By Janet Klug
All of us are busy these days. Finding time to enjoy our wonderful hobby of stamp collecting is difficult and you might have trouble finding a big block of time in which you can pull your albums off the shelves and work on your collection.
What you need is the stamp hobby equivalent of a short story — a small, enjoyable collection you can work on that can be completed at low cost and within a short period of time. There are a lot of possibilities for creative thinkers, and some of them come with their own handbook to help you learn about, arrange and understand your collection.
Here is an example. You could begin and finish a complete collection of black Americans on United States stamps in a short period of time. You do not have to fish through a stamp catalog to compile a list of these stamps. That work has been done for you by the group known as ESPER, which is an acronym for Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections.
The society's web site at www.esperstamps.org/history1.htm presents a complete compendium of all of the stamps on which black Americans have appeared, along with brief biographies of each individual.
One of my favorite issues in the U.S. Black Heritage series is the 32¢ Bessie Coleman stamp (Scott 2956) shown in Figure 1.
Coleman, a beautiful young woman whose dream was to learn to fly, was unable to find a flying school in the United States that would accept her.
Working as a manicurist, she saved enough money to travel to France for flying lessons. She returned to the United States in 1921, having earned an international aeronautics license, the first woman ever to do so. Coleman flew in air shows, performing aerobatic maneuvers to the delight of crowds.
Mounting this black-American collection is easy. You can print out each biography and mount the stamp honoring that person on it, or you can house the stamps in a stock book.
For collectors who prefer using ready-made stamp albums, the American Philatelic Society has some terrific free stamp album pages you can download from its web site and print at home.
The latest one, U.S. Baseball Stamps, was inspired by the recently issued 42¢ Take Me Out to the Ball Game stamp shown in Figure 2.
This four-page album can house U.S. baseball-theme stamps that you probably already have scattered throughout your collection. To print the pages and make a small topical collection about America's national pastime, visit the web site at www.stamps.org/Albums/Baseball.pdf.
The APS has some other album pages that are free for the taking. The newest is an 18-page offering for stamps that relate to the state of Connecticut, such as the 34¢ Connecticut stamp (Scott 3567) shown in Figure 3 from the Greetings from America pane of 50 issued in 2002.
Download the pages from the web site www.stamps.org/Albums/Connecticut.pdf.
The APS began a series of statehood stamp albums earlier this year with North Carolina, honoring the state that hosted the APS Ameristamp Expo in February. The 25¢ 200th Anniversary of North Carolina Statehood stamp (Scott 2347) shown in Figure 4 is just one of the many stamps with a space provided for on these pages.
Download these album pages from the web site www.stamps.org/Ameri-Stamp/AlbumPages.pdf.
Once you have printed the pages, punch holes in them for mounting in a three-ring binder and voila! You have a new stamp album ready for your stamps to be mounted.
This year, Hartford, Conn., is the site of the annual APS Stampshow to be held Aug. 14-17. Since the location of APS shows is driving the society's series of state-theme album pages, look for Texas and Pennsylvania album pages on the APS web site within the next year to match upcoming shows in those states.
If your time is severely limited or you are on the road and not near your stamp albums, you can create your own virtual stamp collection online, courtesy of the Arago web site of the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum.
The web site has a tool that allows you to select images of stamps from the museum's collection and place them into your virtual stamp album. Save the stamp album for future viewing and enjoy virtual ownership of some of the most beautiful and rarest United States stamps.
The web site is named for French mathematician, physicist and astronomer Francois Arago, a friend and contemporary of James Smithson, whose bequest allowed the establishment of the Smithsonian. Arago is seen on the French 1.80-franc+40-centime semipostal stamp (Scott B575) shown in Figure 5.
To use this feature, visit the web site at www.arago.si.edu.
Click the "Create Your Collection" link in the right-hand column. You will then be asked to create a login (this will require your e-mail address and a password that you will provide).
Once this is accomplished, you can begin to assemble your own collection from the thousands of great images on the web site, including such rarities as the Inverted Jenny airmail error stamp (Scott C3a), and the 1¢ Benjamin Franklin Z-Grill stamp (85A) shown in Figure 6.
A nifty feature of this web site is the ability to magnify the stamps. This enlargement feature is much better than any magnifying glass I have ever used. You can see the stamps in great detail. Save your virtual collection and it will be there waiting for you to add to and enjoy again at a later date.
No matter how busy your life is, take a little time to enjoy your stamp collection in whatever way pleases you.