Monday, May 13, 2013

Stamp Collecting 101

I’m a patron of the postal system. Yup, it’s true. Even in this world of ‘e’ everything, nothing beats mail. The act of sending and receiving something, the anticipation, the cute little stamps – I love it all. It’s like Christmas morning every time the mail carrier arrives. True, the mail isn’t delivered right to my door, but checking our postal box is just as fun. Even more exciting is sometimes finding a box sitting on my front door! Many times, however, there is disappointment – ‘nothing good in the mail today, dear’ – but then I always rev-up my excitement for next time.

Except, of course, when receiving a bill in the mail – now that’s no fun.


And I am actually disappointed when someone tells me to send something electronically. Yes, it is cheaper and responses are quicker, but what fun is there to be had by not buying a stamp?

Aside from my addiction to sending and receiving mail, I recently realized that my patronage for all things postal ran deeper than I thought.

One day while waiting in line at the post office, I saw it - a shiny catalogue of newly designed stamps and coins currently for sale. Historical themes from everything to ’The Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment’ to ‘The War of 1812’ were gracing the pages. Then to add to my interest were sets titled ‘Adopt a Pet,’ ‘Chinatown Gates,’ ‘Motorcycles’ and fittingly, given my new-found interest, ‘250 years of Postal History.’

And that tingly feeling resurfaced from too many years ago. I had a need to collect and save.

When I was a kid, my cousin and I were big on the stamp collecting front – right up there with sticker collecting. True, we weren’t ‘professionals,’ steaming and soaking with tweezers in hand, but we loved saving stamps from near and far. For Christmas my Aunt gave me my OWN stamp album – a book fashioned with little pockets to store the treasured stamps. It filled pretty quickly because as word spread through my family I was collecting stamps. Every aunt, uncle and grandmother was sending me stamps torn from envelopes. I was a PROFESSIONAL.

And the bug never left me. Over the years, I would sometimes save a cool-looking stamp as I found one, and those who knew me would bring me stamps from their travels afar, and I would save them all. But I didn’t consider myself a ‘stamp collector.’ I would save them in a drawer, my nightstand or even my jewelry box. True stamp collectors everywhere are likely cringing at my less-than stellar preservation techniques, but this is what I did. As a mother of two boys – who over the years I desperately tried to get them on the hobby and without success – I didn’t have time to be a ‘true’ stamp collector.

Yes, I could have put them in a book, but I thought collecting was for...‘other’ people, not me. People who knew this history and worth of many stamps, never mind the proper-preservation of the tiny little squares. People who had time and patience to learn about each one.

Flipping through the catalogue, I was inspired, intrigued and suddenly itching to get my hands on a few - but not to use, of course, despite my postal system patronage. And I realized right then, I had to get an album, just like I had as a kid. It would be a relatively cheap hobby, and really, how hard COULD it be to throw a few stamps in a book? Waiting for new stamp designs to come on the market would give me a kick – just like waiting for the mail to arrive. I could put all the ones I had saved over the years in the book, and heck, if anything, they might be worth something to my kids one day.

So, on a Friday I finally got myself a brand new stamp album. Outside the main post office downtown, I flipped through the pages bearing little pockets in which to slide in my precious stamps. I couldn’t wait to get it home and start filling the pages. The day I picked up the catalogue, I had purchased two sets – just to start my new-found hobby on the right foot. I had saved them for when I could get an album, and I was itching to get home to those freshly minted stamps, and start scouring around my drawers, nightstands and jewelry boxes for stamps lovingly saved.

And I did insert my new stamps that night. I couldn’t wait to get it all together and show my kids, and maybe inspire them to get started. I re-traced my steps in my memory of where in the house I had ‘preserved’ all these stamps. I had to find them, and I had all weekend to do it! I could do it! How much time could it take to just find the stamps and slide them in the album?

But I should have known better. A busy mom whose weekends are often a blur with errands, kid duties, and preparing for the coming school/work week has no time for the quiet, slow hobby of stamp collecting. Despite my best efforts, I never got a chance to race around my house finding all the stamps I had saved. Next thing I knew Sunday night snuck up and my shoulders slumped like a soggy stamp. I never got around to finding all my stamps.

But, I brightened as I consoled myself, at LEAST I had a new book in which to save the precious little gems. All the stamps in the world weren’t going to magically disappear if I didn’t fill my book that weekend, and the ones stashed around my house weren’t going anywhere, either. There would be other times. Yes, my life is too busy for many things, but I took my re-entry to the stamp collecting world as another sign to slow down. Stopping to slide in a fresh, un-used stamp would take barely a few minutes. I could do that.

So my album sits on the shelf, waiting for my return. The stamps are stashed around the house, waiting for me to find them. The mail carrier is gearing up for the day, readying him/herself to bring me (hopefully) good mail – with hopefully good stamps. And in the end, am helping support and preserve the postal system that the ‘e’ world is threatening to extinct.

I am glad I started - I wonder if the mail will bring me the time I need?

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