I used to be a stamp collector.
When I was young, I dutifully collected all US stamps (yes, I had one small album of foreign stamps, but didn’t keep it up). It was easy then, as stamps were cheap: 5c, 7c, 8c, 13c, 15c. Postage meters weren’t as common, and it was easy to get cancelled stamps. I would even update my own albums, and would even get the Scotts Catalog to number everything.
As I got older, collecting got more expensive, but I kept it up. Stamps weren’t self-adhesive back then (the first self-adhesive US stamp came out in 1974, but weren’t issued regularly until 1989), and the most “designs” in an attached group were 4. This means you could easily build your collection by buying blocks-of-4, which at 22c×4 wasn’t that bad. Yes, there were the occasions $5 to $10 stamps (duck stamps were the most expensive), but it was easy to keep up.
In the mid-1990s, stamp collecting got even more expensive. Special issues and self-adhesives means that you typically now needed to buy sheets of 20 or 40, and at prices on the order of 23c to 29c, it started to add up. So, I stopped adding to my collection. But I still do find stamps fascinating, and most people don’t see some of the neat commemoratives that are out there. I’m not even sure kids are brought up with stamp collecting these days: can you even soak a self-adhesive stamp off an envelope? How much stamped mail do people get? Kids today are used to email, and there’s nothing to collect there.
I mention this because of an article in today’s USA Today. The article refers to a debate in the philately community about whether the Forever Stamp will hurt or help the hobby. The stamp, which can be used indefinitely to mail a first-class letter, regardless of rate changes, goes on sale April 12 for 41 cents. The price of a first-class stamp rises from 39 cents to 41 cents May 14.
The USPS has indicated commemoratives aren’t going anywhere (in fact, they are even coming out with Star Wars Stamps (USPS teaser)). Still, some collectors say they fear the forever stamp may become so popular that consumers will buy fewer commemoratives, and that with softer demand, a smaller number may be designed and printed. An editor of a stamp publication is quoted as saying “Collectors want to see commemoratives in the mail and used and popular. If they become an unpopular option, there will be fewer commemorative stamps.”
To my eyes, that’s a misunderstanding. True collectors buy the stamps when they come out. They actually want fewer stamps out there, because that makes them rarer. That’s why current stamps are typically, at best, worth face value. There are just too many of them printed.
So… to ellicit some discussion on this… what do (or did) you collect, do you still collect it, and why?