I got a call from a gentleman in Aspinwall (small suburb of Pittsburgh). He had a stamp collection in four bins and wanted to sell it.

He did some work for a family though his business. In lieu of payment for his work, the family asked him if he would accept this stamp collection from their deceased relative. He agreed. He held on to the collection for a few years (he is not a stamp collector). He finally decided to sell it. He told me that he had done work for this family several times, so this wasn’t just a one-time transaction. He and the family were friends. I think that is the only reason he accepted the stamps for payment for his work.

I open the first container and there is a box on top with the name Joachim Brasch on it. “Joe” Brasch was a well-known stamp dealer in the Pittsburgh area. He mainly sold worldwide material. Joe set up shop at many of the local stamp shows in the tristate area.

This wasn’t a collection after all. This was Joe’s leftover dealer stock. This is what he travelled to shows with.

I reviewed the material and the gentleman accepted my offer.

Once again, I found myself in a strange situation. This was material that I reviewed at Joe’s table when I was a collector and I attended the local stamp shows. Now I wasn’t the collector who was buying material from Joe. I now own what was left of Joe’s stock.

If you saw Joe’s table at the show, you would think he was the most disorganized dealer you ever met (maybe some of that was true?). I don’t know where Joe got them at, but he always had these very stiff colored file folders (not the paper thin manila folders of today, these were thick card stock). Joe would buy collections and remove the album pages from the binder. He put each country in its own folder and he would write on top of the folder, “Burundi, 69 stamps, $5.” Joe’s table always had a large stack of these folders. Joe may have tried to keep them in alphabetical order. However, after one or two collectors pawed their way through Joe’s stack, it didn’t take long for it to end up in an unsorted jumble of folders. If you were looking for Korea, you sometimes had to go through several other folders to find what you wanted. Maybe that was Joe’s trick – while looking for Korea, maybe you crossed a folder of China and decided to buy that too. Who knows?

Loose stamps went into plastic bags, cigar boxes, or just about any kind of non-philatelic container you can imagine. Joe kept his costs down by not using fancy sale sheets for most of his material. Better items went into sales books. Most of what Joe had was the more common and moderately valued material. You could always spot one of Joe’s customers at the show. They had a few colored folders tucked under their arm and maybe a few Ziploc storage bags of loose stamps.

Joe passed away in 2009. What confuses me is why the family didn’t reach out to the APS or someone else involved with stamps (Joe knew many people) and ask, “We have Joe’s stamps here. What do we do with them?” I will never know the answer to that question. Joe’s stamps sat idle for seven years before I acquired them.

The gentleman told me that the price I paid for the material was equal to the bill for his work. I have no way of verifying that. How did the family know what the stamps were worth? How did this gentleman know what the stamps were worth? Assuming the price I paid met his cost for the work he did, everyone came out lucky. The family could easily have bartered a stock that was worth many thousands of dollars for much less. This gentleman could have accepted a huge quantity of stamps with very little monetary value.

If you are not from the Pittsburgh area, you probably never heard of Joe. Now you have. Joe was a fine dealer. Many collectors liked Joe and did business with him. Because he was a small part-time dealer (like me), Joe was not famous. His name will be forgotten in many generations to come. I hope writing a little bit about Joe here will somehow immortalize him, if even for a short while.