I recently received an email with this link from a stamp acquaintance in the Netherlands to a ‘nice short film about the IFSDA’ on how to collect stamps. It gives some basic tips to the starting collector – and I love that the kitschy (no disrespect, the background music inspired me to say that) video was shot in a stamp dealer’s shop. But more importantly it got me thinking: How did I end up collecting stamps and, as my wife constantly complains, the dust attached to piles of envelopes?
As some of you may know, my father and great Uncle were philatelists – good ones too – their envelopes still show up in stamp shows and collections. One day when I was about ten my father dumped a bag of stamps on my desk telling me to, ‘Organize this!’ I remember thinking what were these weird country names…Helvetica, Posta Romana (this sounded like food), followed by Hungary (this sounded like someone needed food) and so on. I also remember thinking that the organization possibilities to do so were endless – did I go with geography, themes, pictures, colors, or just squares versus rectangles? I suppose geography ruled – and the more obscure locations became my future obsession.
After I started sorting stamps, my father and I soon started to go to stamp shows. For me it was the twice yearly Interpex stamp show in New York City, held either at Madison Square Garden or the New York Coliseum (since torn down and replaced with the AOL Time Warner Center).
I remember going to the shows with limited funds and looked at stamps from the various Post Offices. These were usually represented by an agent. One of my favorite was the PNG stamp bureau run by an Englishman who lived in Florida. I was absolutely taken with the 1972 PNG shell definitives. I remember buying the stamps and a couple of these odd shaped things called booklets. There was a stack of about 100 of them (I asked). These are now worth $100+ each.
Another vivid memory is of me when I was 14 waiting on the line to buy UN stamps…I remember the issue- it has a gold center and from the 1970′s. I wanted it in blocks of ten…but I didnt have enough money. There was an older man behind me and he said “Kid, here’s $2 so you can get that block” when I said no he said “Just do it in kind for a kid someday”. And this I do in various ways.
Anyway, the point is that suddenly with stamps the time melts away and one can think clearly back to images and emotions from long ago.
The American Philatelic Society also has a series of educational tips on starting a stamp collection http://stamps.org/Starting-a-Collection that totally validate what I did when I was ten. Ethan, my son, has one more year before he gets dumped on….his desk!
So now I ask all of you: How did you become involved with stamp collecting? Let’s share those stories.