Category Archives: Collecting

What A Good Idea!

Saw this floating around some of the toy forums and blogs and though it was a really good idea.  I ought to make some of these up!  It might convince some of the local retailers to actually put some product on the shelves instead of leaving the pegs bare.

Nah, that might mean they’d make some money and they can’t have that, can they?

We Don’t Owe You Jack

This happens all the time and frankly I’m sick of it.  Today, on a stamp forum, someone popped up and demanded to know how much he could sell a stamp collection that his grandfather left him.  All he wanted was a value.  He didn’t want to go research it, he wanted everyone on the forum to do all the work.  When we told him that the stamps he put up just weren’t worth much, he got pissed and stomped off.

I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence but it’s not.  It happens all the time.  People inherit a pile of old stamps and think it’s going to make them rich.  They don’t care about the stamps, they just have dollar signs in their eyes.  I’ve written about this kind of thing before and I stand by what I said before, but these people are just entitlement-happy.  They think everyone owes it to them to do all their research for them and if they get an answer they don’t like, screw you all!

What’s worse, you get some people, I suppose the accommodationists of the stamp world, who figure we ought to go along with them and put up with their abuse just because they’re new.  We should relish getting abused, just so we can get a new member, even if this member has made it clear they just don’t care about the topic, the forum or the people.  That’s like expecting someone walking into a brand new McDonalds and demanding they make him a steak, medium rare.  The restaurant can say sorry, that’s not what we do here and he’ll declare “fuck you all then!”  Should McDonalds have told him sure, we’ll go out and buy all the fixings just for you!  Of course not.  That’s a stupid idea.

The fact is, these people walk into an established community based around collecting stamps, say “hi, I don’t give a shit about anything you care about, I just want to pick your brains so I can sell this crap and make money!  Indulge me!”  Somehow, they expect this singular act of social incompetence to be embraced with open arms.  are people that stupid?  Seriously?  Unfortunately, people are that stupid, we see it every day.  It would be one thing if they’d come in, act interested, then slowly start asking questions about value.  Become part of the community, then get more information.  But that’s not how it goes, it’s a demand for immediate satisfaction and a pissed off reaction when you don’t get what you want.

The planet really needs to grow the hell up.  I, for one, am not playing along.  If you have nothing, I’m going to tell you that you have nothing.  I’m going to be honest.  If honesty hurts your feelings or destroys your illusions, too bad.  Cry me a river.  Reality is what it is.  Deal with it.

Free Comic Book Day Sucks

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day, an annual event that happens on the first Saturday in May.  Supposedly, it’s a means of introducing new readers to the comics scene by providing comics, free-of-charge, to anyone who wants to walk into a comic book shop.  I suppose in theory, it’s a good idea and some places have a lot of success with it.

I’m just not impressed.  Neither are any of the local comic shops.  In fact, I think the few comic shops that remain in my local area have given up on it entirely, they had no displays, no free comics and no hoopla during FCBD at all.  We just happened to have stopped by on FCBD and the shop wasn’t any busier than it usually is.  There were a few people looking around, one mother with two kids buying Spongebob comics, but otherwise, it was a complete non-event.

I think the majority of the problem here is that the entire cost of FCBD is borne by the shops themselves, which are operating on a tight enough margin as it is.  FCBD was originally come up with back in 2002 as a means for Diamond Distributors, the largest comic book distributor in the world, to sell more comics.  Most of the major, and some of the minor, producers do make a FCBD comic available, but these are not free to the stores, they have to be purchased and then distributed free of charge on that day.  That’s often a big investment with very little demonstrable return.  Like it or not, the comic market in the U.S. has failed, fewer and fewer people are reading comics than ever before.  Where the top titles sold close to a million copies a month 40 years ago, today they’re lucky to sell 80,000.  The prices have gone up, the page counts have gone down, and as far as I’m concerned, so has the quality.  As much as some people talk about how great the stories are, every time I’ve gone back to comics, hoping to find something… anything to read, I’ve been horribly disappointed.  I can read comics from the 80s and still enjoy them.  Today?  Hell no.

I will be honest, I just don’t read comics anymore.  My wife picks up a couple, my kids read 1-2 each, but I just can’t get into them.  Back when DC introduced their New 52 reboot, I gave them a shot again, I grabbed a big handful of comics from both DC and Marvel, hoping to find something to enjoy.  I came up entirely empty.

