It started in 1981. I'd like to report it has been going strong since then, but it's had a number of quiet years.
But stamp collecting, aside from an enjoyable hobby is also a state of mind. It is as simple or as difficult as the individual wishes to make it. And stamp collecting isn't one to have parades, or set off skyrockets even for the yearly National Stamp Collecting Month, observed in the U.S. every October. It's mostly a reserved bunch who engage in the hobby. If you've ever handled a stamp of greater value, you know that noise and distraction are not things you want around at those moments.
Those who become serious stamps collectors -- for the sake of argument let's say collectors of more than just what they can pick up at the post office -- will tell you that the hobby has genuine therapeutic value. Although there have been no scientific studies, there is little doubt that if you are looking for something to reduce your blood pressure, stamp collecting is for you.
A great partier, encompassing all that the word has come to mean, Nicolas Sarkozy was tamed -- to the delight of his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy -- by philately, which had a calming and therapeutic effect upon him.
The portrayal of stamp collectors in society and popular media is almost never a good, nor a realistic one. Contrary to Mr. Sarkozy's temperament, we are often portrayed as loners and anti-party. While there may be an element of truth to this, the exaggerated misanthrope image that portrays us in popular culture is one that has stuck over the years.
Add the World of Stamp Collecting to Your World
But in a world where the individual has little control over change, there can be something satisfying in having a private world -- in the form of your stamp collection -- completely at your command. You can create a peaceful page populated with stamps of Great Britain and Ireland. Stamps for Palestine and Israel can't take up arms against each other in your album.
Am I saying that stamp collecting is a utopian hobby? It's pretty close. On the Internet chat boards the back and forth about a stamp or cancel may get passionate, but the verbal abuse quotient is remarkably low, compared to most online sites.
What then can you do to mark National Stamp Collecting Month? Well, if you've read this far you have an interest in stamp collecting, though perhaps not too deep. Still, you are curious. There are a few things you might do to get a real taste of stamp collecting; a sample before you buy the whole meal:
Get a philatelic publication and read it through -- There will be terms you are unfamiliar with. Believe it or not, beyond buying stamps and putting them in an album there is a learning curve. So don't expect to understand everything you read. Read more for the tone and the subject matter, rather than technical details. If you like what you see you can find stamp glossaries around the Internet to answer any lingering questions you have.
Go to a stamp club meeting -- You can find listings for meetings in your area in your local paper or on online bulletin boards. Or perhaps you have a friend who collects stamps. Accompany him to his next meeting, hopefully a show and tell type, where you can see what others collect and why what they collect excites them.
Go to a stamp show; the bigger the better -- One of my first stamp shows, when I was still philatelically green behind the ears included a celebrity cachet maker, an exhibit of Scott #C3a, the Inverted Jenny stamp, international first day of issue ceremonies, over 100 dealers, collector exhibits ranging from a topical collection featuring murder on stamps to zeppelin flight covers, and a major auction featuring rare stamps from around the world, among other features. Yes, it was too much for a new collector, though it gave a great picture of the vast variety available to stamp collectors.
If you already collect, add another area to your pursuits -- You don't eat the same dinner every night, so why limit your stamp collecting activities to one area? One fun thing to do is to add a complimentary area: If you collect cats on stamps, add dogs. If you collect airmail flight covers, perhaps you could add mail carried on trains and highway post offices. You could call it Planes Trains and Automobiles and the Mail. Or you might just go in a completely new direction. That's completely allowed in stamp collecting. And it's certainly an easy thing to do, with the great variety that is laid out before stamp collectors.