Unsoakable stamps have you down? Consider other options

Apr 14, 2008, 11 AM

By Janet Klug

Like you, I read the letters on Linn's Readers' Opinions page, and I am annoyed that many new United States self-adhesive stamps cannot be soaked from envelopes.

But like some other collectors, I am not going to give up a hobby that has given me so much joy just because the U.S. Postal Service made a decision that has a negative effect on the way that I collect stamps.

There are so many wonderful stamps to collect and enjoy. Now is the time to explore other options.

New issues that won't soak can be collected on cover. That is a challenge, especially if you go for commercial usage. Some new commemorative stamps are really difficult to find on commercial covers.

You can help the cause along by using new U.S. commemorative stamps on all of your outgoing mail, even for bill payments.

Some of those covers will make their way back into the hands of collectors. Perhaps the stamp you put on a letter to your tax accountant will spark an interest in stamps with someone in that office.

Branching out by collecting older stamps is another option.

I have an old Scott International album that covers the world to 1932. I acquired that used album at a price that could not be beaten. It was free.

For its age, it is in surprisingly good condition. I am having a ball trying to fill as many spaces as possible, and I am doing it on a shoestring.

One of the stamp hobby's best-kept secrets is that most of the stamps ever issued are still dirt cheap.

Just thumbing through that album makes me realize how lucky I am to have a hobby that is so stuffed with fascinating things to collect. The joy I receive when adding a stamp that completes a page or a set is indescribable. At present, I am trying to get at least one stamp from every country in the album, and that is not as easy as it sounds.

I am still missing many countries. Nearly all of them are dead countries: countries that no longer exist under that name and no longer issue stamps.

Amazingly, many of the formerly dead countries that once comprised the Soviet Union, such as Azerbaijan, are back in business again.

A 20-kopek Standard Bearer stamp (Scott 2) from old Azerbaijan is shown in Figure 1. A 3,000-manat 10th Anniversary of Admission to the UPU stamp (747) from new Azerbaijan is shown in Figure 2. You can collect old Azerbaijan, new Azerbaijan or both.

It is fun to go to stamp shows searching for stamps from places like Anjouan, one of the Comoro Islands near Madagascar; or Tartu, an Estonian city occupied by Germany during World War I. You can get some pretty astonished looks from dealers when you ask for such stamps.

An Anjouan 20-centime red on green paper Navigation and Commerce stamp (Scott 9) is shown in Figure 3.

If collecting the world up to a certain period doesn't strike your fancy, you can always pick another country to collect.

One option to consider is to collect the country or countries from which your ancestors came.

Some countries are easier to collect than others. For example, in my pre-1932 worldwide collection, Austria is well filled in because the stamps are inexpensive and readily available.

The stamps are brightly colored, and many of the stamps have wonderful art nouveau or art deco designs, such as the 25-krone blue Symbols of Art and Science stamp (Scott 289) shown in Figure 4.

Most of my used Austrian stamps have Vienna postmarks. If you prefer a challenge, try looking for Austrian stamps postmarked from some place other than Vienna. The Austrian 6-heller buff Emperor Leopold II stamp (Scott 114a) shown in Figure 5 bears a Salzburg postmark.

Now might also be a good time to look into the back-of-the-book section of the listings in your Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers.

If you have never seriously considered collecting this material, you will be surprised at the amazing stamps that will fit into every kind of budget.

Take a look at the striking $3.50 blue George Washington Inland Exchange revenue stamp (Scott R87) shown in Figure 6. Who wouldn't like to have such a stamp in his collection?

U.S. Official and newspaper stamps have small but devoted followings. Take a look at these beautiful stamps and you might want to join the devotees.

U.S. parcel post stamps are a wonderful, finite collecting area. There are only 12 different major varieties, and they are engraved with beautiful scenes of classic Americana. A 4ยข carmine-rose Rural Carrier parcel post stamp (Scott Q4) is shown in Figure 7.

I have written about this before, but I recommend a calendar collection. The scope and breadth of such a collection can be as wide or as narrow as you choose.

All you need is a wall calendar, some used stamps with readable dated postmarks and stamp hinges. Match a date on one of the stamps to the date on the wall calendar (month and day) and hinge it into place.

Once you get all the spaces covered with one stamp for each day of the year, you have a complete collection that is unique. Use a wallet-sized calendar as your want list by marking off the dates you have.

For this type of collection, it doesn't matter what year the calendar is, because all you are doing is matching months and days. It is a fun collection but a lot more challenging than you might think.

The bottom line is that we, as collectors, should not allow any country's current policies for postage stamp production to dictate whether we collect, or what we collect. If you love collecting stamps, find something you enjoy and collect it the way that pleases you.