The specific problem with FCBD is that the comics are just short samplers and with the exception of the biggest companies, are usually attempts by publishers to garner a few more readers for their failing lines.  Look at what was offered this year.  Of the “big two”, DC offered a sampler and Marvel, predictably, an Avengers comic.  Okay, I suppose that’s not horrible, although, while Avengers clearly is meant to tie-in to the movie release, Avengers isn’t the biggest or most popular comic that Marvel produces.  The rest, though, really seem pretty pointless.  I don’t care about Simpsons, although they’re Bongo’s only claim to fame.  In fact, I really didn’t see a thing in the list that I’d read at all, or that got me excited to go to a comic shop to get it, free or not.

Now granted, I’m looking at it from the perspective of a 46-year old man, but one who grew up reading comics, who actively collected comics, on and off, from about 1972-2006.  I still have thousands of comics in long boxes, massive runs of X-Men and Avengers and Spider-Man, mainstream and independent comics, things that are probably worth a lot and lots that are worth less than the paper they’re printed on.  I’ve written in the past why I think the American comic market has failed and while I don’t want to go into tons of depth, I think there are massive problems that simply spell the slow, agonizing death of the American comic book industry unless the industry is willing to implement massive and immediate changes.

There are some things that are fundamentally problematic about the current American comic book system.  First off, you have characters that stick around forever.  They never change significantly, or if they are ever allowed to change, they get reset relatively quickly because you can never have a character that isn’t instantly identifiable to the non-comic audience, they might not run out to see the latest big budget blockbuster.  The characters stagnate and the stories get predictable.  Character A runs into a difficult situation, they dig deep, come up with the strength to overcome their obstacle and come out stronger and better than before.  Lather, rinse and repeat next month.  Continue until the character is just too strong and hit the big reset button to reduce them back to the beginning.  Do it all over again.  They’ve been doing this for decades because they cannot imagine not producing a comic book with these characters.  They might not be able to sell it to the movies!  So they crank out these million-times-told tales over and over and over again.

American comic book producers need to be introduced to the concept of a limited run.  Tell a story and be done with it.  Sure, you can have a limited stable of reappearing characters, but most comics ought to run a few issues, or a few dozen issues, and then go away.  Wasn’t that a great story about Ricky the Squirrel Boy?  Hey, what’s next?  If someone comes up with a new story for Ricky, put that out.  The need of the current industry to put out hundreds and hundreds of issues in any particular comic line is problematic.

The problem is, the comics industry gets easily distracted.  Instead of making fundamental changes, they take any lifeline as an excuse not to really do anything different.  Currently, that lifeline is movies.  Over the past decade or so, comic book movies have become all the rage and have been the single element keeping the industry afloat.  They don’t have to make a better product, all they have to do is keep licensing the characters to movie studios and reaping the fees.  With their companies not being on the verge of imminent bankruptcy for the moment, they keep on making the same mistakes.  There’s no impetus for rethinking their failed business strategies.  Some day though, probably some day soon, the movies will go out of vogue and they’re going to be back in the hot seat with no plan on how to stay solvent.

But that’s another issue.  While these movies do make tons of money, the comic producers are making almost no effort whatsoever to  capitalize on them.  These are big-screen billboards for their comics, yet they do absolutely nothing to get the mainstream audience watching the films into the comic shops to buy the comics.  Surely there are people who want to read the further adventures of the Avengers after seeing the film this weekend, right?  So how are they supposed to know that these adventures exist, much less where to find them?  Even if they could find them, would they know what the hell was going on in a comic that’s been running for decades?  What would make them want to keep buying month after month?  If Marvel could capture even 1% of the movie-going audience for this weekend and convert them into comic book readers, their financial troubles would be over.  My solution to this has always been simple, it just takes effort.  For those theaters showing Avengers, produce a trade-paperback sized special edition comic that goes into the background of the Avengers, gives an overview of important events in the comic and provides a bridge between what they just saw on screen and what’s currently going on in the comic stories.  Then put the Comic Locator website and phone number all over the thing so people know where to go get the comics!  Have these things available for sale in the theaters and in comic shops during the month of the movie’s release.

