The stamp business in the pre-war years was in the hands of philatelists who acquired an intimate knowledge of the various issues dating back to the early days, pre-1900. They were familiar with paper and perf varieties and the different postmarks which was an integral part of philately in those days.
New issues were only a sideline as there were so few new releases. There was always a delay in obtaining new issues often from countries bordering each other because of the poor communications and scarcity of travel. A trip from Prague to Vienna was a major undertaking.
My involvement in the philatelic trade occurred in early 1939 with the disintegration of the Republic of Czechoslovakia resulting in an independent Slovak state. Prior to that, I was a collector specializing in European issues.
With the issue of stamps by the newly established States of Bohemia and Moravia and Slovakia, we were presented with an opportunity to supply these issues to dealers all over Europe, mainly Germans who were keen to acquire these.
The printing for new issues was often less than 20,000 of a high value and with the interest from outside the country, most of these issues disappeared quickly and presented the opportunity for profits to those who started trading.
It was not unusual for postal clerks who had access to these issues, to be actively involved in the market.
The continuous threat of war and devaluation of some European currencies made stamps a desirable commodity and this fueled trading activities and opportunities for profit.
In spite of the War, the stamp trade flourished all over Europe between 1939 and 1945. The end of the Second World War created even more opportunities on a larger scale with the British and American dealers entering the European market.
I can still remember the influx of new dealers amongst whom were famous names such as the Stolow brothers, Isaac Hassid, Francis Parker of Tribune Stamp Company who used to visit Europe regularly on buying trips. The person who made an impact on the post-war European market was Kurt Weishaupt, one of the largest buyers of packet material from Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Bohemia & Moravia, Self-Government and other East German Occupation issues. The quantities supplied to the States were simply staggering and really drained the European market of certain material.
The highlight of my post-war trading was my trip to the Stamp Exhibition CIPEX – CENTENARY INTERNATIONAL PHILATELIC EXHIBITION, in New York in 1947. I was one of the first Czechoslovakian citizens to obtain a business visa to visit the U.S.
Business transacted during this trip was phenomenal and the contacts made determined my future business activities as an exporter.
By 1948, the Communist-led Government had taken over in Czechoslovakia and it was then that I decided to emigrate to Australia.
This article has been reprinted from Global Stamp News February 1991 – Issue #4
EDITORS NOTE: Max Stern emigrated to Australia and currently (2009) is the leading stamp dealer in Melbourne. He was Australia's older active soccer player until his retirement six years ago.