;

Stamped Out

Jun
25


My name is Suzanne and I am a former philatelist.

Which pretty much means I was really (really) nerdy.

However! I knew all the countries of the world, including the ones that no longer existed–if they ever issued stamps, that is. I usually also found out about their flags, their national colors, their heads of state, and various things they produced. Stamps are a lesson in history, politics, geography, art, and social and technological progress all rolled into one quirky little hobby.

I didn’t know what philately was, though, until I looked it up on the internet in my quest to decide what to do after this bulging symbol of my excess pre-teen free time resurfaced recently.

Philately is the study of stamps. A philatelist may or may not also be a stamp collector, but all stamp collectors are philatelists to some degree as they examine and acquire stamps. The American Philatelic Society can provide a list of APS-approved stamp dealers, though the information on their own website is a little discouraging in regard to my juvenile investment: “A number of stamps issued by the U.S. in the 1800’s list for the minimum Scott Catalog value of 15 cents.” In other words, too many people have been saving stamps, which means most of them aren’t worth much.

The stamps would probably be worth more incorporated into a cute craft project than sold as collectibles.


I can’t remember why I was so keen on stamp collecting. I have no interest in stamp collecting now. I lost interest somewhere in my early teens and that was the end of my career in philately. But back in the day, it was quite a big deal to me. I actively worked at acquiring stamps. My father was a preacher and had a network of missionaries who sent me stamps from various countries around the world. An older gentleman, friend of my parents, gave me his stamp collection to add to mine. I spent my allowances and birthday money buying stamps from collector shops. I ordered stamps in the mail from catalogs. I knew all about how to properly attach them. I had the HUGE BOOK. I studied stamp guides and knew all about the stamps in my collection.

Collecting stamps is a quiet sort of hobby. My kids collected Pokemon cards. They probably used to think Pikachu was a head of state. The world is so fast and bright these days with technology that it must be hard for dusty, musty stamp collecting to compete, though it is still touted as one of the most popular hobbies in the world.

For nerds.

I’M JUST KIDDING. Sort of.

Q. What did the envelope say to the stamp?
A. Stick with me and we’ll go places.

Just a little stamp collector humor. If you think that’s funny, YOU ARE A STAMP COLLECTOR!

Completely seriously, what I love about these stamps as I look through the book is the faded, vintage quality, the historical perspective, and the combinations of colors and styles. Stamps, especially the older ones, are artsy and interesting, and considering very few of them hold any value higher than the paper they are printed on, I’d like to do something with them that would take them out of the “closet” and elevate them to something useful and enjoyable that is present in my life instead of just stuck in a book. I don’t know what yet, but I don’t see a real value in a bulging book filled with stamps that are, for the most part, worth 15 cents. (I wouldn’t use any of them without checking each stamp to make sure there’s not a “lottery winning” stamp in there, of course. But I highly doubt I have one like that.)

Did you collect stamps when you were a kid? Do your kids collect stamps? If you had an old stamp collection like this, what would you do with it?

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on June 25, 2010  

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  1. 6-25
    1:15
    am

    I collected stamps when I was young…. I would get the little packets in the mail and then spend a couple days looking through them and then deciding which ones I wanted. I think the others got sent back… Did they really trust people to do that?????
    But unlike you, I didn’t have a proper stamp book to put them into. I used a photo album. Yep. The photo albums of the 70’s and 80’s. Last time I looked at it (quite a few years ago), they pretty much were stuck in there. Don’t know if any could be salvaged. Really, really hope I didn’t have any rare ones….
    :)

  2. 6-25
    1:51
    am

    OMG – they are beautiful! I started collecting when I was about 10 – mostly stamps from letters written to my Mom. By high school, I had 2 or 3 international pen pals, traded stamps with others, and really enjoyed the collecting. Did you buy big bags of stamps cheap, Suzanne? Knowing that they weren’t worth the few dollars, but getting so much for the money – all the things you said in your blog. They were fascinating. I continued adding to my collection into early adulthood, ordering first day covers, buying plate blocks – in fact, when my daughter was born, my friends at the post office gave me baby gifts!

