Saturday, May 18, 2013

My Quest for the Zeppelin

A few years ago I rekindled my interest in stamp collecting. I had a few years off, like thirty! Unfortunately I no longer had my old collection so I had to start fresh. The one burning and unfulfilled ambition I had as a teen was to get a stamp from the Graf Zeppelin series of 1930 (C13-C15). Whenever I'd look at the pages with early US airmail stamps, I would see the empty spaces for the Graf Zeppelin stamps. I had the sinking feeling that these spaces would always be empty.

What makes the US Zeppelin series special? This series has all the ingredients of a classic with a beautiful design, quality engraving, scarcity and interesting subject matter. Most people think of the Hindenburg disaster when it comes to zeppelins but I think of the luxurious mode of travel back in the 1930s. It is regrettably an extinct form of passenger travel. As for the stamp, it has always been valuable and reached a peak in the 1980s when a set sold for about $5,000. I didn't expect prices to come down so I gave up on getting any stamp from the series.

When I got back into stamp collecting my first pursuit was the green sixty-five cent Zeppelin, the cheapest in the series. I told a friend at work about a year ago that I could have bought an unused copy of this stamp fifteen years ago for $400. "How much is it worth today, a few thousand?" she said. "No, more like $300." It was a funny exchange. However it did tell me that the stamp was now within reach.

I'm more into covers than unused stamps these days. I began a quest for a C-13 on a postcard as this fit my needs both financially and in a collecting sense. Last summer I went to the APS Show in Sacramento with Ken searching for a C-13 postcard. Since it is one of the largest shows, I didn't expect any problem. Table to table I went in search of the stamp. The dealers had only special flight covers which were out of my price range. So I came home and ordered the card below on eBay!

There is a wonderful website about the zeppelin and zeppelin travel during the 1930s. If you are interested, please check out for photos and discussion of these beautiful airships. There are some excerpts from passenger diaries that give one the sense of what travel was like on a zeppelin.