The Liberty Series - A Conversation with Wade Saadi

Noted collector and member of the museum’s Council of Philatelists, Wade E. Saadi, talks with Chief Curator Daniel A. Piazza about the postal history and innovative aspects of the Liberty Series postage stamps issued between 1954 and 1968.

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DANIEL A. PIAZZA: Hello, Wade.

WADE E. SAADI: Dan, how are you?

PIAZZA: Great. How are you doing?

SAADI: Pretty well, considering that we're in a lockdown basically still.

PIAZZA: Right. Five months on and no end in sight. So, all of us have taken refuge in our stamp rooms, including you.

SAADI: Yes, I have.

PIAZZA: And this video kind of came from an earlier chat you and I were having, and I, I sort of asked you what you were working on in your stamp room during the quarantine and you started talking to me about the Liberty Series. And to be honest I didn't even know that you collected the Liberty Series. And so, I was fascinated, and I said, “Well, would you come on and do a video with me? And we'll chat a little bit about it.”

SAADI: Yeah, I guess it's 20 plus years of collecting the Liberty Series.

PIAZZA: Yeah. What attracted you to the Liberty Series?

SAADI: I guess probably more than anything else is that was the definitive series that was in use during my childhood. I was born in 1949.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: So, it was used from ‘54, my first cognizant - cognizant year, probably up through 1970. So, it carried the bulk of the mail. Also, I worked for my dad who had a small factory in Manhattan at the time. And I was relegated to the shipping department and the stamps that they were using to send all their parcels out were the Liberty Series - full sheets of the $5 and $1 and 50-cent. At the time UPS was in its infancy with - out of the Tri-state area. They serviced California, a little bit of West Coast. I think Florida, Washington D.C. and Chicago I think were the main hubs that they went to. Otherwise the parcels had to be sent by the postal service, post office. So, I was sticking stamps on - Liberty stamps - on boxes when I was younger than 10. So it was, I guess that.

PIAZZA: You started out by creating postal history.

SAADI: Yeah. If any of it exists today, I wouldn't stop laughing.

PIAZZA: And now, you've never found anything from your dad's business, huh?


PIAZZA: Ah, no.

SAADI: Well, they were all on parcels, so no I would - probably wouldn't. Boxes and large envelopes, padded envelopes…

PIAZZA: And were you allowed to go through the incoming stuff and save stamps off of covers or no?

SAADI: I never thought of it, to be honest with you.


SAADI: I don’t know whether - I was collecting stamps probably when I was eight and nine. And so that came probably a little bit later. This was like when I was seven and eight, maybe nine, but anyway, it was a different time.

PIAZZA: Yeah. So, what have been your goals with the collection while you're in lockdown and hiding, in the hidey-hole?

SAADI: So, I've been working on how to set the exhibit up. I've got tremendous amount of material. Probably if I mounted it all, which I never would, it would probably be 40 frames of material, but I've got to narrow -- you know, winnow -- that down to eight to 10 frames. I specialize in the postal history, the rates and uses. I don't really collect a lot of the varieties, the manufactured varieties like paper types, perforations, taggings, per se.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: But I have one exception to - I have a Look cover that has a tagging variety on it. There's only three known. So, I have one of those. I'll show that, though not as a tagging variety in the exhibit, I'll show it as a 3-cent stamp use because I can't open that door. While you exhibit, if you go to tagging you have to show the gamut of tagging which doesn't interest me as much as the uses on non-envelope forms and so forth which I'll show you a little bit of later when we get to the slide portion.

PIAZZA: Sure. So for you, I mean kind of researching and mounting this collection during this crazy COVID pandemic time has been maybe a little bit of nostalgia for you, a little comforting, returning to your roots a little bit you know, the origins of your collecting.

SAADI: Yeah. It's relaxing. I'm not mounting any of this stuff. I'm just organizing it still.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: So, I haven't, I don't have access to the stuff I need out here. I'm in Sag Harbor, Long Island during the duration. So, I don't have the big printer and scanner here, but I have the material.

PIAZZA: Right. I mean, I know you said you specialize primarily in the postal history and not so much the production aspect of the stamps or the design of the stamps, but is there a stamp in the series that you particularly like or maybe one you don't like? I know I definitely have a few favorites and ones I really don't like from this series.

SAADI: I prefer the portrait ones which are shown in a vertical format over the buildings and famous sites that are shown in a horizontal format that just -- I don't know why, but that's, you know. Probably my favorite stamp is the Hamilton stamp. He's always been a special character that I followed - a founding father and brought to the United States, in its infancy, commerce and a financial understanding which was integral in the founding of the country. I'm - more so than many of the other founding fathers, his vision was immense.

