US Stamps

Should collectors promote stamp collecting by encouraging noncollectors to use postage stamps to create baubles and artwork?

Sep 2, 2015, 10 AM

Linn’s Stamp News recently received an e-mail from a reader that has provoked some discussion among the editorial staff.

Henry Nass of New York writes, “As an older stamp collector and as one who will often buy sheets of older United States stamps at face value at stamp shows, I’ve recently found a marketplace on the Internet outside the bounds of traditional philately.

“On the e-commerce website, stamps are being sold to noncollectors at rather hefty premiums, though usually in relatively small quantities.

“On, sellers present stamps for use as ‘craft supplies’ and for use on small mailings for special occasions.

“The expectation is not to find stamps to put into albums, but for more practical uses where the aesthetic and visual aspects of the stamps dominate as a cause for purchase.

“This seems totally reasonable to me, considering the actual glut of stamps that are available.”

Nass’s letter prompted a discussion of whether using stamps as “craft supplies” can be viewed as a positive for the stamp hobby.

Are craft hobbyists likely to become stamp collectors because they have magnets containing stamps on their refrigerator or a tissue box wrapped in stamps depicting flowers or a cat theme?

I must admit I have my doubts. I believe that it’s more than a hop, skip and a jump from decorating wooden eggs with postage stamps to examining and studying those stamps and admiring them on an album page.

As stamp collectors, we become the stewards of postage stamps and postal history. We passionately protect our stamps and covers. We recognize that these fragile objects are ours to cherish for a brief moment in time before we pass them along to the next generation.

To encourage others to glue stamps on boxes and jewelry, and cover them with layers of lacquer and varnish in the hope that these hobbyists will become stamp collectors, seems to me to be a dereliction of our duty as preservationists.

Stamp collectors should sell their stamps to fellow collectors or give them to stamp clubs, schools and children. We should encourage new collectors by teaching them how to appreciate these beautiful works of art along with the history behind these paper objects. I would much prefer to see stamp mixtures offered on eBay, where the stamps-as-crafts idea isn’t so obviously promoted.

Of course, one could argue that one of the world’s most famous rarities is preserved in a piece of jewelry, the famed Locket Copy of the 1918 24¢ Jenny Invert. I suppose I would have no problem wearing that objet d’art around my neck.