“An adult would never waste his time collecting stamps.”
At least that was the feeling during the days when Franklin Delano Roosevelt began collecting stamps as an eight-year-old.
“At the time, collecting was thought to be a child’s hobby,” says Anthony Musso, author of FDR and the Post Office, a historical account of Roosevelt’s devotion to stamps and the post office.
The author describes how FDR’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, introduced the hobby to her son, whom years later would become the longest serving president of the United States.
“Roosevelt got great personal enjoyment and intellectual satisfaction from his stamps,” the author says in an interview published by USPS Stamps, a publication of the United States Parcel Service.
In fact, as his political star rose, so did the popularity of the hobby.
“Roosevelt was so enthusiastic that he would chat with anyone about his collection, and naturally, if a hobby is good enough for the governor of New York, people figure it’s good enough for them,” Musso says. “He took stamp collecting to another level,” right into the White House.
Researchers suggest Roosevelt’s passion for collecting stamps, placing one or two on a single page and then writing notes about the history of the person or event, were key to preparing him for the highest office in America.
“Historians point to this self-education as a key to Roosevelt’s strength and success: It equipped him with expansive knowledge of geography and the international community,” the article states.
And FDR took it a level higher when he famously said: “I owe my life to my hobbies – especially stamp collecting.” Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921, when he was only 39.
Fast forward to a 2014 episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, and outspoken self-made billionaire Mark Cuban credits stamp collecting for getting himself through college and introducing him to the competitive world of business.
“Collecting stamps is an amazing way to start to understand business,” says the owner of the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, and one of the most famous entrepreneurs in America.
Cuban shares the following in a Q&A published in the USPS’ Connection magazine:
“Each stamp has its own level of scarcity, of demand, of price, and as a collector you have to make decisions on when to keep a stamp, trade or sell it, and when to invest in a new stamp for your collection. I learned so much about business and the laws of supply and demand when I was still in middle school that business came easily to me when I got to college and beyond.
“If you think you can learn a lot about business from Shark Tank, you can learn just as much from stamp collecting,” he adds.
So as we slow down a little over these summer holidays, it’s important to remind ourselves – and to share with others of all ages – how stamp collecting can shape our perspective on life, careers and how to view the world altogether differently.
“Roosevelt taught us that there is value to collecting apart from financial worth,” Musso says. “The intellectual pleasure, the learning; those are what mattered most.”