    Eventually I tired of it, went on to other, more important, things like baby books and photo albums. I finally sold the plates and covers, then gave the rest to a young girl just getting started.

    Thank you, Suzanne! I haven’t thought of that pleasure in years.

  3. 6-25
    3:20
    am

    Decoupage them on stuff.

  4. 6-25
    3:24
    am

    I do like the “America’s Wool” stamp in your last photo. My Dad collected stamps. I remember his book was in probably the bottom drawer of his dresser. Gosh, I haven’t thought about that for years. My Dad is a dad of the 50’s and didn’t really share much about himself with all of us kids – but I do remember him getting sheets of stamps in the mail and putting them in his book. He was in the Navy in the late 40’s so I wonder if he collected some of the stamps from the countries he visited? It’s something I’ll have to ask him about. Thanks for the remembrance of that aspect of my Dad.

  5. 6-25
    3:28
    am

    A few months ago, I bought someone’s stamp collection at a community garage sale. It goes back to the 1930s-1940s and is just wonderful! Even the old grid pages in the stamp album…just too cool. I am an avid visual journalist, and I am happily using the stamps in my journals…even the old glassine envies appear in my journals. The stamps also get added to homenade art postcards, and such. I’d happily buy more if I ever come across some!

  6. 6-25
    4:29
    am

    I collected stamps too, but not to your degree. I think I collected anything small actually :) But my parents were not very supportive in anything I did, and they didn’t care what I did as long as it didn’t cost money. So I started collecting those stamps from publisher’s clearing house. I had drawers and drawers full of them! From there I went to stickers and ceramic figurines, then earrings (priorities).. All my collections (except the publisher clearing house stickers) are packed away.. With all my kids, there isn’t a safe place for anything if it’s out..

  7. 6-25
    5:28
    am

    yes I did, and I have no idea why either. Not nearly the collection you have, but I remember bein’ keen on them and buyin’ “special” ones to add to my collection. No idea where that went either :)

  8. 6-25
    6:19
    am

    I would create wall hangings, definitely. Or, you could donate them to your local elementary school where teachers could use them in their classroom studies. They are beautiful!

  9. 6-25
    6:31
    am

    Funny, I have never, ever had any interest in stamps, but I was so taken with the actual quilts of Gees Bend, when the USPS issued the Gees Bend stamps i bought a first day sheet to frame. Therein lies my whole interest of stamps. Enjoyed looking at your pictures, though.

  10. 6-25
    7:02
    am

    My dad has worked at the Post Office since I was an infant, and I’ve worked there as well. I collected stamps as a preteen as you did. I loved going to the hobby shop to buy new ones, and I had penpals as well. My family members would save them for me, too.

    But it passed when I realized I was never going to make much money collecting stamps. Your collection is gorgeous, and I think I’d go with the decoupage suggestion, or frame some of the more colorful pages. You’ve got lots of options!

  11. 6-25
    7:12
    am

    Yes I have a stamp collection! Not as big as yours I don’t think, but a notebook full of nerdiness just the same! :P

    I’m with you, can’t part with it until I determine if there is one lucky stamp in there….but I’ll tell you…when I sold my coin collection (remember the blue nifty “books” that were so popular in the 60’s and early 70’s?) I did not have one single coin worth more than its face value…except for the silver…..which I sold for scrap for about $500….

  12. 6-25
    7:19
    am

    My dad was a SERIOUS stamp collector. Like, his collection is valued at $10,000. Yes, that serious. He tried to get us to collect stamps when we were kids (and I did for a while, ones that had animals on them), but we quickly grew bored. He was a US History major in college, a Navy commander, and a journalist, so I can see the appeal of stamp collecting. He also collected service medals (wrote a book about it, too!) and some coins. In other words, my heritage is hard core nerd, so I have no choice but to embrace it!