There’s actually so much more to this, I’m going to have to do a separate post on all of the changes that ought to be made to save the industry.  Otherwise, this is going to become a book in it’s own right.  Look for a followup soon.

The comic book market was once fun.  It once had lots of great art and amazing stories.  It just doesn’t anymore, at least as far as I’m concerned.

I Don’t Get Obsession

I’ve been thinking, over the past couple of days, and reading threads on obsession in hobbies and to be honest, I just can’t relate to it.  I don’t understand the feeling.  Sure, I can wrap my head around the concept, understand how and why it happens but I can’t relate to it in any way, shape or form.

I am not an addict.  Yes, I know that’s not a comfortable word for a lot of people to use, but that’s really what a lot of people who claim they simply cannot stop are.  Honestly, I don’t get obsession. I collect what I collect because I have fun doing it, not because I’ve got some strange addiction. I’ve had various collections in my life and the vast majority of which I just walked away from when they stopped being enjoyable. I sold them, gave them away, some of them I just threw away, I never got the cold sweats, I very rarely ever went back to most of them, I made a decision that some things were just not fun anymore and I just had no interest in them.

Stamps are one of the few things that I have come back to a couple of times in my life. They never really got “not fun”, I just had times where I just didn’t have the time for them so I put the albums on the shelf for a couple of years and picked them up again down the road. I never got “withdrawals” or anything like that from not collecting, I just lost interest and when I got interested again, I picked it up. I could get bored with it again sometime later and it will go back up on the shelf for a while.

I guess I just don’t understand people who claim to be obsessed with something, to the point that they seemingly have no self control. Yes, I know that most people are just exaggerating, but I’ve seen people who collect other things who have bankrupted their families in the pursuit of a “complete collection”. I just don’t get it.

Here’s how I got into collecting stamps, as I recall it.  It has, after all, been several decades.  I can’t say I remember exactly why I started doing it, but I started soaking stamps off of the mail my parents received relatively young.  It wasn’t long before they were pulling old letters from the 40s and 50s and I added those stamps to my “collection”.  They bought me two cheap stamp albums for my birthday, one for U.S. stamps and the other for worldwide.  I collected both for quite a while, but it was clear that I spent more time and effort on the U.S. stamps.  The reason wasn’t national loyalty or anything like that, it was simple availability.  I could get U.S. stamps plentifully, they came in the mail every day and most of the local stamp shops had tons of them.  Add to the fact that my U.S. album had a spot for every stamp and the worldwide album had, at best, 4-5 pages for the largest stamp-issuing countries, with very few specific spots, just lots of blank space to stick in a handful of stamps and very quickly, you had no more room to add more.  It’s therefore no surprise where I specialized and I still have many of the U.S. stamps that I collected back then in my current collection.  I haven’t got a clue what happened to my foreign collection, I’m sure it’s packed away somewhere at my parent’s house.  My original U.S. album went the way of the dodo when I upgraded to a new, much improved album more than 20 years ago.

I never had any kind of fanatical devotion to U.S. stamps, they were convenient and available and I had an album that told me what I was missing and I could fill in holes as I came across the stamps.  As I’ve come back to stamp collecting over the years, the fact that I had a ready-made collection, still with empty spots that directed me where I needed to go to finish pages, I continued that trend.  Had things been different and other stamps been more readily available, I likely would have focused on another country.

Now, however, I’ve completed a lot of my chosen country.  Between 1920 and 1993, I am essentially done, with a few exceptions here and there.  Mostly, that amounts to differing formats in the album, individual stamps vs. a block of 4 and I have one or the other but not both.  There are a couple that elude me, I have the complete Transportation definitive series, with the exception of the 10.1 cent 1880’s Oil Wagon overprint, Scott #2130a, issued in 1988.  I can’t find anyone who actually has one to sell!  I’m missing 3 airmail stamps, anyone who knows anything about U.S. airmail stamps ought to know which ones those are, they’re the expensive trio pictured to the left.  I’ll get them, they’re certainly not out of my range but they haven’t been a priority.  Another one that sort of bugs me, and it’s all my fault, is a single official stamp in the 1983-1988 series.  I have all the rest, but for some reason, I never remember to order that last one and when I do remember, I’m not doing an order and it’s pointless to buy a $1 stamp and pay shipping on it.  Someday I’ll make sure it gets ordered and finish the page.

