Obituary: John Kaupe FRPSL, 1928-2022

Members will be sorry to hear that John died on 15th May at the age of 94.  He was a long-term member of the Transvaal Study Circle and will be particularly remembered by us for his research on the Vurtheim £5 green and the “Swazieland” overprints.  He will be remembered in Transvaal philatelic history as one of its greatest researchers.

Interestingly, John’s main philatelic collecting interests lay in Burma following a work visit there in 1966, and it was his work as an architect that took him, and his wife Joan, to South Africa during the economic downturn of the 1970s.  He became a member of the Pretoria Philatelic Society and he was invited to assist the Philatelic Federation of South Africa’s Expert Committee.  It was here that he realised that there had never been a sure way of “expertising” the Vurtheim

£5 green.  His approach was scientific, and the rest is history. The same methodical approach also led to the unravelling of the mysteries of the “Swazieland” overprints.

On his return to the UK in 1986 he joined the Transvaal Study Circle – his membership number being 144, and he was regularly consulted by the Expert Committee of the Royal Philatelic Society London.  For nearly a quarter of a century he was a regular attendee of the TSC AGM. 

John’s research on the Vurtheim £5 green, “The Vurtheim Five Pounds – Twenty years on”, was published in The Transvaal Philatelist in 2005 (154/29-56), and in 2009 he published “Enschedé’s ‘Vurtheim’ Panes and Plates” (169/16-18) – he received the Transvaal Study Circle, Gold Congress Award for each of these articles.  Also in 2009, he was awarded the Manfred Weinstein Memorial Medallion “for over 30 years’ in-depth research of second SA Republic stamps, expertising work in SA and the UK and for numerous articles on Transvaal issues”.  He collaborated with Peter van der Molen on the production of Swaziland Philately to 1968 (published in 2013) over a period of about twenty-five years – John wrote Chapter 3 “The stamp issues 1889-1894” in which he brought together his knowledge and research in 93 pages.

In the world of Transvaal philately, John’s name is legendary, and through his scientific approach he changed our understanding of many of the late-nineteenth century stamp printings. Overall, philatelists are not an assembly known for their sartorial elegance. However, John was always the best dressed Transvaal male philatelist ever.  This led some of us to change our dress code when attending meetings. The last time Jeff met up with him, more time was spent talking about tailors (John’s father had been a London tailor) than the history of the Transvaal.  John’s stories were always captivating. He was a true gentleman and will be missed – though his work will remain as a tribute to him forever.

AH and JW

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