Photograph of random assortment of US and Canada postage stamps, private collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Stamp collecting used to be more popular than it seems to be these days. Any self-respecting variety store--five and dime stores they were usually called--had a small section devoted to stamp collecting supplies and albums and an assortment of packaged stamps from around the world. Most of the packages were priced at ten cents or a quarter, but some larger packets might be as much as a dollar or more. Many of these items usually came from the H. E. Harris Company in Boston, Massachusetts.
I first started collecting stamps in the third or fourth grade, most likely having been inspired by my father who had collected stamps when he was a boy. I started with the small paperbound Discoverer album from the Harris Company. The album came in a kit that included an international assortment of stamps, stamp hinges for mounting the stamps in the album, a small guidebook about philately (the actual name for stamp collecting), and a small plastic magnifying glass.
The thrill of opening a stamp assortment was always a new adventure. Learning how to identify the countries that the stamps came from was an educational experience which was enhanced by the themes depicted on the stamps. A stamp collector can learn much about history, geography, flora and fauna, and culture of countries by studying the illustrations depicted on the stamps. I would take things further by finding the countries on a map and looking in the encyclopedia for more information about the countries that particularly intrigued me.
More than once I used stamps for school assignments as they were ideal accompaniments for projects in history, geography, or science. Stamp collecting was also the topic of a merit badge in cub scouts. I found several friends who also collected stamps and we inspired others to start. The communal experience of collecting together, admiring each others collections, and trading stamps allowed for many hours of fun that was intellectually stimulating.
My old stamp collection still sits in a closet in my home office. I even occasionally purchase new stamps from the post office and save them for my collection. Whenever I see an stamp on an envelope I'll tear it off and tuck it away in a large envelope I keep for stamps. I'm not a very active stamp collector these days. But maybe someday I'll get back into the stamp collecting habit. It can become a habit--and a relaxing one at that.
Did you ever collect stamps? Do you collect them now? What are some things you have collected or still collect?