Jacques C. Schiff, Jr.
Jacques C. Schiff, Jr.
In 1988, The Stamp Wholesaler proclaimed Jacques C. Schiff, Jr. “one of the most successful philatelic auctioneers in North America.” By the time he closed the door of his Ridgefield Park, N.J. firm, 24 years later in 2012, he had produced and presided over 337 unreserved public auctions, including 33 Elite sales that featured some of the most sought after material of the philatelic world. As his business grew, he also offered investment counseling, appraisal and estate disposition services.
“Jack” as he is known to his many friends in the trade, started as a small retail dealer—selling stamps by mail in high school. His grandmother had gotten him interested in stamps by giving him an album when he was only five—and he was hooked. After high school, he opened a retail shop, which stayed afloat during his four years in the military. That included an assignment that became an extended buying trip in Germany!
On his return, he resumed his philatelic career, with a mail sale, and then a public auction; and the rest, as they say, is history. A specialty of his firm for over 50 years was U.S. errors and he has been responsible for identifying and bringing to market a sizable number of new finds, including the exciting 1979 $1 Candleholder “CIA” invert.
Jack did not just sell errors, he became a scholar in this field and had ongoing discussions with officials and printers at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Postal Inspection Service, Scott Catalogue editors and well-known experts such as George Brett, all to establish the causes and bona fides of newly discovered U.S. errors, and to assure catalog listing for them.
His contributions to the hobby and to the trade include service as chairman of ASDA’s Qualified Auctioneers Committee, consultant to The Philatelic Foundation expertizing service, as a major contributor of information and images to the Stephen Datz errors catalog, and as official auctioneer for major philatelic events such as AMERIPEX 86, World Stamp Expo 89, and APS StampShows.
Jack was well known on the show scene as a sometimes retail dealer, but more often as a booth holder to be available to current and potential customers, as a popular lecturer on how auctions work, and “How to protect yourself from buying doctored stamps.”
In the realm of sharing his knowledge, he authored a long-running (1986-2012) twice-a-month column titled “The Error Scene” for Stamps Magazine, and its successor, Mekeel’s. For the same publication, he produced “Stamp Collecting 101” from 2005 to 2009.
Life as he knew it came to a sudden end when he was hit by a car on June 13, 2012. The physical difficulties resulting from that accident forced the closing of his auction business, but he continues from his apartment in Hackensack, N.J., to advise clients and appraise collections.
—John M. Hotchner