THE FUN OF COLLECTING
So why collect? It’s a waste of time and money! Great analogy – and sadly often the common response when most people are first told, “did you know Alan is a stamp collector?” Yes, Alan most certainly is a stamp collector, and over the past twenty years it has changed my life. But collecting, for me, came completely out of the blue, a total surprise and not, as many, from a schoolboy interest or family collection.
As an active businessman travel has always been a regular feature and my introduction to the world of philately happened on a flight to Geneva. The air hostess gave me a copy of the Daily Telegraph to read and midway into it there was an article headlined “The Queen Must Sell Her Stamps”. Not an everyday heading! The basis of this article was that a coming sale at Spink was to be held on Thursday 17th May 2001 in order to raise money required to acquire the most important Penny Black 6th May 1840 first day cover in existence, known as the ‘Kirkcudbright’ cover and franked with a block of ten One Penny Blacks. My reaction to this article was ‘well, let’s look into this further as at least the stamps from the Queen being auctioned by such a famous Auction House must be real’. They certainly were – and formed part of my first famous collection, “The World’s First Stamp,” which became the London 2010 Grand Prix winner and the subject of my first Philatelic Book. I must thank Spink for allowing me to make these very first stamp purchases using my American Express card. So my arrival into the world of collecting was great fun and very unusual and all made possible thanks to the help of The Queen and American Express, courtesy of Spink – fate, perhaps?
Having now put my toe into the waters of collecting and experienced the pleasure of owning such wonderful items set me thinking about collecting. I had always enjoyed historical events and history as a subject so the idea of how the postage stamp came about by collecting early British Line Engraved stamps made sense. The nonsense of it all of course had been my total lack of knowledge. I had turned up at a major sale and bought on a totally blind basis trusting the origin, and with the sole intent of owning an asset but certainly not as a first step to becoming a collector. No, my wife – known as Mitch – did not divorce me but yes – as many of you and my friends know to their cost – throughout my collecting time she enjoyed questioning the sanity of stamp collecting and expressed opinions that could never be printed – yet she became known throughout the philatelic world, within which she made many friends. Setting about how and where to go in order to gain that essential knowledge of the subject became my priority and I soon found that in 2001 sources of accurate and well-described texts were scarce, especially those with related pictures or scans. Another important factor being the understanding, and who the hell knows, or where do I find someone willing and able to tell me? One solution is to simply go along and join a club – there are many, but as yet I have never found one that does not welcome and encourage budding collectors.
Overnight the club allows access to not just information but enjoyment and friendships that in my case now cover the world. Collecting for me evolved with a greater understanding of a complex subject. It quickly became apparent that there is no such thing as ‘the simple postage stamp’ and much of the enjoyment I gain today is from the range of usages and complexities of rates, routes, frankings etc. Spink are about to auction my ‘Registration’ collection which formed part of the London 2015 National Grand Prix exhibit. But back in 2001 no-one would have thought any of this possible, let alone the fact that I have probably become better known across the world as a Philatelist rather than as a businessman. As a collector, the opportunity of enjoyment from whatever aspect you decide and whatever budget you set, from my experience, will repay you multiple times with the enjoyment and involvements generated.
Today’s world has become a complex and difficult one and there is far too much conflict and sadness being generated. Few places exist that give enjoyment and continuing challenges such as I have found through philately. Oh, please do not think that philatelic confrontation and disagreements do not exist! A good example in my case would be the first use of the 2d Blue stamp for which a number of prominent collectors and traders vehemently disagreed with recent articles that I wrote – by the way I am right, and they are wrong! – but in my case it is all part of that enjoyment that has changed my life.
Please try it.