Q: I have thousands of old (most of them 50-plus years old) unsorted canceled postage stamps with most still affixed to the envelope. Is there a charity that might have a use for these?
Mike Thompson, of Edwardsville
A: If you wouldn’t mind buying a few more stamps of your own, you could help the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Ind., improve the lives of the poor around the world.
Begun in the early 1970s by Sister M. Diomera McCue, the sisters’ stamp program supports the congregation’s ministries — particularly to women and children — both here in the United States and in such far-off lands as Bangladesh, Uganda, Brazil and Mexico. More than two dozen senior sisters clip, launder, dry and press canceled stamps. They are then sold to stamp dealers, who, in turn, sell them to stamp collectors.
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“The stamp program has been a great gift to our congregation,” said Sister M. Rose Edward Goodrow, who directs the congregation’s Development Office. “The preparation of these stamps for sale gives great opportunity for our sisters and numerous volunteers to be a part of the ministry. We appreciate our donors’ efforts to save the stamps and support us in this congregational ministry.”
Donations pour into Notre Dame from around the world. Just recently, Holy Cross Father Christopher Kuhn, the Indiana Province archivist, gave the program more than 40 boxes of stamp collections from deceased Holy Cross brothers and priests.
“I knew little or nothing about stamps or stamp collecting,” said Sister M. Jane Chantal Method, who recently took over the stamp ministry. “But having been a missionary in Africa for many years, I had appreciated the benefits of the Ministry With the Poor fund. Somehow, through the generosity and assistance of so many dedicated friends and co-workers, the stamp ministry is flourishing.”
If you’d like to help, just save any stamp that has its perforations intact, is not too heavily canceled and is not torn, cut or stained. If you cut them off, make sure to leave at least 1/4 inch of envelope on each side. The sisters particularly treasure uncanceled stamps, foreign stamps, U.S. commemoratives, stamps with a face value of $1 or more and albums.
Send them to Sister M. Jane Chantal, CSC, Stamp Ministry, 100 Augusta Hall-St. Mary’s, Notre Dame, IN 46556. For additional information, call 574-284-5675 or visit the website at www.cscsisters.org.
Of course, if you believe charity begins at home, you might trying taking them to a place like Eagle Coin, Stamp and Jewelry at 523 W. Highway 50 in O’Fallon and see what they might offer you. At last check, they were buying them by the pound. Call 618-624-4418 for information.
Q: I was given a piano made in 1885-1890 by Julius Bauer, of Chicago. I don’t know who to contact to sell or find out how much it is worth. If you could help me, I sure would appreciate an answer. It is gorgeous.
Marie Walling, of Collinsville
A: Sounds like you have a real treasure on your hands. In 1857, Bauer started selling pianos in the Windy City, but soon decided to start making his own. According to the Antique Piano Shop in Friendsville, Tenn., they were celebrated as exceptionally well-made instruments, enabling Bauer to open lavish showrooms in both Chicago and New York.
And here’s even better news: Over the past decade, the value of antique pianos and organs have nearly doubled across the board, according to the Friendsville shop.
“Much of the credit goes to education,” they say. “Folks are now able to go to the Internet and learn about what they have, often encouraged to invest and preserve their instruments.”
So here are a couple of suggestions. First, you may be able to find the true age of the instrument by locating its serial number and having the Antique Piano Shop find the approximate date of manufacture. In most pianos, the number can be found inside the instrument near the soundboard or strings. Upright pianos usually have this just inside the lid stamped on the back of the piano. Grand and square grand pianos usually have the information stamped on the soundboard or plate as well as stamped on the top of each leg, pedal lyre, etc.
Once you find the serial number, send it along with perhaps a couple of pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org or snail-mail Antique Piano Shop Inc. Management Office, 1158 Lane Drive, Friendsville, TN 37737.
From the age and photos, they also may be able to give you a guesstimate of what it’s worth. Since you say it’s “gorgeous,” I am assuming it’s in at least average to good condition. According to the shop’s website, an upright built between 1880 and 1900 would bring you $800-$3,000 on average while a grand or a square grand would likely be worth $3,500-$6,500. Of course, if they’re fully restored, they could be worth $12,000-$50,000.
Unfortunately, to get an accurate figure on your specific piano, you’ll probably have to pay a reputable auction house or piano store for a detailed appraisal. For example, Jackson Pianos in St. Louis offers insurance appraisals for $150. Please note this is not a recommendation, but if you’re interested, call 314-371-4527 or check out other piano stores, antique dealers and auctioneers.
What was the first proposed name for West Virginia when it seceded from Virginia in 1861?
Answer to Friday’s trivia: If you’re looking for the largest cow-calf ranch operation in the United States, you wouldn’t go to Texas or Oklahoma. No, surprisingly, you’d go to St. Cloud, Fla., near where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) has operated the 295,000-acre Deseret Ranches since the 1950s. Along with 44,000 head of cattle, the church also derives income from oranges, sod, timber, seashells (as road paving material) and, its newest venture, tilapia, which it intends to sell to the U.S. military. It’s well worth a tour if you’re down that way. And, recently, the church bought another 300,000 acres in the Florida panhandle, bringing their land holdings to about 1.6 percent of the entire state.