ABOUT "STAMP COLLECTING" AND "STAMP COLLECTORS"
"Stamps were, and sometimes still are, things of beauty and history, links to distant places that spawned a global hobby known as philately, or, simply, stamp collecting" (from 'The Free Dictionary").
"Not philosophers, but fret-sawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society." (Aldous Huxley - 'Brave New World'?
A HOBBY WITH A RICH MIX OF MYTHS, HISTORY, SOCIOLOGY
A popular story about how stamp collecting started is that of a Victorian lady who decided to decorate her lounge by covering the walls with the newly introduced postage stamps. her accumulation of these led to her storing some in albums, and thence into 'collections'. An alternative telling is that her 'advertising for more stamps' for this purpose in the popular press was a clever marketing ploy by the emerging trade of stamp dealing - with a certain Stanley Gibbons named as the possible perpetrator.
"Stamps" pre-date the Penny Black. In 1680 William Docwra set up a "penny post" for the collection and delivery of letters within the City of London; with letter boxes, collections every hour, and branch offices that stamped the exact time of the letter collection to serve as a receipt. The story then goes that the Duke of York was so impressed with the efficiency of this story that he claimed royal prerogative for the delivery of mail - and 'the rest is history'. (From "Stamp Collecting" by Prescott Holden Thorp -1961).
But sometimes myths and history cannot be separated. A letter from Vita Sackville-West to the Times in 1956 describes how her mother amused herself whilst pregnant with Vita in 1892 " by papering a small room at Knowle (a house now shared between the Sackville-West family and the National Trust and known as 'Knole')) with stamps arranged in strips and patterns ....I remember there were many Russian stamps of the Tsarist regime and there were some early Victorian stamps also".
"Why do people collect stamps?" is a frequent question. In his book "The Sociology of Collecting" published in 2014, Jack Shamash commented that for King George V it was 'his greatest ambition to have the finest stamp collection in Britain, and he succeeded admirably'. Yet, Shamash comments, 'Collecting is in many ways a bizarre practice. It demands that we should have an interest in a particular item and not just a burning desire to look at it in a museum or a picture book, but a tremendous desire to own it': yet he goes on to observe that ' acquiring a collection, for most people , is a social activity' where people come together to exchange items, ideas and knowledge; to share, and sometimes to compete. (Editor's note - Hence Philatelic Societies like Kingston and District?)
THE FOLLOWING PAGES ILLUSTRATE SOME PERSPECTIVES ON WHAT 'STAMP COLLECTING' IS; AND HOW IT IS PERCEIVED BY COLLECTORS, AND OTHERS.
"The future of stamp collecting" (published in 1886!) full article on
"This movement towards become specialists will, in all likelihood, steadily continue, and it will not be long before it will be an exception to find a person collecting even all varieties of postage stamps. Of course this will only be the case if new issues continue to appear as often as they do now, and from present appearances we should judge that they would. But none of us know what the future may have in store for philately, and indeed in the onward march of invention it is not at all improbable that some new and improved system of prepayment of postage may be devised which will entirely do away with the use of stamps, so that but for collectors their very existence might be forgotten a few centuries hence. – The Stamp and Coin Gazette"
From "Any Number Can Play" by Clifton Faddiman (1957)
"The philatelist will tell you that stamps are educational, that they are valuable, that they are beautiful. This is only part of the truth. My notation is that the collection is a hedge, a comfort, a shelter into which the sorely beset mind can withdraw. It is orderly, it grows towards completion, it is something that can't be taken away from us"
From "Stamp Collector"
a poem by Robert William Service.
(a British-Canadian poet (1874-1958) who latterly lived in France.
“My worldly wealth I hoard in albums three,
My life collection of rare postage stamps;
My room is cold and bare as you can see,
My coat is old and shabby as a tramp's;
Yet more to me than balances in banks,
My albums three are worth a million francs.
They are my very life, for every night
over my catalogues I pore and pore;
I recognize rare items with delight,
Nothing I read but philatelic lore;
And when some specimen of choice I buy,
In all the world there's none more glad than I.
Behold my gem, my British penny black;
To pay its price I starved myself a year;
And many a night my dinner I would lack,
But when I bought it, oh, what radiant cheer!
Hitler made war that day - I did not care,
So long as my collection he would spare.
Poor Monsieur Pns, he's cold and dead,
One of those stamp-collecting cranks.
His garret held no crust of bread,
But albums worth a million francs.
on them his income he would spend,
By philatelic frenzy driven:
What did it profit in the end. . .
You can't take stamps to Heaven.”
