Saturday, November 27, 2010

Topical But Not Typical: Thematic Stamp Collecting

Topical stamp collecting has been a past time for decades. Topicals are stamps with a consistent theme like trains, birds, sea life, etc. Though I do not partake in this type of collecting I respect its existence and its hard-won pursuit.

Beginners need to pay heed to the fact that such collecting is difficult because are you automatically limiting yourself to the field (or theme) in question. I've know topical collectors spending 6 months to get 1 stamp of a certain theme.

Intellectually it's not hard to appreciate the excitement of searching for a particular sub-set of stamps out there in the world and placing them in your ever-growing collection. I praise these collectors for their patience if not persistence in obtaining their objects of desire.

Topicals are often the most beautiful, artistic, colorful and valuable of stamps produced by countries around the world. Some countries create them solely for profit on the open collecting marketplace. Some purists mock their presence as somehow "reducing" the quality of collecting as a whole but this opinion is more stamp purist nonsense. Stamps are stamps. Collect what you will and learn what limitations or liabilties along the way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stamps and Repressive Regimes: When Seeing is Not Always Believing

Today North Korea attacked South Korea killing a number of soldiers and civilians via an unprovoked volley of artillery fire.

Repressive regimes are multi-taskers, they are capable of torturing their citizens, murdering their enemies and often producing beautiful stamps. We can, and should, lend a critical eye on their stampworks which are usually propaganda symbols and messages meant to bolster their credibility. They always fail.

In fact these failures make wonderful stamps and excellent lessons to teach new generations of the power of stamps even in the hands of wicked governments and evil men. While I would never support repressive notions I do recognize stamps are stamps and thus should be collected, studied, spoken about and displayed for all to see. This is how we learn.

If we accept stamps as artifacts of history we are also forced to accept the good and the bad and must reject, with a clothespin on our nose, the calls for destroying stamps from repressive regimes in revenge for their crimes against humanity. We have courts to deal with illegality. We, as a people, must deal with history.

Today North Korea attacked South Korea. Better stamps, maybe, but cruel hearts bound to be weighed in heaven and in earth.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stamp Stories: The First Tea Party

You been hearing alot of about Tea Party this and Tea Party that these days but few seem to recall the first Tea Party involved American colonists sneaking onto a British cargo ship in the Boston Harbor disguised as Indians and promptly tossing crates of Tea into the waters below to protest the unjust Tea Tax Law.

I share these stamp stories because of the primary reasons KNS exists is to help create more fond memories between kids and their parents and between kids and their favorite stamps. The Boston Tea Party stamp block of 1973 was my first block in my stamp album. It was also the first stamp/s I used a "jacket" on. We used to call them "jackets" but they are the protective mounts with clear plastic to seal a stamp from environmental conditions and thus preserve its unique quality and value.

While stamps in their full scope are more than historical milestones; they cannot escape being placed in the event the stamp was originally issued to commemorate. And neither can I separate my memories of events surrounding the acquistion of various special stamps. The remember the trips to get them. The stories around them. The shows that spoke about them. The tales from other collectors.

In our modern era some will have you convinced this is corny stuff worthy of coke glasses and acne medicine. That stamp collecting is supposedly confined to the sheltered fearful types who toil in the lonely dark staring at colorful slips of paper. Just remember this, the fools who hurl these charges are the same fools who devote hours to mindless violent video games with nothing to show for their expense of time and money. Usually these folks are equally addicted to profane and sex-charged cartoons and motion pictures who spew a diet of everything out there is primitive and backward if it doesn't involve cursing, shooting, fornicating or killing.

So I guess I'll stay corny. And so will my children. We will enjoy stamps and the unique memories they create. KNS is here to help you create a few more.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thoughts About Starting a Stamp Club: Part 2

Where should I meet? It always best to meet at a neutral location such as a community center, library, recreation room, church area, etc. The only folks that seem to handle stamp clubs from the home is the homeschool people. Perhaps they have more practice with home events than most, but I highly recommend for most to meet somewhere more public.

Should I name my club? You can but it is not necessary or important unless the club is geared to a certain facet of stamp collecting like airmail or Spain, etc.

Do I need to be an expert on stamps? No. We can provide a great deal of information to help prepare a stamp club teacher or director. You simply need a monthly agenda. "Ok, class, this month we will examine the stamps of Italy and England.

What should my lesson plan or agenda look like? That is up to you. One important tip: teach to your supplies. You don't want to announce a month of stamps that have flowers on them and have few or no stamps with flowers. Choosing topical subjects can be limiting and sometimes self-defeating since it traps you into an area you might not be able to provide for the class. Review your supplies and build a lesson plan on what you have and not what you dream to have.

What should my class size be? I am not interested in limiting anyone from anything related to stamp collecting but sadly the smaller the class size the easier it is to maintain. Usually less than a dozen is best---not just for supply reasons but for time constraints. There will be lots of questions. You need the time to answer them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stamp Alphabet Series: I is For Italy

Idem - Means that a later stamp issue has the same characteristics as a previous issue.

Illustrated Covers - A cachet which has words and an illustration.

Imperforate - An absence of perforations or rouletting between a pane’s individual stamps.

Impression - Any printing that is embossed or stamped.

Imprimatur - The first sheets of stamps produced from an approved plate.

Imprint Block - A block from part of a sheet where the printer's name or imprint appears on the margin.

Inclusions - Substances included while making paper used in stamp production.

India paper - A thin, tough opaque printing paper typically used for striking die proofs.

Indicium - The imprint made by a postage meter or found on postal stationery.

Inland mail stamps - Stamps intended specifically for domestic use.

Inscription - Any letters, words and numbers appearing in a stamp’s design.

Intaglio - Italian for "in recess.'' The stamp’s image is produced by the recessed portion of a printing plate.

Invert - Refers to any part of a design is inverted in relation to the remaining design.

Interleaves - Tissue used between stamp album pages to prevent stamp contact.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Lucky Few: Brick & Mortar Stamp Stores

I grew up going to an actual stamp store. I used to walk up a hill every Saturday morning. The old guy who owned the store opened up at 8am and closed at Noon for the rest of the day. I had my Scott Catalog numbers written down and purchased the stamps right off the list. He always threw in a couple of stamps for free.

I went there for years until he died and the store closed down. I miss that old guy and I miss the live experience of shopping at a stamp store. There aren't very many of the those stores out there anymore. If you find one and it stocks what you need---then consider yourself lucky. Before I moved across the country I was fortunate to find one and I didn't care if its prices were higher than the internet especially when you factor shipping and the time you have to wait before you can get a certain task complete. It's worth it to shop there if nearby.

I'm not knocking the Internet stamp supply stores they often have better prices but then again they should be since there is very little overhead. In many many instances if it weren't for the Internet one would have to travel hundreds of miles just to get to a store. Where I live I literally have to go to another State just to reach a store. Quite frankly, with a full time job, 2 kids and a marriage, I don't have the time to spare to make such a journey. Heck who does?

I get emails from people who enjoy the live experience of stamping via stamp shows or flea markets---ironically most still don't have a stamp store in their community. Please understand the point of this article is not to promote stamp stores as a super great experience you cannot live without. More times than not it has been a wonderful experience and I enjoy including it fondly in my stamp memories. But I recognize stamp stores cannot always compete well with mail order/internet stores. What you do with your money is your business so I don't judge anyone on where they purchase their stamps or supplies.

Yet if you live close by a stamp store, go check it out. The people there often have decades of experience and usually enjoy speaking about the Hobby of Kings. It's a journey worth taking.