Refresher Course

Start the year, learn history with a new stamp collection

By Janet Klug

Have you ever noticed that stamp collectors have a better grasp of history than most people? There is a good reason for this. Stamps do a fine job of documenting historical events in an engaging and memorable way.

Figure 1. The Continental Colors flag (Scott 3403d) is said to have been raised at Prospect Hill in Massachusetts on Jan. 1, 1776.
Figure 2. Canada changed from sterling currency on Jan. 1, 1858. The ½-penny Queen Victoria stamp at left is an example of sterling currency (Scott 8). The 1¢ Queen Victoria stamp at right (14) is an example of decimal currency.
Figure 3. The Republic of China was established on Jan. 1, 1912, and could be represented with a Republic overprint (Scott 146).
Figure 4. Sun Yat-Sen led the revolution that established the Republic of China on Jan. 1, 1912. This 1912 stamp (Scott 178) featuring his portrait would be appropriate to represent the Jan. 1 date.
Figure 5. The bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, launched the United States into World War II (Scott 2559i), and is an appropriate entry for that date in a "this day in history" collection.

The beginning of the new year is a good time to start a new collection that celebrates all those history lessons in miniature that our stamps teach us. Such a collection would be fun and could be put together inexpensively.

Perhaps your daily newspaper has a "this day in history" column. You can use that column to create your own "this day in history" stamp collection.

If your newspaper doesn't carry such a column, you can get the same information on the History Channel web site at www.history.com/this-day-in-history.

You also could do your own research using the public library or other sources that appeal to you.

The collection can be formed in several creative ways.

To begin, gather some good quality 8½- by 11-inch paper (standard letter size). Label the first page "January 1" and then start with events that happened on Jan. 1 throughout history.

You might begin your Jan. 1 entry with the United States stamp shown in Figure 1, the 33¢ Continental Colors Flag stamp (Scott 3403d) from the Stars and Stripes pane of 20 issued June 14, 2000.

Also known as the Grand Union flag, the Continental Colors is considered to be the first national flag of our country. According to some reports, Gen. George Washington raised this flag on Jan. 1, 1776, at Prospect Hill in Massachusetts (though other reports dispute this).

For a Jan. 1 entry that will not be disputed, you might try Jan. 1, 1858, when Canada changed from sterling currency to decimal currency.

That currency changeover can be illustrated using two Canadian stamps, one denominated in pence and one in cents. For example, Figure 2 shows the ½-penny Queen Victoria stamp of 1857 (Scott 8), and the 1¢ Queen Victoria stamp of 1859 (14).

Another choice is the establishment of the Republic of China by Sun Yat-Sen on Jan. 1, 1912.

To illustrate this, you could use a Republic overprint as shown on the ½¢ Chinese stamp in Figure 3 (Scott 146), or a stamp honoring Sun Yat-Sen as the leader of the revolution. Figure 4 shows such a stamp issued Dec. 14, 1912 (178).

Consider the many ways this type of collection could evolve. Perhaps you collect a single country. Limit your "this day in history" collection to just that country.

You could also choose to document a single event – World War II, for example – with a stamp that represents the main headlines from each day.

An almanac can be a great help in the project. Search the Internet for newspaper headlines, too.

A good starting point in terms of stamps documenting World War II is the U.S. Postal Service's series issued from 1991 to 1995 to mark the war's 50th anniversary.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, is illustrated on a 29¢ stamp (Scott 2559i) from the first pane of 10 in the series issued Sept. 3, 1991. This stamp, shown in Figure 5, would be an appropriate entry on a page devoted to historical WWII events for Dec. 7.

Finding the most appropriate stamps to highlight each event for any day in history will be a challenge, but the real fun of stamp collecting is the thrill of the hunt.

While this may not be the easiest collection to form, it will be a pleasing one, and you will learn even more about history.

When you are finished, you will have an album full of great stamps and interesting stories that will make you proud of what you have accomplished.

You can take this idea one step further, using the popularity of scrapbooking as inspiration.

Are you expecting a new family member this year? A new grandchild, son or daughter will enjoy having a scrapbook of the year they were born when they are older.

In addition to adding stamps that were issued throughout the child's birth year, you can include photographs, clippings from magazines, headline news and funny stories that will be cherished in decades to come.

Wouldn't you like to have something like that for the year you were born? Well, you can. You can make such a stamp-related scrapbook for yourself using the year you were born, the year you were married, graduated college or some other memorable life event.

Making album pages or scrapbooks require a lot of work. If you do not have the time or inclination, there is an easier way to create a historical calendar collection.

All you need is a wall calendar that has a page for each month, with each month divided into blocks, one block for each day.

You can mount a stamp in each block that defines something that happened on that day in history.

It is simple, fast and easy, yet you still get the thrill of the hunt and the learning experience of researching significant historical events.

There are so many ways to use your creativity and enjoy your hobby. Make 2013 the year you try something completely new.