Reading Material

Perhaps it was a coincidence, or perhaps the universe planned it that way. Just as I finished reading Lawrence Block’s book Generally Speaking (a collection of his columns from Linn’s Stamp Magazine) my girlfriend gave me a delayed Christmas present (thank you Amazon) of this book.

I am quite excited to dive in and read it. If I manage to do so, it will be the first book I start (and hopefully finish) in 2021, I have several books that were held over from last year (including Block’s) but I have cleared off all of them except one.

I have a number of books on my Amazon wish list that I want to read, but this is the first anyone has ever bought for me. Perhaps my other family members do not understand the pursuit of philately as well as my girlfriend. Perhaps, my girlfriend is the only one who listens to me.

I enjoyed the Block book, but I think I would have enjoyed the monthly columns more. I cannot find a copy of LInn’s in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and can’t fork over that much money for a subscription without ever seeing a sample copy–I asked, but they were unwilling. I am saving my money for stamps. I would recommend the book.

After Midnight

I found myself staying up very late last night thinking about buying stamps. I am still working on my 1970’s project and I got caught in a trap of comparing various sellers and their shipping fees. If I am going to buy a bunch of stamps, I want to pay the least possible. I also want to get as complete a collection from a country as possible. There’s nothing worse than getting the whole country except for one or two stamps.

It is funny how some sellers charge a couple of cents for each new purchase whereas others charge 50 cents an item. That would certainly add up. I don’t begrudge them the money–it is a business after all. However, I think that fee should be for every ten new items or so.

It was fun searching, but I didn’t pull the trigger on any deals.

Christmas Philately…..sort of

Christmas only brought one new philatelic item. A few books were on my list, as were subscriptions to magazines I shouldn’t collect. What did appear for this boy who was somewhere between naughty and nice was a new magnifying glass. Growing up a magnifying glass was mostly used to burn holes in wood and paper, so having one for my stamps seems novel.

I also took the time to assemble a shelf in my spare room. I will devote several shelves to my stamps, as well as my study of Japanese, and a few travel souvenirs. It isn’t organized yet, but hopefully by tomorrow or the next day. Having seen some fantastic stamp rooms, I am envious.

I haven’t made many stamp purchases as Christmas and purchasing my cycling trainer took precedence. I am also hoping that the new year will once again provide us with stamp shows and other opportunities to enjoy the hobby.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Also, Happy New Year and hoping it is better in all respects.

What philatelic items did you receive or purchase for yourself?

A Book I Have Started Reading

This is not a book review. For it to be a book review, I would have finished the entire book. I haven’t done that yet. I will do that, I just haven’t done that yet. Instead, this is a book introduction.

Anyone who has read some of the previous posts knows that the writing of Lawrence Block got me into stamp collecting. He made it sound interesting again. He wasn’t wrong. I am enjoying the hobby and enjoying that it comes and goes in spurts. I am interested in it for months and then there are months that my attention is diverted elsewhere. You can probably already tell that by the frequency in which I write these posts.

I discovered quite by accident that Mr. Block wrote a column for Linn’s Stamp News for some three years. I had heard of the magazine in his books about Keller the stamp collecting assassin, but never actually read one of them. I checked into a subscription, but never got beyond that. I discovered this book while coasting around Amazon. I search Amazon and YouTube in much the same way. I find lots of cool stuff, but I never know how I got there. That’s why my wish list and my watch later areas are full of stuff.

I’ve read about a quarter of the book and I am enjoying it much like I enjoyed the Keller books. Mr. Block has a straightforward style that is compelling. He gives it to the reader straight. How else could he explain that by the time this book was published that he had given up stamp collecting and sold his collection.

There appear to be a lot of great books about stamps out there, On my other blog I wrote about the One Cent Magenta. That was a more traditional review. I probably should link some of my posts about stamps and philately that are on my other blog. I will link that post and the adventurous amongst you can type in stamps in the search bar. You will find something.

The book contains the 33 columns he wrote and some excerpts from adventures of the aforementioned Keller–probably his stamp collecting and not his killing. They cover a range of topics and are more personal than historical, perhaps more autobiographical or anecdotal. Being a fan of his other writing makes this even more accessible.

I am enjoying this book and plan to read others in the new year.

Do you have any recommendations of some great books about stamps, stamp collecting/philately?

The last stamp needed

My effort to collect every stamp from 1970 got a boost today.  The last stamp I needed to finish my collection of Egyptian stamps for that year finally arrived….and what a strange trip it has been.