From "Grrr" a poem in "Stamp Collection. Poems inspired by Postage Stamps" by Dawn Anderon.
Published by Amazon 2017. Dawn Anderson has a blog at dawn.wordpress.com
Dawn Anderson writes "I decided to use my stamp collection as writing prompts. Over many years, my collection of interesting stamps has grown tucked into bowls and trinket caches. At the time each stamp found its way into my possession, I wrote a word that embodied the stamp on the back. This word and the stamp picture served as the subject for the corresponding poem.
[Perhaps not an ideal way to store or catalogue stamps?] but this collection of poems is a beautiful example of 'positive poetry' - and reflects the inspiration that each stamp may generate. As Dawn writes in the dedication"To collectors and dreamers everywhere, collect what you love; collect what inspires you be it postage stamps, classic cars, heirloom seeds, or positive poetry."
Puff of ash from seething volcano
warning shot over the bow
Tremors in a glass of water"
Left a note by the door
"had a bad day,
went for a walk
to let off steam."
This $2 stamp is of a Bobcat (lynx rufus) issued in 1990 by the USA.
Who issues Stamps?
It used to clear that unlike other collectibles such as postcards, or match-books, postage stamps were issued exclusively by governments, or entities that had government status. Their purpose was the collection of pre-paid tax for the transmission of mail.
Today the distinction is not always so clear. There are many territories listed by Stanley Gibbons in an appendix to their catalogues whose issues, it believes, "are essentially intended for foreign collectors": i.e. no postal use was ever intended and whose production is usually off-shore with the stamps sent direct to dealers, and rarely, if ever, to post offices!
Examples include territories such as Fujeira, Khor Fakkan, and Umm al-Qiwain, in the United Arab Emirates - where the stamps were never valid for postal use; Redonda in Antigua, which has no post office but issues stamps, or Tuvalu that issues a volume of stamps out of proportion to its population.
But historically, and even today, most countries issue stamps that do have postal use as their purpose, but are also a representation in miniature of a territory, sovereignty, its history, values, interests, and identity.
V.S. Naipaul, the Trinidad born novelists, travelled widely and in his book "A Bend in the River" set in East Africa - then under British Colonial rule - he wrote: Small things can start us off in new ways of thinking, and I was started off by the postage stamps of our area. These stamps depicted local scenes and local things: there was one called 'Arab Dhow' [probably the Kenya Uganda Tanganyika 1935 5 Cent green and black showing a dhow on Lake Victoria] It was as though, in these stamps, a foreigner had said,'This is what is most striking about this place'. Without that stamp of the dhow I might have taken dhows for granted. Whenever I saw them tied up at our waterfront I thought of them as something peculiar to our region, quaint, something the foreigner would remark on, something not quite modern and certainly nothing like the liners and cargo ships that berthed in our own modern docks". (Published by Deutsch, London, 1979).
In a similar way postage stamps may also mark a passing of countries and empires. Carinthia, Fiume, Heligoland, Marienwerder, Saar, and Vrijheid, are redolent of states that flourished briefly before they were subsumed into larger entities. Ghana, Malaysia, Myamar, Sri Lanka are examples of states where the name on the stamp symbolizes independence from previous colonial rule.
The Australian author Angelo Loukakis’s parents came from the island of Crete (Greece) and he is acutely aware his ancestry. His novel, "The Memory of Tides", has the backdrop of the 1940 battle for Crete.
Of this novel Loukakis writes: "I wanted to show the extraordinary and positive relationships that were formed between Greeks and Aussies at a time of profound crisis. There were many instances of cross-cultural revelation during the Greek campaign. For humble, frightened village people an awakening and relief—they could scarcely believe that complete strangers would come from across the world to try to protect them from the Nazi tyrants. For Aussie boys, an awareness of a culture that had given birth to the very things they were fighting for—freedom and democracy."
(Whitmont, Scott (6 January 2007). "The Memory of War: Interview with Angelo Loukakis". Australian Bookseller & Publisher)
In a similar way he reflected on his early interest in stamp collecting: "A traitor to my origins, I suppose, I was much keener on British Empire stamps than I was on Greek or European ones....But stamp collecting, like nicking off after school, ended for me a long time ago. And the Queen no longer matters except as a side-show, and the British Empire has vanished." ("The Royal Arcade" Good Weekend, 18 March 1988)
Except, of course, that in the world of philately the 'British Commonwealth' has certainly not vanished.
