But from writers like Ayn Rand, to rock stars like Feddie Mercury, to Dracula himself (yes, Bela Lugosi was an ardent philatelist), to tough guy actor Ernest Borgnine, to president of France Nicolas Sarkozy, to golden age of collecting philatelist-in-chief Franklin Roosevelt, it is easy to see that there is no one type of stamp collector. It is the great variety of methods of collecting that attract so many: collect anything you want and as much or as little of it as you like. Spend a dollar a month on your collection or $10,000. It’s up to you, with no one to dictate otherwise.
What types of stamp collectors are there? In fact there is some truth to the various stereotypes, although for the purposes of hype, humor and entertainment the negative aspects are always exaggerated. This has been the way of popular humor since the then-new mildly cruel satire of Saturday Night Live that debuted in the 1970s right up to today’s interactive gossip sites like Gawker that encourage commenters to take their best shots at stumbling celebrities and those that don’t fit the Gawker model of hipness.
The latest shot across the bow of the ship of philately was seen on ABC's show No Ordinary Family. When a wife doesn't want her superpowered husband to continue his hobby, vigilantism, she says she wishes he'd get a nice hobby, like stamp collecting. Her partner at the bio lab where she works replies: "You don't want to be with a stamp collector: their fingers are sticky and their tongues are always dry." Personally, I’ve known a lot of stamp collectors; none of them fit that description. But the real collector types are easy enough to see, if we look.
The Lone WolfThis type has become less visible with the instant communication of the Internet. Message boards and chat rooms have brought many Lone Wolves out of their stamp dens to gain both knowledge and items for their collections through interaction with like-minded collectors. If he wants, the LW can maintain an air of anonymity online, an aspect valuable to many collectors who avoid publicly advertising their holdings or buying habits.
The JoinerThis type of stamp collector realizes the benefit of being in a stamp club, for companionship, gaining knowledge of his area of collecting, adding to his collection through trade and barter and the pleasure of giving back to his hobby through volunteerism. The Joiner is a cog in organized philately and in contributing to club newsletters and events he benefits the hobby in general.
The Everything CollectorThis collector is an endangered species. Still called the worldwide collector or general collector, the last twenty-five years has only intensified the impossibility of collecting everything issued by all nations of the world. The sheer number of new issues is the culprit: the money needed to complete a collection of any given year’s stamp issues has driven a once large group of collectors into a small cult who believe that collecting the entire world is still fair game.
The Weekend CollectorThis is often the way many begin their hobby: Stealing time from the household chores to take a trip to the local post office for new issues or going to local stamp shows held in school gymnasiums, motel conference rooms or VFW halls. Savvy spouses know this can be the beginning of stamp widowhood and at this point start laying down the law for the hubbies that may eventually think that adding a fifty cent Columbian to his album is more important than cutting the lawn.
The SpecialistThe Specialist is a double edged sword for the dealer. He is easy to provide for because there is no doubt about what he wants. Whether air mail stamps, a particular country or a topical like guns on stamps, the dealer can supply material to the specialist. The problem is the area of specialization may be limited, and hence, so too the dealer’s sales. Better for the dealer is the next collector type, who is less particular about the type of philatelic items he adds to his collection.
The Magpie CollectorThis type of collector may be a sort of frustrated worldwide collector who realizes the folly of trying to collect all of everything. And like his namesake he collects whatever strikes his fancy. Perhaps he believes that variety is the spice of collecting. The MC has the ability to put together interesting and eclectic collections, that may have meaning to no one but him. But that’s OK. Dealers can always make a sale to the MC, though those sales may not be as significant as those to the Specialist, who, to do right by his collection must eventually buy high priced scarce and rare material.
The Serious CollectorJust what the name says -- a collector who wants to put together a serious collection of stamps or other philatelic items like covers, errors and other specialty items. Serious collecting can bleed into stamp investing with ease, usually signaled by the collector beginning to turn over fairly recently acquired philatelic items for profit. Most who exhibit their collections are SC’s. If you see the words serious collectors wanted in dealer ads in the philatelic press or online, know that it means collectors willing to spend big bucks with me wanted.
The Junque CollectorThere are those who believe quality, condition and scarcity don’t matter. They will buy any old philatelic junk -- though out of politeness it is sometimes referred to as junque -- as long as the price is right. Surely value will go up after time? Well, no. The way to view these collectors is as though they are asleep and having a very pleasant dream. Don’t disturb them. After all, if they are enjoying themselves who is to call them wrong? Perhaps their Iceman will never cometh to show them reality. But I would hate to be around if he does.
There are subgroups to the above collector types. It would be quite an undertaking to list them all, from aardvarks to Zzyzx Road topical collectors; from American history to zeppelin stamps collectors; from air mail flights to Zimbabwe collectors. And on and on, with your imagination the only limit.