A Christmas card came from my friend Mary in Naperville, which has a straight edged forever stamp with Rudolph on it, that I had not yet seen – it is different than the Christmas stamps I bought and set me thinking about my stamp collection.
When I was eleven years old my father turned his small stamp collection over to me. That was the beginning of a life-long, time consuming hobby. (Not a bad way to keep a kid indoors and out of mischief.) Each stamp is like a tiny painting – some more artistic than others. A postage stamp from the early days of our postal system started at one cent for first class mail and as the price went up, there followed the less expensive methods of mailing, the penny post card and the overseas aerogram that was a fold-able blue sheet of paper with the stamp pre-printed on the face. The current price for a first class letter to travel is forty-eight cents. The cost of stamps has increased so frequently that now the prices are no longer printed on the face of the stamp, but the word forever is printed at the base of each stamp, you just pay the current price when purchasing them. If you bought some at a lower price, they are still usable without adding more stamps to the envelope. This, I believe, was to encourage people to purchase more stamps prior to the increase. Whether this has been profitable for the postal system or not, I do not know.
As a youngster I recall sitting for hours with a little magnifying glass looking from a stamp to find its likeness in an album and with a thin clear sticker made for that purpose, adhere the stamp to its exact image in the book.
When my father told me that some stamps were more valuable collected on the envelope it came on, I soon began to collect whole envelopes with stamps from all over the world. While working as a clerk at a local hospital which was acclaimed for its teaching programs, I obtained many fascinating specimens which the secretary gladly gave to me rather than throwing into the trash. Some of the most beautiful and artistic stamps came from France and Czechoslovakia via relatives who corresponded with my grandmother.
There are people who swap little works of art that they send each other through the mail to get a stamp and the postal markings indicating time and date they were sent. This is called mailart or mail art and there are some websites dedicated to the hobby.
I still enjoy looking at lovely stamps, but have stopped actively collecting them, though if something unusual arrives, I do tend to hang on to it.