From "Why People Collect Stamps"
"All stamp collectors agree (even if not everyone admits it) that what motivates them to collect stamps is the pure simple joy they feel when collecting. The process of searching, locating and buying common stamps, new stamps, old stamps, rare stamps, or any other types of stamps which are needed in order to complete a specific type of stamp collection gives the stamp collector a sense of pride, success and accomplishment. For some people, just the simple and pure fun of the hunt (similar to treasure hunting), and the moment of actually finding and successfully acquiring a particular stamp is a good enough reason to collect stamps."
From a speech by Francis Cardinal Spellman
while laying the foundation stone of Cardinal Spellman Museum at Weston (USA) in 1972.
"The collecting of stamps brings untold millions of people of all nations into greater understandings of their world neighbours"
From The Editorial of the ABPS (Association of British Philatelic Societies) News. Winter 2018
"In 25 years the nature of philately has changed somewhat - certainly the number of local societies has fallen. Stamp shops have closed and school clubs are fewer than previously but we must not be pessimistic......
It is clear that there are many collectors who enjoy their collecting in isolation. We can be aware of the situation and try and persuade them to come to society meetings occasionally especially if we know there is something planned which might be of interest.....
But first we must be prepared to talk about what we enjoy in collecting. No - I do not mean that everyone ought to be displaying, entering competitions or giving talks to outside groups - but aren't we lucky that so many people are willing to do these things?"
"WHAT IS THEMATIC COLLECTING?"
We are very fortunate in the Kingston and District Society in that our Honorary Secretary, Brian Sole, is a leading light in thematic collecting, and has been for many years.
He is a great source of knowledge about the discipline and has the ability to simplify and explain some of the more arcane rules that govern competition entries. He himself, has won many prizes including a Gold Medal at the prestigious Washington 2006 International Stamp Exhibition for "Go by Cycle!".
He is also very good at reminding people that thematic collecting is fun; with the opportunity to explore and add booklets, proofs, errors, covers, stationery, postmarks, revenue and fiduciary stamps, and any other item directly related to postal services to illustrate any chosen topic.
For more information about 'what is thematic collecting?' please see the British Thematic Association web site - detailed above: or come along to one of our meetings when we would be pleased to share some of our experiences and discuss how we might help you develop your own interests.
As in any branch of philately pursuing some items can prove expensive, but in thematic collecting it is also possible to construct fascinating, and very personal displays, quite cheaply.
In previous meetings we have been privileged to see displays of stamps about gemstones, space exploration, flowers, sports, and a host of other topics: sometimes just stamps, sometimes with other philatelic material.
From "COMET IT MOOMINLAND"
by TOVE JANSSON
“And here I sit with my stamps in a complete muddle, and nobody has bothered to tell me what it's all about."
"Listen now, Hemul," said Snufkin slowly and clearly. "It's about a comet that is going to collide with the earth tomorrow."
"Collide?" said the Hemulen. "Has that anything to do with stamp-collecting?”
“It's finished. There isn't a stamp, or an error that I haven't collected. Not one. What shall I do now?"
"I think I'm beginning to understand," said Moomintroll slowly. "You aren't a collector anymore, you're only an owner, and that isn't nearly so much fun.”
Tove Hansson’s “Moomins” books were published in Swedish (she was a Finn; born 1914, died 2001) in 1948 and translated into English in 1950.
Moomintroll is cheerful and chubby and lives in the magical Moominvalley with his mother, Moominmamma, his father, Moominpappa and all of their friends. Throughout the winter the Moomins hibernate, but before they go to sleep they fill their tummies full of pineneedles. In spring they wake up, ready for their fun-filled summer adventures. A children’s story that many adults will also enjoy
TOO MANY STAMPS?
In 2017 France issued 108 new stamps, plus 154 self-adhesive stamps, plus 12 mini-sheets, plus one Air Mail stamp.
In 1938 a poem appeared in Gibbons Stamp Monthly by an author "WHH". This was apparently written in lament that in 1938 the French Post Office had issued 52 new stamps, an increase on the 26 issued in 1937, or the 25 issued in 1936.
The last two verses read:
"But my patience is now at its limit
With "football" the joking must cease,
Ere philatelists give you the motto -
"At commerce, but never at Peace".
Oh listen, Bell France, to this warning,
If you're going to go on at this rate,
I shall sever all friendly relations,
And go back to my Orange Free State!"
"The Hobby of Kings?"
In a time when ‘celebrity culture’ often takes centre stage it may be useful to reflect that “stamp collecting” – often regarded as “an unfashionable hobby for elderly men” is much more diverse in its appeal and continues to attract some high-profile devotees.