PIAZZA: Yeah. We, I think we agree on the $5 Hamilton stamp. I think that's - I mean just that it's beautifully engraved. I - the black color is just, you know, really sharp and arresting, but also the story about Hamilton. I mean, I like Hamilton so well that I curated an exhibit about him at the National Postal Museum about 18 months or two years ago now. And the interesting thing is this is the first time Hamilton appears on a postage stamp since the 19th century, is this 1956 issue. And Hamilton, more than any of the other members of the founding generation, was somebody who’s -- I think his historical reputation kind of waxed and waned over time. And I think he, my theory and the theory I kind of advanced in the exhibit anyway, was that he comes back into prominence in the ‘50s, not just because it's an anniversary of his birth, which it was, this was right around the 200th anniversary of his birth -- but I think the growth of commerce and industry in postwar America, really his vision looked like it was coming to fruition. You know? And so, there's a big Hamilton bicentennial celebration. And look, this is the kind of commerce and business that he predicted. Whereas, you know, kind of earlier, the Civil War at least looked like kind of the end of the vision of the future of America that he wanted. But Hamilton is just, I think, endlessly fascinating. And I think that's right, that's one of the most beautiful stamps in the series. Any others you like?

SAADI: Susan B. Anthony is an attractive stamp. The 50-cent stamp. The workhorse of the series were the 3-cent Statue of Liberty, and the 4-cent Lincoln. The Statue of Liberty on the 3-cent is kind of mimicked in bicolor on the 8-cent and again on the 11-cent. So those three stamps are why this series was named the Liberty Series, as well as the founding fathers and Prominent Americans, of the you know, that era.

PIAZZA: Yeah. Of the three Liberty stamps. I think I like the 8-cents the best, because I like the bicolor printing, but something about the 11-cent, something about the frame being red, is overwhelming. It's a little overwhelming

SAADI: When the vignette is dark and the, excuse me when the vignette is, right, dark and the frame is light it doesn't carry the same -- to me it doesn't, it's a -- although I always wondered what the Inverted Jenny would look like, or the C3 even itself, the regular stamp would look like if it were had a blue frame and a red inside.

PIAZZA: And a red plane. Yeah. I don't know. Any stamps in the series you really dislike or, I mean design-wise just from their - aesthetically?


SAADI: I would say the 25-cent Paul Revere, I think it looks muddy. It's not a sharp impression.

PIAZZA: Yeah. He looks like he's about to be sick. He looks green in the gills.

SAADI: Yeah, the other stamp that comes out muddy sometimes is the Teddy Roosevelt, the 6-cent stamp. You can get them in wet printing and dry printing, so some of them look sharper but I've seen those overinked on occasion. And they're kind of cloudy looking.

PIAZZA: Yeah. But the 25-cent hands down is the most -- it's that ghastly shade of green, he looks like he's about to be sick. I just, I don't, it doesn't, it just doesn't look like - and to me, it just doesn't look like the guy. This doesn't look like a guy who got on his horse and rode however many miles, right, warning of the - this is sort of the older Paul Revere who's an elder statesman now, I guess, and a little paunchy. And I don't know, it's just something about that stamp doesn't - has never - worked for me. But that stamp had had like these multiple, kind of, revivals over the course of its life, including right into the 1980s.

SAADI: Yeah. The coil stamp of the Paul Revere issue was used up until the late ‘80s, as was the 2-cent coil of Jefferson. Both those stamps were used as - not just used - sold in post offices up until I believe ‘88, ‘87, in that range.


SAADI: Which is a really long life. They were issued back in the ‘50s. So, I collect some of those uses because of their - the rates they show that are perfectly fine to show because the stamp was still being sold in the post office.


SAADI: Typically, you're confined to 1954 to 1970-ish. But with those coil stamps, you can show much later it uses which shows rates that are higher value than they were during the Liberty usage period.

PIAZZA: Yeah. Well, so let's get into the rates and the uses a little bit which I know is what you really love and study and collect and exhibit. I mean, this is a time of, this is the postwar economic boom in America. I mean, this is a time of unrivaled sort of consumerism and the expansion of business. And this is the Workhorse Series during that whole, a whole sort of roaring ‘50s and ’60s, and moves a lot of mail that's directly related to that postwar economic boom. This is the baby boomer mail.

SAADI: Yeah, and not just baby boom. No, that wasn't the only boom - the boom in the postal rates was noticeable. I mean, it was 3-cents from 1932 up until 1958 to send a first-class letter. In the Liberty Series, their first-class rates that were used up until I think it was 1970-ish were 3-cents, 4-cents, 5-cents, 6-cents and 8-cents. So, in that one period the first-class rate changed that many times.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: So, there was a boom in the postal rates as well as in the economy.

PIAZZA: Right. A boom in the rates, but a whole period of new automation technologies being introduced by the postal service to deal with the incredible volume of mail that was beating against it doors, you know, daily, weekly, monthly throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, and also a whole bunch of new services, some of which have long since gone away, some of which are still around, and some of which you have some early examples of in your collection. So, you want to look at some of your covers and look at some of this mail?

