Stamps & a haircut, two bits
Several months ago, Dave S. shared his story about how he got started collecting stamps. Dave’s father was responsible for sparking his interest in collecting. For another reader, Vince A., the story was a bit different. His first brush with stamps involved a paintbrush:
I was about six or seven years old and our school had a lot of activities that we could take part in on wet days instead of playing outside in the rain. On one occasion we were told that we had to draw, paint, or color pencil a picture of a stamp of our choice.
I spent quite a lot of time on my painting as i wanted it to be the best of the lot and for my teacher to be proud of me. My picture came fifth and although
I did not come out on top, I was still very happy with the result. This gave me an idea and i started to take an interest in any envelope or parcel that came to our house. I did not actually collect the stamps, but instead decided that I would draw and paint them in an exercise book that I had been given. It was soon filled with my artwork and I did not have any more room to draw anything else and stopped drawing stamps anymore.
It was about two or three years later that I came into our living room and on the TV was a static black and white picture of a library. There was a voiceover saying that someone had been assassinated in Dallas. As I listened to the commentary, I heard the name of John F. Kennedy and that he was the president of the USA.
For some reason that I do not even understand today, it made me take an interest in American history. I read books from our local library and started asking questions about the history of anyone who would listen to me. Some people thought that I was a bit strange wanting to know about American history when I was an English person born and bred in England.
From art class to history, the stage was set for Vince to start collecting stamps, but it was a trip to a barber shop that put him over the top.
I was at our local barbers’ having my hair cut and had a few pennies left over from the price of the cut. While I was waiting for my brother to have his haircut, I started looking around as the barbers sold all manner of other items. I noticed that they had packets of stamps on the back of the door. They were from lots of different countries, some really amazing pictures on many of them. I then spied a medium sized packet with the title of United States of America on the cardboard backing and it said that there were 75 stamps in the packet, for a price of sixpence (two and a half pence today). I bought them instead of any sweets. I could not wait for my brother to finish having his haircut, so that I could race home and open the packet of stamps.
I was amazed at what was in that packet. Stamps with past presidents’ heads, military battle commemoratives, American wildlife and much more.
This was the start of something really special to me and I realised that not only could I collect American stamps, but I could also learn a great deal of their history from the stamps. Collecting American stamps is still my first choice. I do collect world stamps as well, but for me there is nothing better than the American stamps that I manage to collect.
Vince goes on to say that U.S. stamps are difficult to come by in his country these days, and he depends primarily on online purchases for new additions to his collection.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Vince, and keep on collecting!
Who moved my mailbox?
Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about my mailbox. It’s not directly related to stamp collecting, but since mail (some of which bears stamps) is deposited into it, there is something of a connection.
At first glance, my mailbox seems pretty run of the mill. It’s part of a large array of boxes that serve the neighborhood in which my wife and I live.
My mailbox is special, though. It’s where I deposit my outgoing mail: letters to my sister, covers containing stamps to other collectors, and even appropriate decorated envelopes containing bill payments. And it’s where I find the mail addressed to my wife and me: letters, cards bearing happy news of weddings, magazines, and coupons. Certainly, the Internet connects me to the rest of the world almost instantly, but my mailbox connects me to the rest of the world in a more tangible way.
The best thing about my mailbox, however, is that it’s there each morning when I leave for work, and it’s there each evening when I get home from work. It is a solid symbol of stability in a world with a cracked and wobbly foundation.
The trouble is that someone decided that the array of mailboxes should be moved a bit further down the street, and when I got home this evening, my mailbox was in a different place than it usually is. In and of itself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; I’m not a huge fan of change, but if there’s a good reason for it, then so be it. But that such a symbol of stability could be moved leads me to cry out:
“Who moved my mailbox?!”
One reader’s story: collecting with dad
I don’t remember exactly why I started collecting stamps back in my pre-teen years. I have a fuzzy inkling that I may have read a children’s book in which one of the characters had a stamp collection, but I don’t remember for sure. No one in my family collected, but we did have a couple of close family friends who, upon hearing of my new interest, started plying me with stamps. From that point on, I was off to the races.
It’s interesting to hear how other folks got started collecting, though, because not everyone gets started the same way. Several months ago I received a letter from Dave S., a Philosateleian Post Horn subscriber. Unlike me, he had an immediate family member who collected stamps: his father. Dave has given me permission to share his story.
