Introduction to Stamp Collecting
You can do all of the above or none of the above.
It's a very flexible hobby!
Most collectors start by trying to collect everything on very little money. Of course, that's not possible even on very MUCH money.
Many of us started by saving the stamps on the envelopes we or our parents received in the mail. The next step was often to buy packets (mixtures of stamps arranged for display and sold in stores -- hard to find now!) and mixtures (bulk stamps on paper, just as if you'd torn them off envelopes).
Then something would catch our interest and we'd specialize, sometimes in several things at once.
Today, one of the fastest-growing areas is topical or thematic philately -- collecting stamps by subject. Topical collecting includes by date (your birthday, perhaps?) or perhaps a special conference or program commemorated by several countries (like the recent United Nations 50th Anniversary or the Year of the Ox).
Thematic is the largest part of topical collecting, and includes subjects like trains, boats, musical instruments, Presidents, and left-handed midgets. (Last time I used that example, I offended someone...probably a President.)
For example, I play trombone on an amateur basis. I have trombone tie-tacs, lapel pins, a trombone kazoo and of course, I have the Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey stamps. Or I could collect stamps issued on my birthday, March 15. (Now you know why they say "Beware the Ides of March.") Or perhaps journalism stamps as a tie-in with my occupation.
"Hey, wait a second, Lloyd! What was that big word you used a couple of paragraphs ago? Philately?"
That's the Big Nickel word for Stamp Collecting. No one's quite sure where it came from, or what it means literally. A person who collects stamps is a stamp collector. Or a philatelist. Organizations related to philately are philatelic.
Now let's talk about some of the benefits of philately: First, you'll meet people from all over the world. It's entertaining, and a good way to pass some "quiet time" -- or give you an excuse to take a trip somewhere interesting so you can attend a stamp convention.
Okay, here's another reason -- but first, put your hands over the kids' ears. [Shhhhhhh!] It's painlessly educational.
When you look at the 1985 U.S. stamp for Jerome Kern, you can't help but notice the piano and musical notes. The stamp also says "Performing Arts." Aha! Now you know he was a musician.
Delve a little deeper (perhaps just by buying and looking at a First Day Cover, a philatelic envelope with the stamp and a special cancel) and you'll find out he composed the musical "Showboat" and penned such classics as "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes."
That might pique your interest (as it did mine) to read a biography, and learn that he composed the first popular hit song recording and used George Gershwin as a rehearsal pianist.
Canada a few years ago issued stamps commemorating Canadian comic book heroes, including Superman. Superman? Created by a couple of Canadian teenagers. See? That didn't hurt much at all, did it?
Come join us.
Lloyd A. de Vries