Heads of State have often pursued the hobby:
HM Queen Elizabeth II has maintained the collection started by Alfred Duke of Edinburgh (Her great-great-Uncle), and continued with passion by her grandfather King George V). As Prince of Wales, George V wrote in a letter to a correspondent referring to stamp collecting “It is one of the greatest pleasures of my life”.
Selected items of the Royal Collection are displayed each year to Members of the Royal Philatelic Society.
King Ferdinand 1 of Bulgaria and King Carol II of Romania were both keen collectors and actively sponsored the pastime. King Carol participated in the 1950 London International Stamp Exhibition’s Court of Honour, where his exhibit of the 1858 circular shaped stamps of Moldavia (Romania) was placed next to the British Colonies exhibited by King George VI.
King Farouk I of Egypt was particularly fond of collecting stamp misprints and the Royal Imperforate Printings. The imperforate printing collection was donated to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum by collector George Lee in 1960.
Prince Rainier III of Monaco was an avid collector of Monegasque stamps and the owner of the most valuable stamp from Monaco – the 5fr stamp of Charles III.
HRH Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand is a keen stamp collector and her collection is said to include many rare stamps of Thailand. Bangkok’s philatelic museum includes several displays about her, and portions of her collection are often displayed. One interesting display in the museum is of covers she had posted to herself from overseas whenever on a visit somewhere.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a passionate philatelist and well-known stamp expert. He valued his collection so much that during his presidency, he managed to spend some time each day with his stamps. He even designed and sketched ideas for stamp designs, colors and themes for the US postal service. He once said, “I owe my life to my hobbies – especially stamp collecting.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower collected stamps in his youth. His collection is in The Spellman Museum in Weston, Massachusetts USA. He is quoted as saying "The stamps of the world are powerful object lessons in the eternal hunger of men for knowledge and news about their fellow men. They are a pictorial history of all arts and sciences, and human progress since the earliest civilisations".
President Gerald Ford began stamp collecting as a young boy of around 12. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum lists his main hobby as stamp collecting.
When Gerald Ford narrowly lost the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter, he wrote to one of his long-time supporters, Congresswoman Edith Green of Oregon (also a stamp collector). He enclosed a signed sheet of 1976 US Bicentennial stamps in thanks for her support.
Jawaharlal Nehru (to date the longest-serving Prime Minister of India) was a keen stamp collector.
Nicolas Sarkozy is a keen collector and, according to a newspaper article, a prized item in his collection is a set issued by Britain's Post Office in 2004 to celebrate the Entente Cordiale. They were a gift from Queen Elizabeth II when the Sarkozy’s stayed at Windsor Castle on a state visit. The same article states that Mr Sarkozy was also given a leather album full of stamps by then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Modern ‘celebrity’ collectors include:
Virginia Apgar. (A pioneering physician in the research and prevention of birth defects, was also a keen musician and philatelist. She was honoured on a 20-cent Great Americans series stamp in 1994.
Sir Gawaine Baillie (British amateur racing driver, engineer, industrialist and the owner of the estate surrounding Leeds Castle in Kent). Sir Gawaine's goal in stamp collecting was to build a comprehensive collection of the stamps of issued by GB and the British Empire. He mastered at least ten areas of specialisation and acquired over 100,000 stamps of the highest quality including a copy of the scarce (unissued) Edward VII 2d Tyrian Plum. The collection was considered the most comprehensive of its kind and after his death in 2003 Sotheby's divided the stamps into ten separate auctions that realized more than £15 million.
Bernard Bresslaw (actor, best remembered from the "Carry On" films). Usually portrayed rather gormless, accident prone, characters, utilising his 6 ft 7 inch frame: but had a reputation for being exceptionally well-read, a collector of postage stamps, and was the author of a privately published volume of poetry, "Ode to the Dead Sea Scrolls".
Eric Bristow (World Champion Darts Player) was a keen collector, interested in First Day covers amongst other items.
Warren Buffet (Investment supremo) has revealed in many interviews his love for classic American stamps. Even from his childhood days, he showed a fascination with this hobby, which he said sparked his interest for later investing in collectible items. He claims that his collection of British stamps is also proving to be a sound investment.
Sophie Michelle Ellis-Bextor: (singer, songwriter, and model) collects stamps. She says, " I love stamp collecting it's not very rock 'n' roll, I know, but I've got a big collection." when asked what she would grab first if her house caught fire she said "I'd save my photographs first; then it would have to be my stamp collection."
A display from her collection was The Court of Honour exhibit at Spring Stampex in 2018.
Gary Burghoff (actor and artist) collects coins and stamps. In 1988 he filmed The Video Guide to Stamp Collecting which displays many different stamps and has helpful tips for novice collectors. He was a judge in the Federal Duck Stamp Competition in 1994.
