An extraordinary collection of stamps and other philatelic materials will be seen by the public for the first time in nearly 30 years—the result of a collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum and The New York Public Library. “Rarity Revealed: The Benjamin K. Miller Collection,” an exhibit of materials from the library’s Benjamin K. Miller Philatelic Collection, opens May 27 at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.
Among the great rarities and philatelic gems in this collection is the “One-Cent Z Grill,” the rarest of all U.S. stamps. Only two copies of this stamp are known to exist: One copy is in the Miller Collection, the other was recently acquired by William H. Gross, founder and managing director of the bond trading firm Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO). Gross will loan his “One-Cent Z Grill” to the museum, marking the first time ever that both copies will be seen together. The Gross copy will be on view from June 8, 2006 through Oct. 1, 2007.
With more than 25,000 stamps, the Miller collection contains more objects than can be shown at one time in the National Postal Museum’s philatelic galleries.
“Because this is such a highly anticipated exhibit, especially in the world of stamp collectors, I wanted to show as much of the Miller collection as possible,” said Wilson Hulme, curator of philately at the National Postal Museum. “But with approximately 1,000 pages of stamps—some of which have nearly 100 stamps on them—there was just too much material for one show. Instead, the collection will be displayed in two parts.”
The first part of the exhibit, which contains materials issued between 1847 and 1894, will be on view from May 27 through Oct. 1, 2007. The second part, on view from Nov. 5, 2007 through Jan. 12, 2009, features stamps issued between 1894 and the 1920s.
Donated to The New York Public Library in 1925 by Milwaukee attorney Benjamin Kurtz Miller (1857-1928), the Miller collection was the first complete collection of U.S. stamps ever assembled. It has been called the “crown jewels” of U.S. stamp collecting for its variety, depth and rare holdings. Due to security concerns, the collection was removed from public exhibit in 1977.
In a multi-year collaboration, the National Postal Museum and The New York Public Library worked together to make this important collection available for public viewing at the National Postal Museum which has the environmental safeguards, the expertise and the appropriate security measures to enable the collection to be shown to a large public audience.
“The New York Public Library has been a terrific partner throughout this process,” said Allen Kane, director of the National Postal Museum. “It has been our pleasure to work with the library’s exceptional leadership and staff to bring this amazing collection to the National Postal Museum.”
A companion book to the exhibit also will be available for purchase. Authored by esteemed philatelic researcher Scott R. Trepel, the book contains nearly 400 color images on more than 150 pages.
What is philately?
Philately is the collection and study of postage stamps, postmarks and stamped envelopes and the study of postal history.
The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. It comprises four research centers and 85 branch libraries in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items, including materials for the visually impaired. In addition, each year the library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs.
The Smithsonian National Postal Museum
The National Postal Museum is devoted to presenting the colorful and engaging history of the nation’s mail service and showcasing the largest and most comprehensive collection of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., in the Old City Post Office Building across from Union Station. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information visit the museum’s Web site at postalmuseum.si.edu.
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