Why do you collect stamps?
Don't worry, I'm not asking you to psychoanalyse yourself.
But it's never a waste of time to examine what we do.
I think stamp collecting has so many positives:
A lesson in history. Investment value. The achievement of completion. Reinforcing or celebrating a connection to place, identity or time.
But what about beauty?
Stamps are little canvases to show a country's best.
Heroes, battles, achievements, and the nation's excellence in art and design.
Attraction is in the eye of the beholder of course.
And it's generally independent of value.
This is a hobby that celebrates the misprint and the error more than the artist's hand.
That means you can get some great value if you simply shop stamps that you love to look at.
Let me know your prettiest philatelic pictures by replying to this mail.
Here are 10 that thrill me.
1 - 9th British Commonwealth Games issue 1970
This is a personal and nostalgic favourite. And it's not at all valuable - you can get a used set for a couple of pounds.
But since I saw it as a kid I thought it was lovely.
The designer was J Andrew Restall, who is still alive, in his 90s, and a collectible artist on non-perforated paper too.
It's a very simple image, but cleverly captures movement, long before a computer could trick your eye.
2 - 1964 15th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China
I like Chinese aesthetics, but this stamp is brilliant design in any visual language.
The Red Flag of China flies high (almost all PRC stamps are big on this shade of red), much bigger and more important than the Tiananmen Gate - a relic of the Imperial city.
The balloons, banners, clouds and people are beautifully placed and sharply drawn. The gold text and border complete the celebratory picture.
Click here now to buy the PRC 15th Anniversary stamp
3 - Ceylon 1857-59 8d die proof
I think you have to have a Victoria portrait in any collection and this is my favourite.
Photographs of the Queen later in her life suggest this is quite an accurate portrayal of Victoria.
And in this version, a rare and valuable proof, the engraving on the plate for recess printing is very obvious.
I find this evidence of function and process both beautiful and fascinating - like brush strokes of a great master.
The proportions and complex frame are simple, effective design all rendered in 1 colour. Incredible skills.
Click here now to buy the Ceylon 8d die proof
4 - Western Cattle in Storm $1 1898
Sometimes it's good to go against the flow. And sometimes the popular consensus is right.
In this case I can't find any reason to disagree with the generally held view that this is one of the most beautiful stamps ever printed.
All 9 stamps in the issue are well regarded. It's a wonderful set to complete in your collection.
The composition of this image, as well as its excellent realistic engraving, make it the undoubted star though.
They were issued for an exposition that celebrated the USA's western expansion and development.
Here beauty and value do go hand in hand. If you find a mint condition example of Western Cattle you will pay tens of thousands of dollars for it.
5 - Canada Year of the Snake
The example shown here is a rare and valuable error. Gold was omitted from the print.
Without regard to that though, the 2001 set of Lunar New Year symbols is beautiful.
The non-standard shape adds interest.
The central images are all beautifully realised with a nod to East Asian aesthetics in a western graphic style.
Buy a Year of the Snake 2001 error stamp now
6 - 12 Deeds of Lord Buddha, Bhutan 2014
No selection of beautiful stamps can leave out Bhutan.
The country's stamps rarely attract serious collectors but were designed to catch the eye.
They succeed. This set is bright, colourful and beautifully drawn. What colours!
The postal authorities of the Himalayan country recognise their attraction and have recently made them the focus of a pioneering NFT issue.
7 - The Soviet Union 1968 CPA 3708 stamp "The Alarm"
A work of art by Russian/Soviet artist Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin reproduced on a 1968 stamp.
The painting depicts the artist's own memories of the Siege of Petrograd by White (anti-Revolution) forces in 1919.
It's a fine image, and well composed for reproduction at small scale on a stamp. The miniaturisation is appropriate for a picture designed to show the human scale and consequences of great historical moments.
8 - Finland Boreal Owl, 1998
Finnish stamps include some extremely rare anomalies, many of them created by the country's relative youth and unstable borders.
In more peaceful times, the stamps of the country lean heavily on strongly graphic folk art styles and nature.
I think this stamp can safely be called a masterpiece. And you can buy one for less than a cup of coffee.
9 - British Antarctic Territory 1981 Treaty anniversary
The art of stamp design is the art of typography, visual presentation of information, and proportion.
Can you show me a better example of those than this?
The central image is the flag of the Antarctic Treaty. One of the few successful international agreements, so it celebrates a beautiful concept too.
It's simple and graphic. I love the fonts. And the colours add to the story it tells.
Click here now to reserve your 1981 Antarctic Treaty stamp
10 - Hungary 1996 - 1999 Folk Art series
Available all over the web for very little money, there are dozens of examples of these beautiful Hungarian folk-art stamps.
They celebrate the country's identity in a decade when it was emerging from successive occupations.
Hungary's post office produced lots of lovely stamps, but the really valuable ones are errors and rarities like a 10kr newspaper tax stamp from 1868 issued only in border areas.
That sold for $42,000 plus, but this stunningly beautiful stamp is so cheap you could even use it as decorative art.
Click here now to visit our stamp store
Some of these stamps are of little value to serious collectors.
That doesn't stop them being a joy to own.
And among them are some gems that combine beauty, rarity, and freaks of production that produce what I think is the perfect stamp.
What's your favourite stamp to look at?
You can let us know on ++44 (0) 1534 639 998 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe we can help you track down an example.
Until next time,
Chairman, Just Collecting