Distinguished Philatelist: Yamil Kouri

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An invitation to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists is the highest honour in philately. This honour was recently extended to US collector Yamil Kouri; we asked him for his reaction to the news and for some tips on collecting

How did you become involved in stamp collecting and organised philately?

I started collecting at the age of eight, while exiled in Mexico, peeling the stamps from letters that I received from Cuba which showed, among other things, the animals that I remembered seeing in the Havana zoo. My mother started taking me to stamp clubs and to see dealers where I learned much more and made many friends. 

What advice would you give to collectors hoping to take their collection ‘to the next level’?

Choose a subject you love, learn everything you can about it, and stick to it for the long run. Patience, resilience and knowledge are the main ingredients for forming a high level exhibit. Money helps too. You have to be determined to acquire key items when they become available. 

What attracted you to the subject of Cuba and its stamps and postal history?

I was born in Cuba which for many decades was physically out of reach to me. It was a way to connect with my country of origin and with the family that stayed behind. I remember my first contact with postal history in the mid-1970s. Covers could tell such wonderful stories that they immediately captured my attention. I still love stamps but postal history can be an endless source of fascination.

Do you have a favourite item from your collection?

It is like asking ‘do you have a favourite child?’ I have dozens of items that are very special to me. Perhaps the piece that has been considered the greatest Cuban rarity by most knowledgeable collectors since the early 20th century is a vertical pair of two reales orange red stamps on a cover front with the two different types of the Y1/4 surcharge of 1855. A unique item.

What can visitors expect from the Boston 2026 exhibition?

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Well, we are very ambitious and are aiming to make it the greatest philatelic exhibition ever. We are also planning to open some of it to other collectibles in order to expand our audience.

What does it mean to be invited to sign the RDP?

It is the greatest recognition to one’s  philatelic accomplishments. However, I hope to make many more contributions in the years to come and believe that my best work, books, articles, exhibits, etc., is still unfinished. 

Yamil Kouri is a board member of the Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History and was vice-president of the American Philatelic Society from 2013 to 2016. He is also vice-president of Boston 2020 World Stamp Show.

Find out more about the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists on the ABPS website.


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