AN EARLY STAMP OF STUPIDITY
At the age of seven I decided to become a stamp collector. In a generous act of encouragement I was given a stamp album assembled over many years by an older cousin. I cut out the largest and most exotic of his stamps, trimmed off their ragged white edges, and pasted them into my own book.
This act of desecration left me burdened with guilt. In fact, stamps have continued to be a cause of worry to me ever since. The horror of a stamp investment folly in the early 1980s has never left me.
Investing in stamps was certainly not my idea. My husband Rob met some character claiming to have made a fortune buying sheets of new stamps and re-selling them a year or two later.
‘He actually retired on stamps’, Rob told me, as he scribbled down figures. ‘I think we’ll buy one hundred of every stamp issue, ten first day covers and ten souvenir packs.’ He slipped an arm around me, and I began to feel uneasy:
‘Now there’s no post office near my office, so this will have to be your job. You can pop out in your lunch break. Besides, you were a stamp collector once weren’t you?’
‘Well, not really Rob…’ But he wasn’t listening, he was too busy working out our projected profits on his calculator.
The lady at the Post Office soon realized what I was up to. She said that people like me were ruining the market for bonafide collectors and that I was wasting my time….it would take a hundred years for my stamps to rise above face value. I pretended not to take any notice, but I already had a nasty feeling she might be right.
By this time, Australia Post had realized they were onto a winner. There were new issues nearly every week, some in sets of half a dozen different denominations. My wages would vanish before I even got to the first day covers. I felt they were mocking me with their wretched packaging. FUN??? I don’t think so!
Rob inspected everything with an eagle eye, and complained at the slightest tear or crease;
‘Tell the lady at the post office that you need perfect sheets.’ he would say. ‘And ask her not to smudge the postmarks on the first day covers.’
Of course, if I did breathe a word of complaint the wretched woman would lose her temper completely and snap:
‘This is not a designated philatelic sales centre’. Well why did they stock the bloody things then?
My worst moments were when Rob would shake his head and say:
‘I’m sorry, these will all have to go back – the perforations have been damaged .’
It was a nightmare. Lunchtimes became the most stressful part of my day as I battled to fill Rob’s orders. The stamp lady said it was selfish of me to come in the lunch hour because she had ‘normal’ customers to serve.
Storage of our investment became a problem in itself. Rob worried a lot about burglars and silverfish, but by far his biggest fear was mildew. Whenever I brought home a bottle of pills (an increasingly frequent occurrence), he stole the packet of silica gel for the stamp drawer – better a soft pill than a mouldy souvenir pack.
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was my salvation. A first day cover was issued to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his air mail delivery from Australia to the United Kingdom. We sent off ten covers for hand stamping in London (well I did). This was to be Rob’s most ambitious philatelic venture.
Unfortunately we were away when the envelopes came back, and they lay in our letter box throughout a wild storm. We found them in a sodden wad at the bottom of the box. All the hand stampings had run. Some of the envelopes disintegrated when Rob tried to separate them. He salvaged one that wasn’t too bad.
Rob was so upset that it tainted the whole stamp business for him. The next time I moaned about buying new issues he said:
‘Don’t worry about it anymore darling, I’ve decided we’ll buy oil shares from now on.’
My word it was a relief. As far as I know, the only set of our stamps that have increased in value are the caricatures of Aussie sporting personalities, issued in 1981. They are being advertised on eBay for the astonishing sum of ….. $3. Well that’s nearly double in just thirty four years. I could flood the market with the amount we have.
NOTE: I fear that inflation has seriously eroded our philatelic asset. In 1980 an ordinary postage stamp cost 22 cents. It has since risen to 70 cents. Oh dear! If I try to use them, the envelopes will resemble the one below. This letter was posted by Rob’s father from Canada in the 1960’s.
All offers for our case of stamps, first day covers and related material will be considered.
UPDATE – 2020 I have finally bought a sheet of stamps that offered good value for money. Personalized, heart-shaped ones to celebrate my partner’s 70th birthday during the Covid19 lock-down. I secretly sent some to friends and relatives who posted them back on cards. Such a lovely surprise for the birthday boy!
I now collect antique pillboxes, hope the returns are better. You can see some of them HERE.
FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A (SYMPATHETIC) COMMENT IN THE BOX BELOW. DON’T FORGET TO COMPLETE THE ANTI-SPAM SUM, OR YOUR COMMENT WILL DISAPPEAR, JUST LIKE OUR INVESTMENT.