British stamps

If I began talking at length about stamps, how quickly would your mind begin to wander?

Unless you’ve got the bug, I’d probably guess about 30 seconds.

While there are millions of avid collectors out there in the world, for the majority of people stamps are a byword for dull.

It’s a shame that the traditional, unfair image of the stamp collector as a boring obsessive is so rarely challenged.

The fact is, there’s a great deal more to the hobby than there appears to be.

Think for a moment about a world before the internet, before telephones, before telegrams.

Stamps were used to indicate colonial rule, as in this British stamp issued in Honduras

This is a time in which the only method of long distance communication was via letter.

These small pieces of history, some of which are the most valuable items by weight on the planet, exist as proof of nations that no longer exist – of perilous voyages across the globe.

Perhaps the biggest secret of stamp collecting is the way they reveal how the state sees itself.

Think about the idealised racial designs of the Third Reich, the images of national heroes and industrial scenes that adorn those examples issued during the Soviet era and the ubiquitous images of the monarch that essentially acted as territorial markers during the colonial era.

A Nazi era stamp

A Nazi-era stamp showing the birth of an Aryan

 

Stamps cross borders and are handled by people of all nationalities. They act as de-facto symbols of the state and the sheer variety on offer ensures that there is something out there for everyone, from design geeks to history nuts.

A Soviet-era stamp showing an oil refinery

While the value of the rarest stamps continues to grow, now might be the perfect time to get involved in this most maligned of hobbies.

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