Monday, August 4, 2008

In the Light: Improving The Image of Stamp Collecting

I'm always a bit miffed when I hear worship stories about people who collect teacups, dolls from Japan, baseball cards, dead insects, etc, but when it comes to stamp collecting---suddenly it's too corny, nerdy, cerebral, brainy, old-fashioned, and the terrible list goes on. These days you can collect the weirdest things on the planet Earth (micro-meteorites!) and get more respect than the time-honored, #1 hobby in the world: STAMP COLLECTING. Folks, we definitely need a serious stamp-collecting image overhaul.

Part of the problem, and new parents will encounter this, is the stubborn stereotype that insists stamp collecting is a senior citizen past time of no consequence. Yes, there are senior citizens who engage in the hobby, many certified experts, but a majority of collectors internationally are younger people. The two biggest contributors to the image problem of stamp collecting in the United State is first, the Hollywood movie and television industry which has portrayed stamp collecting in a negative light for decades. Too much of this slandering has to do with the corporate tie-ins most film studios have with big-name board game makers and then later video games. They don't like the competition. Second, the US Government itself, which doesn't do enough to spread the positive word of stamp collecting to its younger-age public. A number of countries, Denmark and Greece are perfect examples, spend time and money to promote stamps and collecting in the public school system. It shouldn't be a surprise to Americans that the international student body scores higher on geography tests due to the early introduction of the world's numerous stamp issues.

I am saddened to report some collectors have bought into the stereotypical image and can be heard mocking a hobby they have spent decades belaboring in the dark. And this is the key to their self-mockery, they collect in secret, often not sharing their joy with friends or relatives, until it becomes a hidden habit of embarrassment. Last I checked, cigarettes and drugs, taken in secret were considered hidden habits of shame; not a noble educational hobby. And it is this counter-logical nonsense that slowly twists in our society into pushing people hide the good and promote the bad.

Everyone says their hobby is the sport of kings: golf, horse racing, chess, etc, yet it is Stamp Collecting that is aptly called the King of Hobbies and the Hobby of Kings. You cannot tell much about a nation or culture from its golf players or horse races or chess sets. The same cannot be said about stamps. You can learn much about a nation's values, priorities and qualities or lack there of (consider the Nazi stamps) through the art and language of its colorful stamps. These facts are indisputable and add to a long historical line of proud and joyous achievements found in those small patches of colour and ink we call stamps. Why hide it?

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