On being Freshly (im)Pressed

I was surprised on Thursday when I awoke to a bunch of comments awaiting moderation. Then the page views started piling up by the hundreds, as did the new subscribers — and they were all coming here for one reason.

“Waaaaait a second …” I thought. Sure enough, my post about stamp collecting (or “philately,” if you’re fancy) had been Freshly Pressed.

Freshly Pressed 2015 BLOG

I’ve been honored by this privilege thrice (thrice!) before. The response to my post about street art was pretty overwhelming. But this time, it has been just plain … rewarding.

Thank you to all of the kind people who said I’d either inspired them to revisit their own collections, or to see stamp collecting in a new light. Telling a writer that they’ve inspired you — even in some small way — is the highest compliment. So thank you for that.

Thank you, also, to all of the readers who asked thought-provoking questions. Like, “How do you keep your stamps clean?” (I handle them with stamp tongs and store them in an archival binder.) And, “How can kids collect stamps without ‘buying’ them?”

My response to that question came in two parts. I suppose kids can ask adults in their family or community whether they have any old stamps to share. Kids can also approach local organizations — like libraries, businesses, and universities — and ask whether anyone there might save stamps for them.

Another alternative is to find a collector (like me!) who likely has a tin somewhere full of extras and duplicates they’d be happy to share. And if the kid(s) can find a classmate or two who is willing to do the same, they can start a stamp club and have swap meets.

The question that most intrigued me, though, was also the simplest: “What’s your most treasured stamp?”

I tried to think of the one stamp I’d miss most if I lost my collection, but I couldn’t think of just one. I love so many of them, for so many different reasons.

Take these simple tax stamps from Peru, for instance. They’re not particularly beautiful.

Peruvian tax stamps BLOG

But for me, they’re steeped in memories: That shield in the center used to be on the back of every single Sol I would save for Triangulo Rojo chocolate bars when I was a kid in Lima, and on the patch that adorned my state-mandated school uniform.

Peruvian tax stamps detail BLOG

Ditto for these French stamps. Known as the “type semeuse,” they depict a farm girl sowing seeds at sunrise. According to one superb stamp blog,

La Semeuse … first appeared … in April 1903. The graceful figure (of model Charlotte Ragot) wearing the Phrygian cap of liberty … came to symbolize Republican France throughout much of the 20th century.

France Semeuse BLOG
Perhaps they’re not particularly ornate, but for me they’re emblematic of the ideals and history that I’ve come to associate with my favorite city, Paris.

Speaking of beauty, many of you commented on a fact I inadvertently downplayed in my original post: Stamps are miniature works of art.

For example, you can almost feel the farmer’s gaze in this beautiful old vignette from Bosnia-Herzegovina …

Bosnia Herzegovina stamp BLOG Bosnia Herzegovina stamp detail BLOG

… and you can hear the soft swish of the water as it yields to this gondolier’s oar.

Venice stamp BLOG

But — as beautiful and evocative as stamps may be — do you know what my favorite thing is about keeping a collection? If you do it long enough, it becomes an intensely personal journey. I think that’s why I was honored that so many of you appreciated my post.

So, thanks a million for stopping by and for making my weekend with your readership and kind comments. I’ve truly been Freshly (im)Pressed by this virtual community of ours.


Want to learn more about collecting stamps? Here’s a website with a trove of helpful links. And check out this fascinating story about Edith Faulstich, who was a pioneer both in journalism and philately (with many thanks to her granddaughter, Alice M. Fisher).



  1. I started following because I saw your post of Freshly Pressed. I think that is one of the strong points of using WP. Your post was good and it deserves to attract people’s attention. Congratulations.

    • “We’ve gotta find you a turn of the 19th century Nicaraguan stamp!” You are SO AWESOME. Thank you! 😀

    • Aw, Tom … thank you! And thank you for being my most loyal and supportive reader. (PS: It’s 5 below right now, with a brisk wind out of the north. Thought you might enjoy hearing that. 🙂

    • Isn’t it nice to discover that there are *so many* weird stamp-collecting people? 😉 Nope, I don’t think you’re weird. In fact, I’m beginning to think that stamp collectors are among the coolest and kindest people out there. Thanks for stopping by, and have a great Sunday.

  2. Your posts are pretty enjoyable so people commenting and following you are natural. Keep writing about your passions! Kinda new to the WordPress community so I hope to learn a thing or two from your posts;)

    • Aw … thank you for your kind words, AllyCat. I’m no expert, so I’m not in a position to offer advice — except for echoing what you’ve said so beautifully: Write about your passions, for your own enjoyment. Happy blogging!

  3. I am one of your new subscribers and I was attracted to both your writing style and your stamp photos. I am a bit of an aspiring stamp collector. I tended to keep all my envelopes with cards and letters (from pen friends and relatives) ever given to me since childhood for the handwriting (sentimental reasons) and remembered I had another gold mine of beautiful things called stamps. Thanks for the delightful post!

  4. A lovely post! I used to collect stamps as a child because my Grandfather started me off… My hugest regret was a set of 4 pristine 1950’s Japanese stamps, each in their own small wax envelopes, going missing… They were beautiful…

    • Those Japanese stamps sound beautiful, Ritu — I’m heartbroken for you! But if that was your hugest regret about your collection, what was your biggest joy? And do you still collect?

  5. I “liked” your other article about stamp collecting (there might be many others, but the one about why every kid should collect stamps) a while ago–maybe even before I followed your blog–I don’t know.
    You have quite the collection, and I really enjoyed the post.
    I still haven’t taken the leap to start collecting stamps–but it could happen someday.
    I did get a fantastic price on a set of Canadian Albums (mounts) by finding some blogs.

    I am trying to avoid it, but you never know. If I could get to the stamp store when they aren’t taking a holiday, or ….you probably read that post.
    I will re-read your posts about stamps and hopefully I will learn something.

    • With your affinity for travel and other cultures you would REALLY enjoy stamp collecting, Anthony! It used to be an expensive hobby but since it’s fallen out of favor — and so many heirs are selling off their parents’ collections these days — you can get some very nice stamps on eBay quite inexpensively. Hmm. Perhaps I should look up that old post and re-post it, eh?

      • I saw it again because it was attached to the bottom of the current Post.
        When I was in Vietnam, I was going to buy a little collection of stamps–but didn’t for some reason. Now I regret it.

        • I just re-ran that post on stamp collecting and gave your excellent memory full credit! Well, no matter … you still deserve the credit for reminding me of that old post. Pity about those stamps in Vietnam, but there’s no sense wasting a moment on regret. Perhaps the next time you travel you’ll pick up some stamps as a souvenir! Though I still think the best souvenir is the memories themselves …

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