  13. 6-25
    7:24
    am

    You need to get a big old table…. then make an artsy-looking collage on top of it with your stamps. Cover the entire surface. Then get a piece of glass cut to fit the top of your table…. and then you have a new coffee table which will brighten up your room and will also be a neat conversation piece!

    Be sure to let us know what you decide to do! (And take pictures) :)))

  14. 6-25
    8:06
    am

    I agree with Stefinity about the table. Decoupaging would be pretty, but then the stamps would be ruined. I would leave the stamps on the pages, look for a nifty table, fit them on top and cover with glass…perhaps you already have the table. What a wonderful feeling you would have to sit down there and have a cup of tea. Those stamps are so beautiful. I would try to keep them all in tact. Whatever you decide, if you do, show us your end results. I love decoupage but just couldn’t bring myself to do it with those. If I did decoupage with them I would make copies of them and use the copies for the decoupage.

  15. 6-25
    8:11
    am

    I did collect stamps when I was young. I think I was mostly just taken with the process of soaking them off the envelope paper. That still seems so cool to me. Do these modern non-licky stamps even soak off?

    I used some of my collection to cover the top of one of those old-fashioned letter writing desks, and gave the bulk of it to a friend’s kid brother when I was in college. The writing desk came out fantastic looking, btw.

  16. 6-25
    8:14
    am

    I would not remove them from the stamp collector’s book. I would just make it a coffee table book and pick it up now and then to enjoy. What an amazing collection you have.

  17. 6-25
    8:21
    am

    When we were clearing out my father-in-law’s home, we found his stamp collection. My son took it. Now I have a stamp collection and don’t know what to do with it. Any idea’s?

  18. 6-25
    8:22
    am

    I still collect stamps. I collect cat stamps (big and domestic cats) and I’m trying to fill one album with space stamps. I got so many of those space stams in a trade some time ago that they nearly filled a small stamp album, but there are still a couple of empty pages to fill. Once it’s full I’ll trade it for someething, like for more cat stamps! Or sell it, even though it’s probably worth only few Euros. My most expensive cat stamp is worth about 8 Euros and my oldest stamp -not a cat stamp, though- is about 100 years old Finnish stamp from the time when we were still part of the Russian empire.

  19. 6-25
    8:23
    am

    What a stamp collection!

    I love (of course checking any worth first!) Stefinity’s idea….if they’re of no worth, decoupaging them would be beautiful! I would just use 4 or 5 coats of poly on the top instead of trying to find the glass to fit (that sometimes gets EXPENSIVE!), I’ve learned to love poly!

  20. 6-25
    8:24
    am

    I used to collect stamps when I was a kid…had a really nice big book to put them in that my Dad bought me. It didn’t last long though. If I had them now or came across a book at a garage sale I’d use them in scrapbooks or some craft. They’ve got beautiful details! Have a great weekend…Chic :hungry2:

  21. 6-25
    8:54
    am

    I too collected stamps and my Dad MADE me take the books and misc. boxed stuff associated with them just a few years ago. I actually think I have the same book as you and some of your stamps look very similar to mine – we must have collected @ about the same time. Love the table idea. For some reason, the idea of using them to decorate note cards really appeals to me (the stamps on the INSIDE) of the envelope. I bet you could even sell them since they are so pretty.

  22. 6-25
    8:56
    am

    My Grandmother was the post mistress in our small town, so naturally I started a collection. I think I had what they now call ADHD, because I never really stuck (no pun intended) with it. My poor collection was religated to an old cigar box, no book for them to be proudly displayed. I have no clue where that box of stamps got to. My mom probably found some kid who would treat them the way they were supposed to be treated.

  23. 6-25
    8:57
    am

    I would decopauge little boxes with stamps

  24. 6-25
    8:59
    am

    You could scan in the most colorful or your favorites and print them out on fabric to put in a quilt. Decoupage them onto tiles for coasters or trivets. The true value of all this is the fantastic knowledge you gained while collecting. You must be dynamite at Jeopardy.

