Bob Hohertz has been collecting checks for more than a decade. Bob is the editor of The Check Collector and a member of The American Society of Check Collectors. I interviewed Bob about this fascinating aspect of paper collecting, and here is what he had to say.
Hohertz: I collected U.S. revenue stamps. There are imprints on checks and related documents put there for the purpose of collecting taxes for the Civil War and the Spanish American War. I noticed these in the Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue and regarded them as exotic and elusive items, and began picking up a few checks with these imprints here and there. Before I realized it, I was hooked.
ephemera: Checks of this nature are excellent sources of historical data. Do you find it difficult to locate new items for your collection?
Hohertz: How can you find material? Look in antique malls. Browse at garage sales or farm sales--see if they have paper items. Comb eBay. Attend paper money shows and stamp shows--either one may have dealers who sell a few checks. Look at ephemera auctions. And if you are interested in the revenue stamp aspects like I am, there are dealers who keep good inventories of these.
ephemera: What other challenges do you face in collecting this type of paper?
Hohertz: Part of the challenge in collecting imprinted checks is that there cannot be an exhaustive checklist of everything in existence. New things are always turning up. There's no such thing as a complete collection, even if the goal is to have one and only one of each type and subtype of imprint. Several exist--so far as is currently known--in one copy. Collecting by state or region is just as open-ended.
Another obstacle is that some items that would fit into my collection also fit into someone's for an entirely different purpose. For instance, I am an avid collector of parlor car tickets issued between July first, 1898, and July first, 1902, that have revenue imprints. Someone else may own some because they collect railroadiana, and if they chose to disperse the collection, they would not know that I am a prospective buyer. To some extent, I overcome both of these problems by being highly visible as the editor of The Check Collector. Through occasional articles, everyone in the American Society of Check Collectors knows what I collect. I am also working with another major collector on a book about this material. I also attend shows and get auction catalogs that may contain items of interest.
My favorite items are the tickets, and some of the beautifully engraved drafts. I have always been fascinated by the tickets and the role they played in transportation at the end of the 19th c. and the beginning of the 20th c. And the drafts are just magnificent items in themselves.
ephemera: I also admire those types of tickets, and I recently featured a later example from the AT&SE railroad. With all of your experience and knowledge, I image a lot of collectors look to you for guidance. What advice do you have for someone interested in this area of ephemera?
Hohertz: Collect what interests you. A friend collects any check or draft from any bank in the state he lives in. Another collects checks with interesting vignettes. Another collects for autograph--checks signed by sports figures and entertainers in particular.
ephemera: This is truly a wonderful area of ephemera. Thanks for sharing your expertise about check collecting, Bob.