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Friday, October 28, 2011

The upheaval of moving...

We are moving.

In a few days, the movers-- in the form of two guys and a truck from a local furniture company who moonlight as moving services-- will be here to pick up our stuff and move it to our new house. Well, the house is new to us, not new in the age-of-the-building sense.

A few years back, using part of a bookshelf as "office"
Moving tends to be very stressful and typically a hassle. This time, though, I am somewhat looking forward to it. For the first time, I will have an actual "dedicated" office space for my stamps and other home businesses. Even though I have been "working from home" for years and years, I have never had an actual office to call my own-- typically, I have had a corner of a living room, half a bedroom, a walk-in closet, or something similar. This time, we converted what was the previous owner's fairly large workshop into a light and spacious office for yours truly.

It has been a long time since I have actually had all my stamp boxes unpacked in one place. It will be interesting to see what's in some of these boxes that have not seen the light of day in maybe 15 years.

We are planning to make this our "last" move. Maybe those sound like "famous last words," but we spent a long time very carefully planning what we needed in a home, and then taking our sweet time until just the right thing came onto the market. The relative luxury of being able to wait and buy what we wanted, when we wanted is something we worked a long time towards. My wife and I are both veterans of many, many moves, and tumultuous childhoods that involved frequently moving... so the idea of a "firm" home base is very appealing to both of us.

So, for the moment, I need to shut things down for a while, and pack my stuff. I'll be back with new musings when we get to "the other side."

[Written 2011-10-28; refined and published 2011-12-01]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stamp Collecting and Building Community

I often talk about "community," on these pages.

One of the things the Internet has given us-- as stamp collectors, as hobbyists, as human beings-- is the opportunity to connect with others and develop more of a sense of community.

In days of old, "community" was pretty much a local phenomenon. You belonged to a local "interest" group-- be it a stamp club, or professional, or political organization-- in your village, your town, your city. That was your "community."

Denmark Scott 737/AFA 768, from 1983
In some interpretation of the world, stamp collectors-- and letter writers-- were among the first who reached out to the precursors of the "Internet," through the fairly common practice of "pen pals," during the Victorian age. "Penny Postage" allowed people in the UK-- and subsequently in other parts of the world-- to reach each other through "Pen Pal Clubs." In many ways, these were the pioneering days of becoming "friends" with someone you'd never actually met in person.

With the arrival of the Internet the idea of "communities formed around a common interest" has grown enormously. Suddenly, we were no longer "geographically dependent," which expanded our opportunities tremendously. Although many philatelists may pooh-pooh the idea of email and the www as a tool to save stamp collecting, fact remains that it's through the Internet we're now able to so easily connect with thousands of collectors around the world whom we'd never have had the opportunity to know, otherwise. Not only that, but we're able to find colleagues and friends, no matter how specialized our field of interest.

I am not unaware of the fact that stamp collecting historically has been a pretty "solitary" hobby... and I also recognize and honor that part of the appeal has been that stamp collecting was something you could "do alone." As such, I would expect a general "personality profile" of philatelists to include disproportionately many introverts and "loners," if compared to the general population... many of whom would simply not be interested in sitting alone in their study for hours, looking at little pieces of paper.

That said, we humans are ultimately "social" creatures... and no matter how introverted we may be, at least some measure of our collecting enjoyment comes from "swapping fish stories" with our peers; comparing and sharing what we have in our collections, and trading with others.

It's up to us, however, to reach out... rather than allow ourselves to grow isolated behind our computer screens. It's up to us to use these new types of media as tools to connect; rather than as an excuse to not have to leave the house, at all. It's up to us to re-create stamp collecting as a 21st century "community," as well as simply an interesting hobby we love.

As I have written before, stamp collecting will not survive-- and even thrive-- if our main effort goes towards trying to bring more "retirees" into the hobby, using the "old ways." It won't work-- especially not in the long run. The people we need to bring into stamp collecting are from "Generation Internet;" the first young people who grew up as "technology natives" with computers and social media.

"Occupy Wall Street" protest in Port Townsend, WA
Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours in the company of several hundred people staging a peaceful protest outside the local offices of a large national banking corporation, as part of the now globe-spanning "Occupy Wall Street" movement. One of the things I "took away" from this event is the notion that the old idea that "the youth of the world will change society" may be an increasingly outmoded concept.


Most members of "Generation Internet" are mired down in escalating student loans, the struggle to merely survive in a hostile and uncertain economy and a certain degree of hopelessness as greater and greater numbers resort to "moving back in with the parents." It is actually the 50-somethings and 60-somethings who have the experience, wisdom... and (usually) the time and financial resources to make a difference. Interestingly enough, the activist/protesters of the 1960s-- for a while "absent" to pursue the almightly dollar and material success-- now find themselves as the most qualified to be "world shapers and changers" in the 2010's. They are not merely (to use "Occupy Wall Street" terminology) "in the 99%," they are typically in the  80th to 99th percentile who have the most to lose.

The thing that saddens me a lot is that such large numbers of people who belong to this subgroup of "former activists" are deeply apathetic and indifferent-- complaining endlessly about the "decline" of the world, but then choosing to sit at home on the couch with excuses like "I can't make a difference, so why bother?" and "it's up to the YOUNG people, not up to ME."


