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. Soon I had accumulated so many I had to store them in a suitcase.

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!

des,VariousDocumentsPillbox 020

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. we accumulated so many that I ended up storing them in a suitcase.


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.

I wonder if this is worth anything?
I wonder if this is worth anything?

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.

des,VariousDocumentsPillbox 012

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 $1.10 Oh dear!  If I try to use them, the envelopes will resemble the one below.  This letter  was posted  by Rob’s father Alan to the family from Canada in the 1960’s.

There were more stamps on the back!
There were even more stamps on the back!

All offers for  our case of stamps, first day covers  and related material will be considered. The alternative is that we could wallpaper a room in our new house with them. Mind you, I suspect Rob will just hold onto the wretched things forever.


UPDATE – 2020 I have finally bought a sheet of stamps that offered good value for money.  Personalized, heart-shaped ones to celebrate Rob’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!

Perhaps I could follow the example of this clever person and paper a wall with our stamps!

I now collect antique pillboxes, hope the returns are better. You can see some of them HERE.


  1. Interesting story.
    The Stamp World is divided into amateurs (like myself) and a handful of professional (investors).
    The problems arise when the two are confused.
    Rather like the housing market is distorted by people who are investing in property.
    Oddly on my own blog, I was trying to write about the hazards of investment.
    You did it so much better.
    Best wishes.

    • Pauline

      Thanks Jon. Yes, I can see what you mean re the property market parallel. My little piece has had an enormous response…..close to 400 views in less than a day.

  2. Oh how misguided we can be! I grew up with four older siblings all of whom ‘collected’ stamps. I also became a collector when they would pass their ‘spares’ on to me. Eventually they all grew out of the hobby so I suddenly inherited a large and somewhat interesting collection. I always loved the foreign ones best especially if they were triangular in shape illustrated with exotic birds or animals. As others got to hear that I, also aged 7, was a ‘collector’ friends of my mother would pass on such gems as First Day Issues. I knew nothing about stamps though quickly learned where other countries were around the globe. I just I liked the pictures on them! I was excited about being given an envelope with a Qantas logo and the words Australia’s Overseas Airline ‘Inaugural Flight Round the World’! I duly tore off the two stamps from the right hand corner (the third one I already had) and stuck them on the page for Australia. Sadly I’d done the same with the 1st day issue for The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second! Understandably, one of my older brothers was very scathing at what I’d done! Well, how was I to know? I learned a quick lesson and never desecrated any more covers! Another envelope in my collection was sent by an elderly aunt living in Hertfordshire to my mother who was at the time visiting my brother in Perth Australia. It eventually caught up with mother some months later after her return home, rubber stamped on the front stating ‘Delayed en-route, Aircraft Hi-jack’! I have many other interesting commemorative ones from Australia, usually posted to us by my brother; Ayers Rock; or specially stamped ‘sent from Fremantle Museum WA’ which is my brother’s place of work. Other gems in my possession include ‘The 100th Royal Tournament, Earls Court 1990′ in which my Royal Marine Commando son was performing; ’50th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings 1994’ in which same son was also taking part; and a commemorative issue of Concorde’s Transatlantic New York to London Record Flight, signed by pilot Leslie Scott who lived in Sonning, and who I’d met through my brother, a friend of his. So much mail is ‘franked’ with the postage these days, but I still cannot resist tearing off an interesting stamp – though it is many years or perhaps even decades since I’ve actually stuck any into my album!

    • Pauline

      Ooh, what fascinating stuff, Marcia. And I’m glad I wasn’t the only stamp silly billy. At least you still have a proper collection, not piles and piles of increasingly worthless 198o’s sheets!!

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.