Wednesday, November 18, 2015


One of my all time favorite philatelic writers is Herman "Pat" Herst Jr. (1909-1999) whose works were to span generations of collectors from the 1930s to the 1990s.

In his memoirs as a stamp dealer ("Nassau Street", Amos Press, Ohio, first revised edition, 1988), he relates a story (pp. 128-129) that is of particular interest to Philippine philately, as follows.

"A few months after Japan surrendered, two soldiers came down the hall to my office dragging a heavy trunk along the stone floor. Panting, they pulled it into my office and asked me if I wanted to buy it. It was a solid mass of Philippine stamps, in full pads of sheets, all stuck together so tightly that they seemed like bricks, and almost as heavy.

"'They came from the Manila post office,' one soldier told me. All of Nassau Street knew of the burning and subsequent looting of the Manila post office. As the Japanese withdrew from Manila, they set fire to most of the government buildings. The post office conflagration was the biggest fire Manila had ever seen; it burned for three days. Hundreds of millions of stamps were destroyed; even larger quantities were water-soaked.

"The contents of the trunk consisted of 2-centavo and 4c values. There were hundreds of thousands of them. 'As long as you were getting stamps,' I asked, 'why did you have to take only the lowest values?' 'The colonel got there ahead of us; you should have seen what he took!'

"I felt sorry for the soldiers, having lugged about 300 pounds of stamps halfway around the world, across the Pacific, by train from San Francisco to New York, and then at the end of the trip finding it almost impossible to sell them, especially until soaked apart. The last I heard of the soldiers, they were dragging the trunk down the hall to other stamp dealers in the Morton Building. What they finally did with them I never knew."

(Amos Press is the publisher of Linn's Stamp News, the "World's Largest Weekly Stamp News and Marketplace" and a good source for articles written by Pat Herst.)

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