By Littleton Coin Company ………..
The origins and growth of Littleton Coin Company, L.L. Bean, Williams-Sonoma and seven other well-known catalog companies are featured in a new Smithsonian National Postal Museum virtual exhibition showcasing the long-standing partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and private businesses. Titled America’s Mailing Industry and planned as a physical on-site Smithsonian exhibition in the future, the virtual tour chronicles the dramatic history of this government-industry partnership which spans over 200 years, exceeds $1 trillion in total economic value and employs nearly eight million people.
For more than two centuries since then, the U.S. Postal Service has partnered with private companies in rural, small town and urban locations to help build profitable businesses. America’s Mailing Industry tells the fascinating stories of some of the most innovative entrepreneurs in mail-order history.
The “Companies” section of the virtual exhibition recalls Leon Leonwood Bean of Freeport, Maine setting the industry standard for guaranteed satisfaction in 1912 when his first batch of “Maine Hunting Shoes” proved defective and he refunded everyone’s money. Borrowing more funds to redesign the boots, he eventually built L.L. Bean into an outdoor gear and clothing dynasty. Pennsylvania poultry breeder W. Atlee Burpee branched into seed hybridization during the 1880s to adapt European vegetable varieties to North American soils and climates for his immigrant farmer customers who missed them. Capitalizing on Rural Free Delivery (RFD), the W. Atlee Burpee Company (“Burpee Seeds”) was mailing a million catalogs a year by 1915. Charles E. Williams opened a hardware store in Sonoma, California in 1947, took a trip to France where he fell in love with French cookware, and converted his hardware business into the Williams-Sonoma catalog offering high-quality French cookware for restaurant and home use (later expanding to home furnishings as well).
Littleton Coin Company’s story relates how founders Maynard and Fannie Sundman chose the small northern New Hampshire town of Littleton to restart their mail-order collectibles business in 1945 after Maynard’s overseas U.S. Army service during World War II. From a rented two-room office space, they soon had success introducing thousands of new collectors to stamps and later coins by advertising in Sunday newspaper supplements, general-interest magazines and comic books as well as the trade publications used exclusively by most stamp and coin dealers.
Another major innovation by the Sundmans during the 1950s was to offer their “on approval” service for both stamp and coin collectors. Through this popular program, collectors receive monthly selections through the mail to examine in their homes, send payment for items they want and return the rest without purchase. Littleton’s “see before you buy” service is now also available through more than 30 collector clubs featuring specific series of coins such as Lincoln cents, Washington quarters and Morgan silver dollars.
As their coin and paper money business grew, the Sundmans acquired Mystic Stamp Company in Camden, NY in 1974, where their youngest son Don took the helm and consolidated the family’s stamp operations during the 1980s. Their eldest son David became president of the Littleton company which was now devoted exclusively to coins and paper money. The two family-owned businesses have become leaders in their fields and major employers in their communities.
“We’re very pleased to be included in this new Smithsonian virtual exhibit,” David stated, “and we certainly owe much of our success to our relationship with the U.S. Postal Service over the years.”
The Sundmans have partnered with the Smithsonian before, when David and Don established the Maynard Sundman Lecture Series at the National Postal Museum in 2002. The lectures feature annual presentations by philatelic experts on stamps and stamp collecting. The Sundman brothers are also members of the advisory Council of Philatelists at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, which houses the vast National Philatelic Collection and retraces the colorful history of mail service in America.
Littleton Coin Company was founded by Maynard and Fannie Sundman in 1945. The company currently employs over 300 area residents in a variety of interesting professions. To learn more about Littleton Coin Company, visit our website at LittletonCoin.com.
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