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Fred Hagen : Early Philatelic Entrepreneur

by Rod Perry

Fred Hagen (1860 -1935) was one of Australia's leading and most prolific philatelic traders and publishers. For around 30 years, from the early 1890s, Hagen was a dominant force in Australian commercial Philately. His advertisement on the back cover of The Philatelic Society of New Zealand 1912 Annual Report, stating "The Leading Australian Stamp Dealers", may have been no idle claim (see Figure 11).

It was stated in 1921 that he had been connected with Philately for over 50 years, although it appears that in the 1870s and 1880s his involvement was more in the nature of a collector. Exchange superintendent for The Sydney Philatelic Club appears to have been his only connection with trading prior to 1891.

        
          
                         Figure 1. 1890, earliest cover seen addressed to Fred Hagen

In 1891, Hagen was admitted as a partner in D.A. Vindin & Co., announced as officially commencing July 25, 1891. Hagen then resigned as president and exchange superintendent of The Sydney Philatelic Club, and simultaneously retired from collecting, consequent on his having joined the firm, so it was reported in the August, 1891, edition of Vindin's Philatelic Monthly. Also reported was that the firm had purchased his "magnificent collection of New South Wales Stamps - without doubt the finest in Australia". Fortuitously, in this more enlightened age in which we live, collecting and trading are not mutually exclusive pursuits.

Hagen was subsequently persuaded to withdraw his resignations, and continued in his official Club capacities (see Figure 9). An attractive item, Figure 1, a November 11, 1890, use of the N.S.W. 1d + 1d Centenary Stationery envelope, Printed to Private Order (PTPO) for John Robertson & Son, is addressed to Hagen in the hand of Dawson A. Vindin, at his place of business. It would appear Hagen spent time at Vindin's well before the two became partners. This item provides an interesting early link between the respective future partners.

          
                                               Figure 2. More philatelic imports?

The "fast-growing business", it was reported in May, 1892, was moving to new premises, and this duly took place from June 1, when 74 Elizabeth St., Sydney, became the new, larger premises of D.A. Vindin & Co. Figure 2 is a March, 1892, use of N.S.W. 1d Stationery PTPO envelope, inscribed for Wall & Molesworth, Customs House Agents, Sydney, to Hagen at King Street, which one could reasonably speculate related to the import of material for the "fast-growing business".

          
                                    Figure 3. 1897, early corner advertising envelope

Figure 3 is an 1897 advertising envelope for Fred Hagen at 74 Elizabeth St., Sydney. This style of corner advertisement was used by D.A. Vindin & Co. as early as 1890. From 1897, it was Hagen who guided H.L. White in building his great Australian Colonies collection, donated to the Mitchell Library Sydney in 1917. White's collection of Australian Commonwealth was later purchased by J.R.W. Purves, the Doyen of Australian Philately, and today is incorporated in The Royal Collection. The White collection in the Mitchell Library contains what I regard as the Mona Lisa of all Australian Philately, a truly remarkable cover bearing a host of Western Australia imperforate and rouletted stamps, but I diverge . . .

              
              
                     Figures 4 and 5. Late 1890s, business booming internationally

The Hagen business was attracting an international clientele from exotic countries by the late 1890s, evidenced by Figures 4 and 5, Stationery cards of 1897 and 1899, from Greece and India. The former advises "I am obliged to send you the 10,000 commems Grecian stamps", which could only have been a consignment of the Greece 1896 Olympic Games series.

                     
  Figure 6. 1898, "The Largest Wholesale and Retail Stamp Dealer in Australasia"

Before departing for London in October, 1893, Vindin had sold his share of the business to Hagen, who thereafter traded as D.A. Vindin & Co. Vindin's Philatelic Monthly ceased when Hagen, in August 1894, launched The Australian Philatelist. Figure 6, Hagen's Aug-Dec 1898 "List of Cash Prices Paid", shows imprint at base "Printed by O. Schulze, 113 Pitt Street, Sydney". Oscar Schulze published volumes 5 and 6 of The Australian Philatelist.

             
Figure 7. 1898 Christmas Greetings card to Melbourne contemporary, William Ackland

Sydney-Melbourne friendly philatelic rivalry was not apparent in 1898, if Figure 7, the "With Christmas Greetings" printing of the N.S.W. 1d Stationery card, is indicative of prevailing attitudes. This is addressed to leading Melbourne Trader, William Ackland, and message concludes "With compliments of the season/v truly/Fred Hagen/23-12-98". The balance of the message is "Cards have been gone through & find 5650 good and 11144 bad. Have credited you £2.5.0 and £1.6.6 for the good, bad of no use to me." The emphasis is mine, but I would not read "unfriendly" in to that comment!

