Into Orbit With Space Topics Group

Question: With the recent tragedy of the space shuttle accident, I’ve gotten interested again in space philately and the stamps issued by the United States and foreign nations to commemorate the various space flights by the United States and the Soviet Union. Is there a space-stamp club that I could join by mail?--A.E.

Answer: The Space Topics Study Group is the space unit of the American Philatelic Society. Dues are $10 a year, which includes a subscription to a bimonthly journal, the Astrophile, and the privilege of bidding or selling in the club auctions. For more information and a membership application, write to Martin J. Michaelson, P.O. Box 171, West Nyack, N.Y. 10994. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Q: Back in September of 1983 I saw a notice in the Los Angeles Times stating that “In the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger are 260,000 special postal covers that have flown in space and will be offered for sale starting this week for $15.35.”

I sent for one, and received the envelope with the $9.35 express-mail stamp postmarked “Launched Aug. 30, 1983 Aboard Challenger” and “Returned to Earth Sept. 5, 1983, Edwards Air Force Base, California.”


I was very moved when looking through some things I have collected and put away to find this memento that flew on the proud bird that is no more.--A.L.

A: Thanks for the letter. You didn’t ask a question, and I hate to bring up the subject of money when discussing philatelic souvenirs of the space shuttle that unfortunately blew up in January of this year. But many collectors are probably wondering what this cover is worth now.

I evaluate it at about double the issue price, or $30. We’re going to see a lot of commemorative commercial covers honoring the crew and last flight of this shuttle, but most of these will be money-making merchandise for their promoters, and will have little actual philatelic relevance to the shuttle itself.

To buy a cover that has been flown in space is a better investment and wiser philatelic acquisition than getting a 1986-manufactured memento that has never left Earth.


Q: I have about 100 Israel first-day covers from the last 10 years. What is their value?--M.S.

A: Not a lot, probably about 25 cents to 50 cents each. If the envelope (cachet) designs are rare or are in demand for some other reason, they could be worth more. Modern Israel covers are popular but plentiful.

Q: I am interested in collecting airmail stamps of the world. Is there an organization for this purpose? I have noticed that you mention specialized stamp-collecting societies from time to time.--L.A.

A: The American Air Mail Society, organized in 1923, offers many benefits to its members. Dues are $10 per year and include a subscription to its journal, special bulletins announcing upcoming airmail events and access to other members. The society also has an exchange department in which collectors can exchange duplicate stamps and covers, and a free translation service.


For more information and a membership application, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to American Air Mail Society, 102 Arbor Road, Cinnaminson, N.J. 08077.

Q: Where can I get copies of stamp magazines and newspapers from World War II? I am doing a research project on mail in the 1940s.--T.J.

A: The Western Philatelic Library sells old philatelic periodicals for reasonable prices. For a copy of its price list of stamp literature, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the Friends of the Western Philatelic Library, P.O. Box 2219, Sunnyvale, Calif. 94087.

Q: I would like to start a stamp collection but have no idea how to go about it. Can you guide me to a good book on the subject? I would like to pass the collection on to a grandchild a little later.--J.B.


A: Any public library has a basic selection of stamp-collecting books. Two of my favorites are “The Complete Guide to Stamp Collecting” by Prescott Thorp and “Fun and Profit in Stamp Collecting” by Herman Herst Jr.

Most stamp dealers have a variety of books to help a beginning collector get started.

Q: What is the value of a set of four stamps from Jordan picturing President Kennedy? I believe these were issued in the 1960s shortly after he died.--D.M.

A: First sold on June 1, 1965, this set of four values (Scott catalogue Numbers 506-509) lists for $1.95 mint, $1.20 canceled.


Q: I live in Torrance. Do we have a stamp club nearby? I could take the bus or walk if it isn’t too far from my home.--H.S.

A: The Torrance Stamp Club meets on the first and third Mondays of each month in the Community Room of Home Federal Savings & Loan, 1670 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach. Meetings are from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and are free to first-time visitors. Dues are $3.50 per year and include free refreshments, door prizes and the chance to trade duplicates and meet new collectors.

If interested, go to the rear of the Home Savings in the parking lot off Palos Verdes Boulevard, then through a gate and down by the lighted fountain in the rear of the building, and enter the Community Room from the patio.

Hope you can visit there. Maybe you can get a ride from a friend or fellow club member if transportation is a problem. Stamp clubs are fun and informative.


Q: I am interested in collecting the stamps of Saar. Can you tell me the name and address of an organization that specializes in this branch of philately?--D.O.

A: About a year ago, the Plebiscites, Memel and Saar Study Group began publishing its quarterly journal, which averages 24 pages per issue. Expected membership in 1986 is about 100 people. Dues are $6 per year. For a membership application or more information, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Leonard L. Laylon, Treasurer, P.M. & S. Study Group, 203 Bucket Road, Bel Air, Md. 21014.

Saar is a state in West Germany in the valley of the Saar River on the French border. It was administered by both France and Germany at alternate times in this century. The stamps of Saar are enthusiastically collected by both the French and Germans. Quality Saar stamps tend to keep their market values through the years.

Q: I own a complete set of 23-karat-gold “Great Firsts in Aviation” stamps issued by the Commonwealth of Dominica. These 30 stamps were limited to 35,000 complete sets. I am interested in finding their value and a reliable buyer.--F.S.H.


A: That’s a lot of sets. I doubt if there are 35,000 serious collectors of Dominica stamps in the whole world. Your stamps have no great premium value, and a buyer might be hard to find because everybody who wanted a set probably already has one. I recommend that you keep these items as souvenirs.

Q: Tell me more about AMERIPEX, the stamp exhibition that was held in Chicago.--F.H.

A: Every 10 years, an international stamp exhibition is held in the United States. The last one was in the bicentennial year of 1976 in Philadelphia.

The 1986 show was in Chicago at the Rosemont/O’Hare Exposition Center. Several hundred stamp dealers from all over the world were present to buy and sell stamps for every budget. There were amazing exhibits of rare stamps to fascinate the serious collector.


Q: What is a definitive?--W.J.

A: A regular-issue stamp, not a commemorative.

Barry Krause, a member of several national stamp-collecting organizations, cannot answer mail personally but will respond to philatelic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Stamps, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.