Scandal of the Audubon Stamps

From: Brian D. Oakes

The are a couple of articles to be found in the Haitian Philatelic Society Journal of 1993 related to the Audubon issue (I highly recommend the HPS Journal to everyone whether they are stamp collectors or not, one can find a great deal of interesting information, historical and otherwise, for only $12.00/year, you can contact me for further information).

I have extracted the following information from them:

The original "arrete" indicated that the series was to consist of 15 different stamps, as well as a souvenir sheet. In the intervening years, the number of stamps in the series increased, from 15 to 23, 32, then 63, and eventually to 75.

It appears that the series was intended as a legitimate issue but that it was never officially authorized because of an internal political power struggle.

The fake "arrete" was used by the International Postal Collectors League (IPCL), a division of the Calhoun's Collectors Society, to document the "legitimacy" of this issue. The Calhoun's Collectors Society was a direct mail marketer of gold foil stamps and other such items that went bankrupt in 1984.

Several times throughout the course of 1976, unused Audubon stamps, as well as regular and registered first day covers were offered for sale, presumably in good faith, by J&H Stolow, Inc. The estimated price of a set of registered first day covers was $45.00. A set of three non-registered first day covers bearing 23 different values, estimated at $15.00, was purchased by mail bid from the firm for $3.50. The Stolow catalogue offered these same stamps unused for $6.00.

Investigations by Postal Inspector J.T. Murphy of New York, as well as Linn's Stamp News in 1975 found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Stolow firm against the government of Haiti.

The firm of J.&H. Stolow acted as the agent responsible for arranging the printing of this issue, as well as approximately 65 other commemorative issues from 1958 tp 1963.

It is more than coincidence that the first Stolow contract coincided with the inauguration of the modern era of canceled-to-order Haitian stamps. While this policy may have provided inexpensive and attractive stamps for the youthful collector, it did much harm to the philatelic reputation of Haiti. The CTO policy made it easier for a distributor to corner the market of a particular value by enabling them to purchase stamps at less than face value. Not wanting to feel exploited, many collectors quit collecting modern issues of Haiti at this time. Additionally, many others terminated their new issue subscriptions not wanting to enrich a ruthless dictator.

In defense of this issue, it is to be observed that the issue is quite attractive, even if a bit lengthy. The series consists of 75 different stamps, with 15 designs. Form an historical perspective, these 45 regular postage and 30 air mail values, are an interesting set because of the scandal that resulted. Despite an alleged printing of one million of each value, the set has not been readily available.

Despite a reference in Linn's Stamp News (2/9/81) that the series was "produced in Haiti", the author is of the opinion that the stamps were printed abroad. This is likely because the printing facilities in Haiti are not capable of the quality of production that the stamps exhibit. The stamps, which are multicolored, were printed by photogravure. The company responsible for printing this issue is unknown.


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