Renowned Stamp Collector Started Mail Service in Shrub Oak
Herman (Pat) Herst, Jr. Dies at 89
by Brian J. Howard
Herman (Pat) Herst, Jr., a world-class stamp collector, dealer and auctioneer who once gained renown for forming his own private mail service in Shrub Oak, died January 31, at this Boca Raton, Florida, home after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease.
He was 89.
His friend for nearly 65 years, Leo Scarlet, described Herst as a friendly and knowledgeable man who could have succeeded in any business but chose stamp dealing.
A voracious reader, Scarlet said there was seldom a trivia question Herst couldn't answer.
"My joke about him was, when you'd say, 'Pat, what was the population of Cincinnati?' he'd say, 'What day, yesterday or today?'" Scarlet said from his Queens home.
"Everyone knew his name," he added. "You might not know your grandmother's name, but you knew Herman Herst."
At one time a member of as many as 81 different stamp clubs, Herst had been honored with the American Philatelic Society's Luff Award and was elected to Britain's Philatelic Traders Society. He was the hobby's best-known author.
He was also the recipient of the Society's Most Distinguished Philatelist Award, the Collectors Club of New York's Service to Philately Award, the Merit Award from the Society of Philatelic Americans.
He received an honorary doctorate degree from William Penn College in 1982.
"He was an important figure to me as a youngster growing up in Yorktown with a dream, at 13, to become a stamp dealer," recalled Henry Gitner, who now owns a dealership in Middletown.
Gitner said Herst was a real inspiration to him at that young age. The two maintained correspondence for many years until Herst's physical condition made that too difficult.
Born the son of a New York Lawyer on March 17, 1909, Herst assumed the Jr. from his father's name at the age of four after the elder Herst's death.
His friends took to calling him Pat after learning he had been born on St. Patrick's day.
His mother, Lilian Myers Herst, played first violin in John Philip Sousa's all-female orchestra. When Herst turned 12, his mother sent him to live with her sister in Portland, Oregon.
Herst studied international law at Reed College and earned a Master's Degree from the University of Oregon. He returned to New York and began working on Wall Street as a delivery boy for $12 a week.
He soon gravitated toward Nassau Street, then the epicenter of American philately, where he spent his lunch hours. A chance delivery to a millionaire collector sparked what would become a lifelong endeavor.
He soon rallied his fellow bond house employees behind his pursuit and eventually earned enough from stamp dealing to open his own Nassau Street shop by 1935. Soon he was staging auctions and cranking out Herst's Outbursts, his acclaimed newsletter.
Gitner remembered subscribing to the newsletter by sending a handful of self-addressed, stamped envelopes to Herst. He'd mail out the newsletters one by one and send a reminder with the last to send more envelopes.
"He was a brilliant guy in business because when you make people feel like people, you're going to make a lot of money," Gitner said.
Herst first championed the popular trend of topical collecting, specializing in specific stamp themes. He became a fixture among philatelic circles in Britain, where he met his first wife, Ingebold Adam Herst.
His popularity back home became something of a detriment, causing him to look north to the sleepy farm community of Shrub Oak, population 674 at that time.
The more than 100,000 pieces of mail that followed him there caused the local post office to be bumped up from third to second class status. Its lack of regular deliveries, though, led Herst to an obscure 1862 law permitting private post offices.
Aided by his children, and his trusty German Shepherd, Alfie, the mail went out from Herst's post office off East Main Street at a rate of two cents a letter.
"He was just always interested in (history)," recalled Doris Auser, former Yorktown Historian. "He was very interested in starting his own post office."
Herst had relocated to Florida by 1973, but Auser still recalls Alfie vividly, a dog Herst had taught to count. Herst would ask Alfie to count to seven, she recounted, and sure enough the pup would tap his paw seven times.
Alfie was even depicted on a stamp by Herst that was to become a collector's item. Herst's efforts inspired hundreds of private post offices nationwide.
He would go on to become Florida's leading philatelist, eventually donated his collection to Florida Atlantic university, which established the Herst Philatelic Library.
The author of nearly a dozen volumes on stamp collecting, Herst was probably best known for his 1960 effort Nassau Street: A Quarter Century of Stamp Dealing. The 100,000 copies sold mark a record for the topic of philately.
Herst was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Citizens for Religious Liberty, and the Baker Street Irregulars.
He is survived by his second wife, Ida Busch, whom he married in 1957; one son, Kenneth R. Herst and one daughter, Patricia Herst Held, both of Virginia; and two stepchildren, Dr. Gary K. Busch of London, and Gail C. Busch of Manhattan.
Funeral Services were held February 4 at Temple Beth El in Boca Raton, followed by burial at Boca Raton Cemetery.
"He had a lot of stories. He was always the life of the party. He always bubbled," said Scarlet, Herst's friend since their early days in Oregon. "I think he was a plus to any industry."
Source: Brian J. Howard, North County News, February 10 - 16, 1999
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