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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Philately will get you nowhere (unless you’re Dennis J. Hanson)


 Universal Stamp Company Eastrington

The ads were irresistible: 
ALL FREE OVER 200 STAMPS PLUS THE FAMOUS PENNY BLACK & CAPE TRIANGULAR FACSIMILES The famous 1840 British “PENNY BLACK” and the 1853 “CAPE TRIANGULAR” facsimiles (originals worth about £45) plus a genuine dealer’s mixture of 200 unsorted stamps (Catalogued over 30/-.), all ABSOLUTELY FREE! Just ask to see our New Approvals. (Please tell your parents.)
This old PENNY RED and approx. 500 stamps for only 1/-. Here’s a super bargain that no collector can afford to miss! Send only 1/- today for this guaranteed and unsorted collection of about 500 stamps, often containing scarce and unusual stamps, plus this Great Britain 1d. Red issued 100 years ago. ... This very valuable offer ... is to introduce our Latest Approval Books. Please tell your parents when sending for Approvals.
This famous BLACK SWAN plus 213 stamps all FREE! The 213 are all DIFFERENT and include 14 Special Stamps (catalogued at over 10/-) such as the 80 year old British ‘Penny Lilac’. Whole collection is catalogued at over 45/-, yet it will be sent FREE to all who ask for our New Approvals. Please tell your Parents.
Wow! Two hundred FREE stamps! Five hundred for a shilling! ‘The Children’s Newspaper’, ‘Meccano Magazine’ and most comics were full of such offerings from a massed approval of stamp dealers – heaps of stamps free, or for just a few pence, if only you would ask to see their Approvals. The most prolific pedlars were the Bridgnorth Stamp Company and undoubtedly the best because it was just along the road from where I lived, Dennis Hanson’s Philatelic Services of Eastrington. Some of his promotions took the form of a super stamp quiz. 

Philatelic Services Eastrington

The quiz is from 1963 but for anyone who fancies submitting a late entry (I believe the business still operates) I’ve added my answer attempts below at the end. I suggest you increase the value of the 3d. stamp to take account of inflation (second class should do it), and oh yes, don’t forget to tell your parents.

Dennis Hanson Eastrington

Dennis Hanson started buying bulk stamps while still at school in Scarborough in 1935, sorting them into small packets, and selling them to his school friends and through his father’s general store. He moved to Eastrington two years later and over the years has traded under a variety of names including Philatelic Services, D. J. Hanson, The Stamp Club and The Universal Stamp Company. He was still in business seventy-five years later although he has never gone online. Over this time, dozens of Eastrington ladies have found agreeable employment fixing stamps into Approvals booklets and posting them out to customers.

Dennis Hanson Eastrington
Dennis Hanson and his staff in 1993 (from Howdenshire History)

As one of those customers it’s not easy to explain the appeal of stamp collecting to the screen-fixated youngsters of today, yet it used to be among the most popular childhood hobbies for both girls and boys. You could spend hours in exaltation, sorting through piles of stamps, carefully separating them from their envelope corners in a bowl of water, and drying them out between sheets of blotting paper.

The attraction was of course in the sheer beauty of the stamps, their vivid colours and stunning art work, and the way they captured the imagination by association with the history and geography of the world - conflict in Europe, communist revolution, African exploration, colonial independence. Looking again at my old stamp album (having just retrieved it from the loft where it was in a brown paper parcel wrapped up long ago by my dad). I’m amazed to see how much time I must have spent drawing little maps and transcribing information about different countries.

Aden postage stamps
Stamps from Aden, where my aunt and uncle lived for a time, overflowed their page very quickly

Approvals: Philatelic Services Eastrington 

Dennis Hanson clearly had a great knack for marketing. The whole purpose of the give away offers was to entice you into spending your pocket money on his Approvals which were mouth-wateringly presented in little chequebook sized booklets. Even when you managed to resist and return them all unpurchased it wasn’t too long before another booklet arrived, and then another, and you had a job to stop them coming.

A wadge of approval booklet pages from which the stamps have been removed show that I didn’t resist. I spent a small fortune – around 60 empty pages with a total value approaching £5 (which would have a purchasing power of around £100 today, and more than double that in terms of earnings): “Very scarce set of 6 mint & used Albania 1917 Koritza Eagles 2/-”, “Complete fine-used set of 2 Hungary 1952 Railway Day (catalogued 1/6d.) 9d.”, “Handsome set of 6 mint Paraguay 1958 President Stroessner 1/6”. And then a page in red ink: 
Superb stamps given Free. They are not for sale they are FREE . . . Set of 3 unused Herm Island 1954 Triangular Sea-Birds, local stamps with a face value of 1/2d., from part of the United Kingdom. Now obsolete and scarce. . . . YES, ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE. If you purchase 5/- worth or more from this Approval Book you may take this page right out of the book and keep it. These grand stamps will add lots of value and interest to your collection! It’s our way of showing our appreciation of your valued patronage.
This doesn’t count yet more pennies expended at the corner shops that also plied philatelic produce in racks of cellophane packets.

