Off on a tangent: fun collections aside from your main interest

Jan 14, 2008, 11 AM

By Janet Klug

I periodically succumb to temporary philatelic insanity wherein I find myself acquiring stamps and covers — sometimes quite a lot of material — that does not fit with any of my other collections. Perhaps this happens to you.

Stamp collecting is like that. You can go merrily along collecting one thing exclusively and then suddenly you will read something or find something that catches your eye. You must have it, and so off you go on a tangent.

Guess what? It is OK to do that!

Collecting tangents can be temporary or permanent, but that does not really matter. What matters is that you enjoy what you are collecting for as long as you want to collect it.

Tangent collections can present problems. If you are a collector who loves putting stamps into an album, but suddenly you have 847 very cool used postal cards from the Indian Feudatory States with terrific postmarks such as the one from Jaipur state shown in Figure 1, your stamp albums will not be of much use. What do you do with this stuff?

You actually have a lot of options. You can acquire loose-leaf albums with pocket pages designed to fit the size of the new material.

Another option is to put the cards in clear, protective sleeves so that you can enjoy looking at them, and place them in archival-quality boxes.

These kinds of boxes can be acquired at many hobby stores or through archival supply dealers.

You can make your own album pages using a computer or a typewriter or your own handwriting to do the labeling of the material you own. You do not even have to label it at all. A collection that has been carefully mounted on entirely blank pages can be just as pleasing to its owner as one that has been extensively written up and researched.

You are the boss. You get to make your own rules, and you even get to break the rules you establish.

The nicest aspect of going off on a tangent is that your collection can be as wacky or obscure as you like. Let me give you an example from my own collection of curiosities.

In 1966, Great Britain issued two Christmas stamps designed by children (Scott 478-79). The design of the 3-penny stamp is a youth's impression of one of the three kings who came from the Orient to pay homage to the Christ child.

This stamp was innovative in two respects: the naive, innocent artwork (a first for Great Britain) and the new silhouette of the queen impressed in gold at the top of the design.

This technique was used on the British 6d and 1-shilling, 3d Battle of Hastings stamps (Scott 476-77), also issued in 1966.

About 20 years ago, I found a few of these 3d King of the Orient stamps in an inexpensive mixture. When I looked at them together, I discovered that the position of the queen's head moved around from side to side and top to bottom.

Over the course of time, and at practically no expense whatsoever, I acquired hundreds of these stamps. As can be seen from the stamps shown in Figure 2, some have the queen's head so high it went into the top margin, some low enough that the bottom of the head was out of the blue box at the top of the stamp.

As shown in Figure 3, some of the stamps had the head very far off to the right, while some of the heads were almost in the center of the stamp.

I even found some freaks. On one, shown in Figure 4, the back of the queen's head looks like it has been chewed up rather spectacularly.

It is a fun collection that has almost no value whatsoever and might interest no one but me. Still, I enjoyed assembling the stamps, and I still add to them.

How does one mount, store or display a collection such as this? My 3d King of the Orient stamps are housed in a stock book, lined up like soldiers on parade.

It provides a good way of seeing the ups and downs and ins and outs of the queen's head.

Perhaps you have some tangent collections of your own. A few hundred stamps will not take up much space, but boxes full of covers or dozens of albums will soon consume an excessive amount of living area. What do you do with all that material when you know that it is time to cull?

Some collections can be sold to other collectors or stamp dealers. Local stamp clubs have periodic auctions or swap sessions.

Internet auctions such as eBay run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is not too difficult to learn how to place material there for auction.

The American Philatelic Society and some specialty organizations have sales booklets where members can place material for sale to other members. The APS also has an Internet Sales Unit that will, for a fee, place members' material on a web site for others to see and purchase.

Higher-priced material can be consigned to a philatelic auction firm.

Contact any dealer or auctioneer first before sending your material to make certain the dealer will accept what you have to sell. Read all the contract details in the sales agreement before you sign on the dotted line.

Some organizations will accept stamps as donations. The APS uses hundreds of pounds of stamps each year in its youth, beginner and outreach activities.

The Boy Scouts of America, Stamps for the Wounded and some church groups also accept stamp donations.

Local stamp clubs, too, like to receive stamp donations to use as prizes and support activities. You do not have to keep hoarding everything you have. Share the pleasure.

It is your hobby.

Go off on a tangent and find some fun.