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Friday, September 24, 2010

Stamp Collecting: Wanting vs. Having

I was emailing with a stamp collecting friend, and mentioned that I had received the fall catalogue from a major European philatelic auction, and had been drooling over all the marvelous and beautiful rarities up for sale.

I can't afford this stamp!
Marvelous and beautiful rarities, I might add, which there is no chance in hell I can afford.

Rather bluntly, my friend offered: "I don't know why you bother. What's the point of wasting time looking at stuff you're not going to buy, anyway?"

His words made me pause and think, for a bit.

It strikes me that collectors-- and not just of stamps-- come in two basic varieties: Those primarily focused on acquiring and having (like my friend), and those for whom a large part of the hobby is about seeing and learning... but without an attachment to "owning" what we see.

Many years ago, I used to keep shop and we sold a number of "collectible" items, including vintage fountain pens and hand crafted glass paperweights. The store had quite a reputation among these specialized collector communities, and people would travel hundreds of miles out of their way to visit our shop. And yet, there were those collectors whose only objective was "to buy," while others would spend hours looking at every single item... but eventually would leave either with nothing, or with an inexpensive item.

Personally, my enjoyment of stamps-- and stamp collecting-- is not tied to "owning" what I look at. Odds are I will never have enough money to acquire a mint copy of Sweden's 3 Skill Bco with the "double 3" error, like the one offered for sale in the auction catalogue I was looking through. But that's OK! I enjoy stamps, regardless of whether they can be "mine" or not.