|A nice "SKENINGE" cancel on 5ö green|
One day, I found myself strolling through the streets of central Copenhagen, looking at stamp shops. This was back in a time where "street level" retail stamp shops were still fairly numerous; there were at least 12-15 shops I liked to check out, on a regular basis.
One stretch of Gammel Kongevej had several dealers clustered together-- one of them was a favorite: Usually a "cluttered mess" of boxes and albums; this dealer's specialty was to take in people's collections-- and even entire holdings-- on consignment "as is." His opening hours were... well... sporadic, and I expected depended on whether he was out making a "house call" to an estate or someone who wanted to get out of the stamp collecting business. I don't think more than maybe 1/4 of the shop's stock was actually the dealer's own material. Anyway, this shop offered a constantly rotating "treasure hunt" for stamp collectors-- no knowing what might show up.
Of course, being just 24 at the time and a "starving student," my stamp budget was quite limited. Besides, I was in the business of saving money... not spending it; I needed to pay for my classes. However, I was working the 11pm to 7am shift at a factory AND taking on all holidays and weekends I could get (at the time called "antisocial hours"), and making a rather good wage-- so I had allowed myself a little "stamp money."
At the time, my primary stamp collections were Denmark, Sweden and France. I had pretty good collections for someone my age, and had even (hesitantly) started a couple of specialized collections... Danish numeral cancels and the Danish "Bicolours" issue.
As I looked through the shop's endless piles of boxes and albums, I came across a battered shoebox marked "old Sweden." Inside was an unruly mess of old yellowing glassine envelopes with thousands of classic Swedish stamps, from the "Arms" issues to the "Oscar" issues. Some seemed sorted by stamp; some seemed all mixed together. Mostly, I noticed that there was extreme duplication on some stamps-- and I guessed that was why the box was only marked at 1200,- Danish kr. (about US $200, but still a hefty sum in 1984, to a young man with little money). After all, who would want 1000+ copies of a 10ö red Oscar II stamp? I didn't know much about classic Sweden, but I did know that "bundleware" (even old) tended to be cheap.
|Originally, I included the Oscar II series|
I should add that I really "didn't know what I was doing," at the time. In my mind, I had a notion that perhaps I'd get a hold of a map of Sweden and cross off (or highlight) town names as I found them. I should also add that I found this box before cancel collecting in Sweden really became "a big deal."
My Swedish cancel collection started quite humbly. I bought a 32-page stockbook, which gave me a page per letter of the alphabet, with enough left over to make a separate page for major cities like Stockholm and Göteborg. Aside from that, all I did was put stamps in the stockbook, alphabetically, by place name.
It was actually several years before I learned that there was such a thing as a Swedish cancel catalogue-- the "Facit Postal" catalogue, issued every 4-5 years. And then I was amazed to discover that quite a few of my original "shoebox cancels" had considerable value... and they went on to form the basis for my Swedish cancel collection.
That was 27 years ago. A some readers may know, Swedish cancel and postal history collecting has since become a "big deal." Although "ortstämplar" and "hembygdsfilateli" are mostly Swedish philatelic interests collected in Sweden, I have met many fellow specialty collectors around the world-- from Denmark, to the UK, to the US, to Australia.
"Finds," like my original shoebox lot, are rare these days because awareness of this type of material is so much higher than it used to be. Top quality classic cancels sometimes sell for extraordinary prices at large Swedish philatelic auctions. Even those from relatively common (large) towns have been known to sell for many multiples of their catalogue values.
|"WESTERÅS" on an early printing of 20ö red|
Part of the slowness of the collection's growth can be directly attributed to my own rather particular requirements of the quality of cancel I am willing to include. From time to time, I realize that I may have put unreasonable constraints on myself-- but I am in no great hurry, and hopefully have at least another 30 years of collecting ahead of me!
Along the way, I have had the good fortune to pick up a few rarities-- at least within the limited context of Swedish cancels. That said, I am still missing quite a few "fairly common" cancels... just waiting for examples to show up, in the right condition.