Refresher Course

New Year's resolutions that help collectors enjoy the hobby

By Rick Miller

Many people make resolutions at the beginning of each new year. By Jan. 2, many or most of the resolutions have been broken, so the new year often begins with a guilt trip.

Figure 1. An album page from a recently acquired collection of Belgian semipostal stamps. If you are bored with what you have been collecting, start collecting something new. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 2. A selection of journals from specialist collecting clubs and societies. Joining a specialist society increases your knowledge and allows you to make contact with collectors who have similar interests. Click on image to enlarge.

The best way to keep a resolution is to select one that you actually want to do. If you want to enjoy your stamp collection more in 2009, what do you have to do to make that happen?

Make time for your stamp collection. We all have busy lives, but making time for our favorite hobby is essential to keeping us grounded. I always feel relaxed when I am working on my stamp collection. The cares of the world just seem to float away, so finding time to collect stamps is a good way to decrease stress and stay healthy. Plan on an hour or two each week to enjoy your collection.

You can spend that time just thumbing through your collection, sorting stamps, mounting new acquisitions into albums, reviewing auction catalogs or reading the current issue of Linn's.

You probably have stamps that need to be cataloged, clipped off envelopes or soaked. Maybe you even have stamps that you can sell online or trade with other collectors. All of these activities are fun and relaxing. Treat yourself to your hobby time.

Start a new collection. Everything moves at lightning speed these days. Magazines have switched to shorter articles because they have found that readers lack the time or attention span for longer articles.

Do you find yourself bored with your current collection? Perhaps you have been collecting the same thing for decades, and adding new material is not likely or even possible.

A great remedy is to begin another collection. Look for a good deal on a small starter collection from a country or topic that interests you, but which you have not previously collected. Once you start on the new collection, you will find your enthusiasm renewed while boredom becomes a thing of the past.

Attend a meeting of a stamp club near you and see if this is a good fit. My local stamp club is a good source for small collections or packets of stamps. Regular auctions or stamp hunts make it almost a certainty that something interesting will eventually show up. You might add lots of new stamps to your collection and new friends to your address book.

Figure 1 shows an album page from a small collection of Belgian semipostal stamps I recently acquired at my local stamp club.

Join a specialty society. That new collection you just started might have enthusiasts who have banded together to form a society. Or maybe that collection you had been working on for years has a specialist society that you could join.

Membership in these organizations puts you in touch with like-minded individuals with whom you can meet. Societies generally have publications that entertain and inform with society news and research in specialty collecting areas. The camaraderie, entertainment and knowledge gained by joining a specialty society far exceeds the modest dues.

In the past few days I have received journals from the American Air Mail Society, the American First Day Cover Society and the Military Postal History Society. All three are great value for money and increase the enjoyment of the things I collect.

Figure 2 shows journals from the Military Postal History Society, the Pacific Island Study Circle, the Society of Australasian Specialists/Oceania, the Collectors Club, the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society and the American First Day Cover Society.

Share your hobby with others. New stamps are issued frequently. It is an easy thing to put a new stamp on an envelope and send a letter to your grandchild. Children love to receive mail, and letters are almost a lost art these days. Maybe you could include a packet of stamps with the letter. Try it. It will only cost the price of a postage stamp and it is a cool way to tell a child you love him.

Stamps can be shared in so many clever ways. You can carefully mount a few stamps that show a friend's hobby in a picture frame and give it to him.

If your family makes scrapbooks, use some stamps in them. Nearly every subject you can think of has been illustrated on a stamp. Most stamps are colorful and inexpensive, thus making them perfect additions for a scrapbook.

Get the youngsters busy making cachets for first-day covers. It is a way to channel creativity and do something together as a family activity. Once the FDCs are serviced with the first day of issue cancel, they make wonderful collectibles that might someday spark a new collector.

Curl up with a good book. Do all hobbies have as many books, catalogs and other great publications, or are we stamp collectors just incredibly fortunate? New titles are released every year. These include how-to instructional texts, reference books, catalogs, and stories about famous stamps and stamp collectors.

There are also fictional works about stamps and stamp collectors. One of my all-time favorites is a John D. McDonald mystery called The Scarlet Ruse, which features his well-known character Travis McGee.

Lawrence Block has a popular series about a hired killer named John Keller who is an enthusiastic stamp collector. His Keller books make entertaining and interesting reading.

With so many great collecting options, resolve that 2009 will be a great stamp collecting year.