Are You a Family of Stamp Collectors? (or Stamps vs Ponies!)
Updated: Apr 4, 2022
So are you a family of stamp collectors?
I thought not, but you never know!
This blog was inspired by my recent trip to Gustamps in Brighton to have our family stamp collection valued. I did collect stamps as a child, I inherited the collection started by my older brother in the 1960s and continued until aged about ten, ponies took over my every waking hour! Stamps vs ponies...you get the picture! The collection then sat in a box for the next thirty five odd years.
Apparently roughly a third of people in the UK collect something. Maybe you're a numistmatist (coin collector), an archtophilist (teddy bear collector) or perhaps a deltiologist (collector of postcards)? More unusual collections include swizzle sticks, mouse pads and phone books. Some people have special cabinets built for their collections, others dedicate a whole room of their house to it. But why do we do it?
Collecting things - according to an article in The Guardian, collecting may provide a means of expressing loyalty (sporting memorabilia), it might be an obsession, a way of seeking comfort in accumulating, or as an extension of our identity (the collection lives on beyond our lifetime). We hold on to other peoples' collections, perhaps to preserve memories, or maybe to avoid feeling the guilt associated with "getting rid of" somebody's else's hard work and passion. But could this be a slightly selfish emotion? After all, what could be wrong in releasing something, in order for someone else to enjoy it? Don't forget that one person's clutter is another person's treasure!
Sometimes a collection is kept in the hope that it might increase in value. Often there's the belief that our children (or children's children), might one day be motivated to continue to collect. This is rarely the case, or if it does happen, it's a only a fleeting hobby. The fact that it doesn't happen probably has less to do with generational differences (although this may play a part) and more to do with the fact that everybody has their own interests and pastimes. Just because your father enjoyed nothing more than arranging small pieces of paper in an album, doesn't mean you're automatically going to inherit his enthusiasm.
Keeping a collection - keep a collection if it doesn't actually belong solely to you (but only for as long as it takes to ask family members if they would like it, or to gain their permission to pass it on). If it does belong to you alone, then you should only keep it if, (in the words of Marie Kondo it, "sparks joy" and you intend to actively keep collecting/are prepared to display the collection, rather than storing it away out of sight.
Time to let go - when I decided that the time had come to pass on my stamp collection (as nobody in my family was interested in continuing), I researched online and contacted Gustamps.
As the owner of the shop clearly has a life long passion for what he does and is committed to passing on his knowledge to future generations, I believed that I had found the perfect place. This is key if you're going to be able to comfortably let go of something that has been a significant part of your family.
Preparing to let go - before the valuation, my daughter and I spent time organising the collection. Some stamps were in albums, many were stored in envelopes and some were loose in bags. We took photographs of our favourite stamps and sorted all the loose ones into the envelopes. This was the most fun we had had with these stamps in years! The corresponding country name had been handwritten on each envelope, by family members of all ages, over many years. As a result, some of the country names had changed since the envelopes were first labelled and some country names had been misspelt. We photographed the envelopes too, for posterity.
It was a lesson in geography, history and a trip down memory lane all in one! We even found a family letter, sent in the 1940s that none of us had ever seen before!
The moment of truth - given that the worlds most valuable stamp (one single stamp) sold at auction in 2014 for £7.4 million (the British Guiana 1856 1cent Magenta), my collection was sadly lacking - I was offered £18 for the whole lot. In fact the stamp dealer said he didn't really want them! He was however, incredibly helpful and gave me the benefit of his vast experience. He advised me that I would get more for my collection by selling it on eBay, as partially sorted (as that would appeal to an enthusiast, interested in further sorting and cataloging). He even spent time helping me write a good description of what I had.
Options for re homing - if you don't want to sell your collection to a specialist dealer, or direct to another collector, perhaps a museum might be interested in taking it off your hands? It would always be welcomed by a charity. My decision is to take my chances on eBay. With however much or little I gain from the sale, I'm planning to plant trees via the Woodland Trust (wood to wood completing the circle), in memory of all my relations who played their part in my stamp collection over the years.
To cut a long(ish) story short - if you're not planning to continue a collection, let it go. Don't rush the process, find the right place, enjoy it one last time, capture bits of it digitally, bless and release it. If it turns out to have a value, donate to a good cause, or make a special family memory with the proceeds.
By the way did I tell you I like to sort and organise? If you'd be happy to pay for my time, I'd be happy to organise your collection ready for sale and research selling options.
Ps. I've thought of a third possible title for this blog - Cash (or Rubbish) in your Attic, but maybe that's a title for future writing!
Jo Hall is a Berkshire based Declutterer & Organiser
If you would love to have a really good sort out but don't know where to start, or maybe you've made a great start with it, but have since lost your way, Jo can help!
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