Don Sundman Celebrates 50 Years at Mystic and a Lifetime in Stamps…

Have you heard the news?  On April 1, 2024, Mystic president Don Sundman celebrated 50 years at Mystic!

Hi, I’m Linda.  I work at Mystic and I’m excited to share this huge milestone with you. Over the last 50 years, as a colleague and fellow collector, I’ve watched Don turn Mystic into America’s leading stamp dealer.  In all those years, he’s never lost sight of his most important goal: to make Mystic our trusted friend in the stamp world.

I hope you’ll join me in honoring Don by recalling a few of his many adventures in spreading the joy of stamp collecting.  (He’s a humble guy, so hopefully he won’t be too embarrassed when he reads this!) 

The 50-Year Journey of Mystic Stamp President Don Sundman

It all started when he was growing up in Littleton, New Hampshire…

Who knew stamps would become his lifelong passion?  Don came to Mystic from Littleton Stamp and Coin Company at the tender age of 19.  In spite of his youth, he brought with him a profound knowledge of stamps and collecting passed on to him by his dad.  Maynard Sundman was a pioneer in the stamp world, and introduced his young son to the wonders of stamp collecting, encouraging him to work in the family business as a teenager. 

Don learned about stamp collecting at an early age

Educated by his dad in stamps, good ethics, and how to serve collectors, in the years following his arrival at Mystic, Don worked tirelessly to spread the joy of collecting.  From that time on, he’s never stopped striving to make Mystic the collector’s trusted friend in the stamp business – the one we can rely on to provide great collecting advice and accurately identified, guaranteed genuine stamps.  (Plus ways to get the most fun out of stamp collecting!)   

A catalog “worth its weight in gold”

One of Don’s first milestones was helping collectors discover United States stamps by creating Mystic’s U.S. Stamp Catalog.  Lots more than just a pricelist, the 164-page catalog pictures virtually every U.S. postage stamp.  It’s packed with interesting information and the stories behind the stamps.  Our collectors love it.  I’ve even heard it described as “worth its weight in gold” by reviewers.

Click the picture to view Mystic’s U.S. Stamp Catalog.

The catalog has introduced hundreds of thousands of people to stamp collecting over the years.  Don sees that everyone in Mystic’s collecting family gets a fresh copy six times a year.  And collectors who want to see stamps larger and get even more background on our stamps, can enjoy the catalog online. 

Don makes collectors’ dreams come true with millions of dollars’ worth of stamps

In order to fulfill the wishes of our growing family of collectors, Don encouraged his buyers to spend millions each year on stamps and covers.  We became America’s leading stamp dealer and largest buyer of stamps directly from collectors.

With all those stamps, Don began creating even more collecting adventures for his stamp family to choose from.  He made sure our free “at-home approval service” was the best, giving collectors the choices and service we deserve.  Even assigning each collector a Personal Stamp Advisor to provide advice in building their collection.  Imagine – Don trusts collectors to review hundreds of dollars’ worth of stamps (or more) before paying a penny!

Don continues to create stamp and coin programs that appeal to all kinds of collecting tastes… from U.S. postage stamps and covers to countries around the globe; stamp and coin collections commemorating America’s heritage, presidential history, and military victories, most with free illustrated albums.  (And a great benefit is that these albums are designed at Mystic by collectors for collectors.) 

From the First International Stamp Exhibition in 1926 to Boston’s 2026 World Stamp Expo

In 1926, Mystic donated $5 to support the 1926 International Philatelic Exhibition in New York City.  Today, Don continues that tradition of service to stamp collecting with his donation of stamps, financial support, time and attention.  Don’s latest show of support is a $25,000 personal donation to the Boston 2026 World Expo, with a Mystic donation to follow. 

Why Does Don Support Our Hobby with Such a Passion? 

Because nobody loves stamps, collecting, and collectors as much as Don… 

Don shares his lifelong love of stamps because he knows how good collecting is for our brain and our mental health.  He aims to grow our hobby and bring the joy and relaxation of collecting to as many people as possible.  And he knows the many stamp organizations and initiatives he supports helps us collectors.

