While National Stamp Collecting Month winds up I see two events that show how stamp collecting is a universal thing, with a wide reach and an irresistible grasp.
MLK Jr. Honored Philatelically
It may seem odd at times how stamp collectors, with their first day cover ceremonies, etc. seem to live life at a remove from reality. But covers like the Martin Luther King Jr. event cover make me think that collectors may experience current events and the history created from those events more intensely.
There are all sorts of souvenirs in collecting, but what other hobby allows one to have a precise record of a time and place of something momentous. The King memorial cover is canceled on the day the King monument in Washington DC was dedicated.
Black History Month Noted with Stamps
England's Black History Month is October, while the U.S.'s is February. The MLK memorial was dedicated during October's National Stamp Collecting Month though, after being postponed from due to Hurricane Irene. The USPS has now made a cover available that would make an impressive addition to a black history on stamps collection.
Meanwhile, across the pond, Jon Daniel had his exhibit Post Colonial -- Stamps From The African Diaspora run in the Stanley Gibbons flagship store during Black History Month to much positive notice.
As the USPS is going through financial agonies, one area that it should not withhold funds from is the promotion of National Stamp Collecting Month. Perhaps in the future they will take a page out of Gibbons’ book and sponsor an exhibit like Daniel’s, that sheds light on an area of history underrepresented in the history books. After all, collectors of U.S. stamps have long looked to the USPS to show us important people and events from our history.
Getting Black History Stamps
Why not enjoy the best of both worlds – National Stamp Collecting Month, U.S. and Black History Month U.K. and purchase black history stamps from the USPS -- they have a good selection of stamps that would fit into a black history/culture topical available, including Jazz, Barbara Jordan, Kwanzaa and Bearden art stamps.
One of the best additions to a Black History topical collection would be stamps featuring Barack Obama. Collectors are surprised to find that there are many stamps already issued to honor the president: the American Topical Association has a great handbook enumerating them for interested collectors. As the USPS has been soliciting ideas for living people on stamps, who knows but that President Obama might appear on one of our stamps in the near future.
Those looking for Black History stamps to add to their collections can find them in many subtopics, although there is a greater concentration in sports and music. Of course blacks have been honored in all walks of life, and the great variety can be seen thanks to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum where many great African Americans are featured on stamps in the exhibit The Black Experience: African-Americans on Postage Stamps.
Recently there was issued a Negro Leagues baseball commemorative; there will be a Willie Stargell commemorative released in the states in 2012. You can be sure other black sports heroes will follow on commemorative stamps.
Recent Black History on Stamps
Canada, which like the U.S. marks February as Black History Month also recently got in on the act with a stamp honoring baseball hero Fergie Jenkins, a Canadian who distinguished himself as a pitcher for a number of Major League Baseball teams including the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox.
Of course one of the pleasures of topical collecting is finding your topic in odd, off center philatelic areas. How about the letter carrier stamp of 1989, where one of the carriers is a black woman? Covers commemorating the tragedy of the space shuttle Challenger explosion depict the black astronaut Ronald McNair. With topical collecting the stamp subject doesn’t have to be famous, nor even on a stamp. Towering figures from distant history are fine for postal recognition, but history, black and otherwise, continues to be made every day and stamps are the proper messengers to note it in our lifetimes.