Clifford Moss Stamp Shop Leeds

Very soon, my spring-backed, loose-leafed Movaleaf Stamp Album, bought one afternoon from Clifford Moss of 31 Woodhouse Lane on a trip to Leeds with my dad, was bulging with stamps from all the old countries, many no longer in existence, such as “Jugo-Slavia”, the Weimar Republic of Germany, and British colonies such as Northern and Southern Rhodesia, and Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. 

Still more interesting is my dad’s 1930s Triumph stamp album where among many other surprising things we find Queen Victoria’s head adorning stamps from the six Australian territories which issued stamps separately until 1913. It’s also surprising to note that my dad must have continued to collect stamps into his twenties and thirties because his album contains lots of Elizabeth II issues.

As with most people, my interest waned as I grew older, although losing myself in my album now, in reverie, I could easily imagine taking it up once more, becoming expert in a specific area, something unfashionable and politically incorrect, perhaps stamps of the British Empire, assimilating all the lessons from history they bring with them.

What began to turn me off was in fact the antics of the very same Dennis Hanson who so altruistically cultivated my interest in the hobby in the first place. His bulk packets of unsorted stamps contained far too many cheap and flimsy ones from far eastern countries, and a disproportionately high number portraying the grim bespectacled face of King Baudouin of Belgium who looked like the dad of one of my friends.

Even more unforgivable were the Approvals that weren’t really proper stamps at all. The Herm Island stamps mentioned above were one example, used only for a private postal service from Herm to the nearest official post office on Guernsey, and obviously printed as a commodity to sell to tourists. But it was the stamps of South Molucca that really annoyed me.

Approvals: Philatelic Services Eastrington

“These Stamps will never be catalogued” it said on the front of one booklet. On another “Stamps of the South Moluccas Republic and the Forgotten War. ... although not listed by Gibbons, they are undoubtedly of philatelic interest.” And although they may have looked magnificent with their colourful images of the mammals, birds, fish, butterflies and plants of a small group of Indonesian islands, the republic never gained independence. Some stamps were issued by a would-be government in exile in the Netherlands, and others were produced without authorisation by a German stamp dealer. None were ever postally used and no reputable dealer should ever have touched them. Four pages crammed-full of bogus Republik Maluku Selatan stamps in my album show I was well and truly taken in. 

So, Mr. Hanson, having worked up a fury over being diddled fifty years ago, I’ve decided to send in my quiz answers even if you are over ninety. I’ve just now posted them off. It will be interesting to see whether I get any response. Sadly I can no longer tell my parents.

Postage Stamps: Republik Maluku Selatan issued by government in exile

My quiz answers: 1 – Twopenny Blue; 2 – No; 3 – British Guiana 1 cent Magenta; 4 – Yes; they are produced for collectors but many avoid them; 5 – Sweden; 6 – Yes, they bear the name Grønland; 7 – Yes; 8 – Hungary; 9 – Yes; 10 – No, they are for guidance only.

POSTSCRIPT  - No reply at all. Not even a facsimile.

SECOND POSTSCRIPT
In early August 2015 I received the following email:

My name is Charlotte Hanson I was googling my Grandad Dennis Hanson and came across your recent post. My Grandad sadly passed away on 29/07/2015. I know he would have loved to have read your post and give you a personal response to your quiz questions if it wasn't for his ill health this year. It makes us proud to find so much information about him on the Internet so thank you.

I replied to say how sorry I was to hear of her grandad's death, and thanked her for not jumping on my rather irreverent post. Dennis Hanson made a go of doing his own thing – an example for us all I think. A notice appeared in the Yorkshire Post and other regional newspapers, and an obituary on the East Yorkshire Local and Family History blog.


Here is someone else who had a very similar mixed experience of Eastrington Philatelic Services: Part 1; Part 2

In the comments below is a discussion of a box of around 200 unused approvals booklets sold on ebay in August 2017 for £227. Here are the images associated with the listing (click to enlarge) (if you are the owner of these images and object to me reposting them here then please get in touch and I will remove them):

Stamp Approval Booklets Eastrington Philatelic Services Stamp Approval Booklets Eastrington Philatelic Services Stamp Approval Booklets Eastrington Philatelic Services Stamp Approval Booklets Eastrington Philatelic Services Stamp Approval Booklets Eastrington Philatelic Services

43 comments:

  1. My pocket money was usually spent on approvals and stamps that I could find in local shops. I kept me occupied and I learnt a tremendous amount of geography and currencies through stamps. Thanks Dennis

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    1. Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comment. There were recent questions on the University Challenge TV programme relating to country self-descriptions (e.g. Magyar) which both my wife and I could answer because we once collected stamps.

