I’m accustomed to reading Gordon Milne’s effusive descriptions of GBCC meetings. Now I’m on the other side of the monitor, writing instead of reading. My prose is more prosaic than Gordon’s, but let me say unequivocally that this GBCC meeting was a smashing success.

Much of that success was due to Tim Burgess’ tireless efforts to organize the meeting, arrange for speakers and exhibits, and so on. All of his hard work paid off in spades. He was, of course, assisted by several other club members as well as the WESTPEX committee. Special thanks are given to David McNamee, who put up with a lot of pestering from yours truly and yet remained in good spirits while delivering on all his promises.

We were very fortunate to have the participation of three notable philatelists who came over from the U.K.: Tony Walker, Peter Sargent and Ray Simpson. They helped fill out a full seminar schedule that really made the show worthwhile for the attendees. In addition, there were also 11 fantastic GB exhibits at the show (detailed in the chart below).

In all, there were 17 people who shared their knowledge by giving a seminar, providing an exhibit, or both. That’s a terrific showing for a club of our size.

Tom Current
GBCC Founder Tom Current studying an exhibit.

I was very glad to see GBCC founder Tom Current at the show. Tom, looking as fit and sprightly as when I first met him 20 years ago, was enjoying the continuing fruits of his labors in the 1970s to start a North American club for Great Britain collectors.

The GB events actually started two days prior to the show. Wilson Hulme, Curator of the Smithsonian Institution National Postal Museum, gave a talk at the monthly meeting of the Collectors Club of San Francisco. Although this was not a Westpex event, it was open to the public and was announced in various publications, including Linn’s Stamp News. And, not surprisingly, it was Tim who made the arrangements for Wilson to give his talk.

Wilson’s talk was titled, “The History of Perforation in the United States Through 1857.” As he made clear, there was a strong connection between the U.S. and Great Britain during that period. His talk shed a lot of light on the history of perforation in GB and how development of perforation in the two countries was intertwined.

Wilson’s talk was, in a way, the first part of a two-part series. On Friday afternoon, Peter Sargent and Ray Simpson gave their talk, “Stamp Perforation: Somerset House Years 1848-1880 – The Invention and Early Development of Stamp Perforation.” Their talk was accompanied by a ten-frame display, and there was time during the break for all of us to look at the exhibit and the incredible items therein. (Their book on this topic is soon to be published by the Royal Philatelic Society, London.)

Peter Sargent Ray Simpson
Peter Sargent (left) and Ray Simpson presenting their talk.


Perforation Development Seminar
Seminar attendees viewing Peter and Ray’s exhibit about the development of stamp perforation in Great Britain.

After that heady dose of philately, we all needed time to relax — and eat! I had arranged to have the traditional Friday night dinner at Kincaid’s, a nearby restaurant with a fantastic view of San Francisco Bay. Since we don’t ask people to sign up, I had to guess at the number of attendees. I made the reservation for 20 people. I was very pleased when 29 people came for dinner! Although it was a busy night, the restaurant staff managed to find places for all of us, and the consensus afterwards was that both the food and the conversation were excellent! (I was told that the halibut cheeks were delicious. I had no idea they were a delicacy.)

Tim Burgess
GBCC President Tim Burgess discussing his plans for the club.

Saturday was a day of immersion into many aspects of GB philately. It started off with the GBCC Annual Meeting. Tim gave a brief talk about his many accomplishments so far and his plans for the future. He has concentrated on two areas: getting new contributors for The Chronicle and giving the club an international flavor by cooperating and joining with other GB collectors’ clubs around the world.

Tim also said that he will be organizing more GBCC events at shows around the country. These annual shows won’t be as elaborate as WESTPEX, but they will provide the opportunity for GBCC members and kindred souls to get together. In the meantime plans are unfolding for another formal guest society meeting in the next two or three years.