  25. 6-25
    9:13
    am

    I collect stamps now, but only infrequently. When the post office issued the Georgia O’keeffe stamp, and Lucille Ball’s stamp I bought a page each and now have them stuck between the pages of a large book somewhere. Every now and then I run across them and say to myself “You must put these away in a safe spot” but never do. If I had your book of stamps I would keep it and take it out now and then and look through it, just as you do. And marvel at how beautiful they all are.

  26. 6-25
    9:30
    am

    I have been saving the stamps from all correspondence for years, but I guess that doesn’t count as stamp collecting. I thought I might use them in decoupage.

  27. 6-25
    9:40
    am

    Could you take a picture of some of the animal or nature ones, enlarge it and then frame them? Do you have any chicken stamps?

  28. 6-25
    10:14
    am

    I must let you in on a little secret. I am 86 and I still find myself saving a new US stamp. Have not organized stamps for years but they are now loose stamps. I also have some first day issues in my safe depo box. What will happen to all of “this”?????? No grandchildren have expressed an interest. No new collector could keep up. There is a new issue every day the wind changes…….

  29. 6-25
    10:17
    am

    My grandmother collected stamps and I inherited them. I love them. Sometimes I use them in crafts so I can enjoy them. I will never sell them, so why keep them put away in the dark?

  30. 6-25
    10:26
    am

    I forgot all about collecting stamps. I have a couple of the smaller books and a photo album filled with them. (I wonder where they are?) For the life of me I can’t remember where I got all the stamps from. I’m guessing probably family gave them to me, because I never bought any. Now I am on a mission to find those stamps and take a walk down memory lane. Thanks for reminding me of this childhood hobby!

  31. 6-25
    10:57
    am

    My husband has been collecting stamps since he was 10. As of 2000, his stamp collection was worth $25,000. He would LOVE your stamps (his are mostly US stamps). And I love your USSR stamps. I would pay for your USSR stamps (I have a MA in USSR history).

  32. 6-25
    11:03
    am

    Stacy, I have a lot of USSR stamps because my dad knew a missionary there!

  33. 6-25
    11:06
    am

    I did for a little while – and I had some of those cool triangle stamps from Hungary too! Also way, way too many of Queen Elizabeth in a million different colors. Remember you could order an envelope full for $2 from the back of comic books?

  34. 6-25
    11:13
    am

    Suzanne, It is such a neat and tidy collection!. I would put it behind glass, frame it and hang it or atleast some of it. There are some amazing stamps there. Neat hobby!

  35. 6-25
    12:25
    pm

    I collect coins, because philately will get you nowhere.

    Great collection, by the way!

  36. 6-25
    1:22
    pm

    Oh my mother-in-law was a serious stamp collector – they were in the air force and traveled for 30 years. We inherited 5 huge international albumns, my husband had one and then I did it for about 15 years – I have a dozen UN stamp albums and a ton of miscelaneous pages plus an entire drawer of mostly used stamps. Unfortunately it’s rare to even get back what you put into it unless you can find the right person who wants your collection. So it sits now on our shelves (sigh).

  37. 6-25
    1:55
    pm

    I’m all for using them in way(s) that still preserve them: Whole pages under glass, a glass topped shadow box as a table top (deep enough so that the book could be open to different pages at different times), scan groups and print on fabric for quilting, offer book to juvenile department of local library. . .

  38. 6-25
    2:03
    pm

    oh! oh! and how about using them as the architecture for a mystery…Stamping Out Murder…

  39. 6-25
    2:07
    pm

    I have my Father’s old stamp collection and he has been dead for about 25 years. I have NO idea what to do with it but when you mentioned nerdy… I am thinking maybe my 10 year old nephew would like to carry on the tradition. I will have to think about this … what a great idea. Thanks Suzanne!

