Keller’s Fedora

Keller's Fedora (6): Block, Lawrence: 9781951939687: Amazon.com: Books

After sitting on my Amazon wish list for months (maybe more than a year) Lawrence Block’s latest Keller novella “Keller’s Fedora” was once again available in paperback. Because I had some gift card money left over from my birthday and not finding any cycling or exercise stuff I could afford (or didn’t need to try on first) I decided to splurge and get the book. In case you had forgotten, Keller is the paid assassin who is also a stamp collector. In case you had also forgotten, this was the character who got me into stamp collecting in the first place. My girlfriend is grateful that I decided to take up Keller’s hobby and collect stamps rather than take up his career and kill people for a living. I don’t bother arguing with her about which one is more lucrative.

I like the Keller novels and I have read all of them a couple of times. As far as assassins go, I would have to say Barry Eisler’s John Rain character is more interesting, but Keller gets good marks for being rather unique and somewhat less than the perfect killing machine.

Most of the reviews on Amazon focused on the fact that the book was rather short and that the trope of Keller’s fedora was a bit ridiculous. I understand the validity of the first complaint, but not the second. Keller has always been an introspective character who thought about a lot of other things to keep from thinking about his job. Focusing on his choice of hats and whether it made sense or how people reacted to it fit in perfectly with a man who had to occupy his thoughts somewhere. I am not into hats, but the idea of Keller wondering about detectives like Sam Spade and Mike Hammer and their relationship with the fedora seemed like a decent enough idea for me.

The story is vintage Keller and I don’t see it as marking a different path than what came before. Keller the hitman has a lot more to contend with in the new age of computer tracking and internet surveillance, but at least he exists in the real world. The writing is crisp and the scenes develop rapidly. What more can you ask for? I would have liked some more stamp moments, but since the author has moved on from stamp collecting, it is likely that this will feature less and less in future Keller adventures. It won’t go away completely, but I doubt it will occupy much of the story. Kind of sad in a way.

As for the length of the novella, I think this isn’t a bad compromise. Keller adventures were originally short stories and they don’t really need to be 300 pages long. Additionally, with Amazon printing to order, this might be a good way for a lot of books to get made. If you have a digital subscription, wouldn’t you love to read short books by your favorite authors? I could read the whole thing on my commute to and from work. If it gets me more stories by these authors, why wouldn’t that be a good thing?

It cost me about 14 dollars and I think the price point is a bit high, but I am not the one making that decision. It would have been much cheaper to have the electronic version of the book, but I haven’t had much luck with my kobo lately. When the library finally opens for real visitors, hopefully someone there can show me how to borrow books for free.

I enjoyed the book and always like the adventures of Keller.

Arrival

If after reading my last post, you were fretting like me, I just wanted to write to reassure you that my stamps have arrived. In fact, they arrived just one day apart.

I must say that it was wonderful to receive the stamps and place them in my albums. It is akin to finishing a jigsaw puzzle when I put the last stamp in its mount on the page, or get the last stamp in a country for my 1970’s collection.

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.

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.

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?

Auction Woes

assorted colored vietnam postage stamps

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

With only one day to go until it ended, I succumbed to the temptation of another stamp auction.  This one had lots of early Canadian stamps that would go so well in my collection, and help me fill up all those empty pages at the beginning of the book.

It sounded great. However these was some reluctance on my part.  The shipping cost was rather high.  It was about seven US dollars, plus 50 cents for the next stamp, and 50 cents for every subsequent stamp.  I know most of these people send it with postage they got at a reduced price, so I thought this was a bit out of line.

The temptation proved to be too great and I plunged in on the night before it ended. I reasoned that I had better win a bunch of stamps to make it worth the shipping costs.  So I dropped a bunch of bid on the stamps I thought I could afford.  I also put down some higher maximum bids to discourage poachers.

This morning, just after I got to work, my phone dinged that I had been outbid on one of the items. This continued throughout the day.  By the time I got back home, my bidding had been whittled down to three items.  It was then I felt a bit of a conundrum. The three stamps didn’t even amount to 50 cents.  However, I would have to pay 8 dollars in shipping.  I either had to up my bids on some of the items, or just accept it.

Well, before long, I was outbid on the remaining three items and I was free of this auction. I wanted the stamps, but I wasn’t able to get them.  I have to say I was relieved.

My First Auction

assorted colored vietnam postage stamps

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

It wasn’t my first….exactly.  I bought some stamps from eBay that were being auctioned.  I was the only bidder and won the lot (all the Italian stamps published in 1970) for the minimum bid.  So why make a  fuss over this one?  This was the first one where I had active competition.

So, I have bought a few stamps on HipStamp.  I have enjoyed the experience–except waiting for my stamps to appear.  I have bought a number of stamps for my 1970 collection, and despite it being in US dollars, have felt okay about the money I have spent.

I had never gotten into an auction though.  I am not really up on the prices and I don’t want to blow my budget.  In this case, some Canadian stamps were up that I knew had a heftier price tag, and I want to see how much of that album I can fill up.  These were pre 1935 stamps.  I didn’t have any of these in my album.

So, I took a deep breath and started bidding on four lots.  In some cases, I was beaten automatically by pre-registered bids.  In other cases, I had to wait a day before someone beat my bid.  Like most of us, I worried that someone was just bidding me up to raise the price–but then I thought they might be thinking the same about me.

Another bad thought struck me.  If I won only one of the lots, then I would have to pay shipping which almost equaled what I paid for the stamps.  Then again, I worried that if I became “desperate” to win the lots, I would over spend.  I have to admit, it caused some inner turmoil.

In the end, I waited until the last day and put in my final bid.  If it got beat, then I would just accept it and try again later.  Luckily, I won the four lots I bid on at a price I was quite comfortable with.  I even found a few stamps by the same seller to include in the sale to rationalize the shipping cost.

Will I do it again?  Absolutely.