              
                          Figure 8. Another "greetings" card from Fred, in 1904

Fred Hagen was apparently adept at sending Christmas cards to clients. Figure 8 is another postcard, on this occasion a more private type, featuring a rather dapper Fred, signed "Fred. Hagen/Dec/04", by which time he was aged early forties.

            
                                       Figure 9. 1904 and still Exchange Supt.

It is interesting to note that Fred Hagen was still exchange superintendent of The Sydney Philatelic Club in 1904 (see Figure 9), some 13 years after having been reinstated to that position. Given by that time he owned a thriving stamp business and publication, it is curious that he found time for a seemingly profitless pursuit. It may have been that Hagen saw merit, congenial if not commercial, in retaining a bond with the collector base of his earlier philatelic life.

         
        Figure 10. 1909, the first of two innovative and distinctive advertising etiquettes

In 1905, Hagen purchased the business of J.H. Smyth & Co., another pioneer philatelic trading firm. A limited company was formed, Fred. Hagen Ltd, and 182 Pitt St., Sydney, became the new trading address. By 1909, a striking advertising etiquette, extolling the new trading name and address, and featuring a Sydney View 1d, was in use, often utilized as a wafer seal for outgoing mail. Figure 10 shows use as a wafer seal on a PTPO Stationery envelope, unusually tied by Melbourne transit cancellation. The earlier printings of this etiquette show the "stamp" with void areas at lower left and upper right, which was "corrected" in later printings. Such attention to detail may have been one of Hagen's strengths?

                         
                                       Figure 11. 1912, "Established 40 years"

Figure 11, the Hagen advertisement on the back cover of The Philatelic Society of New Zealand 1912 Annual Report, headed "Established 40 Years" (the same claim was made in the 1911 Annual Report). Note also "We hold the Largest Stock of Stamps in Australasia" statement.

The Sydney Morning Herald, June 16, 1921, reported Fred Hagen was entertained by the Junior Philatelic Society of Australia on the eve of his departure for America and Europe. ("Junior" did not refer to age, otherwise Fred may have been in for a rather dull evening). Hagen there claimed to have been "connected with Philately for over 50 years". William T. Trahair had become manager of the firm upon Hagen's departure.

The years of establishment claims, "40 years" (1911-12), and "50 years" (1921) are curious. Given Hagen was born 1860, it is unlikely that he was an "established" trader in 1871, at age eleven. He may have been more generally referring to his introduction to Philately at that tender age. However, Hagen's partner, Dawson A. Vindin, was apprenticed to Australia's earliest firm of philatelic traders, Buckley, Blunsum & Co., Sydney, aged twelve. That firm was established in 1870, and in 1882 Vindin became sole proprietor (aged 14!). Hagen's business was therefore the ultimate successor of the original 1870 firm, which may have provided the logic behind his claims of commercial longevity.

                
                
     Figure 12. 1913 registered to Stanley Gibbons, second etiquette type on reverse

Fred. Hagen Ltd became Australasian Agents for Stanley Gibbon Ltd. Dawson A. Vindin had met Charles Phillips, Managing Director of Stanley Gibbons, in 1892. Phillips had bought the firm from founder, E. Stanley Gibbons, two years prior, for £25,000. Figure 12 is a 1913 registered cover to the U.S. subsidiary, Stanley Gibbons Inc., bearing on reverse a tied example of Hagen's second type of etiquette, again utilised as a wafer seal.

Late that year, The Sydney Morning Herald, December 31, 1913, reporting on a spate of break and enters in central Sydney, stated "The stamp dealer's shop of Fred Hagen Ltd., Pitt-street, was entered at the rear, but the thieves found nothing of value on the premises." [my emphasis] Mercifully, for Fred, it would appear the thieves were not versed in the finer aspects of Philately.

                   
              Figure 13. Association with Stanley Gibbons played for all it was worth

Hagen was clearly enamored with the positive influence the Gibbons' brand could bestow upon his business; witness Figure 13, where details of the Agency are inscribed on a Hagen humble perforation gauge, c1915, by which time the firm had relocated to 66 King St., Sydney. Fred Hagen married "well", and appears to have spent his retirement leisurely, and much-travelled. The latest "Hagen" philatelic item I have is of November, 1931, from Madang, New Guinea, addressed "Fred Hagen, Esq.,/c/- Aust Bank of Commerce Ltd./62 Bishopsgate/London, E.C. 2/England".

Rod Perry has been a philatelic trader since 1962.

Rod has been a collector since 1955 and is the only Australia member of the Grand Prix Club International, achieved for this Grand Prix Victoria as AUSIPEX 84.

Rod can be contacted at RAP on (03) 9642 1211 and by email rap@rap.com.au.