Follow Scandinavian Stamps on Twitter!

Follow Scandinavian Stamps on Twitter!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Backs of Stamps

Some years ago, I remember being at the annual Austin, Texas Stamp and Postcard show, put on by the local stamp club. In between sifting through dealer stocks for interesting finds, I spent a little time looking at the exhibits.

One of the exhibits was entitled "Mint Never Hinged."

It cracked me up, because it was offered by a very "serious" collector from the community... and all it was two frames showing... THE BACKS OF STAMPS.

I knew the collector behind the exhibit, so I also realized that he was poking fun at the near-obsession people often have with gum, and its condition.

I have always collected used stamps. My father (who was a "casual" collector, at best) tried to get me "into" mint, but it just never appealed. Whereas I can appreciate the fact that a mint stamp allows you to see the whole image, I just find used more interesting. As that collector with the "MNH" exhibit reminded me, I collect the fronts of stamps. Which isn't to say that I don't look for thins and markings on the back of my stamps; the back is simply not my focal point.

As I think about my preference, I realize something: A mint stamp feels "static," to me-- that is, it's just "a point in time." A piece of paper, printed on (or around) the date of issue. A used stamp "tells a story." As I collect them (with readable cancels), my used stamps tell me of a place and a time, when someone mailed a letter, or something else. If I have the entire cover, I know more about the "story" of the stamp's journey.

I realize part of this is perhaps born out of a sense of "romantic adventure." Take the stamp at right-- from Norway, with a crowned posthorn cancel "SVALBARDRUTEN." It doesn't even have a date, but I can imagine it being on a letter, loaded on the periodic freight ship that sails between mainland Norway and the remote Svalbard Island group, in the far Arctic North Atlantic. And that simply makes the stamp more interesting to me.

I'm not saying there are "right" or "wrong" ways to collect. We should collect in ways that make us happy, and give us the most enjoyment of the collection. For me, that means collecting used stamps.