It’s All About the Benjamins…What?

As previously mentioned, my grandfather’s concept of organization is…creative.

Going through his jumbled collection of stamps invoked many facepalming exclamations of “Grandpa!”  This was one of them, exclaimed even before I opened the envelope to which he had scotch-taped a green stamp of Benjamin Franklin. Scotch-taped.  By its appearance it was obviously old.  Upon looking it up, I found it was printed sometime between 1908 and 1912.

So, you know, effectively destroyed a 100-year-old stamp.  In his defense, the stamp was somewhat younger when he visited this humiliation upon it.

It makes slightly more sense as I open the envelope and find dozens and dozens of green Benjamin Franklin stamps.   Most of his old stamps are singular or in quantities of two or three.  I have no idea why he has so many of these.  It’s not like he cut them off his own mail, as he was born around 1916.

However, Grandpa is apparently not too discerning as to what counts as a 1908 Benjamin Franklin:

Bejamin Franklin Stamps

Ok, I get that he might have not been paying specific attention to notice the different prints of Benjamin Franklin (there were also a few 1902 Franklins), but….George Washington?!?  I guess all old dead white guys look the same.

And then there’s that nightmare thing in the center:

Bundle of Benjamins

At one point in these stamps’ sad, tortured existence there were many such bundles.  You can see the remnants of the ties on the lower left incorrect Benjamin in the previous pic.  Most have all but disintegrated, but this bundle remains mostly intact.

Edge of Stamp Bundle
Yes, that is a paper towel I am using as a background and, yes, that pair of tweezers comes from a manicure set. Don’t judge.

I did say mostly.  The back of the bundle is gone, but the ties have been in place so long they have adhered to the remaining stamps.

I have zero idea what material the ties are made from. Whatever it was, it has turned hard and brittle.  Was it originally black?  Only the stamp gods know, and they are probably weeping.

I have even less of an idea why someone thought this was a good idea.  Did they feel loose stamps took up too much space?  Were they putting them into condoms, swallowing them and smuggling them across the border?

Did it protect the stamps from fading?  Nope.  There’s a wide variety of quality in the overall cache, and those inside this bundle weren’t noticeably better.  Instead, the edges have been distorted, the top stamp stained, and many of the stamps have been pressed so tightly together that they have stuck.  The bundles are still bundles even when all of the ties are missing.

What’s it Worth?

You may be thinking an envelope of 100-year-old stamps must be worth something.  In fact, in decent condition they might be worth 30 times the face value.  Two things worth noting before you decide to rob my house:

  • Most are not in good condition
  • Face value is 1 cent

This is the story of pretty much any stamp I own.  The most expensive one I have found is about $1.50.  Even 100 years ago, many stamps were being printed in the millions or billions.  They’re just not hard to come by.

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