  40. 6-25
    2:47
    pm

    Yes, preserve them some way! I like the table idea. If real glass is too expensive, you can get plexiglass which is cheaper. Mat and frame some of them and hang them in your hallway. It would be cute to do “theme” hangings such a chickens, sheep, agriculture, etc.

    You might have a grandchild someday to pass them along. You’e got some serious nerd genes in your kids so you are bound to end up with a nerdy grandchild! LOL

    :heart: from your nerdy cousin!

  41. 6-25
    2:51
    pm

    Suzanne,
    How interesting! I never collected stamps nor knew anyone who did. But my! How beautiful and interesting they are! I just love the pictures you took of them.

    I would say, first, find out if you have any that are of worth and sell them! I think it would be wonderful it you DID have one or two that were worth a lot of money! That way it would help you in your life now.

    Then with the rest, I agree with the idea of decoupaging them onto a beautiful table or something. That would be gorgeous and what a conversation-starter!

    It’s hard to imagine you so “nerdy” :lol:

  42. 6-25
    2:52
    pm

    PS – You could make coasters by sandwiching the stamps between 2 pieces of plexiglass (or wood as a background). Little picture frames could work well for this if they will lay flat and you can seal around the edges with clear, silicone caulk so that moisture would not get to the stamps. You could make several sets of coasters by grouping them in themes around seasons, holidays, etc. You can also do this same thing to make a serving tray.

  43. 6-25
    3:23
    pm

    Pikachu, ha ha! I tried stamp collecting one summer, but gave it up quickly. Not sure what ever happened to my old stamps. Your stamp collection looks great!

  44. 6-25
    4:01
    pm

    Wow! Multi-faceted!

    Susan

  45. 6-25
    4:01
    pm

    I never was a stamp collector per se but I still have a bag of stamps that my Grandmother saved She cut them from envelopes of letters that she had received over the years.

  46. 6-25
    4:20
    pm

    oh I love this post and all the photos of your collection (because I am such a nerd!). I have a small stamp stash that I started when my daughter was born (18 years ago!!!).

  47. 6-25
    5:53
    pm

    Not only did I collect stamps as a kid, I still have my albums (5 of them!) and countless stamps still in baggies. You’ve given me a great idea though — I think I’ll get them out and introduce my 9 year old granddaughter to the joys of sorting and mounting stamps, and maybe, just maybe, she’ll get a little geography lesson in the process!

  48. 6-25
    6:53
    pm

    Wallpaper a bathroom. Gives folks something to read in there!

  49. 6-25
    7:33
    pm

    My Dad used to be a head of a stamp club. I am sure that anyone that collected stamps at some point had him touch them–He had a black, round pencil that he used to put a mark in a book to let them know he had them to study. He had that pencil for years and never sharpened it–he had to get a new one a few years ago, because the old one had worn away so much it hurt his fingers. He would be willing to look over some of your collections. He was one of those that would get packages a few times a week that he would have to pickup from the postoffice. He is getting up in years now, but still does some work with trying to appraise them. DO NOT Put them into a craft project if you don’t know how much they are worth!–You might end up with a $1000 coaster! Some of the more ordinary ones are some of the more valuable ones. I also know that they are worth more if they are not broken off from the sheet, especially if they still have the straight edge. I will give him your phone number if I see him soon–he doesn’t do internet! Can you believe some of the postage he has bunches of he uses on regular mail?!–They are worth more at face value than the paper printed!

    Thanks for the memory! I hadn’t thought about Dad pouring over stamps in like forever!

  50. 6-25
    9:09
    pm

    Yes, I collected stamps as a kid but I don’t know what ever happened to them. Some of your stamps look oddly familiar. My kids never collected stamps. I also collected horse statues and yes my daughter did too. I don’t remember my son collecting anything but he must have. I’ll have to think on that awhile.

  51. 6-26
    6:20
    am

    If you use plexiglass, ask for the non-glare kind, makes a big difference.

