Appreciation of Printing: Stamps, an Inherited Love

Yankee Legend Joe DiMaggio is immortalized on a stamp due out in 2012.

The infamous "inverted Jenny" printing error on the postage stamp.

Part of the beauty of stamp collecting is that there’s a little something for everyone. You can be a topical collector like Johnson, a single-country collector (stamps from Hungary are some of the most colorful, with large pictorials, which some may find gaudy) or a worldwide collector. Trying to pick up one of every stamp ever issued is a futile attempt, but who cares?

A Postal Mirage

An entire article could be dedicated to the “sand dune states” in the Arabian Peninsula, seven emirates (which now form the United Arab Emirates) which issued—during a 10-year period in the 1960s and 1970s—a staggering 20,000 different stamps. Most of these stamps were never intended for postal use; they were canceled to order (CTO, lightly canceled by the postal service but unused) and sold to the collector market. Some cancellations were printed right on the stamps. That some of these sheikdoms were considered postally legitimate at all is laughable to veteran collectors, who point out that your local Wal-Mart has more square footage than some of these Arabian outposts.

“True” philatelists find the greatest appeal in postally-used stamps, which legitimizes them to an extent. Still, mint condition and CTO stamps are generally more attractive from an aesthetics standpoint because they still have their gloss and gum intact. Machine-applied cancellations, and the wear-and-tear of the postal stream, can exact a terrible price on the condition of the postally-used stamp.

Some collectors search for variations in perforation counts and cancellations. Other collectors prefer First Day Covers (FDC) and postal history. Johnson, for example, owns letters that were sent from a German POW camp back home to Tulsa, OK, during World War II. That in itself is a piece of history.

Like John Johnson, Cory Funk had the good fortune of inheriting an impressive stamp collection. When Funk, a national account executive with Japs-Olson in St. Louis Park, MN, was in fifth grade, his Uncle Hans—a World War II veteran who picked up mint sheets of stamps throughout Europe—passed down an impressive collection.

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