I started reading the novels of Lawrence Block in 2015. He has several great characters and his writing is crisp, clear, sometimes funny, sometimes deadly serious, but above all, really good.
One of the characters I gravitated to was Keller, the hit man whose life is lacking something. He tries to be a pet owner, and he tries romance. Neither of these things work out well for him. Eventually, he turns to stamp collecting to fill the void in his life. In between his various contracts, he finds time to amass a great collection of non US stamps prior to 1940. You should definitely read these books.
I don’t want you to read too much into that previous paragraph. I am not a hit man looking for a hobby. However, through great writing, I was influenced to start stamp collecting. If you’ve read my hobby blog, and the posts about inadvertent collections, and other collections, you know that I am predisposed to collecting anyway. (here, here, and here) I suspect all men are to some degree–cars, tools, sports cards, DVDs etc. That is a pretty sexist statement, but it isn’t meant to be. Maybe women are too, but I have never met one who would corroborate this–except a friend who had more than 100 bottles of nail polish and had to order a stand for all of them.
Reading through the Keller books, I learned a lot about stamp collecting. I learned about auctions, stamp magazines, approvals, and mounts. It all seemed quite interesting to me and though I managed to hold it off, the seed was planted.
I suppose if there had been a stamp dealer in my town, I would have found myself there was Saturday afternoon, or perhaps some day after work. However, while there are many stamp dealers, there are no retail locations here. An auction house just moved to town, but I am not at that stage yet.
I put my energy in other places. I took up cycling and enjoyed that. As a result, I went to Vietnam on a cycling holiday. While there, on more than one occasion, I was confronted with stamps as a souvenir. As the seed had already been planted, you can understand how this grabbed me. I thought that it was a fantastic idea for a souvenir. Since I was either on a bike or a small bus, I eventually dismissed the idea because I figured they would get damaged. The problem was that I really regretted it afterwards.
My regret was so great that I eventually succumbed to a bit of temptation and bought some stamp magazines in May of 2017. I bought 3 (an expensive British import, and two that were produced in Canada). I could not find the Linn’s that was referred to in the Keller books. I have read and re-read those magazines a number of times.
As a hobbyist who falls into the category of equipment lover, I was surpised at how little of that there was in those magazines. Now I consider it a good thing, but then, I was a little surprised. I didn’t really understand what mounts were and I was hoping the magazines would clear that up. It didn’t. I checked on-line, but it wasn’t particularly clear. I took out some stamp catalogues and a horrible book from the library (Stamp Collecting for Dummies–avoid it at all cost) but while I had a better idea, I still didn’t quite understand it.
One day, when I was leaving work early and had plans to meet up with some friends, I found myself with some time to kill, so I decided to go to a stamp dealer and see what mounts were and why some stamp albums were so much more expensive than others.
Sadly, it was a rainy Friday of a long weekend and all of the stamp dealers I went to were closed. I didn’t find anything out that I wanted to and was rather dispirited. You can read more about it in this post.
The only good thing that came of the whole thing was that Lawrence Block, the writer who has been instrumental in this new hobby I have undertaken, commented on my blog. It is not every day that a famous author comments on my blogs and I was so thankful that I silently forgave him for pushing me into another hobby.