Here's a story that may sound familiar to you…
It’s about a schoolboy.
Entranced by the colours and designs of the first day covers that drop through his letterbox.
Then by the far-away places and even brighter colours in the stamp shop. Bhutan's most of all.
Colourful designs and collectible subjects made Bhutan a stamp powerhouse
He inherits two stamp albums filled with mysterious links to the past. Names of vanished countries in unusual scripts. Dead kings and forgotten presidents.
He wonders why his nation's dead kings and queens seem to have a global reach.
The discovery that the giant volume that has to be fetched from behind the counter in the local library could start to explain all that.
That's how my stamp story starts.
Borrowing the Stanley Gibbons catalogue started to make sense of these mysterious scraps of paper.
What was Magyar posta? Where was British Nyasaland? Why couldn't I find Persia or Ceylon in my modern school atlas?
If you're of a similar age (let's just say born in the early 70s) to me, and grew up in the UK, you may have a stamp story somewhat like this.
It was a mass hobby as I was growing up.
Everyone had those family albums, and new stamp issues were covered on Blue Peter, the kids show we all watched.
Most towns had a high street stamp shop.
Many of us move on from it. And some of us don't…
Today I’m thrilled to join Mike Hall and the team of specialists here at Paul Fraser Collectibles.
I get to handle stamps that schoolboy could only dream of.
Yet I’ll never forget those early experiences…
My grandparents' stamp albums helped them tell me their stories of merchant navy voyages and overseas postings.
And I doubt I'll ever enjoy a stamp's looks as much as I did the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games issue.
But now I know much more.
I know that Bhutan produced super-colourful, collectible stamps in an audacious attempt to market the tiny nation to a world that couldn't place it on a map.
And why those colourful designs and novelty issues will probably never be really valuable.
But that a tiny, insignificant looking - ugly even - stamp from a short-lived colonial enclave always will be.
Stamps are more than just the pretty pictures on their face.
They're history. And they tell us stories.
The stamps that interest you - a dedicated collector - usually tell particularly interesting ones.
Their rarity is often a product of history's stranger tales.
I look forward to sharing their stories, and some insights into the world of stamp collecting I've picked up over the years, in the coming months.
Owen Philatelic specialist
PS. How did you begin stamp collecting? I’d love to hear your story.