Charlie Chaplin (actor) was a keen stamp collector.
Jacques Cousteau (Marine researcher) collected French stamps.
Patrick Dempsey (US actor) has collected stamps since he was a boy.
John Eleuthère duPont was an American billionaire and member of the prominent du Pont family. In 1997, DuPont was convicted of murdering Olympic Gold Medalist wrestler Dave Schultz the year before and sentenced to 13 to 40 years in prison. Among his interests was a passion for stamp collecting. He died in prison on December 9, 2010. In a 1980 auction he paid $935,000 for one of the rarest stamps in the world, the British Guiana 1856 1c black on magenta pictured above. His estate is still in possession of the stamp
Jascha Heifetz (violinist) was a topical or thematic collector who mainly collected stamps depicting music. His collection is in the Spellman Museum.
James Earl Jones (actor) is well known as a numismatist (and narrated the award-winning educational video, “Money: History in Your Hands,”) but he is also known to be a keen stamp collector.
Anatoly Karpov (Chess Grand Master) has a large collection of stamps specialising in Belgium and the Belgian Congo.
John Lennon (of Beatles fame) collected stamps as a boy and his collection was bought by the Smithsonian Postal Museum in the United States for $53,000 in 2005
Freddie Mercury – Started collecting stamps when he was 12 (and known as Farrokh Bulsara) and the collection was later bought by the Royal Mail with the proceeds going to an AIDS charity. His father had an interest in philately and Freddie indulged in collecting between the ages of nine and twelve before music became the main focus of his attention. Many of Freddie’s stamps are from his family’s native Zanzibar; but he also collected GB, Aden and Monaco.
Ayn Rand - (Russian-American novelist, playwright and philosopher) was a passionate stamp collector, who said of her hobby: “The pleasure lies in a certain special way of using one’s mind. Stamp collecting is a hobby for busy, purposeful, ambitious people…because, in pattern, it has the essential elements of a career, but transposed to a clearly delimited, intensely private world.”
Simon Martin-Redman (entrepreneur, political lobbyist, and international philatelist) specialises in Sarawak, and started collecting when very young, and then came back to the hobby in middle age.
Maria Sharapova (Tennis champion) is a keen collector of stamps, and a hobby she can pursue whilst travelling around the world.
Cardinal Spellman (former Archbishop of New York) was a thematic collector whose main interest was in stamps depicting religion.
Theodore E. Steinway (of the famous Steinway piano family) was awarded the first Lichtenstein Medal in 1952 for his efforts in the field of philately. He was one of the the first prominent stamp collectors to embrace topical or "thematic" collecting. Not surprisingly his main interest was in stamps depicting music.
Richard Todd (film actor - e.g. famous lead role in "The Dambusters"). Collected mainly Great Britain and British Commonwealth with a specific interest in stamps with military themes as he had fought in WWII and was active in the Royal British legion.
Emma Townsend Gardening expert and journalist) "When I am in the USA I always find myself buying stamps, because they produce such beautiful sets, such as of the national parks". She admits her collection got off to a good start when she was young because her father (musician Pete Townsend) received a huge fan mail.
Simon Wiesenthal (former head of the Jewish Historical Documentation Centre, in Vienna) was a keen stamp collector. Most of his stamp collection was a classic holding of stamps from various countries. But it also included a more personal section, a collection of postmarks and postcards from different towns named Wiesenthal. The U.S. National Postal Museum owns this specialized cancel collection and several of his personal philatelic tools.
Ronnie Wood (of the Rolling Stones) is reported to be fascinated by faces, including their depiction on postage stamps, and is stated to have a valuable collection of QEII stamps.
Pierre Zoummeroff was born in 1930 of parents of Russian origin. A businessman and art lover, he obtained a doctorate in science at Princeton under the direction of Albert Einstein. He collected Tunisia, France, Sri Lanka and especially Algeria where his collection illustrated the political life of Algeria, from the Ottoman Empire to independence. In 1989, he bequeathed his collection to the museum of the Paris post office.
"FATHERS OF PHILATELY"
Brian Birch FRPSL, has written an interesting book, published by the RPSL which gives biographies of the first 42 philatelists enrolled by jury into the "Roll of Distinguished Philatelists".
This is reviewed by Brian Livingston in the August Issue of "Stamp Lover".
Brian points out that whilst many of these philatelists are still known today, others are starting to fade from common knowledge.
Some well known names include Lord Crawford (Conservative MP for Wigan before his elevation to the peerage) who amassed the finest library of philatelic literature of his time(now in the British Library) and whose name is remembered in the Crawford Medal awarded for the best published philatelic research each year.
