Trying to Cash in Nazi Stamps for a Millennium Falcon

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09/23/2023

Neighborhood: Brighton Beach

In the fall of 1980, The Empire Strikes Back had already come out and while I was getting tired of my Star Wars action figures, I really, really, really wanted a Millennium Falcon spaceship playset. It was huge, cool and could fit my 3.75” action figures without issue. But at $29.99 it was expensive for a 12 year old kid with a meager $2 a week allowance.

When I casually mentioned my desire for a Millennium Falcon to my older brother during one of his visits to Brighton Beach, he promised to take me to a used toy store in Manhattan called “Play It Again.” 

He hinted that they might have the Millenium Falcon, which would have been great, since if it was used it would be cheaper, and maybe I could finally afford it.

But the thing is — much like a lot of his promises — he never followed through. Anytime I asked him to take me to “Play It Again” he just piled excuses upon excuses punctuated by “One day…” or “Next time…” or some other bullshit. So after a while, I gave up asking.

Then one day, while I was playing with some neighborhood friends on Brighton 11th Street, I noticed a stamp and coin store and got an idea: I still had my brother’s vintage stamp collection in my room!

His collection was filled with vintage European stamps, including lots of Nazi stamps that my brother had collected in post-World War II Poland. I could sell a few of those Nazi stamps and make enough money from the sale to buy a brand new Millennium Falcon toy and still have some money leftover for whatever. And who would really care if I stole my brother’s collection, since what Jew wants a pile of Nazi Hitler stamps sitting around their home anyway?

So I called up my dad from a nearby payphone and asked him to take the stamp collection, and bring it to me on Brighton 11th Street and Ocean View Avenue.

“What?” my dad said. “Why would you want me to do that?” But I asked again if he could bring them. And he said, “Okay, okay… I will be there,” and he hung up the phone.

As we all waited for my dad to show up, I decided to kill some time by going into the stamp and coin store and asking the guy behind the counter how much he would pay for Nazi stamps. Immediately, the guy’s face turned red and he shouted, “Go away! Get out of here before I call the cops!” So after being chewed out by the guy, my friends and I left the store and waited for my dad out on the street.

A few minutes later my dad showed up. “So do you have the stamps?” I asked him. And he said, “No… No… Don’t be silly. All these years, nobody came up with the idea to sell them? Come home. Come.” 

He wasn’t angry about the situation; in fact he was smiling a bit about it. But it was clear my idea to sell the stamps wasn’t going to happen.

Why not? Who knows? Perhaps it was my dad’s respect for the personal property of my brother? Despite all the tensions between my brother and pretty much anyone and everyone in my family, my dad did respect him.

So I said goodbye to my friends and walked back home with my dad.

When we got back home, I went to my room and saw the books of Nazi stamps were still there, sitting on the shelf. I took a few of my Star Wars action figures and played with them as I flipped through one of the books of stamps. As I looked at the dozens of Hitler stamps that filled the pages of the book I wondered, “Why not sell at least one of them? Who cares about Hitler?”

After our parents died in 1993, my brother and I were clearing out their apartment and we stumbled across the books of Nazi stamps. My brother asked me if I wanted to keep them, but I refused. He asked again, and I literally pushed them away from me and said, “No!”

And with that, he took them away and tucked them in the pile of items he would take from the apartment.

My brother is still alive, but I have no idea what happened to the stamps. Did he keep them? Did he sell them? Who knows? All I know was at least I didn’t have to ever see tiny pictures of Adolf Hitler and swastikas in stamp form ever again.

***

Jack Szwergold is a skilled web developer who has worked for Artforum and the Guggenheim Museum. He founded the Onion’s website in 1996 and currently works for the New School.

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