Getting back to stamp collecting, in order to appeal to "Generation Internet," we-- the "elders"-- must be willing to step outside our comfort zones to make room for them. That means not only being willing and open to using twitter, facebook, tumblr and online forums to talk about stamp collecting-- but embracing that "interesting stamps in 2011" may be what we (secretly, or not) would consider "useless wallpaper."

The future is now. Are we ready to embrace it and help create a new paradigm for stamp collecting? Or are going to passively stand by and allow our resistance to change to slowly kill the hobby love, and from which we've gained so much?

The next move is yours....

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Classic Denmark and Swedish Cancels on eBay

With fall around the corner, and the weather outside not as friendly as it has been, I have been working more on organizing stamps and sorting through old lots.

As a result, I have been adding new items to my eBay stamp store. As always, I focus on listing good quality and desirable material. It continues to sadden me how many stamp sellers use eBay to "dump their junk." I definitely do not choose to be part of that philosophy... and to the degree I sell "junk" stamps, I usually lump them into one large "floor sweepings" lot, clearly marked as "stamps with problems."

So, what's new?

Denmark 4RBS Chestnut Brown
Right now, I am in the process of adding Danish stamps, most of them pre-1930. There are quite a few from the "Bicoloured" issue, although I have not spent time plating most of these... however, the scans are large and clear enough that collectors should easily be able to determine printings and positions from the scans. I have also been listing a number of better varieties and plate flaws... although I am not going to get into specifics about these, as it seems like they sell almost immediately.

Among the better items going up for auction later today (start Sunday, October 9th, end Sunday, October 16th) is a very presentable copy of Denmark's 4RBS brown (Scott #2b/AFA no. 1IIIe) in the rare chestnut brown shade. Although not listed in US catalogues, this shade is valued at US$300.00+ by European catalogues. As with all my auctions, I start bidding at 99 cents, and no reserve.

Meanwhile, I have been sorting and cataloguing a large lot of Sweden Officials and Postage Dues, bought at auction earlier this year. This has turned out to be a very interesting lot, containing not only some nice varieties, but a large number of really nice town cancels. The lot has an interesting "history," in that it contains all Swedish stamps, but was assembled by a collector in Canada, then sent to Denmark to be auctioned, and now has ended up with me in the USA. An excellent example of how stamp collecting truly is a Global hobby!

Normally, when I sort "messy lots" like these, I end up with a lot of defective and uninteresting stamps. This group, however, has been "cleaner" than most with a surprising number of good cancels. After picking out many stamps for my own collection, there has still been a lot left over to sell as duplicates... or as simply not fitting in with my areas of interest.

Current new listings include this copy of a 20 öre red "long" official with a nice strike of the fairly rare "VESTRA KARABY" town cancel. Valued at 500:- SEK (about US$72.50) in the Swedish Facit Postal cancel catalogue, this is one of the rarest cancels I've had on eBay in several years. Although stamp collecting may not be thriving in a worldwide sense, the collecting of postal history and regional town cancels in Sweden is going strong. Known to many as "Hembygsfilateli" (literally: home area philately), this is a highly specialized area of Swedish philately, where collectors focus on postal history from their county or region. This may sound relatively simple-- on the surface-- but it can be surprisingly challenging, as many small towns and places of the 1800s are no longer active postal places, and some were in use for very short period of time.

I hope you'll take a moment to check out my eBay stamp store, today!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


The Internet is a funny place.

I must also confess that I have a short little span of attention, and often get sidetracked by "shiny objects." In the case of the Internet, the shiny obejcts just happen to be web sites I end up at... as no particular part of what I was just doing, just a few minutes earlier.

A few days ago, I ended up on a web site called "Stamp-O-Rama."

Denmark Scott B5
Seemed like a very interesting site, and a bit of a departure from most stamp sites-- combining "forum," "stamp club" and "auction" features on one site. So I decided to apply for membership. The membership application process was also appealing, with the final notice that a "real live human" would review my application and approve my membership. Part of why that was appealing is that so many (stamp) sites are plagued by huge numbers of random spammers that ruin it for the legitimate collector and hobbyist. On an actual monitored site, I feel, there's a greater chance that only collectors will be present.

So, I sent off my application, and started checking my email box for my membership approval. The final web site note stated that "it could take several days," which seemed OK since the site is run by volunteers.

And so, the days passed. I patiently waited till October 2nd (12 days later), but did not heard anything back-- and I even checked my email spam filters, since unknown mail sometimes finds its way there. That made me a bit sad, so I'm wrote a note back to the email address on the initial "please wait for approval" letter to see if there was a problem-- and if anyone was still even there.

It's a sad truth of the Internet that many sites (of all kinds) are started with great enthusiasm, and then the founders of those sites lose interest when not as much activity as they expected happens on their sites. It's difficult and time consuming to run a web site-- still more difficult to get it to become a well trafficked "success" that many people use.

In this case, I was relieved that there was a fairly quick response. There had been some kind of mix-up, and I'd somehow been assigned the ID of a different member-- but the error was quickly taken care of. Since Stamporama is run by volunteers, it's understandable that sometimes things slide through the cracks-- I run enough web sites of my own to appreciate that. The Stamporama club/site secretary was very friendly and helpful.

Now I just look forward to exploring the site... and based ion what I've seen so far, I'd like to encourage others to do so, as well. Not only does this appear to be a friendly and fun community for stamp collectors, it also serves as part of the overall effort to help build stamp collecting communities online. Visit and join Stamporama today!