Thomas Tapling, whose magnificent collection was bequeathed to the British Museum and may still be viewed in the British Library.
Philipp Arnold, also known as Phiipp von Ferrary, and also as Baron or Count Ferrary, and even briefly as the Duke of Galliera. Fabulously wealthy he collected on impulse, buying with gold, and owned amongst other stamps the Swedish 3 skilling in yellow, and the 1 cent magenta from British Guiana. He also bought many forgeries sold to him to unscrupulous dealers and these are still known as 'ferrarities'. His plan to bequeath his collection to the German state was sadly overtaken by his death in 1915 in Switzerland, and after the war his collection was seized by the French Government and sold off for war reparations.
In his review Brian Livingston also singles out Jean-Baptiste Moens as one of the lesser known figures today. He was a published and stamp dealer and the firm he established in Brussels (Galerie Bortier) was much esteemed in the world of philately. His use of careful cataloguing supported with accurate illustrations made philately accessible to many more people. Obituary writers in 1908 recognised him as the world's first dealer in stamps (and reputably one of the fairest).
THE PERIL OF BEING A CELEBRITY COLLECTOR?
In 1904 a copy of the Mauritius 2d blue was discovered by a civil servant and put up for auction.
The bidding started at £500 and rose rapidly with fierce competition between two agents; Mr C Phillips representing the Reichpostmuseum in Berlin and Mr J Crawford. Mr Crawford finally secured the stamp with a bid of £1,450 - a world record price for a single stamp at that time (about £155,000 in today's terms).
Shortly afterwards, in conversation with the Prince of Wales (later King George V), one of the royal courtiers remarked, "Did your Royal Highness hear that some damned fool has just paid £1,450 for a single stamp?"
Yes, the Prince is reputed to have replied, "I was that damned fool".
Should the stamp come back on the market today, however, (unlikely - since it is safely housed in the Royal Collection) the estimated value at auction is in the region of £2 to £3 million. Perhaps not "such a damned fool"?
Stamp Active Website wins International Award
The Stamp Active Website was awarded a Large Gold Medal (with Felicitations) and Overall Best Website at the Italia 2018 International Stamp Exhibition. This beat many other philatelic websites from around Europe and as far afield as Australia and Brazil.
The Italia 2018 Exhibition was held under the auspices of the Federation of European Philatelic Associations (FEPA).
Stamp Active is a voluntary organisation which promotes stamp collecting for young people in the UK. The patron is the Rt Hon. Alan Johnson (stamp collector, former Home Secretary and once a postman).
The website is well worth visiting. It is a source of inspiration of how our hobby is still relevant for younger people today – if only they knew about it - and a reminder for older collectors that there is still more they learn about their hobby through looking at with younger eyes!
Apart from news and events topics covered covered on the Website, include: Kidstamps free postal club; downloadable activity books; competitions; advice on joining and running Stamp clubs; tips on how to start collecting; how to support school stamp clubs – and lots more.
The Web site is well worth visiting on a regular basis.
“WHAT PHILATELY TEACHES”
The following is taken from a lecture delivered before the section on philately of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. February 24, 1899. By John N. Luff
“By some, philately has been called a science. Perhaps it hardly merits so exalted a title but it opens for us a wide field of research, in which we may find many curious, interesting and instructive things. It trains our powers of observation, enlarges our perceptions, broadens our views, and adds to our knowledge of history, art, languages, geography, botany, mythology and many kindred branches of learning”.
In his lecture John Luff develops many themes illustrated by stamps of the period. And discourses on the physical processes involved in producing stamps. One example of his linking of the study of stamps to a broadening of knowledge concerns the stamps of Turkey issued at that time.
“The stamps of Turkey at the end of the 19th Century had no portraits, adhering to the Moslem prohibition on the reproduction of the human figure.
On these stamps we find the crescent, said to have been the emblem of the Byzantine Empire and adopted by the Turks after the fall of Constantinople. We also find an elaborate device called the Toughra or signature of the Sultan. It owes its origins to Sultan Murad I … who signed imperial decrees by dipping his fingers in ink and placing them on documents with three fingers close together and the little finger and thumb extended. …..This emblem was elaborated over time and contains certain characters which are permanent and minor ones such as the name of the Sultan, which change.....
