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The EFO Collector
by Andrew irvineEditor's note: The following note appeared in issue 163 (April-June 2011) of The EFO Collector. The printed edition did not have space to reproduce all pictures, hence they are presented here.
My father, Dr. David E. G. Irvine of London, was an avid stamp collector for perhaps 40 years of his life. He started with a general collection, amassing over 30 albums of stamps. Each album was labeled by country or group of countries, including, of course, some countries that have disappeared. I don′t know how he got started, but stamp collecting was very common in those days, with old stamps being sold in many corner shops, along with stamp hinges and albums - ″King of Hobbies and Hobby of Kings,″ they said.
Somehow, he became interested in design errors and he slowly built up a collection and a group of contacts around the world who sent him news of design errors they came across. People like the exciting-sounding Colonel Black of Prince Edward Island would write letters from time to time. Dad was a member of the local society, the Southgate Philatelic Society, and he exhibited there from time to time.
Along with him there was his North London friend, Maxwell Seshold, who used to come a visit him from time to time. I remember Mr. Seshold, sitting in our sitting room, surrounded by stamps, magazines, catalogues, etc. I was a beginner, and he gave me an old SG world catalogue. This, I studied for hours, exploring the apparent value of all my stamps with a fantasy that I might have an especially valuable one!
As he progressed, displays became competitions, local and regional, getting a bronze in the BPE in London in 1976. All this took more and more of his time, sometimes awkwardly juggled with his work as a science lecturer. He would come home, eat, do the washing up then disappear for hours in his study. I used to (knock on the door and) come in and watch him tinkering with stamps and he would tell me about the latest errors, showing me an incorrect number or picture, often with a smile at the stupidity of designers making very basic errors, and then nobody checking something that carried the nation′s pride around the world.
All three of us boys were stamp collectors for a while and I kept it up for some years. I used to come with Dad to his local club or down the road to Libritz, the stamp dealer, as there used to be in many cities in the old days. I would sit on a tall stool and they gave me boxes of cheap stamps to explore, while Mr. Libritz would say ″I have something for you, Mr. Irvine…″
No ″David″, in those days, of course - not even to a familiar customer.
Dad became a member of the National Philatelic Society, and I used to join him at the annual meeting for children, where I did hopelessly at their competitions and bid, but never bought, at their children’s auctions. Dad wrote a series of articles about his design errors for the NPS between 1972 and 1975, as he built up his database of errors. I remember him being a bit frustrated that they used his articles in small parts as fillers in The Stamp Lover, but I suppose this ensured that his name was always there in issue after issue.
Next, he and Mr. Seshold wrote the book ″Errors in Postage Stamp Design″, published by the NPS in 1979. The book was reviewed by Larry S Weiss of the EFOCC that year and described by him as ″a must for your library.″ It also won a literature medal at Norwex 1980.
Finally, Dad became a member of the Royal Philatelic Society and entered national and international competitions. I have Dad′s collection of many medals from BPE, Stampex, etc., in front of me. London 1980 is a beautiful medal with St. George on one side and the tower of London on the other. Norwex is rectangular and looks like a stamp - I don′t even know what metal it is - perhaps pewter? Along with these is his 2nd World War service Medal and a school medal for English - inscribed with the school motto- Do weel [sic] and persevere. Dad did persevere, with three medals including a gold from Rocpex Taipei in 1981.
Sadly, Dad got dementia, starting before he was 60, and his ability to keep up with philately declined. My father died in 1995 and Mr. Seshold died in 1998. At last, we are going to sell Dad′s collection in the winter of this year. I hope that someone (or preferably more than one!) will want to buy the collection as a whole. Why not continue it, where Dad left off? Fill in the empty spaces where he never got the stamps and go on finding new errors. I′d hate to think of all that writing being thrown away. The nice man from Spinks in London spent hours exploring the oodles of volumes. He said ″one could spend hours reading the fascinating things he wrote on every page…″ After all these years in a cupboard, I did find myself captured into reading about the wrong date, the wrong picture, the wrong spelling, the wrong person...
...all in Dad′s meticulous handwriting with those little arrows pointing at the difference between the faulty stamp and the corrected version. Mr. Parsons did tell me the word for the arrow, but I didn′t retain it. Dad would be disappointed! It is not a sad thing to say goodbye to the collection. The albums and all the boxes full of stamps can go to someone who will appreciate them. Happy memories!
Editor's Note: Dr. Irvine′s collection will be auctioned by Spinks, Bloomsbury, London, in Action No. 11033, the Autumn Collector′s Series Sale, on November 9th, 2011.
As Larry Weiss pointed out in his review of Dad′s book, not everything in Dad′s book and collection is actually an error in design. Sometimes, as explained in Dad′s text here, the apparent mistake may be intended on the part of the designer.
This miniature sheet is certainly a beautiful addition to Dad′s collection, with a definite text error in the bottom row of stamps.
As well as design errors on the stamps themselves, Dad had errors on covers and other related material, as shown on this Romanian pre-paid postcard from 1966.
This set from album 31 shows a colourful, but erroneous astronomical set with, as Dad explains in his notes on the page, at least four errors.
This is an early example of Dad′s work with the erroneous stamp itself, the stamp it depicts, and a seperate, clearer, picture of the postmark as well. The collection contains cuttings of relevent text and pictures, covers, and often both mint and used copies of the stamps themselves.
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