Another recent foray into online stamp-buying cost me $99 bucks or so. The sellers were so on-the-ball that the packets started arriving within two mailing days. Way to go! In following days, I received a delightful philatelic cascade of seven envelopes. As it happened, each letter was from a different state: Virginia, Washington, Tennessee, Ohio, Arizona, Illinois and Nevada. This was pure coincidence — I was not trying to set a record for sellers in different states, just trying to fill out my Bechuanaland and Somaliland collections. What does this diversity suggest? For one thing, that stamp-collecting is deeply embedded in the U.S. heartland. At least, a lot of folks with stamps they want to sell are living all over the country. Maybe they are selling off their stamp collections, or just having fun in retirement. Maybe some of them are still collecting — selling some stamps and buying others. I received this poignant note from one seller: “Fred, Thank you for your order. Please keep checking. Every stamp I sell from my collection helps my family buy things we need to get by. May God bless you, Gregory.”
Philatelists are fortunate to have entered a new landscape of stamp collecting — accessible and enriching as never before — through the magical doors of the Internet. In the lively stamp-ing grounds of today you can pick up bargains, no matter whether you collect American, British Colonies, foreign, topical or other specialties. You can bid boldly at auctions, haggle with sellers, systematically fill out your sets, even sell your duplicates. The Internet also provides virtually limitless opportunities for research and enjoyment of the hobby — its history, stories, and images both stirring and beautiful. It’s never been easier or more fun to collect stamps. What are you waiting for?
These buying sprees of mine have not been a regular thing — maybe once or twice, every couple of years. Perhaps there will be more such sprees, since I have to start cashing in my IRA after age 70 and 1/2. After all, it’s a good investment, right? Plus, it’s lots of fun!
Here’s how I handle my cache of new lots. First I slice the envelopes with my letter-opener, draw out the contents, spread them out on my desk and admire the resulting philatelic clutter. I harvest the colorful stamps the sellers pasted on the envelopes for postage, and stash them in the large envelope I use for such accumulations.
Then I check the sellers’ manifests to see what is what and make sure I got the stamps I ordered. (This is when I discover today that in my haste, I’ve bought quite a few duplicate stamps. Oops!)
Carefully, I update my want lists, crossing out the recorded catalog numbers of stamps I am adding to my collection..
Turning to my British Africa album (for Somaliland, Bechuanaland et al.), I mark an asterisk (*) in light pencil on each space to fill on the appropriate page, with a notation underneath of the year of purchase and the price (if over $2.50).
When I’m done, I am free to discard the paperwork and rearrange the new stamps as I choose. The resulting stock cards turn out to be quite pleasing to the eye —
seven early stamps from Somaliland Protectorate, a whopping 16 stamps for my Bechuanaland collection, and attractive items from Sierra Leone and Tristan da Cunha.
The final step, of course, is to “paste” the stamps into my British Africa album, using either stamp hinges (for low-value used
stamps) or black protective mounts (for unused or higher-value stamps.)
As I contemplate these desirable additions to my collection, I suddenly am struck by the way the vectors of the senders in all those various states converge on my desk, in my house just outside of Syracuse. With two or three lots coming from some senders, up to a half-dozen stamps from others, these mailings produce
an exotic, colorful jumble. Once organized and displayed on stock cards, however, you find seven Somaliland Protectorate stamps, harmoniously designed and colored, arranged in two orderly rows. On a separate stock card, a small collection of 16 Bechuanaland stamps chronicles a mini-history of the British territory, from Victorian times to the decimal era of the pre-indepen-
You could plot a line on a map to the return address on each seller’s envelope — Washington State, Virginia, Ohio, Arizona — and produce a pinwheel pattern of no discernible significance. Yet the stamps, once placed in order on the stock cards, unite to convey a coherent and resonant sense of unity, history and artistry.
TO BE CONTINUED