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A ROYAL HOBBY
ATricks of the Trade DNational Symbols
BRoyalty and Philosophers EA 19th Century Global Trend
CA Special Bookcase for Stamp Albums FA Bad Reputation
Stamp collecting has an image problem. Let’s face it, the thought of it as rather ‘boring’ or as a hobby for ‘nerds’ has probably at one point or another crossed the minds of even the most polite and tolerant of us. This is not to say that many of us haven’t collected stamps at some stage of our lives, even if meant commencing an interest that didn’t progress beyond soaking a few of our overseas relatives’ letters in water to try to get those interesting, exotic-looking stamps off. A stamp album or two from days gone by, tucked away or probably hidden in the back of a closet somewhere, isn’t unusual either.
How times have changed! Stamp collecting was a hobby that important figures, such as England’s King George V proudly admitted to participating in. It has been referred to as ‘the hobby of kings and ‘fie king of hobbies’, and at the mere mention of the word ‘hobby’, stamp collecting is the most popular one that comes to mind. A word of ancient Greek origin – ‘philately’, has even been given to the practice. ‘Philos’ meaning friend and ‘afelos’ referring to free of tax, as stamps are basically signs meaning that postage, or tax has been paid. So there you have it – in ancient Greek, stamps are friendly and functional!
Stamps haven’t been around since the Parthenon though. The first postage stamps were issued in Britain in the year 1840. The United States followed a few years later while the idea caught on so well, that by 1860 almost every country had a stamp. Catalogues of each country’s stamps were then published, and stamp enthusiasts and collectors could pore over these pages with curiosity and delight.
Things that may seem rather weird to the lay-person, can be normal practice amongst stamp collectors. Looking at the way the edges of each stamp are cut is one of these ‘inside’ activities. Others include looking at different paper that some stamps are printed on, as well as ide type of ink used and the printing method. In fact, printing errors on stamps can make them collector’s items. Generally, stamps that are hard to find, means that they are rare, which in turn means that they’re worth quite a bit of money.
Monetary values aside, stamps can be seen as representations of art. They serve as socialand historical indicators of a country, and its culture. What is more, people of all ages and from all walks of life can enjoy stamp collecting. In these days of emails, mobile phone text messages and faxes, letters seem to be becoming less frequent. As a result, perhaps those colourful, little postage marks known as stamps may start to fascinate people once again. Who knows, stamp collecting might boom, and be once again placed on its former pedestal, as the ‘king of hobbies’.
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