Archived Story

Stamp collection, anyone?

Published 10:58am Monday, February 11, 2013

Today’s youth seem to presume their parents and grandparents lived boring lives without iPhones, iPads, and iPods. I tell you: Our lives were at least as eventful and exciting as yours. What finally matters in life is not the mechanical devices and electronic toys a person accumulates, but what is inside and how a person uses whatever he or she has and how you relate to those around you.

The particular matter that brings this to mind is going through the postage stamp collection I made when I was sixteen. You see, I still have it. Alright, I haven’t look at it in years — but I am now. I am able to relive the excitement and joy of what I learned about the world by collecting stamps. I am learning yet more about world history by researching (on the Internet, mind you) the changes in and of nations that have occurred in these sixty-six years. I am still learning.

Although my father who was an avid stamp collector started me on stamp collection when I was ten, this particular project was to earn the Boy Scout Stamp Collecting merit badge, one of the final required to receive the Eagle Scout rank.

My collection is 591 individual stamps from 58 foreign countries plus the United States mounted on 25 letter-size sheets, identified by country. An additional requirement was to obtain and display various kinds and purposes of postage stamp issued, e,g., precanceled, imperfect, “tied to cover,” rotary press. Another was to obtain and display specific purpose stamps, e.g., airmail, special delivery, postage due, war tax, parcel post. In learning their meaning and purpose I learned about commerce and economics.

The goal of stamp collecting itself, as well as the purpose of the merit badge, is not to see how many stamps one can accumulate or even how great a variety the collector can find. Such would, indeed, be boring. The purpose is to learn world geography, history, politics, and culture. And so I did.

What I learned from stamp collecting I continue to use in many matters that have nothing to do with postage stamps.

My father used to spend hours at the dinning room table covered with his stamps, as he studied, arranged, and rearranged them. When my brother and I would ask him what he was doing, my mother would call from the kitchen, “Monkey business!” We enjoyed their teasing, and this had its value. One day, Dad was ready for us. When we teased, “Are you up to monkey business, again?” he pulled out a large picture of a monkey he hid under the stamps.

My father even set me up in my first business venture. He taught me how to put stamps in special transparent envelopes to sell to my schoolmates. I made what seemed to me a huge amount of money. Then I learned about the economics of business transactions when Dad charged me the wholesale price for the stock I had sold.

I developed a cohort of boys who collected stamps. One boy was generally disliked for a number of reasons. One, I fear, is that he was Jewish. We didn’t know there was anything wrong with being Jewish other than he was “different.” Stamp collecting is what brought us together, and eventually it bonded us. I clearly visualize his home, even more Jewish than he, as we sat on the “front room” floor studying his collection.

As I went into business and then a profession, I valued postage stamps and mailing as a tool. Commemorative stamps fascinated me, and I soon became known to postal clerks as being interested in the newest commemorative. I learned first class mail receives more attention when sent with a commemorative than with the routine issues. I insisted on the religious Christmas stamps for our cards.

Postage stamps aren’t what they used to be, because communications have changed. If the time comes when there are no more, I have mine.

I collected postage stamps. I learned about the world. I was never bored.

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