One of the well known things about stamp collecting is that it has a rich literature, on all aspects of the hobby from how to soak stamps to the collection of Tana Tuva postal history. There is no philatelic topic than someone hasn't written about.
But the irony is that the majority of the literature is tucked away in philatelic libraries that the average collector does not know how to access. The slightly more advanced collector knows that all it really takes is joining a stamp club or group like the American Philatelic Society. There are also dealers in philatelic literature who stock popular as well as more obscure works that can help one in his collecting pursuits.
Of course there are philatelic scholars and journalists who dig deeply into dusty philatelic tomes, the better to create their own works, grounded in the classics of philatelic research and scholarship. "Not my cup of tea," you say. "I collect stamps, not stories about stamps." Fair enough, but what about a good story behind the stamps you collect?
Big Stamp Stories and History
Maybe you collect zeppelin stamps. The crash of the Hindenburg is something you're more than familiar with. As you look at your collection, including the German airmail stamps of the thirties and a few covers flown on earlier flights of the zeppelin you stop to wonder what happened to the mail that was carried on the doomed flight of May 1937. Your answer can be found in any number of aerophilatelic publications. The American Air Mail Society is a good place to start your search.
Or perhaps you collect stamps and postal history from United States territories. Not a run of the mill area, historically speaking, you may have covers from the Indian Territories (IT). Your showing for more recent territorial items includes stamps from Alaska and Hawaii. It is common for collectors to delve into the history of the areas they collect. What are some interesting items from the early days of Hawaii? It so happens there is a rich area to explore in the so-called missionary stamps. These are so renowned that the USPS even commemorated these stamps with a souvenir sheet in 2001.
It is not difficult to find information about an area that has been brought out so dramatically into the light of day. But if you wanted to learn more you might examine auction catalogs featuring this material like that of the Ishikawa sale or Siegel's Honolulu Advertiser auction.
Picture the first day cover collector who has decided to collect examples of the Pony Express stamps of 1860. This short lived postal service tied into the growth of the U.S. has been fascinating stamp collectors for over 100 years. There are many non-first day covers, carried on commemorative reenactments of the original routes that ran in the days before the telegraph. Are these philatelic items worth adding to your collection? It is often examination of philatelic literature that prompts collectors to branch out and go deeper into their chosen area of interest.
Bits and Pieces of Philatelic History
There are even older areas that are under-examined, just as there are still rare and unusual stamps to be discovered and brought to light. This author even had an article centering on confusing cachets related to commemoration of a balloon flight in 1793, whereupon was carried what has been called by some the first piece of airmail.
But there is no reason to take a philatelic time machine to the past. Pop history is making inroads into stamp collecting, as stamps featuring Hawaiian shirts, surfboards, rock and jazz philatelic collections. This is clearly tomorrow's history in the making, and an area that is wide open for contributions from stamp collectors and philatelists who are investigating the stories behind their stamps, writing tomorrow's postal history for future generations of collectors.
Who knows, as you continue your readings in non-philatelic histories in the areas of your interest you may come up with an area that has never been covered from the philatelic point of view. In philatelic literature, as in stamps themselves, there are still discoveries to be made.