Daniel Telep is a postal collector, and has a letter written by Confederate Lt. Van J. Sellers when he was held prisoner in Western Penitentiary in 1864.
By Len Barcousky / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Don't call Daniel Telep a stamp collector.
Mr. Telep explained to home-schooled students gathered at North Park Baptist Church that his interest is "postal history."
"I collect the entire envelope with its cancellation and, hopefully, a letter in it," he told students gathered at the church in McCandless. The envelope, the stamp, the post office cancellation mark and correspondence inside provide powerful tools to bring history alive, he said.
Mr. Telep, 70, is the owner of Crossroads Development Group, a Sewickley-based consulting firm that advises companies on "predictive business growth." He also is a director of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society and a faculty member at Grove City College.
His passion since he was a boy growing up near Detroit has been collecting, displaying and selling postal memorabilia.
He started collecting stamps at age 6 or 7. He was about 9 when his father, Mike Telep, bought him an envelope stamped and mailed in Middlesex, Mich., in 1876.
"I just thought this was a lovely piece of American history," he said of his first postal cover. He has since collected postal items used by businesses and individuals. Postal covers tell more complete stories than stamps alone. "The bills and letters inside -- along with the envelope information on the postal rate, the date of mailing and the location -- give you a bigger bang for your buck," he said.
He meets about four times each year with home-schooled students on their "enrichment" days, teaching them about his hobby and sharing the history behind his collections.
In the late 1970s, he assembled a collection of letters and their covers written by Van J. Sellers, a captured Confederate soldier, while he was a prisoner in Western Penitentiary. That prize-winning collection was the subject of several news stories and reports in hobbyist magazines. It has since been sold.
Mr. Telep, a Marine Corps veteran, served in Vietnam in the 1960s. His current interests include an award-winning assemblage of North Vietnamese covers from the war years in Southeast Asia.
He also has been collecting items linked to Pittsburgh's postal history. Those treasures include correspondence sent to Fort Pitt, including a letter from George Washington, during the American Revolution.
His interest in all things postal is reflected in his home office in Sewickley Heights. There, he has re-created the counter and mailboxes that would have been found in a rural post office.
Mr. Telep said he could name as many as 10 reasons for his interest in collecting postal items. "The No. 1 reason is to keep in touch with our national roots and to better understand American history," he said.
The second reason is the satisfaction of making something that is greater than the sum of its parts. "It's the passion to collect, form and shape something that never existed before," he said.
Mr. Telep and his wife, Catherine, are the parents of four adult children. None has inherited their father's collection gene, but he has hopes for his five grandchildren. "I try to send them a letter every week," he said.
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