This website is dedicated to the Hungarian born stamp dealers Béla, Géza, Eugen and Frank Sekula.
Each one of them ran his own stamp business with emphasis on international stamp trade, likely driven by their business acumen rather than a particular preference for philately.
All four assumed Swiss nationality and were based in Lucerne side by side for years.
Especially Béla’s business ideas provoked more than one scandal during his career.
However, the history of philately would arguably be poorer without the Sekula brothers.
Frank Sekula (1901–1972) was born as Franz Szekula in Budapest on March 24, 1901.
On October 17, 1917 and still a minor he became a naturalized Swiss citizen of Udligenswil together with his father Julius.
As the youngest in the family he was also the last to enter the stamp trade, but when he did he was ready to explore new territory.
In February 1921, he left Switzerland for the United States.
In August he was a guest at the 36th annual convention of the American Philatelic Society in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he presented himself as an international stamp dealer from Geneva.
During this time he was probably in close contact with Béla, who also spent extended stays in the USA in 1921.
In late 1921, he and Béla joined the membership of New York’s renowned Collectors Club, and in early 1922 Frank already ran his own wholesale stamp business in New York City.
At first situated in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, he moved to a more appropriate business address at Nassau Street 97 towards the end of the year.
At the same time, and as the first in the family, he also changed the spelling of his last name to Sekula.
In the fall of 1924 he expanded his business with a retail division at the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street under the name Times Square Stamp Company and under the supervision of the experienced philatelist Mrs. B. Thomas (the exact address subsequently changed from 151–157 West to 147–157 West 42nd Street and finally (in 1927) to 1480 Broadway, but remained in the same building complex).
By 1925 (probably before) Frank had also become a member of the American Stamp Dealers’ Association.
In June 1926, he submitted his first declaration of intention to become a US citizen.
However, travelling back and forth between the USA and Switzerland he kept close ties with his family in Lucerne.
It is not clear why Frank eventually decided to return to Switzerland for a more permanent stay, but it is a fact that he joined the management of Béla’s stamp wholesale company as a manager with signatory rights (Prokura) in January 1929, thus well before Black Tuesday, the stock market crash of October 29 that marked the beginning of the great depression.
In his function as chief clerk he supervised the controversial reprinting of the Ethiopian 1919 Animals and Rulers issue in Bern on behalf of his brother — the only time Frank’s name ever became loosely connected to a scandal.
On April 10, 1930 he married Claudia De Renard in London, and on November 26 of the same year their son Frank Jr. was born.
In April 1933, he founded the Frasek AG in Lucerne.
Sole board member was initially Claudia Sekula, housewife from Udligenswil, replaced by her husband in August of the following year.
In April 1935, Frank’s company relocated to Lugano, but just as with Eugens’s Atlas Stamp this would only prove to be an interim solution.
In January 1937, he moved the headquarters of Frasek to 47 Martine Avenue, White Plains, New York.
A trade note in the Chicago Tribune hinted at the future size of the company: The Frasek company, long known as one of the larger stamp dealers of the world, has moved its headquarters from Lugano, Switzerland, to White Plains, N. Y. At present the company employs a staff of almost fifty men and women and will require perhaps triple that number when it completes the shipment of its stock from Switzerland.
One year later, Frank closed the office in Lugano, leaving Europe for good.
In the years to come, Frasek Company became a household name in the mail-order business.
Frasek’s newspaper ads for cheap approvals were everywhere, and Frank Sekula was reportedly the first stamp dealer to also place radio commercials.
Over the years Frank showed an increasing preference for using his full double-barrelled surname Sekula De Renard until about 1958 when he and his wife began to abbreviate Sekula to S. or even omit it entirely.
Frank Derenard, as he is listed on the U.S. Social Security Death Index, died at his home in White Plains on September 29, 1972, at the age of 71.
In September 1978, after more than four extremely successful decades in the stamp business, Frasek Company was sold to Australia’s Seven Seas Stamp Company.
The Frasek Company continued to operate in White Plains under the familiar name for two more years until it was finally dissolved in late December 1980 — making it the longest-running business undertaking of any of the Sekula brothers.
Cover — March 20, 1923
Printed matter sent on March 20, 1923, from Charlottenburg (today part of Berlin), Germany, to New York City, United States.
During the hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic it became increasingly difficult for the Imperial Printing Office in Berlin to produce new postage stamps to keep up with the frequent rate changes.
Consequently, out of necessity, locally produced fee paid stamps (aka local issues) were officially approved and were therefore valid for postage.
However, some dealers also seized the opportunity and produced their own labels.
The brothers Sekula collaborated with these dealers in creating philatelic collectibles by serving them as recipients of the travelled covers.
The cover below was mailed registered on September 18, 1923, from Brunswick, Germany, and reached New York City on October 3, 1923.
It shows correct franking of M200,000.- for international letter up to 20 g plus M75,000.- for registration.
The fee paid labels were privately produced by stamp dealer Walter Behrens, Brunswick, Germany, and went through the postal system for about two weeks without objection.
See also the same cover to Béla Szekula in Lucerne.
Sent on August 30, 1924 by Eugen Sekula to Frank Sekula in New York City, USA. The postcard was carried on the transatlantic delivery flight of the airship ZR-3, built by the Zeppelin company as war reparation, from Friedrichshafen to the US Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, New Jersey.