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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The "Birthday" theme: Stamp Collecting for Fun

I think it may be a "natural progression" for stamp collectors to begin their collections in the broadest possible way (when I was a child, I wanted to collect "The Whole World"), and then become more and more specialized as time goes by.

Denmark Scott no. 294, cancelled 30.8.1946
I know this has held true for me. "The Whole World" gradually became "Scandinavia," then "Denmark and Sweden." As the years rolled by, each country got further subdivided, as I got interested in specialty areas: For Denmark, numeral cancels on classic issues; the Bicoloured issue and "lux" cancels. For Sweden, the "Ringtyp" issue, and classic town cancels.

Now, I'm not saying that specialization is a bad thing-- far from it!

However, I do think that sometimes our "obsessions" with specialized areas can become a major part what leads to the public image of stamp collectors as "stuffy old men who live in their office." Let's face it... to an outsider, just how interesting does it seem that someone dedicates their life to looking at the "upper right corner" of hundreds of the same little old pieces of paper? Not very inspiring, right? If I were to encounter that-- and the only perspective I can offer is that I have encountered such things, in other collecting fields-- I'd think something like "Wow... I admire the tenacity but pretty boring..." and move on.

I wouldn't exactly say that specialization causes us to "lose our youthful sense of wonder," (after all, WE remain in "wonder" at what we're doing, right?) but perhaps we end up taking ourselves a little too seriously. And perhaps the "side effect" is that specialization also means that what we consider to fall within the realm of "fun" becomes more specialized... consider, again, the "upper right corner" example, from above. I consider the the Swedish "ringtyp" stamps fun... as do 17 other people. But not thousands of other people. And certainly not potential new collectors.

For me, part of what keeps me in touch with the original reasons I started to collect stamps is that I start new collections from time to time. This not only allows me to retain "beginner's eyes" in the context of my new area, but it keeps me from getting stuck in too much of a rut of "Being A Serious Philatelist."

Today is August 30th. It is my birthday. And so, this article becomes about one of my "Fun, Light and Fluffy" collections: stamps postmarked on August 30th.

Denmark Scott no. 73, postmarked 30.8.1909
I started this collection about 15 years ago, when I found an older Danish stamp on my birthday and noticed it had been used on that same day-- August 30th-- 80 years earlier. And it gave me the idea to start the "birthday postmark collection."

This collection has proven to be inexpensive, yet quite tricky. After all, looking for a stamp postmarked on a particular day means you not only have to find stamps with readable cancels, but your chances of finding the date you need is just 1-in-365. But one of the fun things about it is that-- even though this is a "specialized" collection-- I can find stamps to add pretty much anywhere there are stamps sold or traded, and most of the stamps in the collection have cost only a few pennies each.

Within my "Birth Date Collection," I have particular "prizes" that I assign higher rank or rarity to: Any stamp that was cancelled on my actual date of birth-- August 30, 1960-- gets bonus points from me. Similarly, any stamps canceled on August 30th in one of the two towns in Denmark where I grew up-- Rungsted Kyst and Hørsholm-- also get "bonus points." So far, I have only found three examples of the former, and ONE example of the latter. But the hunt continues!

The "moral" of the story is that I take an active role in remembering what makes stamp collecting fun... and what made it fun for me, in the first place.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Auction News: VF Auktion Auction 1207, August 30th, 2011

Danish auctioneer "VF Auktion" has started their Weekly Auction Nr. 1207.

According to the online catalogue, there are almost 6500 lots in this auction, with the majority of them being Danish stamps, but also with a representation of the rest of the world. Most lots are illustrated with color photos, particularly individual stamps... but also many of the "lots and collections." As is typical for this auction firm, there is pretty much "something for everyone" offered in this sale, with lot opening bids running from around 50,- DKK (less than US $ 10.00) to the thousands.

For those outside Denmark, the online catalogue is available both in Danish and English. Bids can be submitted online, once potential bidders have set up an account.

The stamp at the right caught my eye-- a beautiful copy of the 4 skilling "Arms" issue from 1864, with a pretty strike of a Hellerup "star" cancel. It would fit well in my collection as not only "classic Denmark," but also an interesting cancel in top quality. I don't often buy individual stamps, but I'm tempted!

In the remainder of the sale, I noticed some nice smaller lots of Norway's "Posthorn" issues. In the section for Sweden, quite a few lots with high quality town cancels. There's also a good showing of GB with Victorian classics, along with good sections of Germany, France and Switzerland.

Bidding for this auction ends on August 30th.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Auction News: Philea Auction 297, August 24th, 2011

I've spent part of today looking at Swedish Auction firm AB Philea's online catalogue listing for their August 24th public auction.

As usual, there are thousands of lots offered, with the majority of the weight being on Sweden. I've found that summer auctions are often a good time to buy, as many collectors in Scandinavia are preoccupied with things other than stamp collecting, while the weather is nice.

