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