    I have a hodgepodge of stamps in a book, but I also bought the birds and flowers of the fifty states collection that came out some ago. It doesn’t have much of a face value, but I gave it to the silent auction for the local animal shelter and it made them $25.

  52. 6-26
    8:04
    am

    Frame them, like people do with butterflies or art cards. A sheet of these in a thick frame would look beautiful on the wall and you wouldn’t destroy them for future use.

  53. 6-26
    11:13
    am

    I have a rather large stamp collection, also. I started as a pre-teen in the 50s-60s and did what you did. I saved my allowance and would run to the local stamp shop to see what I could get to add to my collection. I transferred my stamps from album to album as my collection grew. I think it’s a marvelous hobby. Each stamp is a little piece of art. And, I learned so much about the world from those stamps.

    I’m still hopeful that one of my younger relatives will be interested in collecting. It would be something we could work on together before I pass it on. Or, maybe a senior center would be interested in it. It could be a community activity. I wish I had enough land/room/money to have a hobby house. That way each of my hobbies could have its own room and I could wander from room to room working on my hobbies without having to put one away while I got another one out. Meanwhile, my collection is just taking up space……

  54. 6-26
    1:10
    pm

    Wow, you have a beautiful collection. Please don’t decoupage or ruin them in any way. Enlarging and framing is a great idea…

    I had a small collection when I was younger…wish I still had the book. I really enjoyed it..and was always looking for the Dag Hammarskjold stamp!

    Interesting tidbit: when I was in graduate school, one of my professor’s had a specialty hobby of collecting and being the world expert on postage stamps with musical notes on them. !!

  55. 6-26
    2:49
    pm

    I have the stamp collection too. My step-Dad was in the Navy and collected stamps from everywhere he went. He sent them to his Mom who gave them to me. Our elderly neighbor was a stamp collector and had been since her early childhood. She got me started, helped me research and attach in my books. I collected the whole time we were military….and now, the books are sitting on a shelf and like you said…worth very little except to me. That’s only for the memories as I don’t really collect anymore. Do I hand the off to a Grandson (would they be interested?) or do I give them away, offer them for sale somewhere? Or, cover table tops, albums, walls with them? Thanks for the reminder and the trip down memory lane of stampin’ !

  56. 6-27
    1:06
    am

    Suzanne your collection is awesome! I collected stamps with my Dad’s help during the 50s and 60s. We were actually adding to Uncle Charlie’s collection. Several years ago, my cousin’s young son wanted the stamp collection to remember his dad and the uncle because both of them were deceased. It was hard sending it away, because it made me think of my dad and all the beautiful stamps. I still remember Mauritania which I think was a Pacific Island. Anyway, the young son is now a man and he has the stamp collection with stamps that were purchased or steamed off of envelopes by his father, our Uncle, my father and myself. I wonder if he knows what a legacy that is? Thanks for sharing your collection. I didn’t think it was nerdy at all, but quite educational!!

  57. 6-27
    3:14
    pm

    I love nerds!

  58. 6-28
    11:38
    am

    A friend of ours collects stamps. When our son completed his Boy Scout Eagle Project, our friend created a picture with all his Boy Scout stamps. He presented it to our son at his Court of Honor. It’s now hanging in his (and his wife’s)room in their new apartment!

  59. 6-29
    1:56
    pm

    Long-time reader, first-time poster…I just had to respond when I finally read this post because of what I do. I work for Boys Town, founded by Father Flanagan in 1917 near Omaha Nebraska. We have a Stamp Center here that takes donations of stamps, and is even home to “The Worlds Largest Ball of Stamps!” A stamp junkie like you would be in Heaven. I just had to let you know because we take stamp donations every day from other junkies who are trying to do good with their stamp collections. We sell the stamps to other vendors, and use the funds to help save children and heal families all across our nation.

    If you’d like to learn more about Boys Town, just check out our website anytime: http://www.boystown.org
    Or here’s a link directly to our Stamp Center:
    http://www.boystown.org/discover/the-village-of-boys-town/points-of-interest#leonmyers

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