SAADI: Yeah, so I'll go to screen-share.


SAADI: Okay, so here's an interesting rate. So, 1955, this was a greeting card sent from Chicago, Illinois to Orlando, Florida at a time when Disney World didn't exist. So, Orlando wasn't the big city that it is today.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: It's frankly, the 2-cents stamp - which during certain periods around Christmastime or Thanksgiving or Easter and so forth - you could send a greeting card unsealed for 2-cents which was one cent less than the 3-cent first-class rate. So not only is this a crash cover, meaning it crashed in an airplane, but here we have a 2-cent rate that's supposed to be treated as 3-cents service, which is first-class but it was obviously sent in an airplane to Orlando which is evidenced by the fact that it crashed and it received 6-cent airmail service for 2-cents. So, it's just an unusual - besides being a crash cover - the rate structure is unusual. To the right side you can see the scan of the damaged greeting card from inside the envelope. And next I have the enclosure from the Postmaster General of, excuse me, the Postmaster of Jacksonville, Florida which says, “Any of contents not enclosed was destroyed in crash or missing when mail was recovered.” So that's kind of a nice thing to have inside the envelope.


SAADI: Next, we have that muddy stamp I was telling you about of Teddy Roosevelt. It's a strip of three. It's very pretty, but the image as you can see is not at all sharp. So, this is a Sender's Statement and Certificate of Bulk Mailing. So, when a mailer wanted to mail a large bulk mailing, in this case of 1160 items third-class, they paid a penny and a half for that privilege. And at that time, the rate was 3-cents. So, they sent it for half price. If they wanted proof that they had mailed this and a record of it, they had to get a Certificate of Bulk Mailing which is evidenced on the write-up at the bottom. It was 15-cents for the first 1000 pieces and 3-cents for each additional 1000 which came to 18-cents for between 1 and 2000 pieces. So that's a very unusual use of postage stamps on non-carried mail.

PIAZZA: Well, I mean, and that's just, you know and that's all part of this growth of commerce in the ‘50s and ‘60s is not just what's lovely about this is that it's not just the front end. That is not what the consumer sees or gets in their mailbox, but all the postal accounting and all the services that are being requested and paid for by big bulk mailers behind the scenes and the stamps are used on those as well. Really lovely.

SAADI: Yeah. Well, the birth of certified mail came out in 1950s during the Liberty Series - registration had existed previously. So here we have the old life insurance policy that a passenger would buy at the airport - long since gone from our airports. This was a $25,000 life insurance policy. The premium was, what was it? $2. And it's got a - is franked with a 4-cent stamp and you folded it and - that's not an envelope. That's part of the form that this is attached to. So,

PIAZZA: Yeah. And in the old movies sometimes you can see people at vending machines before they get on the plane, buying a life insurance policy.

SAADI: Yeah, they don't do that anymore.

PIAZZA: No, I imagine that kind of went by the boards maybe around the time of the Unabomber. I don't know.

SAADI: Yeah, I think even, maybe possibly before but it is just a, it's a relic, it's something from the past. It's from the, what is it? The Associated Aviation Underwriters.

PIAZZA: And so, then the person buying the policy would fold this up and mail it, I guess like at an airport post office before they got on the plane?

SAADI: I think there was a postbox right next to the machine itself.

PIAZZA: Right. Well, because yeah, the insurance policy is - if it's needed, it's worthless if it's on the passenger, right?

SAADI: Yeah - Exactly, right. So, this is a solo use of the $5 Hamilton.

PIAZZA: Oh yeah, wow.

SAADI: These are not easy to find.


SAADI: At all. There's only two known solo uses on covers and they sell for quite a bit of money. This is a solo use on a top of a stack Business Reply Mail. So, the way that worked is back and still works today the indicia at the top says, first-class it's a permit number, you apply for the permit. And the way it works is you pay the first-class rate when you receive the mail and you pay a fee of two cents apiece. So, it's five cents per piece that you redeemed from the post office. And obviously if it was $5, that would be 100 pieces. And it's nicely stamped, postage due $5 by the post office.

PIAZZA: And this way that this way the sender doesn't pay a lot of return postage upfront that then...

SAADI: Upfront rate.

PIAZZA: Ends up in the trash can.

SAADI: Yeah, if you got a 5% return rate or a 10% return rate, that's considered huge. So, they save a lot of money by not even paying for a double the postage they're paying five cents instead of six cents which would be double the postage. So they're saving a lot of money there. And what that did is it increased mail volume for the postal service, because they were able to capitalize on this process. Plus, they got two cents extra for each one. So postal money orders were very popular back in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. A lot of people didn't have checking accounts, etcetera. So, if you wanted a postal money order you would get it and then I'd send it to you, Dan for the stamps that you sent me. And then you'd say, “But wait, I never received it.” So, I'd say, “You didn't get it?” And you'd say, “No, I didn't.” So, I get this form from the post office, put a 30-cent stamp on it. That's the fee. And I would mail this. It's like an IBM card. You can see the reverse of it.

