Kevin Blackston
PO Box 217
Floresville TX 78114-0217
United States of America

Philosateleian Blog

In memoriam: Aunt Donna

Earlier this evening, I learned that my Aunt Donna died. We weren’t actually biologically related—she was the sister of a longtime family friend—but for the better part of two decades she filled the “aunt” role about as well as anyone could ask. I will miss her friendship.

You may wonder why I’m writing about this here; this is, after all, a blog about stamp collecting. The simple answer is that, although not a stamp collector herself, Aunt Donna had a huge influence on my pursuit of the hobby. Indeed, had it not been for her support, I don’t know that I would be a collector today.

I first learned of Aunt Donna when I was a kid. It was either 1992 or 1993 when she started sending letters to me, and with those letters, stamps. Not just United States stamps, either, although there were plenty of those. One of the first things she sent to me was an Elvis souvenir sheet of nine stamps from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a country I had no idea even existed. If I had to point to a single event as getting me “hooked” on stamps, that would be it.

Over the nearly two decades between then and today, Aunt Donna and I exchanged dozens of letters. Our correspondence became somewhat less frequent as I went off to college, started my career, and got married, but we managed to stay in touch. And with most of those letters came a batch of stamps she pulled off mail she received, or some packet acquired through a mail order offer. I have no idea how many thousands of individual stamps she must have sent to me over the years.

Far more important to me than the stamps, however, is that Aunt Donna took an interest in me and my interests. To a kid, especially, there’s little that’s better than that. Her encouragement is a big part of why I collect stamps today, and by extension a major reason that Philosateleia even exists.

There’s much more that I could write, but I’ll just close by saying that I’m grateful for the influence Aunt Donna had on my life, and I look forward to seeing her again in the future.

U.S. stamp prices on the rise

The cost of mailing a letter is going up once again in the United States.

The U.S. Postal Service recently announced that, beginning on January 22, the cost of mailing a 1-ounce letter within the U.S. will increase by a penny to 45¢.

Other significant changes include postcards, which will go from 29¢ to 32¢, and international letters. Letters and cards bound for Canada and Mexico will cost 85¢ to mail instead of 80¢, while sending a note to someone in any other country will cost $1.05, an increase of 7% from the current 98¢ international rate.

My guess is that most customers probably won’t pay much attention to the change in prices; with the recent advent of “forever” stamps, the face value is no longer indicated on the stamp. There’s less of a reminder that what you paid for your stamps the last time you went to the post office isn’t the same as what you’ll be paying the next time you go. Those of us who collect stamps, however, may notice the change, whether because of the increased cost of new issues, or because of the amount of mail we send to other collectors.

What do you think of the proposed rate hikes? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Milestones of stamp collecting

The past month has been pretty quiet for Philosateleia, but that’s not because anything’s going wrong. Quite the contrary—the last few weeks have been very philatelically productive for me. I feel like rambling a bit about what I’ve been up to.

Since December 2009, I’ve been working off and on on the only thematic, or topical, collection in which I’ve ever taken an interest: landscapes on stamps. We’re talking mountains, rivers, forests, and so forth from all around the world. Think Yosemite Valley, Mount Everest, and the Amazon River, and you’ll know the kind of scenery we’re talking about.

It’s a funny sort of collection, in a way. The irony of trying to display huge chunks of the Eternal God’s creation on tiny scraps of paper is not lost on me. It’s amazing, though, the number of styles stamp designers have used to illustrate those marvelous works.

At any rate, I digress. I’ve been making a big push to “finish” this project, and last night I did just that: finished organizing my landscape stamp collection—or, more accurately, finished organizing the landscape stamps currently in my collection. For there’s always room for growth, is there not?

I ended up scanning one stamp depicting each site, then doing some image manipulation and using the results as the backgrounds of my album pages. Here’s an example of one of my Yosemite Valley pages at an intermediate stage; I added another stamp to it at a later date.

Stamp album page holding stamps depicting Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley Stamp Album Page

Thus, the page for each landscape has a different background.

The benefit of this approach? Not just the stamps, but the pages themselves, change as you leaf through my albums. My U.S. stamp album pages are formal, with the spaces for the stamps laid out in neat rows. The pages for my landscape stamps have some uniformity to them, too, in terms of font size and style, but there’s also a certain randomness, an unpredictability from one page to the next, that I’ve never encountered before in stamp collecting. And I’m not saying it would work for every collection, but for this particular grouping of stamps, it does. It does.

A negative of building my pages this way? The time involved. I estimate there are presently 350–400 stamps in my landscape collection. I haven’t counted them or even made a proper list just yet, but that’s my gut feeling. I designed, trimmed down to size, and three-hole punched 336 pages. As mentioned earlier, that did take the better part of two years. Was it fun? Yes, but there was a time investment, too, to the extent that I feel both a sense of accomplishment and a sense of relief to be “done.” So if you’re thinking of doing the same thing, count the costs in advance.

Now, to bring an end to this long-winded summary of my recent philatelic pursuits…I’m working on the October issue of the Post Horn, and then I have some commitments that will keep me busy over the next two or three weeks. Hopefully after that I’ll be able to get back to adding some new content to Philosateleia. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Philosateleian Post stamp to commemorate wedding

My wife and I are not William and Kate, but it still seemed reasonable to have our own commemorative stamp to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. So I decided to do something about it.

The Sarah & Kevin’s Wedding stamp will be issued on September 19, our anniversary. This is probably a limited interest stamp, but if you’d like a copy for your collection, please read the press release for instructions on how to request one.

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