The toughra is often referred to as a hand. In an article published in 1867 I find the following…
“The hand has, to a Moslem, three mystic significations; it denotes providence; it is the expression of law; and thirdly of power……
As an emblem of law the five fingers, with the exception of the thumb, have three joints. All the fingers are subordinate to the unity of the hand, their common foundation. The five fundamental precepts of the law are: Belief in God and his prophet: Prayer: Giving alms: fasting during the sacred months and at appointed times: Visiting the temples of Mecca and Medina. Each of these precepts admits of three divisions, except the first symbolized by the thumb, which has only two ‘heart’ and ‘work’.
The hand placed upon the gates of the Alhambra, upon the Sultan’s seal, and upon the stamps symbolizes the spiritual and temporal power which protects the good and the faithful, and punishes their adversaries”.
Luff concludes his lecture with:
“A postage stamp is a tiny thing but it holds in its pictured space thoughts that embrace the beginning and end of things, life, death and – and we know not what.”
John Nicholas Luff (1860 – 1938) came from New York. He was one of the most important philatelists ate 19th and early 20th centuries, notable as an early user of scientific methods in the study of postage stamps. The Luff Award of the American Philatelic Society is named after him.
"STAMP COLLECTING AS A PASTIME"
Another perspective on the way the issuing of stamps reflects geo-political events is provided by Edward Nankivell in an article written for Stanley Gibbons in 1902.
Nankivell shows how the formation of the German Empire can be charted in the issuance of stamps by the German States.
"The stamps of Germany tell a somewhat similar story. They mark the gradual absorption into a confederation of states, and the ultimate creation of a German Empire. The postal issues of Baden ceased in 1871, when the Grand Duchy was incorporated in the Empire.
Bavaria, though also incorporated, holds out in postal matters, and still issues its separate series. Bergedorf was in 1867 placed under the control of the free city of Hamburg, and thereupon ceased issuing stamps. Bremen, Brunswick, Hamburg, Lubeck, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, Prussia, Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein formed the North German Confederation and closed their postal accounts with collectors in 1868.
Hanover became a province of Prussia after the war of 1866, and thereupon ceased its separate issue of postage stamps: and Thurn and Taxis followed suit in 1867.
In 1870 the North German Federation was merged in the German Empire, which issued its first postage stamp the Imperial eagle in 1872. But the Empire was not yet sufficiently united to place a portrait of the Emperor upon its Imperial postal series."
Edward James Nankivell (1848–1909) was a respected journalist in London and an avid early stamp collector. Stamp collecting was a relatively new hobby and not taken seriously at all by the people, who considered it only something to amuse children.
Nankivell was upset by the lack of respect the public had for his beloved hobby and he wrote his classic book - "Stamp Collecting as a Pastime" - as a passionate plea for the acceptance of stamp collecting as a serious pastime for everyone from the Prince of Wales to ordinary school children
"THE ERROR WORLD; AN AFFAIR WITH STAMPS"
An autobiographical reflection by Simon Garfield on his own passion for collecting stamps.
Simon Garfield is an accomplished author and journalist. "The end of innocence: Britain in the time of Aids" is perhaps his best known work. In "the error world" he recounts his early interest in stamp collecting, and, as like many collectors, how this became a passion when he returned to the hobby after a long break in his 20' and 30's.
His main interest was the collection of major errors on GB stamps - the hunt for a copy of the missing Queen's Head on the 1961 Parliamentary Issue is a running theme.
The book offers many perspectives on stamp collecting but three may interest our society members and friends:
1. The hindsight that there are always stamps or material one could have bought, but did not for a variety of reasons, and then watched as it became more an more unobtainable for reasons of price or scarcity. Balanced, of course, by the pleasure in reflecting on those items were bought at the right time.
2. The importance of the quality of the stamps in terms of condition, and then their protection in storage. For the rarest stamps provenance is important, for all stamps condition is paramount.
3. The realization (in Simon's case in 2007) that there were now simply too many stamps being issued and the cost of maintaining the completeness of a modern collection was simply too high.
There were 18 new issues of GB stamps in 2007: "The nightmare was cost. Some of the stamps went as high as £1.19, most new issues would include six stamps, and in a year a collector could easily spend more than £100 trying to keep up with the basics". Let alone also pursuing miniature sheets, presentation packs, gutter pairs, booklets, covers etc.
Many GB collectors have reached the same conclusion and have an end date for their collection: 1952 (End of George VI's reign); 1971 (decimalisation); 1999 (the Millennium) etc. But there has now been a resurgence in the collection of current issues fuelled by the interest of some collectors in thematics, social history, and open class collecting. Whilst the collection of Machins has become a passion for many, in its own right. The hobby continues to develop and adapt.