PIAZZA: Yeah, a punch card. Yeah.

SAADI: Right. And they'd send that to someplace in, probably in Washington. And they would process it and send the requester a photocopy of the returned money order with somebody's endorsement on it that it was cashed, to prove it.

PIAZZA: Well, and you can just sort of - you can picture the giant room-sized computer that this was probably loaded into somewhere on G Street in Washington, right?

SAADI: Yeah, some huge card reader processed these things. And then they, someone would probably have to go pull the records because I doubt they were computerized and then make a photo literal photocopy of the back of the, back and front of the money order.


SAADI: So, different time. Everything's digital now.

PIAZZA: Right. Right.

SAADI: So, this is not really complex. This is a wrapper. It contained the newspaper Le Figaro. And it was sent from France to Tennessee and they paid the 30-centime meter rate. You can see it on the right side in red but the gentleman who was supposed to receive it had moved from Tennessee to Kentucky and it had to be forwarded. And printed matter, according to UPU, can't be forwarded for free. So, in order to forward it, they would have to pay what's called a transient second-class rate. And that's a special rate that allows publications sent second-class, or printed matter in this case, to be forwarded at less than the third-class rate. So, the rate is showing there, and it came to nine cents. And this is in 1984, excuse me, 1964 policies. So, an unusual use on a wrapper which is unusual in itself.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: Paying a nine-cent transient rate.

PIAZZA: There it is, yeah.

SAADI: It is the one example of my collecting a tagging variety or a production variety. As I said earlier, and Dan mentioned, I don't really collect perforation varieties, imperf between, wet printing, dry printing, etcetera. Whether it's a coil or whether it's a sheet stamp, that doesn't figure into my exhibiting plan. But this is a one of three covers. It's the only one known with the enclosure. It's called the Look Magazine cover. And what makes this cover not unique but darn close is the fact that the 3-cent stamp the coil stamp on the right side was a special printing made expressly for Look Magazine in the 1960s. They were planning to do a big mailer, they needed like a million coil 3-cent stamps because they believed that stamps on an envelope prompted the recipient to open them more often than just discarded.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: And that's probably based on their market research at the time.


PIAZZA: And I think that's still the case. If you read marketing magazines, direct mail marketing association reports and things, this is why the postal service still issues all those, like, non-profit and bulk rate postage stamps for envelopes because the marketing research still shows that stamps on an envelope increase the open rate, yeah.

SAADI: Who was it? Not just Look Magazine, Life Magazine used stamps. So did, was it the VFW I think? There's a lot of covers from them seeking donations and so forth.

PIAZZA: The Disabled American Veterans frequently...

SAADI: That's it.


SAADI: It was the DAV. They were using them up until the ‘90s. They might still, but I don't receive them if they do.


SAADI: In any case, so this special printing that they made for the Look Magazine people had a tagging on it, which is the invisible coating that goes on postage stamps that triggers the canceling machine. So, it knows where the stamp is. It turns the cover or the envelope around to find the stamp and to make sure that there's a stamp on it. And then it cancels it, it's called a facer-canceler machine.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: So, they put this tagging on but this is the only stamp, the only 3-cent stamp, that had this formula of tagging. It's a different color. It - under ultraviolet light, it's a dull green. Most tagging is much brighter than this color. So this became a howling rarity and to find it not only on a cover, but on the Look cover sent, you know, “within date,” that is, when this mailing was done for the six months beginning in December of ‘66. And with the full enclosure that was sent to Mr. Donald Provost it’s a real find. It's a treasure.

PIAZZA: Yeah. I mean, that's one of the kind of hallmarks of this period in terms of the postal service, is the introduction of the facer-canceler machines, as you were talking about, and the phosphorescent or luminescent tagging that kind of tripped or activated the machine to recognize that there was postage there and cancel it. But then also this is the era when they're starting to deploy, the postal service is one of the first agencies to kind of to develop OCR capabilities so that the address could be read and to really because the volume of mail is growing so exponentially that human power can’t keep up with it. So, they are increasingly turning to these agents of mechanization trying to standardize how the mail is processed and automate a lot of the canceling and even some of the rough sorting, you know parts of the process.

SAADI: So, this just it's...

PIAZZA: And that's the lovely thing about these workhorse or definitive stamps is they're in use for such a period of time that you can see all of these innovations in these changes are reflected in the mail stream.

