In the late 1970s a fascinating series of articles written by Mr. K. Kouwenberg about the history of Stamp Collecting, appeared in the Dutch magazine Philatelie. This series has been the source of inspiration for PostBeeld owner Rob Smit to rewrite the history of stamp collecting in instalments. This is Part 6 – Edard de Laplante.
Although Philately was by 1862 internationally existing, probably the most important developments took place in France. France can also safely be called the cradle of philately.
The first French ‘full-time’ stamp dealer was Edard de Laplante (1820-1881).
He was born in Marseille on 30th September 1820. His full name was Edard Eugène Anselme de Laplante. After studying in Paris, he began his career as a lithographer. At the time he became interested in stamps he was a civil servant in Paris.
He was also a collector of coins. During a search for coins for his collection, in 1860 he discovered a complete sheet of French 20 centimes black stamps dating from 1849. He bought the sheet for 30 francs, his wife cut the sheet into single stamps and then he sold the stamps individually and earned a substantial profit. Possibly he sold the stamps at the stamp market that was founded on the Champs Elysees in 1860.
This gave him the idea to start trading in stamps. A letter dated May 27, 1861 showed that he was seeking contacts with others, including Moens (see Part 4), to obtain stamps. On July 13, 1861 his stock was apparently big enough, because on this day he took leave of the civil service to start business as a stamp dealer.
He established his first shop in the Rue Christine, Paris. Here is a recent picture of the building, which now houses a restaurant.
Laplante proved to be a good businessman and quickly built a large network of contacts. It soon became known that he had a good stock of stamps. For little money one could, for example, buy the 54, 81 and 108 Parales of Moldova as well as many other better stamps which would currently fetch a small fortune. The first 1 Real red stamp of Uruguay from 1856 cost 25 francs per hundred!
He greatly disliked blocks, strips and sheets. If he bought-in such pieces they went straight to his wife Bichette, who, with the help of a pair of scissors, cut them into manageable bundles of 100 pieces.
Laplante was strictly honest in business, but often blew his own trumpet. He considered himself the best and biggest stamp dealer in France, which he undoubtedly was.
There is a nice story about a contact between de Laplante and Arthur Maury. Despite the title on all editions of his catalogue “Arthur Maury; depuis 1860”, Arthur was in 1862 still a novice stamp trader who lived in Boulogne with his parents. He was doing a lot of business with British tourists. At one point he had no more stock to swap with the tourists, so he sent 10 francs to de Laplante, who sent him a fine collection of Lübeck, Hanover and Luxembourg which Maury again swapped with the English. In 1863, Maury went to Paris with a good supply of stamps from England and its colonies, with the intention of exchanging stamps with de Laplante.
On the way he passed the Paris stamp market, and here he sold for very little money all his 1850 2d grey Victoria stamps. When Maury told him what he had done, de Laplante threw a huge tantrum. He railed against the practises of the market and against his competitors in general. He said that Maury was a stupid ass to sell such rare stamps for so little money. “Look here young man”, said de Laplante, “for your stock of Victoria stamps I will give you the same amount of Moldova. They are relatively unknown and you can sell them in Boulogne like hot cakes”.
Maury thought these stamps were old and unattractive. He took quite a few just to please de Laplante, who once again was very angry and insisted that Maury should take all the Moldova stamps. The frail young Maury was terrified of the angry de Laplante, but he calmed suddenly, laughed and went on to talk about something else.
There are many stories known about arguments de Laplante had with others in the trade.
Among them, that already described in Part 4 – Eugène Lacroix, after de Laplante issued his own postage stamp catalogue. He was a difficult and irascible character and was very fickle. Maybe this was the main reason his connection with the stamp trade did not last long. In 1869 he sold his business to George Wilhelm from Basle. From the proceeds he bought an estate in Algeria and began to produce his own wine. In December 1880, he proudly stated in a letter to Arthur Maury that at the Paris Exhibition of 1878 his wines had won a silver medal. Edard de Laplante died on June 20, 1881.