Notes from the Past

Remembering the Mail - Part IV

My interest in stamp collecting began when my Aunt gave me a stamp album for Christmas.  No one was there to guide me so I just put stamps on the blank country pages as I acquired them.  I did have a neighbor about my Father's age who had an adult collection of United States stamps housed in a fairly well filled National Stamp album.  He did encourage me but hardly became a mentor.  The stamps were thrilling to see.  He had pages filled with the early commemoratives.  I don't remember whether his Columbians and Trans Mississippis were completed.  He did give me a few used early commemoratives.

There were no local stamp dealers and little money for buying stamps.  The resources available until I discovered mail order were our mail, the mail of any neighbor who might be enticed to give the stamps to me, and the inevitable mixture which came along with my first album.  Stamp soaking was an easy ritual to learn.  It was some time before I had the both the dedication and the funds to buy stamps.  My fourth grade teacher was an added inspiration.  She was a stamp collector, although I think her interest was just as a collector not a philatelist.  She was interested in geography and history and used stamps to help interest her students.  We had one stamp project which involved making our own albums.  Each page was half of an 8½ by 11 page with nine boxes for stamps drawn in pencil.  Covers were made from colored construction paper.  Her sister was a missionary in Egypt so she shared Egyptian stamps with us to put into the "album."  She also showed us how to use hinges to mount our stamps.  Hinging was difficult for clumsy children's fingers without tongs.

Another source of stamps were mail-in offers.  One memorable one was the Planters Peanut Co. who distributed small packages of peanuts which retailed for a nickel.  On the back of each package were various premium offers -- send 5 bags and get 100 different German stamps, etc.  This offer of "free" packets of stamps to fill my album appealed to me.  It was also one I could afford.  My Father saved bags for me from his visits to the local Elks Club.  As I remember, H. E. Harris & Co. provided the stamps and always included other offers along with the premium.  Frequently there were also approvals.  Of course this got me started in more orderly stamp collecting.

- Jim Watson
Posted November 21, 1999
© 1999, Jim Watson  

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