I bought what was advertised as the complete year on Ebay.  Sadly, it was missing two stamps, one of which was quite expensive and one of which was moderately priced.  I should have returned the whole set and written a bad review of the seller.  Instead, I took a substantial discount and bided my time.

I managed to collect the more expensive one a few months later.  The less expensive one proved to be a bit more elusive.  There were lots of sellers, but it was hard to justify paying as much for shipping as it was for the stamp.  I had to wait until I found a seller who also had some other things that I wanted.

Come to think of it, maybe that is the ploy.  They have a substantial shipping cost, which forces me to buy more to “make it worth my while”.  I should probably feel a bit duped, but instead, I am so happy to tick off that country in my collection.

I found a seller that was having a sale and bought a bunch of Canadian stamps to fill in some holes in my collection.  This seller also had the elusive Egyptian stamp.  I probably spent more than I wanted to–but that happens all the time.  It happens on the computer and it happens at shows.

The stamp itself is quite interesting and surprisingly large.  It might very well be the largest single stamp I have in my collection.

Stamp Mystery Bag

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The envelope the stamps came in.

I have been reading that Covid 19 and the lockdown has been a boon to stamp collecting.  I am not sure whether that is true or not, but I do know that I have ordered more stamps than usual, and that I am spending more time with my collection.  However,  maybe cabin fever has gotten to me.  I am not really sure.  I did something I had not planned to do.  I bought a stamp mystery collection from Ebay.  I don’t know whether it is because of Covid 19 or because the stamps that I ordered for my collection were taking a long time to arrive.  I have been working from home and needed something to do.  So I took a chance because I saw the advertisement while I was playing one of those flash games.

I have seen these advertisements in stamp magazines for the years that I have been interested in this hobby.  I would love a huge box of 20 thousand stamps to explore, but I don’t know what I would do with them afterwards.  That being said, I decided to make this blog (though I considered making a YouTube video first) to show you what I got and maybe you can make your own decision about this.

So, I chose the least expensive lot.  It was listed for 11.99 Canadian and shipping within Canada was included.  I put it in my watch list and was going to come back to it later.  I recieved an email the next day offering me a ten percent discount.  So, now the price was listed at 10.79. (7.73 US today)   I decided to take the gamble.

So this is what I got, and the prices people are trying to get on Hipstamp.  Of course, you can find better deals, but we need some baseline.  The prices I am  listing are sometimes approximations and are in US dollars and do not include a shipping fee.

All stamps were MNH except one of the Canadian stamps and the package was secure.

  • Norway 318 -320 (4 to 5 dollars)
  • Norway 363  ($0.25)
  • Armenia 452-456 ($1.32)
  • Armenia 464-471 ($0.90)
  • Tanzania 816-822 ($7.00)
  • Canada 191 ($0.75)
  • Canada 215 (heavily used)  ($1.50)
  • San Marino 39  I could only find a used version, perhaps a little more than a dollar
  • Iran 1967 (0.75)
  • India C7 ($2.00)
  • Mexico 392-392  I couldn’t find an example of this one, but I consider this a decent find.

So, how did I do?  I think I came out ahead.  At the very least, I don’t feel like I was ripped off.  I have watched a few videos on YouTube which seem to suggest that is a likely scenario.  More importantly,  I enjoyed the thrill of opening the package and discovering what was included.  I appreciate that these stamps came as if I were at a show and going through the index boxes rather than a pile of stamps on paper in a box.

Would I do it again?  I think I would.  I might even go for the bigger batch next time.  If you are interested the headline was “Huge Dealer Liquidation.” and the seller was dr.note. I paid for these stamps myself and I am in no way affiliated with the seller.  I just appreciate not being taken and I enjoyed the experience.

I would love to hear your comments on the stamps and how you think I did.  I would also love to read about your experiences buying mystery bags.

Growing Interest

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I have stumbled upon a number of blogs exclaiming that the quarantine, or physical distancing, or isolation has led to an increase in stamp collecting.  Sounds good to me.

It makes sense.  There isn’t much on TV and even Netflix can become tiring.  It isn’t surprising that people are choosing calm quiet hobbies to divert themselves.  I haven’t had time to look at my stamp collection, but I can relate to how calming it must be.

I have been busy with a long “to do” list every day.  I’ve been working from home and once I cut out the lengthy commuting time, there are so many projects I can get completed.  Adding to that, I have a lot of other competing hobbies.  Ones that I didn’t really have enough time for, I seem to have time for.

