In the philatelic system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The dealers, who offer their wares, and the buyers, who fill their collections. These are their stories.
Welp, another CHICAGOPEX is in the books, and it was one for the ages. Drama, intrigue, tragedy, this show had it all.
I drove up to Itasca Thursday morning, bringing with me 9 cartons of U.S. revenue material to trade/sell with other collectors. The weather was clear, but damn was it cold, dipping down into the teens. While not unusually cold for Chicagoland, after having worn shorts in 75 degree temps 2 weeks ago, it was a bit of a stark contrast.
I picked up my guest dealer badge in mid-afternoon and proceeded to do some initial business with the usual suspects during show setup: Denny Peoples, Eric Jackson, and Richard Friedberg. Stephen Taylor had a lovely improper-use banknote document for me, and Mark at Sterling Stamps sold me a neat bulk lot of Spanish American War-era insurance renewal receipts all with fractional cent tax rates (sadly only grey half-cent battleships, not orange), and bond coupon sized promissory notes all with 2-cent battleships affixed.
I met up with Kent Gray (StateRevs here on the board) who had flown in from New Mexico. I brought several cartons of state revenue stamps for him to look at (after much anguish and logistical contortion over the next several days, he ultimately ended up buying all of it!), and we went out for dinner to Lou Malnati's.
After dinner, Tim Wait came by to look through revenue documents I had brought along, and we spent time chatting into the night... a conversation that unfortunately not to be continued later in the weekend... (that's called foreshadowing).
Friday, day one of the show proper, was a whirlwind. The day was spent at a myriad of dealers, including an ephemera dealer where I acquired several lots of 19th-century billheads. Side note: I'm starting to compile a database of 19th century billheads, not just from the revenue tax eras, but all periods, in case anyone has any bulk material in this area. I added to set-aside material at both Eric and Richard's tables. I was surprised to see Mike Mahler at the show, as he typically doesn't come to CHICAGOPEX, but he had 4 exhibits at the show. While I converse with Mike online regularly, I hadn't seen him in person since the St. Louis Stamp Expo in 2014.
Early in the day, Tim texted me saying he was in the ER, having injured himself when he fell that morning. Human elements notwithstanding, this was a big deal for the show as Tim is the exhibits chair. Luckily nothing was broken or torn, but he would be sidelined at home and wouldn't be able to return to the show.
Lyman Helmsley came to my room and also went through the boxes of revenue documents I had brought. He has one of the top 2 or 3 RN (revenue-stamped paper) collections out there, and is a wealth of information on RNs as well as stamped CDVs (carte de visite), having an exhibit of same at the show.
Friday evening, I went to dinner with Kent, Eric Jackson, and the inimitable Ron Lesher, and we all chatted revenues until well into the evening.
Saturday was more of the same with respect to scouring for revenue items, with most of my time spent at Eric's and Richard's tables. I took a break in the afternoon to view the exhibits. Of particular note to me was Mike Mahler's multi-frame exhibit New York Stamp Taxes on Bonds, 1910-1920: Philatelic Shangri-la: Discovery of a Spectacular Philatelic Field Hidden for a Century. Some visually spectacular material contained therein.
Apparently at some point Saturday, Jerry Koepp (Stamps N Stuff) caught a thief attempting to to purloin several thousand dollars worth of material from his table, and it turns out it was someone who had been caught doing the same at other events previously. Some people...
After the awards dinner, Mike Mahler came by and we chatted western/mining revenue history for a few hours before I turned in.
Sunday I was up at 5:00am, had all my stuff packed up and out to the car by 6:30am, ready to head home after doing last rounds when things opened up to dealers at 8:00am. At this point I was relatively proud of myself, as I had stayed within budget for the show (which rarely ever occurs).
I stopped by a dealer who brought in a revenue lot he had just acquired for me to look at. It was an auction lot from Michael Aldrich, and surprisingly, the lot was exceptionally clean and fresh with respect to color and condition, with no dodgy imperfs or part perfs... (actually very decent quality material which I wouldn't expect given the source). Nothing for me personally, but very nice material.
I rounded out the show going through the revenue stock of A to Z stamps, trading jokes with the owner Michael Ball, one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Great sense of humor.
I was 30 minutes from departing (I could have made a clean getaway dang it!) when I encountered a dealer that normally never has anything for me, and he said "Come by my table, I have something for you to look at..."
Yeah, sure, ok. I wasn't expecting much... Oh boy. He pulled out a specialized propietary revenue (RB) collection that he had just taken in on consignment two days prior. It was an all-or-nothing proposition; he couldn't sell individual items out of it.
So ultimately, an hour and a half later, well past when I had planned to depart, I had made my single largest philatelic purchase ever, spending not only my 2023 show budget, but likely part of 2024's as well. But you have to get while the getting's good.
RB proofs, multiples including plate bocks, and an emphasis on propietary cancels, well over 1500 stamps in the collection. No RB8, 9, or 10, but some nice items like a block of 12 of RB1c, the imperf. Many of the roulettes are bogus, but I simply assumed they ALL were bad when assessing the collection (I showed the collection to Eric and he thought that some of them were likely legit, just not RB14c, RB16c, or RB18c).
Now I just need to sit down and figure out whether I want to pull a few items for myself and flip the balance to recoup the expense, or break it all down for individual item sale. The latter would be far more lucrative, but also involve MUCH more work and much longer timeframe. Decisions, decisions...
So I arrived home tired, broke, but ultimately happy... what more can one ask?