6 öre Ringtyp with two pre-printing paper folds
I am always looking for interesting and unusual items for my collection of the "Ringtyp" series; in this particular sale, I am considering a copy of the 6 öre perf. 14 stamp, with TWO pre-printing paper folds. With an opening bid of 500:- Swedish Kr. (about US $78.00) it's by no means cheap, but I've not seen one like it before (photo at left).

Of course, it's typically "lots and collections" that really catch my interest. However, since I made quite a few "box lot" purchases this spring, I am in a rather "picky" frame of mind, these days... but by no means so picky I'm going to pass up what appears to be a true bargain. Naturally, true bargains are rare, when you are looking at the auction catalogues of firms with thousands of clients worldwide.

One lot that caught my eye is a collection of "ringtyp" stamps chosen for cancels. Although the online photos suggest that maybe one-in-ten stamps meet my own criteria for cancel quality, the appeal of a lot like this is that most cancel collectors are not interested in plate flaws... and so, once I'd removed any desirable cancels, I would be able to go back through the lot a second time and scan for varieties. That said, the opening bid of 4000:- Swedish Kr. (about US $625.00) is a bit "stout" during these meager economic times. I'll have to consider whether or not I'd be able recover some of the cost of the lot with subsequent sales on eBay... seems like a fair percentage of the cancels still look "collectible" enough to warrant interest from those not quite so particular about obtaining perfect strikes.

Over in the Denmark section, I noticed several very nice lots of duplicates. When looking for Danish stamps, I prefer lots that only run to about 1960, 1970's at the very latest... as I just don't have much interest in more modern material. Unfortunately, several of these lots already have gone 50% past opening bid from online bidding and I feel hesitant to place a bid beyond that. These higher prices are no doubt due to the fact that the economic recession in most of the world is fairly mild in the Scandinavian countries.

I took a brief look at Overseas lots, because I do collect a few items from outside Scandinavia-- and found a fairly appealing lot of used Australia, which is now up for serious consideration... part of the appeal here was the descriptive text that it includes "more than 200 kangaroo stamps." One of my specialized collections is the Kangaroo and Map issue, and finding these stamps in quantity outside Australia (where specialists have already picked over most lots) holds a lot of appeal.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A New Forum for Stamp Collectors: Stamp Bears

From time to time, I have written on these pages about the need to bring new collectors into the stamp hobby.

This week, I'd like to introduce a fairly new stamp forum and community named Stamp Bears.

A lot of (older, mostly) collectors are worried about the state of the hobby... and as the "old guard" slowly dies off (yes, I know, that's a bit morbid), how there seem to be very few younger people coming in to take over the space they leave behind.

A hobby-- on a large scale-- is also a community. And when it comes to communities, the ones that thrive are the ones that appear vibrant and "happening." I realize a lot of old-timers would be set in their ways and dismiss "vibrant and happening" as nonsense... because THEY don't need it. True enough.

But attracting new people to stamp collecting isn't about what appeals to "old philatelists," but about what appeals to youngsters and newcomers.

What I like about the Stamp Bears community is that its intent is to be a "family forum" for stamp collectors... and NOT "yet another forum for Serious Philatelists." The forum's focus and mission is very much about the fun and joy of simply "collecting stamps." This is not to say that you wouldn't enjoy it, if you were a "serious" collector... nor that "serious" philately isn't discussed.

The community was created and is run by a 30-something couple who are both stamp collectors, and they have two young daughters, who are also getting into collecting... thereby being a living example of a stamp collecting family.

As a collector with 40-something years of experience, I found the "atmosphere" of the forum very refreshing and friendly-- and I'd like to encourage you to click here and check it out!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I have spent this past week giving the Scandinavian Stamps blog a major "face lift."

I was looking at my posts, and realized that the site had not been "modernized" since I started it, back in early 2006. That's 4 1/2 years ago.

On the greater scale of things, 4 1/2 years is not a long time. As stamp collectors, we look at "4 1/2 years ago" and think it is "new." Yet, in the modern age of the Internet, 4 1/2 years is a huge amount of time.

For one, there are LOADS of easy-to-use features you can add to blogs, that simply weren't there, in early 2006. Also, monitor technology has come a long way since then... and the old blog format-- built to conform with a standard that a web page is best left "under 1028 pixels wide" was out of date... and the blog looked "dated" and "tired" by today's standards.

It also made me think a little bit about stamp collecting, itself... and the "crisis" a lot of people seem to think the hobby is facing, in this technological age. And it occurred to me that we cannot hope to attract young "fresh blood" to the hobby if we come across as "old" and "out of date" and not technologically savvy.

I'm not saying we shouldn't collect "old stamps" anymore-- I'm just saying we need to get with the times and present our collection of "Queen Victoria plate varieties" in a manner appropriate for today, and not in a manner best left back in Queen Victoria's time...