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  2. I have fond memories of receiving the approvals sheets, choosing my favourite stamps, totting up the total and sending off payment. Happy days!

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    1. Happy days indeed, although I still think some stamps were a bit of a con.

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  3. We are all so proud of Dennis. He worked til the day he died doing a job he loved , well done grandad , you were amazing ,

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  4. I loved the approval booklets. I liked the diamond shaped and triangular stamps best and gave no consideration to rarity or value. I seem to remember paying by postal order?

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    1. Postal Orders! I'd forgotten about those, but yes I used them for lots of things. I've just had to look them up to remind myself what lovely documents they used to be - much nicer than cheques.

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    2. ... even the ones you used to get in toy Post Office sets were attractive.

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  5. Hi I have one of these special approval booklets with some stamps in. It has no. 10 on front of book. The stamps are wild animals, ruanda flowers,moluccas 1954 flowers amd lundy island 1954 silver jubilees. Looking at selling this. Where would you advise please

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    1. I have no special knowledge about selling and buying stamps but personally I would try ebay. If they were rare then perhaps Stanley Gibbons auctions would be the place to try, but I doubt the ones you describe have any great value at all (e.g. see https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/apr/13/stamp-collectors-catalogues-philately-clubs). In fact, they may be of more interest because they are in what may now be a rare Dennis Hanson booklet.

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  6. Thanks for your blog. I was watching a programme on stamps on BBC2 last night and my mind went back to my childhood and triangular stamps in packs through the post from Bridgenorth and as is the way these days, Google led me to your site and I relived the memories. Good times and in another "world". Thanks - Terry

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    1. Absolutely. I saw the programme was scheduled but forgot to watch it. Thanks for the reminder. I'll be on iPlayer this morning.

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  7. I used to buy by post from D J Hanson. I always worried after posting them back whether they got there or not. I have a large collection. When I started 40 years ago I was under the impression that was where to put your money for your future but alas no one is interested these days

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    1. They did, yes, but I guess it's always good advice to spread out savings and investments in case one goes wrong. Sorry you had trouble posting, it got filtered out as spam.

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  8. Collecting stamps was a big part of my pre teens during the 70s and was always excited in receiving approvals from D J Hanson. I gleaned hours of fun sorting stamps for my selection but found the hobby useless in my teens and sold the lot. But things come around and over the last decade have started to collect again (only GB).

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    1. I've no doubt I could get enthusiastic about collecting stamps again. I think I would go for the British Commonwealth and read up about the history and geography of the countries, e.g. the Bechuanaland/Botswana story told in the recent film United Kingdom really caught my imagination, and in a recent post I wrote about Southern Rhodesia. But it does take up time to do these things properly. Perhaps I should do less blogging and more stamp collecting.

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  9. An excellent article, that reminded me of the pleasures of life as a 9 year old in the early 1960s. I was particularly intrigued by the page of Maluku Selatan stamps; I too "invested" in these, and spent hours in the local reference library trying to find the country in various atlases... somehow it always eluded me! Only recently did I realise that my plans for my stamp collection to be an appreciating asset were groundless; much better if I had invested in a dozen James Bond Aston Martin Corgi cars, and left them unopened in their boxes to auction on e-bay some 55 years later.

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    1. Same with coins. Someone bought me a set of 1953 QEII new coinage sealed in a plastic packet. Still unopened they're worth nothing. Toys would indeed have been the thing if I could have resisted wanting to play with them.

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  10. ...and look what turned up at Kempton market today, a box with over 200 'Philatelic Services Stamp Club' 'Special Approvals', most valued at £10 'but the complete book may be purchased in full at HALF-PRICE, for only £5'. Books full of attractive if virtually worthless stamps. so Mr Hanson was still going in the early 1990's (judging by dates of some of the stamps) in what must have been a shrinking market as the young moved away from stamps and towards all things electronic....

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    1. Does that mean someone received the approval books and didn't bother either to pay or send them back? I wonder how long you could get away with that before they asked for them back. I believe that Dennis Hanson continued in business up to a few months before he died in 2015, although I doubt he had much to do by then.

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    2. Don't think so. Looks like a stock given there are several duplicated books, the guy selling them muttered something about 'the business going under'. No idea where he got them from; maybe all the stock was sold off after Dennis Hansen died..

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  11. I too have around 200 of these complete approval books that I bought around 35 to 40 years ago. Can anyone say what they are actually worth? approx.?

