I was having lunch with someone a few weeks back who mentioned in passing that it seemed I was not as active with my stamp collection as I had been. It was pretty much true. The past few years have been so busy there was been little time. Now that the cooler months are here again I am going to carve some out. My interest in philately has always come in fits and bursts depending on where I am in my life, what I am doing, and how much physical and mental energy I have to expend on it. Last year I did manage to get to the World Stamp Show at the Javits Center here in New York City. About two years ago for the World War One Centennial Commission I wrote a pitch for a particular stamp, which then went into a larger packet that was sent off to the USPS for consideration. We’ll see what happens.
Over the weekend the same friend forwarded to me this New York Times article about a downsizing onetime stamp collector who donated his collection to Stamps for Veterans, a non-profit that sends donated stamp albums to VA hospitals. Like most collections, this one was not worth a great deal monetarily; the value, such as it was, rested in the hours put into gathering and sorting the stamps. That is no small thing and it’s no wonder the owner held onto his album as long as he did, even if it was just stuck in a closet. Hopefully some veteran is enjoying it right now.
When I was young I would go to the stamp store once every few Saturdays and sort through the bargain tins for what I might find. Ten bucks or so was about my limit. I have still them today. What makes stamp collecting unique is that there is no wrong way to do it. It is entirely up to the individual. Done well, a collection can become a manifestation of the individual himself. It is pastime that is going away. Email has largely replaced the letter as the form of communication. Bill paying too is largely done online and over the phone. Stamps today are mostly self-adhesive, which are not conducive to mounting. Personally, with contemporary stamps I buy for posterity, I stick mainly to First Day Covers. Most importantly however, has been the change in culture. Kids have more options with their time nowadays. Video games and other alternatives have diminished the interest in philately. Even the Stamps for Veterans program reflects this. It is primarily Korean and Vietnam War veterans, not contemporary vets, who are interested in receiving stamp albums under the program.
(image/Bureau of Engraving and Printing; Designed by Edward Vebell)