SAADI: Yeah, even the printing, they started with wet printing the stamps, meaning they wet the paper before they printed the ink on it. And then they went to dry printing, which was a different - they’re both engraved, but the dry printing had more pressure and was a different process. And it allowed the paper not to have to be wet so that it didn't shrink later. It was just easier, less production costs. So, you know, from the beginning of the Liberties you had those variations, then the tagging came. The cool thing, by the way, about the facer-canceler, I wanted to mention is, so these things sort envelopes at an amazing, blinding speed rate. You watch them and you almost can't see them going through the machine. It finds out what side the stamp is on by looking for the tagging, flips it over. If it's not in the right position, 180 degrees it flips it the other way. And that's one of the reasons you can't send square envelopes without paying an increased amount of money because the facer-canceler would go crazy trying to find what side the, you know which corner the stamp was.

PIAZZA: Right. And so, then it probably kicks it out, kicks it out of the machine as being, not having postage on it. And it has to be manually processed.

SAADI: It's called non-machinable. And you have to pay that rate, if you have a square envelope.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: But the facer-canceler is an amazing machine. And the beginning of automation in the postal service, one of the first really unusual machines that could actually think.

PIAZZA: Yes. And as tagging luminescent tagging is applied to more and more stamps over this time period, later on into the ‘70s and ‘80s, it becomes one of the chief ways that forgeries are detected because forgers and counterfeiters either don't know how or forget all about the luminescent tagging. And so, all these mail pieces that have counterfeit stamps on them get kicked out by the machine because they don't have postage on them. And then, oh, well, what are these, you know, what are these untagged stamps? Is this some kind of a production error or is it a counterfeit? And more often than not in the ‘70s and ‘80s anyway, that's how a lot of counterfeits were detected in the postal service.

SAADI: It winds up on the desk of the inspector general, trying to figure it out. And then they try to trace from the person that sent it. You know, if it's a one-off, it's difficult to find but if you do a mailer with your return address on it you’re kind of like, in soup.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: And many of the people that buy these stamps just think that they're okay. They're getting a slight discount. Because the guy probably can't buy, can't buy them from surreptitious means or whatever.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: Anyway, I'll move on to the next. Okay. So, this is an unusual registered cover.

PIAZZA: Yeah. Another $5 Hamilton.

SAADI: Right, so five, not a solo.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: But it pays the - the registered rate, between Bridgeport Pennsylvania, and Philly. And what makes this very different is, of all the $5 - fifteen or so known $5 Hamilton covers - this is the only one that's not between banks or a bank in the federal reserve. This one is between a company, the Norris Iron and Wire Works and a broker, stockbroker Smith, Barney and Company. So, I'm showing it just for that purpose, because it's an unusual - the sender is not a bank and the recipient is not a bank. So, it's just an unusual use. So, this goes back to the Kennedy administration. It's addressed to “Tractors for Freedom.”

PIAZZA: “Tractors for Freedom,” I see that. “Freedom Box.” What is “Tractors for Freedom?”

SAADI: Yeah, it's a strange thing. So, what happened is - we all know about the Bay of Pigs, I think. That happened in the early administration of President Kennedy and it was a failure and basically Cuba wound up with 1200 plus expats - Cuban expats in most cases - as prisoners. And they were all living in the U.S. at the time, basically, and Kennedy wanted to get them back, but you can't pay ransom and so forth, I guess, was an issue. So, Castro said, “Listen, I'll release these prisoners if you give me 500 U.S. tractors.” So, Kennedy, with the help of other U.S. citizens, solicited donations from 25,000 donors. But the agreement couldn't be reached with the committee that was administering this. So eventually the prisoners were released in exchange for $62 million in medical supplies from the United States to Cuba. So, what happened is, when the committee decided to reject it, all the unopened envelopes were sent back to the senders. It says, “return to writer” and you can see the Michigan postmark on the...


SAADI: ...on the - where it's - because on the back of this, unfortunately I don't show, it is a four-cent meter stamp and it was sent back to Detroit, Michigan for return to the sender.


SAADI: So it's just an interesting postal history story.

PIAZZA: And I've never heard that story. I - obviously I've heard the story of the Bay of Pigs invasion, but I've never heard this Tractors for Freedom story. And it's just, it's an example of when you collect this postal history, all these hidden stories, these little forgotten kind of appendages or postscripts to the big - the main story you read about in the history books on a very human scale. Now on these covers you get all this human interest and follow on stories that most people have never even heard of.

SAADI: You know, Dan, I'm at a dealer's booth. I'm looking at this cover. I said, “What is this? What is all this?” It says “At the request of the Tractors for Freedom Committee, this mail is being returned with sincere appreciation for your interest and regret its purpose could not be consummated.” So I said, “What the hell is this?


SAADI: So, thank God for the internet, I Googled “Tractors for Freedom” and Wikipedia or whatever it was has an entire - then I said, “Oh my gosh.” This was, like, a $3 cover.

PIAZZA: Right. But even, you know, even without the internet that would be enough for me to just take a gamble and say this sounds interesting. And yeah, I'll buy it and find out what this is all about, you know?

