By Phil Visser
After inheriting my father’s collection, I knew the areas we had worked on to further the Dutch collection. The years following his death were busy with child rearing and so the collection rested with some limited organizing when time permitted. On my return to active stamp collecting, I also ventured into the world of eBay, with the mission to fill in the holes.
We had worked on finding perforation varieties and while many issues were already present, it was the back of the book that was particularly vacant. Through the eBay portal I purchased collection/pages of early stamps to fill in the areas of interest. It was through those purchases that “extras” came into my stockpile. One of those purchases had this particular stamp and cancel in it. I set it aside because the place name was unusual, and it was simply a nice cancel. It was several years later that cancellations became a focus of my Dutch collection. This is when a tale on how philately came into my sphere of interest.
This particular cancel is called the “small round cancel.” The cancel itself is about 21 mm in diameter and fits nicely on the stamp that it was supposed to obliterate. That last point is what makes collecting this cancel interesting. Looking at the cancelation, three elements are a part of it. First the place name, then the date and year of postal usage and finally, at the bottom is the time of day that the clerk cancelled the letter.
Studying the place names is interesting in itself, but what has complicated and expanded the total number of cancels, is that a language commission change the spelling of names, thus, while the location is the same, there can be more than one cancel from that place. For instance, the town of Doesborgh was respelled as Doesburg, or the town of Hasselt (Ov.) was later changed to simply Hasselt. That is just the city town/village names. Don’t forget RPO’s, sub post offices in larger cities like Amsterdam which had 14 of them (Amsterdam 1 etc). All told, there is over 2,400 different cancels to collect.
Through eBay, I became connected with the Netherlands Philatelist of Northern California and from there learned more about collecting these cancels as well as other types of cancels from the classical period of stamps (1860-1930). This led to collecting the cancel dates and so I added pages for each month in a calendar year. Because this period was so prolific in mailing letters, it only took three to four years to fill in the calendar. But the calendar must also consider the full year, and don’t forget February 29th. I then also started to collect the calendar on one specific stamp, Scott # 35. This calendar is about two thirds full, with no month of the year completed yet.
As mentioned above, the third element was the time of day the stamp was cancelled. This was fairly simple to gather and so I started to collect this on certain stamps as well, Scott # 23, 35 and 40. The collection of #40 is complete, #35 requires one more find, but the early one, #23 is about two thirds complete.
Naturally, there is also catalogues printed which go into the grading of cancels so that values can be assigned. The one bad thing about this is that the pages I had made to house the collection do not have room for new discoveries and the odd deletion. All told, the cancel collection is housed in four, three ring binders. Two of those binders house the “numeral cancel” collection while the other types of cancels are in the last two binders One moral of the story is that collecting stamps is never boring! Even focusing on one country, the average collector will never complete a collection, because every country has some varieties that one or very few copies exist of. Enjoy what you can from the hobby, and yes a worldwide collection is still a reasonable thing to collect.
Phil Visser is Newsletter Editor for the Owen Sound Stamp Stamp (Chapter 191 of the RPSC).