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The Solo Nature of Stamp Collecting - Cephus' Corner

The Solo Nature of Stamp Collecting

April 14th, 2015
StampFest2004-010

This is unfortunately typical of most stamp shows today.

I’ve been thinking about this recently, seeing that the hosts of my favorite stamp collecting podcast Stamp Show Today started commenting on a previous post. I had said that I’d try to get to a couple of local big stamp shows, which I didn’t do, mostly because I forgot all about them.  The next local show of any size is Sescal, sometime in the fall, and once I have actual dates, I’ll put it on my calendar in an attempt to remember it.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m asking myself why.

Now this isn’t about liking to collect stamps, I most certainly do that, but let’s be honest, philately isn’t a team sport.  It isn’t a group activity, most people have their own individual collections which are assembled independently.  I cannot recall a single instance where any stamps in my collection, over the course of more than 40 years of collecting, has been selected or purchased by anyone else. I built my collection and I alone.  It’s a wholly solo activity.  The same goes for my wife, she has been collecting for less than 20 years, but in all of that time, I have never bought a single stamp for her, nor has she asked me to.  We might occasionally talk about stamps but when we’re actually mounting stamps or buying stamps, we don’t compare notes and, truth be told, I don’t remember the last time either of us has looked through the other’s collection.  She has her albums, I have mine.  She has her interests, I have mine.

As I’ve also said in the past, I don’t collect for the history or the background on the stamps.  I honestly don’t know what it is about stamps that attracts me to collect them, I’ve been doing it off-and-on for most of my life but I couldn’t tell you why.  As such, I find no real reason to be social regarding my stamp collecting.  I have nothing to share, I have no interest or desire to show off my collection.  There is no ego involved in my collecting, I am not doing it so people will be impressed by my acquisitions.  There were three online stamp forums that I was reading religiously for a while until I realized I wasn’t actually getting anything out of it.  Mostly, it was people showing off.  I don’t really care what they have in their collections.  At best, I’d just want to talk about the act of collecting, not playing who has the best collection.  I therefore haven’t logged onto any of those forums for many months now.

It strikes me that stamp shows suffer from the same problems for me that many other conventions do.  As I’m about to leave for Wondercon in the next couple of days, something I wrote a long time ago about modern conventions applies equally well to stamp shows.  I’m struggling to find anything beyond “looking around to see what’s there” that would attract me to go.  I can do that online and not have to drive a long distance or rent a hotel room.  I don’t have to deal with the old-folk cliques that are rampant in stamp collecting.  I don’t have to fight crowds (such as they are at stamp shows), I can browse from the comfort of my home, select the stamps I want to add to my collection, type in my credit card number and have them arrive in the mail a couple of days later.  I’m struggling really hard to figure out what it is about a stamp show that gives me something that I actually want that’s better than what I can already do at home.

If someone has any ideas, please enlighten me.

Comments

3 Comments

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  • keijo says on: April 15, 2015 at 12:15 am

     

    I’ll admit being guilty for passing stamp shows in recent years as well.

    For me it comes down to two simple reasons:

    Reason the first, the trip…. I simply hate it. Or more specifically, the trip itself is not the problem. It’s how it must be done… I’d be very delighted to spend ½ hour on walking into a show and getting some exercise at the same. But to spent same time (and more likely 1-4 hours just one way) on a bus/car/train waiting to get to show is not my definition of fun.

    Reason the second, money (or more specifically lack of it)… Stamp shows are kind of nice in a way that you can see other people’s collections, meet other collectors etc. But if being brutally honest, the number one reason (at least for me) to go in there is to spend some $$$ on dealers. When you’re buying online it’s very easy to compare and stop; on dealer counter it’s more about the ‘heat of the moment’. I’ve tried leaving the money at home as well taking just some pocket money with me, and it does work, but it’s also ‘mentally damaging’…. And often times the expenses are not just about visiting the dealers. If you’re spending a day or two at a show, you’ve got to eat, drink, sleep etc. somewhere. Going out is never cheap, but I’m already putting way enough on these bits of paper that somebody used to lick.

    I’ll admit that the reasons above are largely between the ears. Like they say, ‘If you make/expect something to be difficult, then that’s how you experience it as well’. For example I’ve got no objections on going to ‘summer vacation’ with the family even though it means countless hours on the road not the mention the $$$. Heck, I even like and expect for it… So I guess it boils down to fact that I don’t feel receiving enough ‘added value’ from visiting stamp shows. Like you, I feel the shows don’t provide me anything I could not do at the comfort of my own home.

    -k-

    • Cephus says on: April 15, 2015 at 12:36 am

       

      For a stamp show, I’m not willing to drive for a couple of hours, there’s a local show that I’ve mentioned before that has a dozen or so dealers and it might be about 60 miles away but it’s also 10 minutes from my wife’s parents’ house so we can kill two birds with one stone going there. Still, the kind of deals you can get there and the kind of treatment you are likely to receive there, not being one of the elderly in-crowd, makes it a pointless effort to show up at all. From what I understand speaking to other collectors, this is not an unusual experience at all.

      The only real reason to go to a show is to buy, but with the Internet, you can get the same stamps for much less money than you’d ever find in a live venue, the only downside is that you don’t get the stamps in your hands immediately after you hand over your cash. I’m patient so I don’t mind. I’d much rather trade the frustration and the time and the effort of digging through dealer after dealer for something that nobody actually has for a leisurely few minutes browsing online and saving money in the long run.

      But as much as all of that is true, there’s still something nostalgic about the idea of shows. I don’t think it’s true in practice but I certainly remember when shows were fun. Some of it was the innocence of my youth when I didn’t know much about stamps, so just looking was fun, there was always something new to discover that I hadn’t seen before. Now, at least for my major collections, I know what’s there, I know all of the varieties, I know what holes I have to fill and the chances that I’ll ever see some unrealized gem is extremely low. I have a checklist that tells me what’s available and what I need. The idea of going to a show, the cost of gas, the cost of parking, the cost of admission, the time spent wandering around, dealing with rude dealers who really don’t want to give you the time of day, all to come back empty-handed is just sad. If I do the same thing from home, at worst I waste a few minutes of my time. I agree, the cost-benefit analysis is really in favor of sitting in front of your computer.

  • Caj says on: February 2, 2016 at 2:55 pm

     

    Stampshowheretoday.com. podcast.

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Cephus' Corner

A Place to Share my Geeky Side With the World. Comics, movies, TV, collecting, you name it, I indulge in it.