Many people picture stamp collectors as old men, often socially challenged, sitting alone with their stamps. The hobby often tries to counter that vision with such exciting appeals as “stamp collecting is educational.” True, perhaps, but not rather exciting.
The other approach is to try and make stamp collecting glamorous, with tales of the great values of rare stamps. That has been easy in recent years, with a lot of really wonderful sales and some of the greatest rarities in the hobby hitting the market.
That is the side the mainstream news media jump on, and even the stamp collecting magazines are a bit guilty. I know I’d rather write about exciting rarities than a plain jane regular stamp.
However, both approaches present a rather skewed view of the hobby.
For me the image was kinda the former. I had a stamp album as a kid. It was a lot of fun, but I didn’t learn much I didn’t already know, and I don’t think it was worth a fraction of the few dollars I spent on stamps, hinges, and albums. As I got older, the album got put into storage and most of my friends who collected stamps did the same. It just wasn’t cool anymore.
When I returned to stamp collecting, through Canadian Stamp News, I discovered the hobby was very different indeed.
Sure there are some individuals who are driven mostly by the profit motive, and most collectors keep an eye on the money side of their hobby. I also have to admit I have met a few collectors who are somewhat lacking in social graces. Fortunately they are in the minority, and you find them in any large group of people.
For the most part, however, stamp collectors are intelligent and engaging people, who have careers, families, and outside interests.
I enjoy stamps, and telling interesting stamp stories: the history, the rarity, and the unusual are all fun and interesting. But I believe the best part of the hobby for me is some of the fascinating people I have met. These are people I have broken bread with, shared my free hours with, and learned about philately from.
I can honestly say I have learned more about stamps and postal history from listening to collectors and their stamp stories compared to books and research. Their enthusiasm is what makes the subject interesting.
It doesn’t matter what they collect. Some of my stamp collecting friends have stamps I can only dream of owning, and others have regular run-of-the-mill collections that give them great pleasure. Both are good.
So, for me, the real face of stamp collecting is the face of the average person. Someone who hopes and dreams, who has good days and bad days, and who simply chooses to spend some of their time in the company of stamps and stamp collectors.
It isn’t boring, it isn’t glamorous, it is just life, and stamp collecting is just a hobby.
But what a fantastic hobby!