Topical and thematic collecting have strong foundations in postage stamps, but there are other items you can use to build a collection with diverse elements.
The previous Stamp Collecting Basics column (Linn's, March 31, page 30) introduced the basics of topical collecting and suggested ways to develop a more specialized collection by narrowing its scope.
As an example, a collection of guitars on stamps is more manageable than a collection of all music stamps.
But stamps aren't the only philatelic items collectors can look for to tell the story of their favorite topic.
Many countries issue postal stationery that includes pictorial elements with topical subjects. The different kinds of postal stationery are all items with imprinted postage stamps, such as stamped envelopes, aerograms and postal cards.
Along with many other postal administrations, the United States Postal Service and its predecessor, the U.S. Post Office Department, have issued postal stationery depicting a wide range of subjects, including golfing, birds, fish, gymnastics, clipper ships, waterfalls (with a rainbow), farming, and even the hobby of stamp collecting.
The popular sport of bowling was the subject of a U.S. 8¢ stamped envelope issued in 1971 (Scott U563). The imprinted stamp from the Bowling envelope is pictured in Figure 1.
Many local and national stamp shows include stamp dealers who sell postal stationery and postal history. If you know of an item you need for your collection, one of Linn'sadvertisers might be able to track it down for you.
Postmarks are another source for topical material, and they come in many different forms.
For example, some postmarks are used repeatedly year after year by localities that identify with a certain subject.
The city of Munich, Germany, for example, is known for its annual Oktoberfest, which celebrates beer. The city's postmark has long shown the image of a happy monk with a beer stein in his hand, and includes the phrase "Munchen, Stadt Weltberuhmten Biere," meaning "Munich, city of world famous beers."
An example of this postmark from 1998 is pictured in Figure 2. It's a nice addition to a beer topical collection, but it might also be of interest to a collector whose favorite topic is religion.
Some communities offer commemorative postmarks for only a limited time, but many of these have a specific theme.
Such postmarks from the United States are regularly listed in Linn's Postmark Pursuit column, which appears this week on page 42.
Topical collectors can check the Postmark Pursuit column for subjects of interest and also can keep an eye out for postmarked material from dealers and other sources.
Although many collectors disdain meter stamps on mail, these postage imprints can be another source for topical material.
Meter stamps have evolved dramatically in recent years, and new illustrated postage labels that many collectors equate with meter stamps have appeared on the market.
Meter stamps from certain early mechanical postage meters have included a pictorial element that businesses used for advertising or promotion.
Shown in Figure 3 is a 1949 U.S. postage meter stamp from Chicago that has a pictorial element depicting a railroad and a tiny figure on horseback.
The meter stamp promotes the Chicago Railroad Fair and would be attractive to anyone building a topical collection with a railroad theme.
A collector with an interest in horses might also find this meter stamp appealing.
Items such as stamped envelopes, postmarks and postage meter stamps are best kept intact as originally received, rather than cutting them off envelopes, postcards and the like.
The intact item provides more historical information, including its full size, the location to which it was addressed, how it was mailed and so on.
Envelopes and postcards can be stored in clear plastic sleeves specially designed for archival philatelic storage. These are available from many stamp hobby supply firms and retail stamp dealers.
Topical collectors can use stock pages and stock books to safely store and arrange stamps.
Stock pages are individual pages, usually punched for storage in a binder, that include rows of horizontal strips made of safe plastic, glassine or paperboard to serve as pockets to hold stamps in place.
Stock books have similar pages bound together to keep all of the pages secure and in one place.
Figure 4 shows an open stock book that contains stamps from a topical collection of zebras.
This particular example has eight two-sided pages, with each page measuring 6 inches by 8½ inches, and with seven horizontal rows created from glassine strips on each page.
Larger books with more pages are also available. These items also can be obtained from stamp hobby suppliers.
The American Topical Association publishes a journal for topical collectors and sponsors an annual topical stamp show. For more information about the ATA visit online at http://americantopicalassn.org.
blogIn this column in the Aug. 24 issue of Linn’s, I referred to the American Philatelic Research Library in Bellefonte, Pa., as a “gift to stamp collectors.” The BNAPS library and the APRL are two of many libraries available to stamp collectors, and some philatelic libraries are available online. Read More ›
blogIt’s often been said that one of the salutary benefits of collecting stamps is the friendships made along one’s philatelic journey. If I were asked to place a value on the bonds thus forged with collectors in locales near and far, I would be rich beyond measure. A few of these hobby friends I have never met in person. Read More ›
blogToday, Nov. 11, 2015, is Veterans Day. Over the years, a number of United States stamps honoring those who have served in our nation’s armed forces have been issued. Read More ›
blogMy previous blog post focused on a mystery: the apparent indentations of paper clips on United States Purple Heart forever stamps that were used to mail payments to the circulation department of my employer, Amos Media in Sidney, Ohio. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty discusses Great Britain’s final stamp issue for 2015, a Star Wars prestige booklet, and reveals what is included in its stamp program for 2016.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News managing editor Chad Snee discusses a registered 1967 cover from Qatar that recently sold for almost $1,200 and the latest discovery of an Upright Jenny Invert pane.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman announces that Linn’s has been named official daily publisher of World Stamp Show-NY 2016 and provides an update on the reorganization of the Scott catalogs.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Marty Frankevicz reports on the suspension of Canada Post’s cluster box conversion plan after the election of a new prime minister.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.