09 November 2009

the stamp collector

I was a stamp collector. My collection was certainly no family heirloom but was still of great value to me since I had built it up at a time when we were struggling financially. I collected mint British stamps starting from the Coronation of Elizabeth II, and also accumulated a fair quantity of used examples of Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian stamps. The Penny Red above is a photo taken in 1976 from one of my original albums.

The main Post Office in Bournemouth used to have a philatelic counter run by a man who was himself a collector. He neatly tore off strips, blocks and singles, then transferred them to little clear envelopes with some deft tweezer work. I would queue there four or five times each year to buy the latest commemorative sets. There were also several stamp shops in town and all sold bags stuffed with used stamps still stuck to the corners of envelopes. These were a cheap but worthwhile investment often producing unexpected gems. Ah those Saturday mornings spent soaking the stamps off!

In about 1982 I sold my stamp collection. It was a case of necessity but the fifty pounds I made wasn't even close to the face value of the stamps, never mind their catalogue or sentimental value. I always regretted that move, especially since, within a few years, I could have managed comfortably without the proceeds.

Now, twenty-six years later, I have decided to atone for my mistake. The philatelic counter in Bournemouth (if it still exists) is now three and a half thousand miles away so I must use some imagination to reassemble things here in Canada. The electronic era has ushered in a new style of stamp collecting. An abundance of web sites sell individual stamps, sets, whole collections, albums and accessories. A few keystrokes have revealed whole albums and stock books which haven't increased hugely since my 1980's sale. I think I can replace my stamps and indeed improve upon the collection for only a couple of hundred pounds. EBay has proved to be a goldmine, full of collections for sale following the deaths of ageing uncles.

Luckily the market is not as buoyant as I expected. Collectors with spare cash have perhaps dropped away in the recession. The odd thing is, I am ordering and bidding on collections of British stamps being sold in Canada and the United States. There must have been plenty of immigrant uncles! Ironically, the heaviest cost is for postage to Prince Edward Island! An album posted here from, let's say Los Angeles, costs about thirty pounds. I wonder what my ancestors would have made of such an outrageous waste of what would have been two years' earnings in Victorian times?

I have equipped myself with tweezers, magnifying glass, hinges and a Stanley Gibbons catalogue and set up a few auctions to watch on eBay. Now I'll be watching out for the postman for the next few days!


C.J.Duffy said...

It is one of those hobbies that passed me by but, with hindsight and the progression of age, I now look more kindly on this odd passtime and can quite understand why you want to do it again. I think the Victorian and Georgian stamps would be of greatest interest to me though.

Little M said...

Just what you need -another hobby! Cycling, running, music collecting, writing, gizmos and gadgets, genealogy... I can't keep up! I have to admit, seeing your new, old stamps has piqued my interest a bit too though.