John Stewart Service whom Joseph McCarthy forced out of the State Department for allegedly showing dispatches to the other team. I replied affirmatively to his request for material with a note saying I’d bring some used material along, and a postscript, asking if he was McCarthy’s “friend”?

At the same show, a tall gentleman introducing himself as Jack, came to our booth and pumped my associate Jim Kerr’s hand, thinking Jim was me, saying “you have a good memory!” because of my McCarthy association. Jack and Jim were about the same age so they related well. Jim pointed me out, saying “that’s Mike.” Jack said, “that pup?”. I’ve always looked a whole lot younger than I really am. A gift.

As for meeting Judd Nevenzel, here’s how it happened. On three occasions in 2002, he sent me packages of lovely Asian postal history that was so far afield of my knowledge that I didn’t know how to make a reasonable offer on them. Great stuff. Russian Offices in Mongolia which compared to the best in Meiso Mizuhara’s collection, a Hong Kong 96 cent QV single value on folded letter, Augustine Heard correspondence. I’ve been doing this for a long time so don’t come up empty all that often. He was adamant about not consigning to auction; I was puzzled why not. Judd just wanted to sell outright even after I explained I felt out of my depth. Each time I bought his previous shipment, he was perfectly happy with my offer. Ah, but then, I turned around and placed “our” material in my auction, giving it a special consignor number to keep track. When the covers sold, I sent him a letter explaining my thinking, that I was splitting the amount with him on the monies realized in excess of the price that I’d paid him. I did this for each package.

Given that in October of 2002, I was doing a public auction in conjunction with the Los Angeles SESCAL stamp show, and that Judd lived in a L.A. suburb, here was my chance to meet him. I’d gone on the web and realized he was an original Los Alamos scientist. I was curious of his experiences and what he could tell me about J. Robert Oppenheimer.

On calling Judd ahead, he assured me that he had no more stamps for sale, and I was rather relieved since I’d just passed an exhausting weekend at a stamp show. I was looking forward to simply meeting Judd and relaxing. My staff had already gone home after the show though one remained with me.

Meeting Judd on his front steps, he looked me up and down, saying “Aren’t you the eager one? I want you to clean out my garage.” So I passed a silent glance to the guy with me to say nothing and go along. I figured there was more on the plate than what we could see. Meet me and you’ll know physical labor is not my strong suit. I wrecked the dressy clothes I was wearing doing the garage. I reckon we barely made a dent. 

Exiting the garage, knocking on his kitchen window, things got clearer. Judd was having me jump over hurdles, pushing me. Short of stature, in his eighties, he led us to a bedroom pointing to two small refrigerator cartons, saying we should take then to the living room. We spread the contents over the living room floor and there were piles of cool Portugal & Colonies, still on auction cards, some purchased forty years ago. Asking me what I would pay for them, I bleated “I’m too tired to think.” So Judd offered me everything for $6,000. I tussled with him because I said the price was too cheap & he said he didn’t need the funds. He was touched that I’d sent him the extra money those three times before.

I was just the one he was looking for to sell his stamps. He disdained selling by auction because he’d tried it in the 1980’s. A consignment made to another auction house before went badly. In response to his complaint, they sent a young man to hear him out. The visitor shoved Judd as he turned away. Small of stature, slick wood floors. I could envision it in my mind. So, no auction.

Until the year he died, whenever I traveled to California, I’d take him out to lunch or food shopping. Lovely man, easy to chat with, I’m glad to have known him.

Judd retained his Mexico collection. As we gazed upon the pages of his Hidalgos, his passion for this lovely material came forth. Whatever holds your interest, you’ll be delighted with Mexico. After Judd passed on, I purchased his Mexico from his family. It felt like Judd was coming here!


Click to go to the next page of Michael Rogers' Reminiscences



Index to site

Album Pages Appraisals Articles Auctions Bidding Hints Books Buylists Consignments
Contact Information Downloading Pricelists Email Us Estate Planning
History Home | Jobs Links Literature Logo | Mail Sales Organizations What's New