SAADI: It's strange, it's a - this stuff evolves. That's one of the bargains. I wish I had bargains like that throughout my collection.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: So, this is an international reply postal card. So, the way it's supposed to work is you're supposed to put the appropriate postage on both sides - the left side, as you see, and the right side. And these were issued, these cards happened to be issued at the time when the rate was three cents, but the rate was four cents at the time of mailing. So as you see on the cover on the right, the sender put that for the return, he put four cents on it, but the sender, which is the left side, wanted to send this airmail. So, in order to send this airmail, you would think, well you just have to pay the 10-cent postcard airmail rate, but you can't do that because this is not a postcard. The postcard has got to be like three by five, give or take a little bit. And this is certainly not three by five. So, in order to send this by airmail you have to pay the full, first-class international rate which at that time was fifteen cents. So it was, it's an uprated international reply postal card which is franked with fifteen cents, which is the proper fee. What is unusual about this is not just that one half was sent airmail at the proper rate and the other half was sent back surface mail. But the fact that the cards are still attached.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: Very, very hard to find that. Back in the day, collectors would separate the top portions and just toss them and keep the ones with the stamps on.

PIAZZA: Oh, okay right.

SAADI: Yeah, because you can just pull those apart.

PIAZZA: Yeah, they're perforated.

SAADI: And they were supposed to be sent back intact. They might even say, “do not separate.” I don't remember if it actually says it or not but regardless, the majority, the vast majority of these cards as they exist today, are separated. Here's an article by Tony W., Tony Wawrukiewicz, in Linn’s, illustrating these two pieces because unusual nature and explaining the reason that the rate had to be sent, the rate had to be set at the full first-class rate. And not the...

PIAZZA: I see it says here in the article that already this exhibit has won numerous awards and grand awards, I don't know how I've never saw it or how it escaped my notice, but this is fun.

SAADI: Well, he's, referring to whoever owned it at that time, that wasn't me.


PIAZZA: Oh, okay.

SAADI: I haven't shown - I've shown Liberties not competitively to shows and other societies and so forth.

PIAZZA: Okay, I feel better now. How could Wade have won a grand award with this exhibit and I've never seen it? Okay, I

feel better.

SAADI: So here is a furniture company sending a certified letter to a Mr. Kenneth Taylor. So, it's not just certified, but he's asked for a return receipt requested, as you can see - I'm pointing, foolishly - as you can see under the chair here, “return receipt requested.” And it has two special services that are almost never found. You might find one of them once in a while but never both on the same cover. The first one is return receipt requested showing address where delivered, and instead of the 10-cent charge that you would normally pay, or seven cents, whatever it was in ‘55, you have to pay 35 cents. And that way your return receipt shows the address where it was delivered to and it says deliver to addressee only and that's called personal service. And that cost 50 cents additional. So, it's a certified mail cover with two added services to it. And it came to $1.10. If it was just certified with the regular stuff on it, it would be less than 35 cents.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: So, they paid all this money probably because Mr. Kenneth Taylor went bad on them, on paying them or something like that. And they wanted to find out where he lived so they could repossess the furniture or something like that.

PIAZZA: Oh, maybe, yeah. And, well certified mail itself is new in this time period, right?

SAADI: Yes, it came out, I think in, oh this is ‘65, I apologize.

PIAZZA: Oh, okay. Yeah.

SAADI: I have - my error - I think it came out in ‘54. That 15-cent vertical stamp.

PIAZZA: Yeah, the vertical red postage stamp. Yeah. So, it's still a fairly new service, yeah.

SAADI: Yeah. So, it came out during Liberties. So, here's an envelope that says special delivery and that was 30 cents at the time. But it's missing the first-class postage which at that time was, looks like ‘58 was either three or four cents. I can't make out the month - April, I think it might say...


SAADI: All right. So, it wasn't until August that it went to four cents. So, it's missing a 3-cent stamp. Oh, there it is right. I'm looking in the wrong side. Okay, thank you. I'm looking on the ...

PIAZZA: Sometimes it's a lot more readable.

SAADI: So, this was sent in a penalty envelope and therefore the person didn't have to pay any first-class postage but any special services that were requested had to be paid for separately. And that's evidenced by the 30 cents special Liberty delivery fee paid by the Liberty stamp.

PIAZZA: Yeah. I mean, and nearly, I would think impossible to find solo use of the 30-cent paying the special delivery fee.

SAADI: Only on, upon a penalty envelope or something that was, you know, a lot of people sent special delivery requested to special delivery and forgot to put the postage on. So they weren't aware, but usually it's unusual to find that because they're usually mailed from a post office because you don't just drop it in the mailbox or you're losing the whole special delivery thing which is supposed to be fastest. People usually do go to the post office.

PIAZZA: Yeah. If you just dump it in a box and wait for a collection, you're losing that element of speed. But - and the stamp looks like it's even perfinned from the Bureau of Employment.

