John G. Ross

John G. Ross

John G. Ross believed that of all things, stamps had saved his life, and he repaid the favor by devoting himself to collecting, selling and promoting rare postage from around the world.

He took to stamps while growing up in Germany, making sure they were properly mounted before being sold in his father’s tobacco shop. He loved the colors in the tiny lithographs and the sense of adventure stamps promised. He would tell an interviewer years later that with his first collection, he was hooked.

In 1938, threatened and oppressed because he was Jewish, Mr. Ross had tried without success to get a visa so he could leave Nazi Germany, said his daughter Lisa.

He wrote to a stranger, Tom Jeffrey, a stamp collector in Hastings, England, that he was desperate to get out of Germany. Jeffrey sponsored Mr. Ross’ visa to Britain.

Selling stamps in England, Mr. Ross scraped by and in 1940 had saved enough to move to Chicago, where his mother and father were living.

A few years later, he set up a rare stamp and coin shop at State and Madison Streets. He ran the shop for more than 40 years and became an internationally known expert in his field, with a keen knowledge of what was new and what had value.

“He moved in a wide circle of dealers, not only in Europe but in Australia and Asia,” said Michael Laurence, then editor and publisher of Linn’s Stamp News.

For many years Mr. Ross wrote a weekly column for Linn’s, giving collectors a heads-up on where stamp prices were going and what new and different stamps they might look for.

From 1969 until the mid-1990s, Mr. Ross also wrote a stamp column for The Chicago Tribune.

Despite his wide knowledge and interest, Mr. Ross eventually gave up collecting for himself, his daughter said.

“He believed either you’re going to be a collector or you’re going to be a dealer, but you can’t be both,” she said.

Throughout his career in philately and stamp dealing, John Ross built a reputation for honesty and integrity that were the hallmarks of his reputation. He was honored by the ASDA as its Man of the Year and was a member of that organization from the day he opened his Chicago shop.