Library's stamp collection worth $20 million



2015-06-26 11:36:31

Library's stamp collection worth $20 million

The Brown University Special Collections combine vast collections of stamps: errors, standard US and international

John Hay library in Providence, Rhode Island is home to a fabulous collection of stamps, as they have combined the individual collections of millionaires.

The largest contributions came from George S Champlin, Robert T Galkin and Colonel Webster Knight, a successful banker, starting with Knight in 1933. He bequeathed a near complete collection of US stamps, primarily in blocks of four, as well as mint and used singles, specialising in errors. Knight also left an endowment to the university.

This collection attracted the further donation of Special Delivery stamp collections from W L L Peltz and Morriss in 1947 and 1960. In 1960 the Memorial Stamp Collection of George S Champlin (a wealthy creator of jewelry), began to arrive to be combined with these. Champlin's collection consisted of international issues, but also came with a large endowment which has been used to extend the collection after his death in 1980 from 100 to 200 volumes. Galkin's collection of first day covers was presented to the library in 1976. Irene Heneghan's collection, given in 2002 consists of 93 mounted stamp albums and several hundred early 20th century U.S. postcards with cancelled one-cent stamps.

A couple of the more notable items are a block of the first adhesive stamps issued in America, in 1852 and a block of four of the green and black one cent issue 1901 Pan American Exposition invert error.

It also contains stamps from more peripheral areas of philately: revenue stamps for newspapers, liquor stamps, playing card stamps and confederate stamps.

The collection is so extraordinary, that the 3 men who run it, McGowan, Greene and Browning, gladly volunteer their time to in order to be in the presence of items they could never afford. However, it is so enormous that they struggle to catalogue it all, especially after the death of Brent Thurman who volunteered his time to take care of the collection between 1977 and his death in 2008. He had developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the collection and the others have yet to fully compensate for the loss of it with computer systems.

The collection is also running out of space with a new display case weighing well over a metric ton having to be lifted in through the window with a crane to help. An extension is being built.

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