I’ve also had time to ride my bike on weekdays.  This is a luxury I have never had before.  For ESL teachers, Spring was a time to work more and earn money for a vacation when the weather is bad.

On a more stamp friendly note, I have purchased a few stamps for my collection online, but they haven’t arrived yet.  Maybe when they do, I will feel the pull of the collection once more.

Have you had more time for your stamp collection?  Do you know someone who had had their interest rekindled?

They Cancelled the Show

stamps iranOf course with the Coronavirus, or Covid-19, they  had to cancel the stamp and coin show.  It just that twice a year I look forward to going.  The atmosphere is great and I usually make some good progress on my 1970’s project.  I also get tempted by lots of other shiny things that are not at all connected to my project and cause me to spend money that I shouldn’t–but that probably happens to all of us.

Instead, I am spending lots of time online looking at stamps to buy and wondering if the shipping cost is making it too expensive?  Then I try to group a bunch of stuff together…and then I end up spending too much money, or abandoning the idea till another day.

I am keeping busy today by updating my stamp have and don’t have list for the 1970’s project.  I would have done it just before the show…but there was no show.  I wish there were a program that could make a better checklist for me. Maybe if I forked out the money for EZstamp.  If that price wasn’t in US dollars I probably would have done in months ago.

Happy collecting everyone.  I am sure more people are finding time to devote to their stamps now that we are locked inside.  I know I am.

Most Recent Purchase:  about twenty stamps from Iran for the 1970’s project.  They might take a while to arrive, but I’ve got patience.

Finds from the Box of Stamps (one)

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Having received a box of stamps from a friend, I have decided to write a little bit about what I find in the box.  This idea is similar to the fantastic YouTube channel Exploring Stamps–if you have never seen it, you should definitely check it out–but won’t be as extensive or nearly as well researched.

I haven’t gone through the box, really.  I have taken a cursory glance and pulled out a couple of interesting things that I want to share with you.

The first is the 1972-73 Harris Catalog.  I love looking through catalogs of models, toys, book clubs and pretty much anything else.  Coming across this catalogue was quite awesome.  The black and white pages are filled with fantastic adds for collections by country at what seem like fantastic prices now.  The book also has individual stamps and small sets as well.

I especially appreciate how inexpensive the accessories (binders, magnifiers, stock books, and tweezers.  In retrospect, these cheap prices probably weren’t cheap back then, but considering how much things cost today, they are totally interesting.

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The second item is a lovely credit voucher for a Canadian stamp company that lasted until 2017–at least the last of its stock was auctioned off then.   From all accounts, at one time, this was a company that mailed out tonnes of stamps every day and employed more than 100 people.  Amazing!

The box has many more stories to tell.

A Shoebox Full of Stamps

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When one of my friends heard about my “new” hobby of stamp collecting, he related that his mother used to collect stamps but that she sold her collection before they moved. He also related that she had given his son a few of the stamps she didn’t sell.  We talked about it briefly and then moved on to other topics.  This was probably almost a year ago and I didn’t think of it much.  This move happened long before I took up stamp collecting.

Well, on Thursday, while I was out with my two best friends, sitting on the patio of a run down, but cool for it’s anti hipster vibe, that same friend said,  “I have a gift for you.”

It wasn’t my birthday, and I don’t recall doing anything that warranted a gift of any kind. However, it would be rude to say no to a gift.  He handed me a shoe box and told me to open it.

From the photo above, you can see that what he gave me was a shoebox full of stamps. We went over the story of his mother and her collection and his son’s reaction to the gift.  It turns out that he wasn’t interested and they languished away somewhere.  In a recent purge, they were rediscovered.  His son still had no interest, so he allowed them to be given to me.

I was flabbergasted–and I do not use that term lightly. My friend said that these were ones that she didn’t sell and I shouldn’t expect to come across anything of great value.  I was just so glad to be thought of.  I am also attracted to the mystery of it.  Even if there is nothing of “value” in monetary terms, I am sure I will find some stamps that I think are interesting.  That is really what I really value.  It might even open up new areas of collecting for me.

I haven’t looked through the box at all. I got home late that night and went to bed.  The next night, I was exhausted from the night before and went to bed and slept way too long.  I am battling a cold and I am trying to recover.

I am really looking forward to looking through the box. Based on the volume, I am sure it will take me most of the autumn and winter to get through it.

Has this ever happened to you?