SAADI: Yeah, actually it is, it's Employment. And then something, see, I can't read, it's upside down anyway. Yes, it is a perfin and it's a Labor Department. So, it could be something, whether they had an interview for the person or something like that. And they wanted to get the person the information. Unusual use of a special delivery piece.

PIAZZA: Right, and so special delivery meant that when it got to Mr. Clayton Curll’s, post office in Philadelphia 30, Pennsylvania, that when it arrived there it went out immediately for delivery. It didn't wait until the carrier made up the mail for the next day's route. But as soon as it arrived in the post office, it was sent out by a messenger to be delivered immediately up to a certain time at night, it changes at different periods but in the big cities like this, it's until, some places it's until like eight, nine o'clock at night, a special delivery messenger would be sent out immediately with your letter.

SAADI: The other interesting thing about special delivery that this doesn't reflect is that if they, if Clayton Curll whatever his name is had moved, and this had to be forwarded, it would be forwarded for the first-class rate, but would not receive special delivery treatment. Special delivery was only available to the first attempt.

PIAZZA: Right. Then it was treated as regular mail.

SAADI: Exactly. Okay. So, here's our favorite stamp Dan, when you...

PIAZZA: It's just ghastly, it's ghastly.

SAADI: So, there're three singles. So why am I showing this? It's a special delivery postcard. That's unusual, granted, and it's to Germany which makes it more unusual, but what makes it different is the fact that this was sent in 1972, which is a late use for the Liberties, except for the 25-cent Paul Revere and the 2-cent Jefferson coils, those stamps were available in post offices up until the late 1980s. So, it's just an unusual use of a special delivery postcard, which they're very hard to find postcards you know, letter mail, very different but special delivery with postcards is unusual.

PIAZZA: It's remarkable. Yeah, ‘72 we’re almost to the Americanas right? We're almost into the Americana Series and here's now two series, almost three series later, here's still some Liberty Series stamps in circulation and regular use.

SAADI: I have uses up until the ‘80s, but...


SAADI: You know, I'm just showing what I had at my fingertips.

PIAZZA: Yes. Yeah, it was still around when the rate finally - the rate actually - the postage rate eventually caught up to the stamp and became 25 cents sometime in the mid ‘80s. Yeah. And that stamp just became resurgent.

SAADI: Right. And they didn't print them. They, these were printed way back. You know I don’t know that they kept printing them. I ought to research that. And I think I will, now that we talked about it.

PIAZZA: Yeah, I don't think so. I think they were just old stock that postmasters were finally able to get rid of, you know, decades later. And it's just sort of - it's too bad that in my opinion, anyway, the ugliest stamp in the series is the one that lasted the longest.

SAADI: Actually, the 2-cent outlasted it by, I think a year or two.

PIAZZA: Oh, okay.

SAADI: I believe the Jefferson 2-cent coil was on sale for a period of time. It's in Ken Lawrence’s book on Liberties, Ken Lawrence, Tony Wawrukiewicz and David Eeles wrote the book on the Liberty Series which is phenomenal for anyone who has an interest in Liberty stamps.

PIAZZA: Yeah, the two cent’s a better-looking stamp anyway.

SAADI: Much better.


SAADI: So, here's an unusual use. This is a diplomatic correspondence. It's sent from - it's an APO tag - it's sent from APO 108, which, or to 108, no to 108. It's from 757 to 108 which translates from Frankfurt APO to Munich. So, this is sent between two overseas post offices belonging to the United States, totally within Germany. This piece never saw the light of day until somebody sent it over here afterwards in the United States. It was between two post offices in Germany, which were on, probably on a U.S. army post or base, or whatever, or air force, I don't know, and pays the rate properly for first-class postage plus registration. So even though it's between two army bases it still had to pay postage.

PIAZZA: Right, yeah. Completely overseas use.

SAADI: Right. And you wouldn't expect, you’d think that if you're sending something between two army bases that the army had, like franking privileges, or something but they didn't. They had to pay, you know, just, as in the old official stamps’ day, they were - they had to pay postage.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: No franking privilege there. Yeah. I'm going to skip this one and go to this. So, here's a unusual priority mail, which used to be known as air parcel post up until January ‘68. It's a registered tag. And they shipped gold ore from the mine to the refinery. It was sent from the Homestake Mining Company in South Dakota to the refining company in Buffalo, New York, which is just short, excuse me, just - right, just short of 1400 miles in 1968 September. So, it's a priority mail service and it was 36 pounds of gold ore sent for $23.23 cents. Plus, the registration, which covered, basically looks like $20,000 worth of insurance.


SAADI: Through the registration, which cost $1.50, excuse me, which cost $4.85 all told plus the 10 cents for a return receipt requested which is right over here on the airmail tag. And I came to $28.18 cents, which is evidenced by the block of four of the Hamilton and the other stamps. So just an unusual thing to see gold ore sent through the mails. They sent the Hope Diamond, right? So...

