by Michael Rogers
The following appeared in Michael Rogers' regular column in
The American Stamp Dealer & Collector Magazine -
I KNOW MY LIMITATIONS
I had a plan. Just as
I’d acquired the fabulous Bateman China accumulation
in 1982 (which would transform me into a China
dealer), I sure needed that jump-start of superior
knowledge. There I was surrounded by 28 massive
cartons of the specialized material rarely
encountered, intertwined with modern new issues and
history. It was unsettling to say the least
and I knew my own limitations
J. Millard Williams was the premier China dealer of
the day. Author, editor and publisher of numerous
articles and handbooks with a spotless reputation,
Jake was much admired. Audacious as it seems now, I
considered a partnership, marrying his acumen with
my inventory. The New York ASDA show was fast
approaching and I knew he’d be there. My plan had an
outline, but I had not worked out the details.
No sooner had I said that I’d purchased Bateman, but
then Jake got all red faced and annoyed with me.
“Grrrrr” went the tiger! I was mystified as to the
cause of such a reaction. Not for 19 years did I
receive an explanation until
Jake was sitting in my living room, having concluded
the paperwork on the sale of his personal China
collection to my company.
It was a misunderstanding. Given that Art Bateman
was the China Stamp Society’s sales director, and
Jake the #1 dealer at the time, he thought he’d get an
opportunity to bid. He didn’t realize family friends
solicited bids. Local dealer, national dealer, me.
For whatever reason, the friends didn’t reach out
for a China specialist. Bateman had a whole lot
So here Jake and I were, chatting away, friends
finally. He’s incredibly knowledgeable, and I’m
proud to know him.
Winter Park after the ASDA show, I leased
office space one building over for the China/Asia
company I envisioned. An immensely talented fellow
Jacksonville named Willy Dow, who could write
up postal history, came my way. Willy would commute
back and forth, a few days with me, then take Amtrak
to his beautiful red-haired wife, Ursulla.
Steven Frumkin came to visit, representing George
Alevizos’ Public Auction. Later on, I met George. If
you can locate George’s November 8-10, 1983, public
auction, I’ll point out which of the really nice
postal history lots came from me. I remember
assuring George that I’d never hold my own auctions
as I’m too shy.…Well! I got over that!
Winter Park is a suburb of Orlando, in the north
central area of Florida. As a most attractive area
to retire to, it was a blessing finding qualified
philatelists to work with me. Joseph Sousa, formally
the executive director of the old Society of
Philatelic Americans (SPA), Bob Womack, an early
staffer at the Philatelic Foundation, William McP.
Jones, expert on
were my mentors. I quickly picked up the habit of
saying “we” instead of “I” because the staff then,
as now, carried me. Awesome!
Miming “Pat” Herst, I deconstructed a 1912 Chinese
tobacco tax stamp, replacing inscriptions with my
name across the top in an arc and “Chinese
Philately” across the bottom, to serve as my logo. I
imprinted T-shirts for give-aways, anything to
spread the word.
Pricelists accompanied by monographs followed. As
with the stamp shop, they were frequent and to the
point. China, Offices in
China, Treaty Ports, First Flights, PRC,
Islands, etc. At the stamp shop, we had
developed a U.S. pricelist of almost every stamp
mint and used that we carried from 1893 to date, a
handy 32-page list issued biannually, given out
So at the China company we envisioned listing almost
every stamp mint and used. First numbered by Scott,
later Ma catalogue numbers were added. I’d worked as
a teenager in NYC filling orders on stockcards,
carefully noting in pencil fulfillment. I wanted
that old-time experience again.
Opportunities beckoned. The PRC government had set
up bookstores in key U.S. cities after
President Nixon’s visit to China. They had a
stamp department! When the bookstores were closed,
the inventory found its way to my company. Imagine
everything in post office condition. Large
quantities including 12 Mei Lan Fang S/S (Scott 628)
which at the time retailed for $150 VFNH each.
During 1984-5 I was buying in
Kong damaged examples of PRC’s 1968 “Whole
China is Red” (Scott 999A), all postally used, at
prices ranging from $150-$250 each. I believe I
handled 11 or 12 of them. Netted a $100 profit each
selling them damaged.
We didn’t have the wealth of English language
information about Chinese philately in those days. I
kept on finding material not listed in Scott like
varieties, unusual cancellations and postal history.
I didn’t want to guess the correct value. So Joe
Cartafalsa and I began writing mail sales in
A remarkable coincidence occurred, Joe Sousa retired
for health reasons and James Kerr signed on. Jim had
served together with Joe during the
Korean War. Jim was a world renowned expert
Korean Philately. He wrote “Korean Kingdom
and Empire Philatelic Catalog and Handbook.” His
contacts brought excellent material to Winter Park.
Jim Kerr and I became as inseparable as father and
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