Finally, Tim mentioned that he has been asked about the lack of circuits and auctions within the club. He commented that with the rise of eBay and other Internet facilities, collectors have many more options for buying material than they used to. Today, it is hard for clubs like the GBCC to be successful with their own selling efforts. The club’s resources are better spent to provide services that are unavailable elsewhere.

Tony Walker
Tony Walker describing the work of the Stamp Advisory Committee.

The first seminar of the day was given by Tony Walker. Titled “The Work of the Stamp Advisory Committee of Royal Mail,” it was a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the group that approves designs for new British stamps. He displayed several frames of material related to the committee’s work.

Following Tony, I gave my talk, “Machin Mischief.” It was a lighthearted look at some of the interesting events that have happened during the long history of the Machin series. For example, “Two Heads Are Better Than One” describes the “doubleheaders” that have the profiles of both Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria to honor the 150th anniversary of the Penny Black.

I closed the session with the “Machin Color Quiz.” Since the variety of colors is the outstanding characteristic of the Machin series, I thought it would be fun to see how much people knew about the history of the Machin colors. Knowing that all GBCC members are honorable, I let each person grade his own quiz as I explained the answers.

Ironically, the top scorer was Tom Slemons, a collector of Victorian-era GB. Third place went to Pierre Hahn, but unfortunately I didn’t get the name of the second-place winner. The three winners each got Machin prizes worth about $10, and everyone who attended the seminar got a Machin souvenir to take home.

Continuing our flipping back and forth between centuries, S. David Rockoff gave the next seminar on “Maltese Cross Cancellations of Great Britain and Ireland.” This scholarly presentation described his detailed study of the Maltese Cross including some revealing details about the upcoming book he is co-writing with Mike Jackson of the Great Britain Philatelic Society.

The sessions concluded with the “Machin Workshop.” My friend and co-author, David Alderfer, led a discussion of the history of the Machin series and techniques for identifying the various varieties. Our small group had a lively discussion about some of the details of this complex and fascinating series of stamps.

Tom Slemons
Tom Slemons rejoicing when being given his certificate for being the first-place winner of the Machin Color Quiz.

I think it is fair to say that all of the GBCC members and friends who attended found the show very worthwhile. Like me, I think everyone enjoyed seeing old friends and making new ones, learning from the seminars and exhibits, shopping at the bourse, and just generally having a good time. On behalf of the club, I thank all of our members and guests who gave of themselves and worked hard to make the show an outstanding success.

For Tim Burgess’ version, click here

The WESTPEX Awards

For those exhibits with a Great Britain-related topic.

Exhibitor Title Award
Timothy Bryan Burgess The One Penny Perforated Stars of Great Britain Gold, American Philatelic Society Award of Excellence: Pre–1900, Donald Dretzke Memorial Award — Best Used Stamps
David A. Cooper, Sr. U.K. Transatlantic Mail 1939–1953. The 1s3d (15d) Rate with Multiples and Variations Silver
Tom Current City of Bath (U.K.) Postal Development to 1840 Silver
Donald R. Hines Great Britain King George V Photogravure Issue 1934–36 Gold, SESCAL Award of Merit
Jim Kotanchik Official Seals of Great Britain Gold, American Philatelic Society Research Medal
Mark Lorentzen Price Circulars from Great Britain to Denmark, 1840–Denmark Single Frame Gold
Mark Lorentzen Letters from Great Britain to Denmark, 1840–UPU Single Frame Gold
Jerry H. Miller “From Hill To Bickerdike” The Victorian-era Experimental Machine Postmarks of England, 1857–1901 Gold, WESTPEX Grand Award, Friends of WESTPEX Award — Best British Commonwealth, Postal History Society Medal – Best Postal History
Thomas P. Myers British Airmail to Africa and Asia, 1931–1952 Vermeil
Dave Russum English Free Franks — Use and Abuse Prior to Postal Reform in 1840 Silver
Tony Walker Great Britain Pre-decimal Machin Definitives 1967–71 Gold, Great Britain Collectors Club — The Tom Current GBCC Founder’s Award, American Philatelic Society Award of Excellence: 1940–1980


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