That’s why he started contributing stamps to our National Stamp Collection in the 1980s, and today also provides free stamps for visitors to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.   And why he’s the all-time top recruiter of American Philatelic Society members, receiving their first Century Award in 2007 and their prestigious Luff Award for services to stamp collecting in 2010. That’s why he has served for nearly 30 years on the Council of Philatelists at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (almost 20 as its chairman), and donated funds for the expansion of the NPM.  The Gross Gallery added 12,000 square feet of exhibition space so collectors could see thousands more stamps and stamp-related artifacts.  You know – all the things that make our hobby so much fun.

“I owe my life to my hobbies, especially stamp collecting.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

There are many more important milestones in Don’s 50 years at Mystic… 

So to choose which fascinating ones you want to read about.  Just click on the links below:

Don breaks the story of CIA involvement in the Candlestick Invert Caper.

Don wants to share every fascinating stamp story with us collectors.  The CIA invert story was reported around the world, bringing lots of positive attention to our hobby.  Don even gave a CIA Invert to the Smithsonian National Stamp Collection, beginning a tradition of donating stamps and money to the National Postal Museum.  Read all about the CIA Invert story here.

Don sues the United States Post Office in support of his fellow stamp collectors! 

To force release of all Legends of the West error sheets (#2870) and prevent their destruction.  Offering them all for sale would give thousands of collectors a chance to own a modern error.   But the Postal Service wins and sells just 150,000 by mail order lottery, not nearly enough to meet collector demand.   Though we lose, we’re proud to stand up for our fellow collectors.  Click here for more highlights of the Legends of the West Error story

Don buys rarest U.S. stamp, the 1868 One Cent Z-Grill, paying highest price for a U.S. stamp and exhibits it for all collectors to see. 

In 1998 Don snags the only privately held example of the 1c Z Grill (#85A) for $935,000 and calls it a bargain!  Eight years later, after exhibiting it for collectors to see, he trades America’s rarest stamp for the unique plate number block of the 1918 24¢ Jenny Invert (US #C3a).  The $6 million trade with businessman and stamp enthusiast Bill Gross made headlines, and helped our hobby gain attention around the world.  Don also exhibited the Jenny Invert block at stamp shows, boosting attendance, and continuing to expose our hobby to new collectors.   To discover the full story, story click here.

In 2002, Don and brother David establish the Maynard Sundman Lecture Series at the National Postal Museum… 

to advance stamp research and share philatelic knowledge with collectors around the world.  He has the lectures added to Mystic’s website in case we can’t make it to the museum to enjoy the free lectures. Click here to view the Sundman Lectures.

Mystic buys Fleetwood First Day Cover business

Because Don wanted to carry on the Fleetwood tradition of making premium-quality covers for us collectors.

Don co-authors 100 Greatest American Stamps with former American Philatelic Society president Janet Klug. 

A great book!  Click here to watch Don and Janet’s Sundman lecture. Hear how the “100 Greatest” were chosen and lots of fascinating stamp stories.

Don offers $100,000 reward for the safe return of two stolen Jenny Inverts. 

One of the missing inverts is returned and Don donates the remaining $50,000 to the American Philatelic Society.  Get the full story here. 

Don Has the honor of being named a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London and meets the Queen.

In a private ceremony, Queen Elizabeth II dedicated the new headquarters of the Royal Philatelic Society London. Click here to read story and see photos.

Don receives Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award. 

Don earned this award due to his amazing contributions to stamp collecting.   The award is given to recognize “…outstanding lifetime accomplishments in the field of philately”, including “exceptional service to the philatelic community, and the overall promotion of philately for the benefit of current and future collectors.”  Click this link to read the details.

Don makes Mystic a 100% employee-owned company. 

In 2016, when Mystic became employee-owned, Don said “This rewards our hardworking colleagues and promises to keep Mystic a positive force in the stamp world and Central New York for many years to come!”

To read more about Mystic’s long history and Don’s 50 years of working to bring attention to the world’s greatest hobby, click here.

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