Take an educational vacation this summer

Mar 15, 1999, 6 AM

By Michael Baadke

I've been collecting stamps for about 35 years, and I've come across a lot of different stamps that I could call favorites.

When the 15¢ Education issue of 1980 was released, there was something about the stamp that really caught my interest. The stamp is shown in Figure 1

I imagine what intrigues me is the combination of the bright orange and red design of concentric squares and a message that I've always taken to heart: "Learning never ends."

While that phrase rings true for almost every aspect of life, we can easily apply it to the stamp hobby as well. When you start out in stamp collecting you begin a learning process that teaches you all about the care and handling of stamps, stamp identification, determining values and much more.

Of course, if you let them, the stamps themselves will also teach you about history, geography, current events and so on.

Many of us embrace this education and look for the great variety of ways we can learn more about our hobby.

A significant part of that education is reading Linn's Stamp News week after week.

Several years ago I had the delightful experience of taking part in the American Philatelic Society's Summer Seminar in Philately, a week-long offering of classes and field trips that takes place each summer in State College, Pa.

As the design in Figure 2 shows, this is the 20th year for the seminar series that is quite properly billed as "A Philatelic Educational Vacation."

Each summer the APS offers a choice of several courses for collectors. This year five classes have been offered to prospective students.

Survey of Confederate Philately will be taught by Hubert Skinner, a past winner of the Dietz award presented by the Confederate Stamp Alliance for distinguished service to that specialty.

The course will investigate in detail the varied history of the involvement of the individual states in the Civil War; the temporary use of U.S. stamps and postal rates; the postmaster provisional issues; the general issues of the Confederate States; and unusual philatelic items resulting from the rigors of the War Between the States, such as adversity covers, wallpaper covers, and soldier's letters.

Topical/Thematic Collecting: The Joys and Tribulations will be taught by Mary Ann Owens, a former member of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee of the United States Postal Service, and a recipient of the American Topical Association's Distinguished Topical Philatelist Award.

The areas that will be studied include the differences between topical and thematic collections, learning more about a chosen topic or theme, acquiring and storing material for the collection, and moving from collecting to exhibiting.

Exhibiting and Judging will be taught by William Bauer, a former director of the American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors and that group's longtime chairman for international exhibiting.

The course is intended to explore all aspects of stamp exhibiting, including techniques of exhibit preparation or improvement. The course will also introduce students to the latest judging rules and methods, and successful exhibiting practices.

Unfortunately for those who haven't yet signed up, the remaining two courses have already filled up for this summer.

U.S. Precancels will be taught by Arnold H. Selengut, former president of the Precancel Stamp Society. The class will survey precanceled stamps from the pioneer lines-and-bars issues to the precancels of today, with sections on identifying local and Bureau precancels, collecting strategies, topical collecting, dated precancels and much more.

Detecting Fakes, Forgeries, and Altered Stamps will be taught by Varro E. Tyler, the author of Linn's Focus on Forgeries, A Guide to Forgeries of Common Stamps, and the writer of the Focus on Forgeries feature that appears every other week in Linn's.

There were a lot of different things that I enjoyed about attending the summer seminar. The classes gave me a chance to really sit down and learn about stamp collecting from instructors who enjoyed sharing their knowledge with the students.

The APS describes the seminar as a "highly personal learning situation." For most collectors, it's a rare opportunity to meet and learn from some of the hobby's greatest experts.

Figure 3 shows Varro Tyler at work with two students from an earlier seminar class.

I also got a chance to meet other collectors who shared my interests, making for a fun-filled week spent enjoying and sharing my favorite hobby.

The seminar program consists of morning general sessions followed by the major courses and afternoon elective classes.

Each major course also includes workshops, allowing students some hands-on training in areas related to the class.

A welcome reception at the beginning of the week is one of several activities that take place outside of scheduled classes.

In addition, students have the opportunity to visit the headquarters of the American Philatelic Society, including the magnificent American Philatelic Research Library, the most extensive public-access philatelic library in the United States.

One part of the visit I particularly enjoyed was looking through (and making purchases from) circuit books filled with stamps from the APS sales division.

I also enjoyed the picturesque setting in State College, Pa., the home of Penn State University. State College is a wonderful place to just wander around for shopping or sightseeing.

If you have an interest in any of the three classes that remain open at this time, you can't treat yourself any better than to participate in the APS summer seminar.

For additional information you can write to APS Summer Seminar, Box 8000, State College, PA 16803-8000. You can also send an e-mail inquiry to or call the APS at 814-237-3803.