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The Collector

 Is stamp collecting dead?

I’m wondering only because it is a dreary day. I’m recovering from a late night, and I can’t thing of a provocative subject to write about. 

Now that I think about it, I rarely read anything in the papers these days about stamps or stamp collectors.  There used to be regular articles on stamps achieving record prices at auction.  These specimens were usually from some obscure British-owned island and were rare because they had been printed upside down or inside out or were missing a perforation down one side.  I can’t remember the last time I read a stamp article.        

I’m not remotely interested in the subject.  It strikes me as a peculiar kind of hobby, sticking little bits of paper in an album – collecting for the sake of it.  But then people of otherwise perfectly sound mind often collect the oddest things: toby jugs, jam jars, old tools, old comics.  I once read about an elderly man who died having spent a lifetime collecting vintage lawn mowers – manual, no electric or motor-powered rubbish – which he had lovingly restored, maintained in pristine condition, and kept in a shed he had apparently constructed for the purpose.  I wonder if there is a Vintage Lawn Mower Society of Great Britain.    

I’m not a collector of anything, though my wife would insist that my accumulation of antique oriental rugs amounts to a collection.  I certainly don’t buy them because we need floor-covering, since the floors were covered with the things long ago – some of the walls too – so I suppose that could be defined as collecting.

I did go through a stamp-collecting phase in my childhood, as most young boys do.  It didn’t last long, probably a few weeks.  For reasons that I’ve forgotten, and which almost certainly didn’t make a whole lot of sense anyway, I was mad about stamps from New Zealand.  I didn’t have a huge collection; I don’t suppose New Zealand has produced all that many stamps.  Why I should think that I have no idea, as small countries need stamps every bit as much as big ones.

I should have collected British stamps, for patriotic reasons, but in the days after the Second World War British stamps were the most boring in the world – nothing on them but the head of the monarch and the price.  The only variations were the colours and which direction the king was facing.  They didn’t even have the name of the country.  They still don’t, but at least they have become more colourful and interesting, celebrating all kinds of aspects of British life, like famous bridges and butterflies.  Some people even used to collect butterflies, but it is not considered environmentally appropriate these days, and anyway there are hardly any butterflies left to collect. 

I wonder if I should think about collecting something.  Everyone ought to have a hobby, they say, especially in old age – keeps the mind active, and all that.

Perhaps I’ll collect stamps from the Soviet Union, or from some other country that no longer exists – Britain maybe. 

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