What would you grab?
In the October issue of the Philosateleian Post Horn, I asked readers a question: if they awoke and found their home on fire and had time to grab only one thing from their stamp collection, what would it be?
Vivian B. responded in this way:
I was surprised that I had an answer without even thinking about it. I first started collecting when I was in second grade. I started with the ones at home that we received through the mail—from relatives in Japan, from my dad’s Army connections abroad and around the country—and then started buying grab bags of random assortments. And then came my very first order for specific stamps.
Bhutan had issued a set of six scented stamps depicting a variety of roses. They were magical. I remember taking them to school and everyone was fascinated by the exotic locale and the sweet fragrance. Of course, they don’t smell like anything anymore—it’s been too many years. But they are the stamps I would grab if I could only pick one item from my collection.
Vivian’s response is well put, and illustrates a common thread shared by many collectors. Our most prized possessions are often not those of exceptional value or rarity, but the ones that hold some sentimental value.
I had to think a bit longer to come up with my own response. As you know, I’m a huge fan of the 14¢ American Indian stamp, and have a not insubstantial collection of stamps picturing landscapes. I’ve spent a lot of time on both of those collections, and yet they’re not the first items I would grab from my collection on my way out the door.
You see, after the woman who was to become my wife and I met, we corresponded and really got to know a lot about each other by mail right up until she moved to Florida. (We lived in different states at the time we met.) Sarah had a frustrating habit (to me as a stamp collector) of using the most absolutely common definitive stamps, and the vast majority of letters she sent me bear Forever Liberty Bell stamps.
The value of the stamps on those envelopes? Practically nil. But I could buy more American Indian covers on eBay. I could start over on my landscapes collection. I could even acquire a different Civil War POW cover for my collection.
What I couldn’t replace is those letters from Sarah.