One of my fondest memories of my father was the time we spent together pouring over the pages of my Harris Liberty U.S. stamp album. I was probably too young to truly appreciate stamp collecting, but during those years, my father worked long hours and traveled frequently, so any time we spent together was very precious indeed.
My father would share the duplicates of his own collection with me to start filling my album pages, teaching me how to identify precancels, how to properly hinge, and even how to soak stamps from paper. Sometimes, he would leave a small stack of stamps before going on a business trip, for me to identify and place into the album. Upon his return from his travels, I would eagerly show him my progress. My father would approvingly look over each page and would tell me stories of his own stamp collecting youth.
Having a mentor is huge, as I wrote after my Aunt Donna died. Having a family member helping you is even better!
Like many young collectors, Dave shelved his collection during high school and college. It’s hard to make time for such things, especially when you’re starting a career and a family. As Dave writes, it was getting laid off from his job a few years ago that ultimately, and unexpectedly, led him back to the hobby.
I became an avid eBay seller, reducing the accumulated closets full of things purchased but never really used: the guitar I never learned to play, the trumpet I had forgotten how to play, etc. It was spring-cleaning gone awry—an obsession of purging many years of fruitless purchases and unfulfilled dreams. I suddenly had more time on my hands, and daytime television was not going to cut it.
I had sold my baseball card collection at an appallingly low price. While sifting through the many boxes, my stamp album reappeared. I remember flipping through the yellowing pages, stamps falling off their hinges—I wonder if these are worth anything now? I perused eBay looking at the collections for sale: albums inherited by the children of the old, who cared nothing for stamp collecting, only for what value they could bring—and for the same low prices as baseball cards.
In searching further, I began seeing APS member listings, specific Scott numbers, higher selling prices. Somehow in my mind, it was determined that I needed to properly identify each stamp in order to sell them for a good price. So it began, and I was unaware that the spark of stamp collecting was rekindled.
Armed with free copies of Mystic and Kenmore stamp catalogues, I began to identify and price my stamps, and before long, had carefully removed them from the yellowing album pages. My wife laughed as I lined the house with little stacks of stamps, first the coffee table, then the dining room, the hearth, and the bookcase shelves. Her laughs turned to bewilderment as she started to question just what I was doing with all these stamps. My friends would come by and laugh. “Do people really collect these? Have these not already been used?” I found myself defending the merits of stamp collecting and the history they told. I began remembering the fun I used to have with my father, and as I studied each stamp using the very tongs and magnifying glass we had used together so many years ago, I somehow knew that I was too sentimental to sell these stamps.
From that point, Dave began buying more stamps instead of trying to sell the ones that he had. He became an enthusiastic collector once again—and a user of The Philosateleian U.S. Stamp Album!
Searching the many albums available for sale online, I was astonished by the high prices. Some of these hingeless albums were more costly than all of my stamps combined, and I needed something less expensive so that I could continue collecting more stamps.
Luckily, I came across The Philosateleian, and the album pages began replacing the little piles of stamps all over the house. My wife said, “Finally, some organization my dear.” She then agreed to accompany me to a stamp show in Birmingham that I had read about online. I had not attended a stamp show since going with my dad at a much younger age.
Even though he had been away from the hobby for years, Dave was one of the youngest people at the stamp show, but the dealers and collectors there made him and his wife feel very welcome.
Dave ends his story by talking about a recent visit with the man who got him started collecting as a child.
I had assembled my Philosateleian albums and loaded the car to head for my parents’ house. It was time to show my progress to my dear ole dad. Just as I remember when I was young, we sat at pouring over the album pages one by one. My dad was excited to see so many modern stamps, taking time to read over each one, commenting on the space shuttle express mail stamps, the many souvenir sheets (especially the WWII collection), and the almost completed airmail collection. My father looked at me and smiled, “My fine son.”
I am continuing my collection now and for years to come. I am sure that my dad will want to tag along at the next stamp show. Maybe it will be a chance for another memory to relive, and even better chances for more new memories to make with “my fine father.” That is probably what most sparked my interest in stamp collecting both then and now, quality time with my dad.
A most excellent story—and many thanks, Dave, for sharing.
You’ve read Dave’s story. What sparked your interest in stamp collecting? Leave a comment, or—if your story is a bit too long for that—e-mail me and tell me about it.