Stamps and collectors made for a fun time as editor

After nearly 25 years at Trajan Publishing, nearly half of those as editor of CSN, this is my last column. A fairly long run, considering that I originally hadn’t planned on spending more than a year, or two at most, before going back to regular journalism.

I still find it hard to believe that it was 1990 when I first wandered into the office of Trajan. A tiny cramped space compared to now, we had just expanded and you had to walk across the hall to find the second half of the office. We solved that when a guy sent in by the landlord came in and literally knocked a ragged hole in the wall between the two bays. A few months later he came back and installed a wood frame, but that wall was to stand for more than a decade.

One of the first people I met was Ellen Rogers, one of the original staff. Ellen was editor of CSN and our sports magazine at that time. Eventually she moved on to other ventures, to be followed by a succession of other stamp editors.

At this time, I was editing Canadian Coin News and, by the same quirk that made Ellen a sports editor, I was editor of Insight on Collecting, which covered the world of dolls, plates, figurines, and limited edition art. I also edited a short-lived phonecard title, and co-ordinated a venture into publishing a French-language coin magazine. I was even the office geek, charged with keeping an antiquated network of mostly old macs from self-destructing.

It was some time later, when the company was undergoing a restructuring, that I became the stamp and coin guy.

For me, it was a natural match. For much of its history CSN has shared an editor with CCN. While the two hobbies have some differences, there are also plenty of similarities.

One theme that I have been observing for more than a decade has been a succession of people announcing that stamp collecting is dying off because there are no new collectors.

Doomsayers have been making that prediction for years, even back into the 1970s. The truth is that serious stamp collecting has always been dominated by a bunch of middle-aged guys. It was that way back in the golden age of Vincent Graves Greene, and it is still the same way today.

Although I had collected stamps as a youngster, my entry into the hobby was still a new experience.

My growing pains were eased by many, but a few names stand out: Consulting Editor Ian Robertson, who gave good advice and background information that saved me a from a few faux pas; Charles Verge, who proved both friendly and helpful; Peter Butler, whose joy of stamp collecting inspired me; John Sheffield, whose insight rounded out my philatelic knowledge; and Jim Phillips, who truly is a friend to CSN and stamp collecting in Canada.

I’m sure I forgot to mention at least a dozen names, but I promised myself to limit the list to five.

Finally I have to mention Paul Fiocca.

Paul, who passes away in 2007, was a founding partner in Trajan Publishing, a colourful figure, and maybe one of the best bosses I ever had.

Paul was involved in stamp collecting long before it became part of my routine. At one time, we had more than half a dozen titles, and Paul spent as much time on the road going from show to show as he did in the office.

So thanks to the stamp collecting world for being part of a special experience, I will cherish it for a long time.

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