After becoming conversant with the ins and outs of basic stamp collecting and serving stamp collectors through work with a number of stamp dealers, including Jacques Minkus, it became clear that there was much more to the hobby than filling albums with stamps.
The Philatelic Cover
One of the first thing a new collector discovers, aside from stamps, are first day covers. As it was the early 1980s when I was getting back into stamp collecting after a number of years I found that first day covers were heating up. There were more cachet makers than ever before and this brought a vitality to the scene which had been dominated by a few companies for decades.
So I took it upon myself to create my own cachets. I was lucky to find an artist who could bring to fruition the ideas I had for cachets and we produced them for the Brooklyn Bridge stamp and the bicentennial of flight ballooning stamps of 1983. On my own I produced three cachets for the American Air Mail Society's diamond jubillee at NOJEX, a major New Jersey stamp show. While my ballooning cachets were featured in the American First Day Cover Society's journal First Days, my enthusiasm was short lived.
It had quickly became clear that the creation and marketing of FDCs would take up more time than I was willing to invest in this single corner of the stamp collecting world. At the same time I saw -- through philatelic writers I met -- that I could expose myself to a much more varied segments of the hobby through writing.
The Value of Philatelic Literature
Philatelic literature and philatelic items, including covers and postal history have a chicken or egg relationship. Which comes first is up to the philatelist/stamp collector. It worked both ways for me, as I would read about an area -- first flight covers for example -- and then proceed to collect them. On the other hand, I could collect certain items -- colorful flown balloon covers -- and then go to the available literature to learn more about them.
Perhaps jumping off from readings to collecting various areas of philately was just an excuse to go back to collecting the world. Obviously it's a lot less collecting than amassing all the stamps from all the world's nations, but still there is a more inclusive feel than specializing in one area.
Stamp Limits Reality
But by the 80s there were very few still clinging to the illusion that they could handle collecting the world -- there were far too many stamps being issued. It became clear that specialization, which had previously been mostly the thing for experienced philatelists, now had to become the way for the average collector in one form or another, quite often topical collecting.
I saw that there are so many areas of philately, it would not hard for me to choose one. I chose airmail. And the common practice of having side interests allows for the fact that collectors can add anything they desire to their collections, actually creating more of an accumulation, though the difference between a collection and an accumulation is elastic.
A few collectors, seemingly with unlimited time and funds might try to tackle the world, while the rest of us would have to satisfy ourselves with less. And truly, there is little sadder in the world of stamp collecting than an album that is spotty, with only a few stamps appearing on the pages of each country.
I did not want a spotty album collection. What collector does? And I recognized that I was more interested in the stories behind the stamps than I was in simply buying stamps and mounting them in albums. So I guess one might call my accumulation a survey collection. I have Confederate States of America (CSA) stamps from the U.S. Civil War and I have stamps picturing Winnie The Pooh and Mickey Mouse. I have covers that traveled on the German Zeppelin Hindenburg and plate number coils that picture the classic small town front porch with the American flag waving from one of its columns. I have V-Mail, the microfilm type mail system used during World War II to reduce bulky mail bags and I have stamps picturing French aeronaut/author/flyer of mail along the Aeropostale route, St. Exupery. Like all stamp collectors then, I have a small history of the world at my fingertips, arranged only according to one rule: my own.