Maynard Sundman Visits the National Postal Museum

In October 1996, my brother David and I brought our father, Maynard Sundman, to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (NPM), so he could see this wonderful treasure.

The museum opened in 1993, and our family and Mystic Stamp Company were founding donors. I was so excited when stamps got their own Smithsonian Museum.

Jim Bruns, the first executive director, gave us a tour of the whole museum and most of our photos were taken in the vault. This visit was 16 years before the Gross Stamp Gallery was added to the museum.

It was Jim’s idea that we create the Maynard Sundman Lecture Series at the NPM. The first lecture was in 2002. Sadly, it wasn’t recorded. All the other lectures are on YouTube.

In this photo, I’m standing with my father in what they call the Historic Lobby, near the entrance of the museum. While the Gross Stamp Gallery is at street level, the original museum is one level below in the atrium.

This photo shows my brother Dave and our dad Maynard pointing at our names on the museum donors wall.  You can’t read the names in the photo because its on glass and backlit.  I’ve never gotten a good photo of the glass plaque. If you visit the NPM, this is to the right of the escalators that take you down to the atrium and it’s exhibits.

Here we are in the stamp vault looking at the unique certified plate proof collection of old US stamps printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). In 1894, the government took the contract to print stamps away from the American Bank Note Company and gave it to the Treasury. At that time, the Treasury printed US currency, which is simpler than postage stamps. Currency was printed in sheets of 4 banknotes. Stamps were printed in sheets of 400 stamps, which were perforated and cut into panes of 100 stamps.

Each time a printing plate was made or altered, they printed a sheet of the stamp to inspect for quality and accuracy. That sheet was never finished as postage stamps. Instead, it was entered into the BEP archives as part of the official government record. The proof sheets were given to the National Collection and now are one of the gems of the National Postal Museum. These drawers hold every sheet printed by the BEP. They have the sheet with plate number 1 in the archives. Click here to see it.

Here is another photo with Jim showing me a full certified plate proof sheet.

In this last photo, Jim shows me a bound book of civil war era revenue proof stamps. The quality is super fresh because it seldom sees light, so the stamps haven’t faded.

The Maynard Sundman Lecture Series began in 2002, featuring experts in the world of philately. You can find more information on the lectures here.

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