There is also a thread in Simon's personal story that is relevant to many local philatelic societies. The "Strand" of the 1950's - 1970's as the epicentre of stamp collecting in the UK , with numerous shops and local characters, has now become a memory. In his view stamp collectors have often tended to be rather secretive about their hobby - especially to non-stamp collectors (including spouses!). But they do enjoy talking with other philatelists - on occasion. He recounts many such conversations. Local societies, such as Kingston, therefore offer an alternative to the forums, and meeting places, once found around the Strand or in other regional centres, where fellow enthusiasts may meet, exchange notes, learn from the displays of others, and perhaps offer each other material: or just gossip about stamps.
"The Error World" is published by faber and faber.
"Open Class" Stamp collecting encourages a very individual approach to collecting
COVERS DECORATED WITH ORIGINAL ARTWORK
Interesting stamps as they show Gabon stamps accepted for postage in newly independent Gabon - but with a striking hand painted illustration on the cover.
Striking graphical design
A card sent from one philatelist to another but decorated by a local woman working as a street artist with a striking design
from Congo to the BBC in London
A lovely example of the phonetic translation of an address into a foreign language - and a tribute to the postal authorities in directing it to the right address.
STAMPS OTHER THAN FOR POSTAGE
Whilst most collectors pursue stamps that were printed, sold, and used for postal purposes there are many other stamps that were designed and used for other purposes. Often referred to as 'back of the book' issues, since they are usually listed at the back of catalogues, or in the back pages of printed albums, these issues have a devoted following of their own and are of growing interest to many collectors. These examples are from the United States of America.
The US Authorities issue bird hunting licences each year, which are issued in the form of a stamp. These are beautifully designed and have been selected from competitions held for this purpose.
The US Authorities, as in many other countries, have issued and used special stamps to signify that appropriate taxes have been paid. These are often finely engraved, as in this example of George Washington.
Stamps are often affixed to all manner of legal documents to indicate appropriate fees have been paid and under legal authority. These US stamps were used for leases, probate, and alcohol and drugs licences
COLLECTING STAMP 'ERRORS'
Stamp collectors have always been fascinated by stamps which show an error in terms of the paper, the perforation, the colours, or missing elements; usually as a result of the printing process.
One of the most famous errors is the Three Skilling Banco stamp first issued by the Swedish postal mail service in 1855. Its regular colour was green, but a few sheets were printed with the wrong yellow colour, normally reserved for another face value, the Eight Skilling stamp. Only one certified copy is currently known and it sold for over $2 million when last auctioned.
Modern errors are more numerous, and whilst some command high prices (thousands not millions!) - such as the missing GPO tower on the 1965 issue or the missing Queen's head on the 1961 Parliament Issue - many can be obtained for only a few pennies more than normal copies. Tom Pierron published a catalogue of known GB and Commonwealth errors in 2003 - now available on CD ROM and revised - and this provides information on such errors and the probably number of copies of each.
Many collectors are attracted to 'errors' because they offer the possibility of 'finds' amongst material that is otherwise commonplace, and because of the detection work involved in establishing how the error occurred, and ensuring the stamp has not been deliberately doctored to fool collectors (such as by ironing out the embossed Queen's head, or by chemical removal of a specific colour). An example of a common GB error is shown below, using stamps that actually went through the post, and were not just bought, unused, by a stamp dealer.
BATTLE OF HASTINGS
BATTLE OF HASTINGS
"Club Flaw": the dark shape on the right thigh of the soldier lying underneath the horse.
Collecting Cinderella stamps is a fast growing area of the hobby. It has always been popular but the inclusion of thematic and open classes for philatelic competitions, and now also of ephemera has increased the appeal of these 'stamps'.
A cinderella stamp is "virtually anything resembling a postage stamp but one not issued for postal purposes by a government postal administration" (James Mackay. "Philatelic Terms Illustrated". Stanley Gibbons)
It is probably easier to define a cinderella stamp by what it is not. It is not for postage but could be a poster stamp: a propaganda label, a commemorative sticker, some railway stamps, or a stamp issued by a non-recognised country or for local use only.
These are examples of some of these highly decorative cinderellas.
Poznan is famous for its trade fairs, situated at the heart of mainland Europe. This cinderella stamp was issued for the 1930 "travel and tourism" fair and illustrates the Art Deco style that characterised the 1930's.
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 was celebrated with a review of the fleet in which the battleship HMS Vanguard, was the flagship. This event is commemorated on a local cinderella issued by the city of Plymouth.
The 1914 Jubilee Exhibition took place in Kristiana in 1914. It marked the centennial anniversary of the 1814 Constitution and this cinderella stamp captures the themes of tradition, liberal monarchy, and modernism of the exhibition.