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Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The End of a Stamp Collection

I am selling my life-long collection of stamps from Denmark.

It's an odd-- and totally unexpected-- thing for me to be writing. After all, I had expected I would continue the collection into my 70's and eventually "cash out" to have a measure of comfort-- and perhaps travel-- during my "golden years."

Instead, I find myself starting to sell my collection because of a series of (costly) personal circumstances most recently culminating with my wife's 82-year old mother-- who has severe mobility issues as well as dementia-- moving in with us. As a result of a lifetime of poor decision making and personal self-neglect she is incomeless, penniless and assetless, so the cost of her care and living has come out of our pockets... already empty from a decade of medical bills, kids in college and several other unforeseen disasters that drained our savings to zero.

So the decision was made to sell my Denmark collection, in order for us to not head for complete financial ruin. Oddly enough, it was my idea-- my wife thought I should keep the collection.

I suppose I should feel grateful that stamps, indeed, are a "store of value" of enough significance that they can help us pay our way through the current situation.

The whole situation made me sit and ponder the whole idea of "why we collect things." Whereas "worth" was never of major importance to me as a stamp collector, I did always follow my late father's advice to "always buy the very best quality you can afford." That advice seems to be standing me in good stead, today. I am grateful I paid attention to his words...

My dad's line of reasoning was that a "mediocre" quality stamp had no way to become a "top quality" stamp... but a "top quality" stamp could always have an accident and get damaged, and become a "mediocre" stamp. Thus, top quality stamps-- especially the classic and older ones-- can ONLY become scarcer with age.

Whereas I always knew-- and even planned-- that "someday" my stamp collection would be sold, I never spent much time thinking about how I would feel about 40+ years of effort going away. Specifically, I never considered how I would feel about all those years of work getting "dissolved" in a matter of months. I feel somewhat sad to see these "old friends"-- many of them with stories and memories attached-- leaving my albums.

On reflection, it seems like a very poignant reminder of the impermanence of most things in life.

On the upside, I am grateful that I get to personally handle and oversee the sale-- through eBay, mostly-- thereby being able to make sure that every item is "presented" properly and offered the best possible chance to find its way into the hands of another collector/specialist who will enjoy it in their collection. I'm also glad I have the luxury of a little time, and am not forced to drop the collection for "whatever quick offer I can get."

Someone asked me if I was "giving up stamp collecting."

The answer to that is no, but it is going to be "collecting on a shoestring" from this point forward. It would seem that my days of making any significant investments in new higher value stamps are behind me. For the foreseeable future, 110% of our income will go towards healthcare, living expenses and whatever follows thereof. Yes, I just wrote "110%" because this endeavor is somewhat beyond our means... the indirect "cost" of living in a country/society that has no social safety net for people who have little of their own.

But that's besides the point.

Most likely, I will continue to collect Danish town cancels on inexpensive stamps. And I will continue collecting plate flaws and varieties on the GB Machin issue-- again, something that can be done for a few cents per stamp. But I will no longer be a "serious" stamp collector, in the traditional sense of the word. I haven't lost interest in stamps, however...

It will be interesting to see how things go, with the sales... which I plan to have unfold over the next few months. Hopefully there are still some Denmark collectors and specialists with a taste for top quality material and varieties you rarely see.

Anyway, if you are reading this and happen to be a collector of Danish stamps-- especially nice (and unusual) ones, I hope you'll check my eBay page from time to time. You can find the first set of items here. Maybe there is something you could use?