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.
Back to eBay-sics
For the first time in ages, I’ve fired up the scanner and listed a couple of old covers on eBay. It’s material that doesn’t really fit into my collection, so it’s time for it to go.
I really tend to use my Delcampe storefront more than eBay. A big reason is that Delcampe lets me set up listings to automatically restart if my item doesn’t sell the first time around—and keep restarting until I get a bid or somebody buys the lot. It’s kind of a set it and forget it deal, which I like. Delcampe also seems to have lower fees than eBay does, which is a big plus, especially for items with very low values.
On the other hand, material listed on eBay seems to move a bit more quickly, and my interest here is really just on getting some stuff out the door.
What’s your experience? Do you prefer eBay, Delcampe, or one of the other online auction sites when you’re selling off surplus philatelic material?
Random ruminations on collecting and Philosateleia
New United States stamps
We’re only a little more than a month into the new year, and already there are dozens of new stamps for those of us who collect modern U.S. material. As is the case with a great deal of modern material, however, finding some of those stamps used is probably going to be a challenge.
So far, I’ve acquired only three of the new stamps for my own collection. I have two of the weather vanes—one of which came on a piece of mail from my credit union, oddly enough—and one of the bonsai stamps. That’s it. I’m still seeing a lot of holiday baubles at work, but hopefully the newer issues will gradually replace those as time moves on.
Editor’s note added March 27, 2012: Rachel asks, “Why can’t you just mail yourself to get a used stamp?” An excellent question—and of course, you can. What I meant, but failed to convey, was that finding a lot of new issues used commercially rather than by stamp collectors won’t be easy. My thanks to Rachel for pointing out my omission, and giving me the chance to clarify!
In local news
A couple of projects are in progress here right now. First, I’m working on posting images of and write-ups about my landscape stamps. That’s not exactly a small undertaking, and I don’t know how long it might take me to get everything online, but I’m doing what I can.
Something else on my plate is the stamp gallery as a whole. I’m trying to bring the look of the oldest pages, some of which haven’t been updated since 2006, up to speed with the rest of Philosateleia. This is an “as time permits” sort of thing, but it would be really nice a uniform look across the entire site again one day.
New Post Horn, new album pages
The February issue of the Philosateleian Post Horn is just about ready to go. My current plan is to distribute that on Sunday. That newsletter is free, so if you’re not already receiving it, sign up.
After that’s done, I’ll need to turn my attention to putting together the Spring 2012 supplement for The Philosateleian U.S. Stamp Album. As I mentioned earlier, there are several dozen new stamps for which we’ll need spaces. Look for the new pages by the middle of March.
Show your support
I try not to spend a lot of time on this topic, as I like to think of Philosateleia as a public service of sorts. Nevertheless, I do appreciate your support, whether it’s a small donation to help cover expenses, a link from your website or blog, or even just an e-mail letting me know you’re using my stamp album pages. Finally, you can like The Philosateleian on Facebook, if that’s what floats your boat.