Stamps’ subject matter can hook new collectors

As I have written before, when I was young I had a stamp album, something I expect I share with a vast majority of Canadian Stamp News readers. Back then, stamp collecting was a simple matter. I bought packs of world stamps, peeled them off the remaining bits of envelopes (I only soaked the tough ones), and stuck them in the album on top of their printed images. Each page had a few blank spots where I could put the stamps that didn’t match up to an image. I didn’t become much of a philatelist that way. I do remember learning that some countries seemed obstinate in spelling their name wrong. It took me a bit of searching to discover that Helvetia was really Switzerland. I also learned that some countries’ stamps were harder to find than others. While I ended up with dozens and dozens of Spanish definitives featuring Francisco Franco’s smiling face, my Portugal page had just two or three lonely stamps.

It never occurred to me that retaining original gum was significant, or that the cancellation was significant, or that any other information such as the sender and recipient’s location was of any remote interest at all. In other words, as with most young collectors, I simply tried to fill pages and had no interest whatsoever in postal history. That was good in a way, because it was a simple approach suited to a young mind on a rainy day. It was bad in a way, because it conditioned my mind to the idea that stamp collecting was about quantity, not quality.

Over the years, I learned a bit more about stamps. I discovered that the stamps on first-day covers were important enough to be left on the envelope, and that keeping Mint stamps in good condition was a good idea. Even so, when I came to work at what is now Trajan Media, I had quite an eye-opening experience. For the first decade or so, I didn’t have much to do with Canadian Stamp News; my focus was on other titles owned by Trajan. However, I spent most of that time fairly close to a succession of stamp editors. I am still learning and enjoying stamps, recapturing that enthusiasm of my youth. I suspect, however, that today’s youth may need a more sophisticated approach. I’m not talking about making stamps cool, because they weren’t cool when I was young. I’m talking about making stamps interesting.

For me, that seems to be the world of topical collecting. For one thing, it ties stamps in with other interests. For another it allows a collector to develop focus. For a new collector, young or old, the number and diversity of stamps being offered must seem bewildering and confusing. Another benefit of topical collecting is that virtually every imaginable subject, no matter how off-beat or specialized, can be represented. From apples to zebras, they are all out there in the stamp-collecting world. Want to get someone interested in stamps? Tie it in with an already existing interest.

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