Philosateleia
Kevin Blackston
PO Box 17544
San Antonio TX 78217-0544
United States of America

Philosateleian Blog

Why I’m a stamp collector, reason 1

In recent days, I’ve been musing over this question: why am I a stamp collector? There’s no single reason, but rather multiple reasons that I enjoy the hobby, and I intend to share them in a series of posts here.

Reason 1: stamp collecting stimulates the senses

We live in an age in which great value is assigned to entertainment and technology. We spend our time watching the television and surfing the Web; we communicate using 1s and 0s via e-mail and Facebook. Verily, I myself spend time working on this website, and at the end of the day it is nothing but a collection of bits and bytes. If the electricity is turned off, the things on which we spend our time suddenly cease to function.

Stamps, on the other hand, are tangible and stimulate the senses in a way that websites and the mass media cannot. I can touch the textured surface of a Thai stamp picturing Pa Hin Ngam National Park; I can run my finger across the surface of an envelope mailed when Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States. I can gaze at a beautiful modern landscape design or be absolutely amazed at the intricate engraving required to produce some of the true classics of philately. And when I open a box of old covers, I can smell the musty years.

In addition to that, I frankly just enjoy preparing a letter to go in the mail. Folding the paper, sealing the envelope, affixing a stamp—plus one of my own local post stamps—all feel real in a way that clicking “send” on an e-mail does not. Hinging a stamp into my album feels real in a way that uploading a digital photo to a website does not. I enjoy the experience.

I do not claim that stamp collecting tops other things in life—one’s faith, a loving marriage, strong relationships with family members, experiencing God’s creation. Even such a stamp nut as I can’t argue that. But there is a certain sense-based enjoyment that I derive from the hobby, and that, my friends, is one of the reasons I am a stamp collector.

You’re keeping Philosateleia going

Here we are nearly at the end of January; how time flies. I’ve been busy preparing first day covers for Philosateleian Post’s new Airmail Centennial stamp, which will be issued on Monday.

I recently received a generous donation from Suzanne M., a user of The Philosateleian U.S. Stamp Album. Suzanne is a repeat donor, and all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s the support of people like you that make it possible for me to keep Philosateleia online. Again, thank you.

Congratulations, Loretta W.

Congratulations to Loretta W., winner of the Philosateleian Post Horn’s first ever stamp giveaway! A set of 2010 holiday stamps is going to Loretta just for being a subscriber.

More giveaways are coming in the future. Sign up to receive the Post Horn, and you could be the next winner!

USPS unveils 2011 commemorative stamp program

As 2010 draws to a close, the USPS is showing off its planned commemorative stamp designs for 2011. As previously announced, all of the new designs will be “forever” stamps.

Among the subjects being honored are actor Gregory Peck, astronaut Alan Shepard, and author Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). President Ronald Reagan gets another commemorative stamp on what would have been his 100th birthday, while the centennial of the Indianapolis 500 is also recognized.

The long-running Purple Heart and “Celebrate!” designs are being refreshed, and the next of the Flags of Our Nation coils is scheduled to go on sale, too.

Overall, I’m not a huge fan of the art styles used for many of 2011’s commemorative stamps, but there are a few highlights. My personal favorites are Owney, the postal dog; the Civil War souvenir sheet; and the Toy Story stamp from the Pixar series. The Pixar series appalls the “traditionalist” part of me that looks fondly on stamps honoring national leaders, historical figures, and so forth, but how can you not love a stamp that features the Little Green Men?!

My predictions for stamps that will be all but impossible to find used: Latin musicians, American industrial design, and the Civil War commemoratives. I could be wrong on these, but my experience in recent years has been that it is very, very difficult to get a full used set of stamps from souvenir sheets and larger sets. Putting together a collection of these items used on commercial covers could be even more challenging.

What do you think of next year’s commemorative stamps? Take a look at the designs, then share your impressions in the comments section below.

A stamp is forever

Could 1¢ and 2¢ stamps be on the endangered species list? Such an idea may seem laughable, but it’s no longer unthinkable with the USPS announcing today that all 2011 commemorative stamps will be “forever” stamps.

If you live in the U.S., you’re no doubt familiar with the Liberty Bell forever stamps introduced in 2007, which will always be valid at the current first-class rate regardless of how much the cost of mailing a letter increases. But until now, only a handful of definitives and some of this year’s holiday stamps have received that designation.

The official announcement regarding the change states that the Liberty Bell stamps now constitute the majority of first-class stamp sales, but there’s also a potential financial benefit for the struggling post office. As David Failor, executive director of stamp services, explains, the USPS will no longer have to destroy unused stamps. What’s printed can simply remain on sale until supplies are exhausted, which actually makes sense.

While some denominated stamps will still be necessary for paying the postage on a second ounce, for example, or the non-machinable surcharge, the lowest value definitives would seem to become all but useless. If all first-class stamps are forever stamps, then there will never be any need to add a penny or two of postage to reach the current rate. It will be interesting to see where the postal service goes with this.

What do you think of the change? Will you miss denominated commemoratives, or do you think it’s high time the postal service made this move?

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