Our Changing World: Once Upon a Time I Was a Stamp Collector!

It was windy and cold today; a reminder — yet again — that fall is here. Sitting in my home office, looking out at a gray and windy day reminded me of one of my hobbies of years gone by: Stamp collecting.

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Various stamps, old and new — at one point, this photo was the header on a stamp collecting blog I kept. Yes, all the stamps were mine...

Very few people collect stamps these days; heck, very few people use stamps to mail letters, because very few letters are mailed.

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The very first stamp issue of my native Denmark, dating to the 1850's.

Although stamp collecting is definitely still "a thing," what was once one of the world's most widespread hobbies has become a faint shadow of its former self. When I was a kid, there was an estimated 40 million people in the USA alone who "saved stamps" for reasons beside mailing letters. Today, that number is closer to maybe 200,000.

This is one of those situations where you could argue that a hobby was killed by technology; the advent of email largely did away with the need to mail letters bearing stamps... and with stamps no longer appearing daily in our mailboxes, kids of the "junior collecting age were simply not exposed to a ready supply of free stamps to get them started.

My father started me on stamp collecting when I was maybe 6-7 years old. He worked at a company that traded with other companies all around the world, and he felt that the colorful stamps coming in on office mail from all over the globe would a great way for me to learn about the geography, culture and history of other places. So he got the nice ladies in what was known as "the secretarial pool" back then to clip the stamps of the envelopes of all incoming mail for me.

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A more recent stamp from Ireland.

About once a month he'd bring home a large brown envelope filled with stamps, and it would give me many hours of fun to figure out where they all came from.

Unlike many young people — who'd start collecting early and stop once their teenage years rolled around — I never stopped collecting stamps... and by my mid 20's I was already what you might consider a fairly "serious" collector.

I kept up with it till about ten years ago when financial hard times came our way and I gradually sold the best parts of my collection to help cover the basic cost of living... and that basically kept us afloat for almost three years.

I never spent a lot of money on the hobby — some people do, investing $1,000's every year in their collections — because starting in 1988 I also became a stamp dealer, trading with 100's of people around the world. My strategy was to buy up large boxes from estate sales and liquidations, keep a few "choice" items for myself and sell the majority and still make a profit. It was a strategy that worked well until the decline in the number of stamps collectors was so steep that it was almost impossible to turn a profit anymore.

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Icelandic stamp issued in 1993.

One of the ironies in all this is that stamp collecting was historically regarded as being most popular among retired people, but I mostly collected during my working life and sold my stamps before ever reaching retirement age.

Such is life!

As I mentioned, stamp collecting does live on, albeit on a far more modest scale than during its glory days. These days, it's the "nostalgic and retro" appeal the drives the hobby... the idea of collecting something that once drove the bulk of commercial and private communication.

I still have a soft spot for the stamp collecting hobby, but I have long since stopped taking it "seriously" and my dabblings these days have little or no monetary value. However, I remain grateful to my dad for introducing me to stamps!

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

How about YOU? Did you ever collect stamps? Do you know anyone who did? Have you ever taken an interest in ANY kind of "collecting hobby?" Comments, feedback and other interaction is invited and welcomed! Because — after all — SOCIAL content is about interacting, right? Leave a comment — share your experiences — be part of the conversation!

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Created at 20210918 00:34 PDT

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