A to Z April Challenge

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

More Adventures in Stamp Collecting

StampsStamps (Photo credit: London Permaculture)

             In my previous post I provided an overview of what stamp collecting was about and the plus side of being a stamp collector.  That post was primarily an objective look at the hobby and a general look at stamp collecting as a part of my life.   This post will provide a closer look at my adventures as a stamp collector.

          One doesn't usually think of stamp collecting as an adventure, but when you're a kid anything and everything can be an adventure.  This is especially true when you receive a brand new boxed something or other labeled as a "kit" or "set".  This mystery package is like a treasure chest waiting to be opened.   I was thrilled when I received my first stamp collecting kit in 1960 when I was in the third grade.

          My Discoverer Stamp Album kit provided everything I needed to get started as a stamp collector.  The adventure began on the floor of my bedroom in the Clairemont Mesa neighborhood where my family lived in San Diego, California.  I spent hours poring over that first packet of stamps and mounting them in my new album.  I carefully studied the accompanying guide book to learn about the proper way to handle stamps and how to identify where they were from.  I learned professional philatelic terms like perforations, watermarks, and plate blocks.   Within several days I felt like I was becoming a professional stamp collector.

         As with any collecting hobby, my adventure had now become a quest.  I made regular visits to the  Rasco Five and Dime store at the nearby Quad shopping center.  This was the first store where I found a display of stamp collecting supplies.  Whenever I was in Rasco's I would look through the packets of stamps to see which ones I would buy when I had enough money,   If I had the money I would buy as many packets as I could afford.  Little by little I began building a sizable collection.

          When the Mission Valley Shopping Center opened in 1961, an amazing new world of stamp collecting was opened to me.   The May Company department store had a complete philatelic department with stamps displayed in glass counters like jewelry.  There were actual clerks who had expert knowledge in the field of stamp collecting.  By this time I was a much more experienced collector, yet I was still a kid in the world of the stamp pros.

           I always looked forward to my mother's trips to the Mission Valley Center (the term mall hadn't fallen into general use at that time).  She would leave me at the philatelic department where I would stay until she was done with her shopping.  Perusing the stamps on display I would make up my wish lists of the stamp sets I would hope to get for Christmas or buy with money I would be getting.  The stamp prices here were higher end than those inexpensive packets at Rasco's, but this was real stamp collecting--complete sets, mint (unused) stamps, and harder to find stamps.  My collection was becoming bigger and I had graduated to a much nicer hard cover stamp album.  The larger selection offered by the May Company was now what I needed.

          Wherever I went I was always on the lookout for places that sold stamps.  I still recall the surprise of finding a box of assorted stamps at a penny a piece at a tacky souvenir store in Tijuana, Mexico.  I bought several on that visit and since we went to the border town with some frequency I would usually return to see what new gems they had in the box.

           Later, after we had moved to Northern Indiana in 1963, on one of our juggling performance trips playing county fairs, we stopped in the small town of Rush City, Minnesota.  The only store open downtown--there really wasn't much of a town--was an old general store that had probably been there since the early part of the century.

           Inside it was musty smelling and dimly lit.  The place looked frozen in the past like no one had been there in decades.  I don't know if the place was intended to be an antique store, but much of the  stock on the shelves could probably be classified as antique.  A congenial old man who was probably the owner was the only one there.  While my parents looked about, I was drawn to some shelves along one wall and as though by instinct I found a cigar box filled with old stamps.  They were four cents each--more expensive than the Tijuana store offered--but they were older stamps that made them more valuable.

             I bought about twenty of the stamps that appealed to me the most.   I don't know if I got a good deal or not, but I'm pretty sure they were worth more than I paid for them.  They went back into my collection which was now fairly substantial--several thousand stamps mounted in six albums with many others tucked away in glassine envelopes stored in file boxes.

              I had a very neatly organized collection.  And this is how it remains.   I stopped actively collecting in high school, but my interest has continued.  One day the adventure may resume.  But it was a fun adventure while it lasted.


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10 comments:

Lynn Proctor said...

even though i do not do it, i find stamp collecting really interesting --i found an old stamp book in a kind of flea market place- i purchased it for my son last year, even though he doesn't collect them----it had quite a few rare ones, i was told--he likes old posters and papers--so it was a big hit!

Dee said...

Dear Lee, I know Rush City, Minnesota. I haven't stopped there but have driven through. I find this whole idea of collecting stamps intriguing. Did it prompt you to travel to faraway places?

Peace.

Arlee Bird said...

Lynn -- I don't think many kids today appreciate older things like stamps. We didn't have a lot of fancy technology when I was young so I was intrigued by simple things like stamps. And just imagining the stories behind the stamps and where each individual one had been was exciting.

Dee --I've never left North America and haven't really had much of a call to do so. Sure, if I could easily afford it I'm sure I would pursue more travels, but I'd never slave to save to do it or put travels on a credit card. The stamps alone were adequate to transport me faraway in my mind, but I never did in reality. Someday I'd love to go to some far places, but to be honest there is so much to see in our own country I'm pretty content with domestic travel.

Lee

raisingthecurtain.net said...

My Dad was a great stamp collector and I now have his collection. He had a wonderful collection of Australian stamps starting from Feneration (1900). The best gift I ever gave my Dad was a stamp featuring the Harbour Bridge one of four in blue and the only one missing from the series. I found it at a stamp fair we were attending and bought it on the spot. It has a special place in the collection. Stamp collecting is also a wonderful vehicle for learning about the world, history and culture.

Judy

Arlee Bird said...

Judy -- I'll bet there are many great collections by country throughout the world. I focused on U.S. stamps. I don't recall having many Australian stamps. Your father's collection is probably pretty impressive. It was always a fun quest to acquire hard-to-find stamps or ones that were more valuable. Thinking about all this makes me want to pull my collection out of the closet and look at it again.

Lee

Sherry Ellis said...

I used to collect stamps when I was a kid. I have some from Greece, and Belgium, and Germany, among other places. Sounds like you have quite a collection!

Arlee Bird said...

I know I spent a bundle on building the collection up and I do have many thousands of stamps. I need to take a look at it someday and to remember what all all have.

Lee

A Daft Scots Lass said...

My dad gave me a stamp collection ages ago that has a British Penny Black and two Penny Reds in it. Unfortunately some dipshit stuck a piece of sellotape over the one Penny Red but the other one is in pretty good shape

Do you know how much they are worth?

Tyrean Martinson said...

I've never been a stamp collector, but I used to collect coins, wind up toys and Star Wars cards. Collecting things is interesting and fun . . .although it can make for a full house too.

Arlee Bird said...

Scots Lass -- I don't know much about stamp values, but there are guides available--I used to find them in the library. Looking on line is probably an even better place to look now.

Tyrean -- I tried coin collecting but never got too far with it. Collecting smaller easy to store things isn't too bad. It can be fun to admire ones collection.

Lee