This page last updated: 21 October 2003

::: MISSIONARY STAMPS - The Sundman Lecture, October 18, 2003 :::

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David Beech, the Grinnells
National Postal Museum, Washington, D.C.

Using a projected image on the screen, David Beech opened his lecture on the Grinnells by challenging the audience to say whether the 13¢ stamp was a genuine Missionary or a Grinnell. Two people said it was genuine, two (including yours truly) said it was a Grinnell and the rest of the 150 or so people attending said they could not tell. Personally, I observed all of the "a's" were too uniform, unlike the genuine stamps. In fact, David posed a trick question. The image shown was the forgery sold as a Grinnell in the Advertiser Sale so it was neither genuine nor a Grinnell. Red-faced, I conceded I had personally examined the actual item last year and determined it to be a "fake Grinnell" and the owner agreed with my conclusion. At least I could tell the stamp in the image was a forgery!

David's point was to open his theme for the lecture. He urged those interested in the issue to recognize they knew little about the Grinnells and to keep an open mind. In the audience were the owner/descendants of the Grinnell and Shattuck families. Also in the audience was Patrick Pearson, chair of the Royal Philatelic Society of London Expert Committee, and thus the person with primary responsibility for leading its effort to determine whether the Grinnells are genuine. Others in the audience included many pillars of the American philatelic community. David's message was an effort to persuade people they don't know much about the Grinnells and to build confidence in whatever decision is reached by the Committee.

Anyone expecting David to reveal inside knowledge of the Committee's thinking was disappointed. Apart from his main theme, his topic was to discuss the history of how the Grinnells came to the RPSL and a status report of progress. He predicted a decision will be announced early next year. Oddly, David issued a call for anyone who owns Missionaries to make them available to the Expert Committee for examination. Coming so late in the process and with no plan for publicizing the announcement, the notion lacked a degree of sincerity.

To me, the most important point in the lecture was David's acknowledgment that the typography, postmarks and cancels seen on the Grinnells are unique to the Grinnells. That point was the essential fact I proved in Post Office in Paradise. It now seems there is unanimous agreement that the Grinnells are unlike any genuine Missionary and the postmarks and cancels are found on no other stamps or covers. During the question and answer phase, I asked whether any study had been made of 1851 or earlier printed material emanating from Hawaii to identify the same typeface used in the Grinnells. David said no such study had been done by the Expert Committee. I reported I had found none.

Three actual Grinnells were on display along with Missionaries in the NPM collection. We were permitted to examine the Grinnells in their glass cases. I had no opportunity to examine them closely and could not see their backs. None of the three Grinnells bore a circular date stamp but two had the cork circular grids. My own examination, such as it was, confirmed the typography comments made in Post Office in Paradise.

In an unfortunate moment, David accused the American expert community of being biased against the Grinnells. In his effort to explain, the notion of "bias" became confused. In essence, what David said is that the American experts already believe the Grinnells are forgeries and appear unwilling to spend their time to listen to opposing arguments. The RPSL, on the other hand, decided to put aside its preconvictions, wipe the slate clean and start the whole process at the beginning. While that willingness may give solace to some, being a trial lawyer I more or less follow the Johnnie Cochran notion of expertising. To paraphrase: "If the type don't fit, you must reject." If the same typeface is known from other publications emanating from Hawaii in or before 1851, then my mind can open up to consider other facts. Until then, whether you call it bias, common sense or knowledge, I think the Grinnells are forgeries. Whatever anecdotal evidence or speculation one offers to explain the differences in the Grinnells fails to overcome the showstopper fact that the typeface on the Grinnells was unavailable in Hawaii in 1851.

All in all, most people who attended the Lecture learned a great deal about Grinnells and Missionaries. For the few who were already informed, there was nothing new. However, I was able to meet with the owner/descendants and discuss my opinions with them. They are nice people and cannot be faulted for wanting to do everything possible to establish their property as genuine. I also talked at length with Patrick Pearson who enjoys an international reputation as a premier stamp expert. He was also pleasant but as tight-mouthed as any trial judge I have met. Happily, he showed a complete awareness of the Grinnell discussion in Post Office in Paradise.

A booklet was distributed at the Lecture and probably can be obtained from the National Postal Museum. It's on-line address is

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