Reminiscences - Part XXVI
by Michael Rogers
Confederates and Zeppelins
Today, you know me well as a China specialist but back in 1978 when I first opened Winter Park Stamp Shop, I carried a fine stock of Zeppelin and Airpost flights. Way before the Internet, I released old-fashioned pricelists printed on paper carrying common to elusive material.
For that reason, the renowned dealer of Confederate philately, Gordon McHenry, sought me out to complete a set of U.S. Graf Zeppelin flight covers. He wanted a 65¢ to match the April 19th date of the $1.30 and $2.60 that he already had.
Right off, I told Gordon his flights were first day covers and that I didn’t have a 65¢ FDC in stock. April 14th is a vacation day as it was my Grandma’s birthday; the first day date of the Graf Zeppelins was April 19th, so remembering "April 19th" as the first day date was a cinch.
After we went back and forth a couple of times, Gordon sure was insistent. He persisted in stating that his flights were not FDCs, and that it was me trying to enhance the value of his covers. He turned the tables, saying that if I was so sure of myself, I ought to buy them.
His price was $1,200. The $1.30 value was a sound stamp on a real dirty and wrinkled cover but the $2.60 was a gem in all respects. Just a slam dunk beauty!
The $1,200 was too much for regular flight covers but a bargain for the first day covers I knew them to be. I reached for my checkbook; inconveniently he declined. He wanted cash. My shop wasn’t doing the kind of business to have that much cash laying around.
I’m guessing he refused my check because my business was a start-up or maybe he thought I was paying a sum so great in excess to the value of the covers he took them to be. I suppose if I’d allowed myself, I would have been mad, but I had a point to prove.
Plan B: With a new store, I didn’t have an employee to run down to the bank for me. I turned to Scotty, a 13 year old who was picking through a US "2 cent over face" box, asking him to take my check to the bank. They would give him an envelope for him to return to me. Gordon raised an eyebrow after Scotty left, saying "You trust that young boy with $1,200 cash?" I replied that I trusted him far more than Gordon trusted me. After Scotty returned with the money, I paid Gordon, and I thought that was the end of it. (I surprised Scotty with the set of mint, NH, Famous Americans that he’d been gazing at in my display as a gift.)
When Gordon returned home, he must have reached for a catalogue because he phoned me the next day, exclaiming "You took advantage of me!" I’m sure he didn’t appreciate my chuckling on the phone when I reminded him that I accepted the price he set, and before that I said several times he had better material than he thought he had. We mended fences later.
Now to sell the first day covers.
I knew a collector who desired the finest condition $2.60 Zeppelin FDC. I was pretty certain the one I now owned would fit the bill. I prefer placing stellar pieces with keen collectors in a way that empowers the buyer. So in order to sell this beauty, I remarked to this very fair minded individual "if this beauty is what you’re seeking, what are you comfortable with paying?" He offered me $2500, a price which pleased us both. By the way, this collector is my friend today.
As for the $1.30, the going price for a used single was $500. When I laid the flight cover in front of the collector who bought it, I reasoned that the stamp remaining on the envelope "tells the story." He wouldn’t lose any value if the stamp was soaked off. I sold the flight cover for simply the $500, as it had a pretty stamp, in spite of being on a "cover with fleas".
Gordon was a man of integrity, a gentle and witty spirit, and a resounding authority of Confederate philately.
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