PIAZZA: Yeah, right, that's right.

SAADI: I guess they figured...

PIAZZA: That's right, we have the wrapper at the museum. Thirty-six pounds of gold ore, I wonder how many ounces of gold you would get out of 36 pounds of ore?

SAADI: I got to check that out. I guess it depends on the richness of the ore, which can probably vary from mine to mine. I have no idea if it's 10% or 30% of it but I guess you could figure it out backwards if - and they must know what the richness is - if you look at the $20,000 of insurance they paid for it must have, they must expect to get close to that in gold which was $32 an ounce then. So, if somebody wants to do the math, there's your homework project.

PIAZZA: Well, a couple of other things jump out at me, right? A nice mixed franking, if you will, to use a term, of the Liberty Series and the series that replaced it, right? The Prominent Americans. So, if we want to call that a mixed franking. But then also you were saying earlier, you were telling me that this is actually a very early example of Priority Mail, which most of us use today.

SAADI: Yeah, it started in January ‘68. And this is, was mailed in...

PIAZZA: September of ‘68 it looks like.

SAADI: September, right there it is.


SAADI: So just six months, eight months later.

PIAZZA: Yeah. Very early example of Priority Mail.

SAADI: I was wrong. I said a block of four of the Hamilton. Apparently, it's a block of five.

PIAZZA: Oh yes. Right. Yeah, five postal uses of the $5 Hamilton. It's an embarrassment of riches we have here.

SAADI: They're much more common on tags there, you know, they'll sell, like, I don't know, a single use on a tag and not a solo use but just the single use is probably $40 or something like that.

PIAZZA: Right.

SAADI: But the covers are many, many times that.


SAADI: Yeah, that's about it. Let me stop screen share. Neat. We're back.

PIAZZA: You know, one thing that's kind of striking about the Liberty Series as I'm seeing them on your covers is the, I think really this was to my eyes anyway, this is one of the best definitive series, just from a design standpoint that the U.S. ever issued. Really, I mean, a lot of the earlier ones, they were I guess they were the style at the time, but to modern eyes they look very fussy. Some of the later ones look a little kind of maybe disorganized or disjointed, the Prominent Americans and so forth. This, well, this is just a clean, there's a style but they're not standardized or cookie cutter like the Prexies were, they have a style to them. You know what I mean? They're just, they're really, really - I can see why you're attracted to them other than the reasons of nostalgia and the postal history and the rates and the routes. They're just a really interesting set of stamps. We get John Jay and Patrick Henry, right, their first and maybe only portraits of them on postage stamps, I think.

SAADI: I'm not sure about John Jay later. I could look up, look it up while we're talking. Actually without a...

PIAZZA: Patrick Henry gets, he gets a quote in the American Credo Series but the stamp doesn't actually picture him. Just in general, that it's starting to move away from just presidents and generals on. That you're getting some jurists, you're getting a bunch - a trio of New Yorkers, actually, now that I think of it, right? John Jay and Theodore Roosevelt and Alexander Hamilton. I mean, I consider Hamilton a New Yorker. He was born...

SAADI: Well, Nevis might take exception to that.

PIAZZA: Yeah. But he lived most of his life, you know in New York and his outlook and his and in a lot of ways, his sort of personality and his bearing, the way he saw and thought about the world. That just strikes me as a - he strikes me as a prototypical New Yorker.

SAADI: Even though he was shot in New Jersey, he didn't die there. He did die in New York.

PIAZZA: Right. That's right.


PIAZZA: Well, I mean, you know, with the COVID cut and the beard you're almost ready for a Liberty Series three quarter profile, sort of a, yeah, there you go. There's the...

SAADI: This, the beard part, precedes COVID by years. But not hair has been close-cropped for many years now. Maybe 15 or 20.

PIAZZA: Yes, this is shocking. This is shocking.

SAADI: Yeah, I'm not going to a barbershop anytime soon.

PIAZZA: No. So, this has been a lot of fun, Wade.

SAADI: Well, thank you, Dan. I enjoyed it. And thanks for the opportunity. I'm glad to share my collection and so forth with others. And you've given me that opportunity.

PIAZZA: Great. And I've enjoyed learning all sorts of things I didn't know about the Liberty Series.

SAADI: Yeah. It's - I grew up with it. So, it's a, it's a part of me, I guess, in a way.

PIAZZA: Right. Well, thank you, Wade. Be well.

SAADI: Thank you.

PIAZZA: I hope to see you again in person real, real soon.

SAADI: From your lips to God's ears, Dan. Take care.

PIAZZA: Take care.

SAADI: Be well. Bye, bye.

Recorded Thursday, August 20, 2020.

More about the Liberty Series: Liberty Issue (1954-1968)