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  12. If complete I would guess they are worth a few pounds each on eBay, unless they contain rare stamps which seems unlikely.

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  13. Enjoyed the read and brought back memories of my childhood in the 60's when I too "invested" in the stamps of the Molucca Republic. I discovered your blog whilst looking for information on the Philatelic Services Stamp Club. My curiosity was driven by the fact that I've just seen a box of Dennis's approval books (approx 200 priced to sell at £10 each, the same as seen in Kempton market?) on E-bay. Auction is due to close in 2 days time and currently stands at £46!

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    1. Finally sold for £227, so just over £1/book. Stamps appeared to be priced at high percentage of catalogue value (collectors/dealers would likely retail at 30-50% of the prices sought by Dennis), so buyer may see a small profit if they can resell most of it.

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    2. It's going to take one heck of a lot of time to sell them off in ones and twos. I would guess the buyer is likely to be a dealer.

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  14. Hi there, I really enjoyed reading your blog about DJ Hanson. I just googled the name & postcode there now as I'd come across one if the above mentioned ads in an old magazine and my memories of collecting them are much the same as yours. I thought it was quite a big operation and was surprised to see the smallish wooden building where the enterprise must have been based. I often wondered what they did if people didn't return the stamps or money!! I was so delighted I remember to receive my free gift of a stamp collecting kit, complete with facsimile British Guiana 1c magenta😀

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    1. I think I had one of these facsimile magentas too. You can't fault the guy's propensity for making money.

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  15. I just had a hunt around in the 'room of junk' and found the remnants of my stamp collection including an approvals book still full of stamps. I must take a few scans and post a link 😀

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  16. I remember these approval sheets well!
    After sending off the competition questions and receiving 200 mixed stamps, the approval sheets used to turn up every month or so. At first they were low value brightly coloured stamps from random countries, or tourist stamps, nothing more than curiosity value.
    The advantage I had was that my dad had also collected stamps as a kid, and he gave his old album. He also said, "These stamps they are sending you are worthless, write and ask him to send you proper stamps". He also suggested I focus either on world stamps, trying to collect random stamps from all over the world, or Royal Mail stamps.
    D.J.Hanson then only sent me GB stamps as requested, usually a mix from penny blacks up to 1980's sets.
    He must have been a patient man, as often these approval sheets sat in a pile on my bedroom floor for months on end!
    My interest waned in mid teens and I remember writing to him to stop the approvals sheets coming.
    I still carry 3 of the first stamps he sent me in my wallet. A triangle Lundy stamp, a 1966 world cup stamp, and the free penny red.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Going by the number of commments this blog post has clearly attracted a lot of interest, which I'm pleased about. A lot of us still seem to have fond memories of our stamp collecting days. I suspect many of us would have returned to it if there weren't so many other distractions these days.

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  17. At last I got around to scanning my old approvals book! Here it is:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/YCuWZ5AqFj6TYVPf1

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    1. Thanks for that - it's a very attractive book of approvals, although I would guess that the St. Kilda set might not be regarded as proper stamps by some (note: I've disabled active links in my blog comments because of problems with spam, but this link works if you copy and paste it into your browser address box, and it's safe).

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    2. Those are the little approval books. He used to send sheets out with a Gibbons value of many hundreds of pounds, usually by recorded delivery, but in the latter years of my collecting he didn't bother. I've no idea why he sent them to me as I only spent £5 at most! I remember buying stamps from them just to put on the envelope to send them back once.

      A curious piece of childhood consigned to the history bin. I wonder how much of the decline was down to the dwindling readership of the comics they advertised in? The world changed and they carried on as if it was 1955.

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    3. I never saw those. He must have valued your custom more highly than mine, either that or he thought you were a bigger sucker. Yes it is now all mainly in the history bin, but the feeling of sitting quietly at a table, no distractions, undisturbed, trying to imagine the countries where the stamps came from, or the people or events they commemorated, growing your knowledge, self-contained satisfaction, would be a rare experience for today's kids. Invaluable.

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  18. I wonder if anyone here ever received a missive from the Approval Dealers' Protection Society? I did about 55 years ago, and was very worried about their threats if I did not return some approvals..... so they were soon in the post.

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    1. I've just found it mentioned in an online directory, but the ADPS web site address it references now seems to have been taken over by a shoe merchant. I'd love to see one of their warnings, but I bet they were a bark worse than bite outfit.

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  19. I know that active links are disabled but here is an archived version of the ADPS site from 2002:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20030207120832/http://www.adps.org.uk:80/

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  20. The site seems to have relocated to:
    adpsstampdealers.uk

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    1. Thanks for the links. Just had a look. I wonder how long the confidential list of problem clients was.

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