Saturday 17 October 2009

Collector! Write the story of your collection

For many years Stamp Clubs and Philatelic Societies have noted a downward trend in membership and – what is worse – fewer applications for membership. The usual response has been that we, the active collectors, must do something in order to create an interest for collecting stamps among youth. The underlying assumption is that despite the fact that many a young collector give up stamp collecting after a couple of years there is a good chance that some of them will return to stamp collecting later in their lives when time and opportunity permits.

The problem is that this recipe is no longer a workable one. Too few boys and girls show an interest in stamp collecting. Competition from other leisure- time activities is overwhelming. Being an old-time collector and still gaining so much pleasure from philately I would like to try to ensure the order of succession in the widest sense. So, what to do besides convincing other grown ups and especially retired people many of which do not know what to do now? Can we come up with a new and workable recipe?

I believe that a new recipe should be formulated around “the story of a stamp collection” and that promotion of this story should happen at fairs and exhibitions, via new books including e-books, at schools, at post offices and so on. Where- and whenever the opportunity arises collections should be presented, but not just the collection. It must be accompanied by the story behind the collection as well as of the collection and it should be told by the collector him or her self.

The story of the collector does not find its way on its own. It must be promoted and it should be compulsory for exhibitors to promote it. It might happen by developing or adding to the already compulsory introduction sheet showing the plan of the collection in the form of a synopsis.

As a matter of fact the idea of a synopsis was discussed by the F.I.P. Traditional Commission at its meeting in Bucharest on June 26, 2008. Take a look at Click SYNOPSIS EXAMPLE and you will see several examples of how a good synopsis might look.

At the outset it can look a bit complicated. I do not believe it has to be complicated. If you know your collection, and know it well, which you no doubt will, then putting a bit of order in your material, adding a structure to it, be it by topic, by event or chronologically you already have a draft synopsis which you can develop further.

Of course the history of a collection must be printed in the catalogue of the exhibition, on paper or virtual, if such is produced, or in other ways. Collectors should tell the story of how they happened to create their collection as well as the story of the collection. The two tasks are not the same thing. I have no doubt most collectors will be more than willing to do just that.

Monday 6 April 2009

Yes I Collect Stamps! I am a Philatelist. (31.01.2010)

My four collections

”Do you play golf”? – Having moved to Malaysia I often get that question. “No I don’t, but I collect stamps, and I have done so since I was six”, I answer. The reaction to this statement varies a lot. Some are reminded that they themselves did collect stamps, but have lain off long ago. Others suddenly remember inheriting a collection and wonder where could it be? Many are surprised and say. “Do people really still collect stamps?” as if the hobby belongs to the past!

Apart from the poshness that clings to the word “philatelist” there is traditionally a marked difference between a stamp collector and a philatelist. The stamp collector gathers as many different stamps that he or she can get hold of and put them into stock books in a more or less systematic fashion. The philatelist goes deeper into the history behind a stamp, its motive and use and possibly its different types and errors. Having studied the collection a philatelist may try to tell a story based on the stamps. It is up to each collector to decide what story to tell and whether to present the story to an audience at an exhibition.

I like to tell a story with my stamps and I have exhibited a collection. One of my stories is about “Chatou, my village west of Paris”. That collection consists mainly of covers, postcards and a few miscellaneous items. The bridge that crosses the Seine and by which you enter Chatou by train or by car is a historic building, as is the distinctive cultural character of the village being the place where famous impresssionist painters and actors from Paris enjoyed themselves in the late 1900.

The bridge looked less romantic at the time of the Civil War in France.

The letter below was sent from Chatou at the time of the French revolution or "the civil war". The date is March 5, 1799, but the letter says year 7. A real revolution takes off from year 1 which corresponds to 1792, the year the monarchy was abolished and the republic created in France. Napoleon abolished the Jacobine calendar in 1804.

My collection of Newspaper Wrappers worldwide from before 1900 is a different ballgame. I collect the bands that you find around newspapers or bro¬chures sent by the post. In choosing the above well defined title I am able to do what many a new stamps collector dreams of doing, but will soon discover is impossible: Collecting the whole world. Here is a beautiful wrapper from Ratzeburg 1861, a part of Denmark at the time.

I come from Haderslev, a marked town in Sønderjylland, Denmark. I know that Slesvig-Holsten’s history is as fascinating as it is complex, which of course marks its postal history as well. From my collection of Slesvig-Holsten I show you a Ladies’ cover sent from Rendsburg to Berlin in 1848. Just before the first Slesvig war from 1849-51.

Dear to me is my collection of the bi-coloured stamps from Denmark and the former Danish West Indies; a series that was in use from 1870 – 1905. I find the colours of these stamps particularly pretty. With a little help from my friends I have learnt to appreciate the challenge of positioning these stamps and to reconstruct panes. The more you know about them, the greater are your chan¬ces in finding real rarities for your collection for small sums of money. I show you a registered cover sent from Copenhagen to Finland in 1877.

The ways that stamps are collected have developed considerably over the years. Traditionally one collected the stamps of a country. Today building a collection over a topic is also popular and the difficulties involved cannot be underestimated. You need to know about the ins and outs of the history the Vikings if you plan to build a stamp collection about them. Postal history will take you to “dead countries” like Biafra and Yugoslavia. You will get acquainted with censor marks and letters from prisoners of war. A registered postcard – in itself unusual – from Ribe to a soldier at Lyon in France is shown below.

Easily combined with a stamp collection are postcards, which have become ever so popular. Here is a postcard showing the Post Office in Sorø as it looked in December 1903.

Note its posing staff and the Mrs. at the balcony. According to a recently published book about the Danish postal Services 1624-1927 Jørgen Christian Pedersen Lind was the Post Master at the time, so he might be the bearded gentleman standing on the balcony.

Internet is a gift to philately. Via the many contacts you get it is possible to create whatever collection you can imagine. The stamps and covers are out there. They just need to be found. You have access to auc¬tions, dealers and collectors worldwide. Try for discussion and,, to discover the diverse supply and “yes!” there are pitfalls. The first forgeries came about already in the 1870’ies and they are also out there. In the philatelic world “knowledge is king”. And where better to get wiser than in a Philatelic Society. I am a member of The Philatelic Society of Malaysia and of Royal Philatelic Society London just to mention a few.

The Universal Postal Union states on its website “Stamp Collecting remains one of the world’s most popular hobbies. As a roving ambassador of the issuing country, the postage stamp offers a glimpse into a country’s cultural, artistic and historical heritage”. I find this a most fitting description