I’ve got more holes pre-1920, getting larger as you go back, but those tend to be the more difficult, more expensive stamps.  I made the decision long, long ago that I’d collect only MNH stamps post-1900 and postally used stamps pre-1900, mostly because they’re more much more expensive pre-1900 and I didn’t have a lot of money to spend at the time.  I could replace them, but I’ve got so many used stamps pre-1900, it would be a major undertaking so I’m not going to bother, at least not at the moment.  As it stands, my collection has slowed to a crawl because there isn’t that much left to add.  That’s why I wanted to start another collection, as I mentioned in a previous post.  I decided against Australia and went instead with China, which I had been previously considering.  The reason was simple, I had come up with some criteria for selecting a country and while Australia met most of them, it failed on availability.  There were more modern used stamps than mint and virtually all of the dealers I found were located in Australia.  China, on the other hand, was exactly the opposite.  Most dealers I saw were in the U.S. and the availability was reversed, therefore I went with the one that best fit my criteria.  I may go back and pick up Australia later, it’s still a country that interests me.

I can imagine some of my fanatical collector compadres asking “why pick those if you have no personal attachment to the countries?”  Again, like the U.S., I am not emotionally dedicated to the stamps, they are something to collect and while I certainly can look at them and appreciate them artistically, where they come from really doesn’t matter to me.  My wife collects Japan because she specifically likes Japan.  I wouldn’t care if they came from Outer Mongolia so long as they met my criteria.  It’s just not why I’m collecting.

To be honest, I’m sure other collectors just don’t understand me either.  I had one person who got very rude when I said I don’t open my action figures, I collect them, catalog them and store them.  How could I possibly consider myself a collector when I don’t open them and play with them and pose them all over the house?  I’ve addressed this previously and won’t go into it again, except to say that I have a logical argument for why one form of collecting is more “valid” than the other, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there.  After all, we’re all collecting to have a good time, whatever floats your boat is entirely up to you and I stand behind your particular methodology no matter what it is.  It’s your money, your property, do with it what you wish.  Just don’t pretend that you get to dictate how others act with their own property.

In the end, I suppose that everyone is different, I just see what I think is a disturbing trend toward fanaticism and obsession among some collectors and a call for such views to be considered normal.  Fanatics and the obsessed are never normal, they are never healthy in any way, shape or form.  It isn’t healthy to be addicted to anything.  We must temper our interests with reason and logic, we must be able to turn these interests off when they start to interfere with the rest of our lives.  Sure, having hobbies are fun, they’ve added a lot to my life and I plan on continuing for as long as I live when and where I can, but they can’t be the end-all-be-all of someone’s life.  If they are, they’ve stopped being hobbies and started being the focal point and that, like it or not, is unhealthy.

Let’s all try to be healthy, okay?

Where to go next?

I guess I’m an anachronism in a lot of ways, especially in my collecting habits.  Everywhere I go, I’m the odd man out.

In action figure collecting, I don’t open my figures, I don’t pose them all over the house, I don’t display them or hang them on the wall like trophies, I collect, I catalog and I store.  I’m not fanatical in my collecting either, I buy what I want to buy, at a price I want to pay.  I won’t chase any figure for hundreds or thousands of dollars, I recognize it as a piece of plastic and as such, it only has limited financial worth.  I either get a particular piece at a price I feel good for paying or I just don’t get it at all.  Not having any particular piece doesn’t gnaw at me, I don’t get cold sweats thinking about having an incomplete collection, I just have fun.  I’m not like the majority of collectors I run into.

By the same token, with stamp collecting, I’m not the common collector.  Recently there was a poll on a stamp forum about stamp collectors being hoarders.  Every single person who responded, with the exception of two of us, said they had boxes and boxes stacked high of stamps and covers and other stamp-collecting materials that they either had never looked at, or would probably never look at again.  Most had no idea what they even had.  Most buy kiloware or collections, sight unseen, just to have thousands of stamps to go through.  I never got the sense of that.  I’m collecting a country.  I want one example of every stamp that country has released, with very few exceptions.  Oh sure, I might have a single copy and a block.  I might have variations in perfs or color.  I just see no point in having 50 copies of the same stamp, in the same format, sitting in a box or a stock book somewhere.  There’s a difference between collecting and hoarding in my opinion and I am absolutely a collector.

Now with me, I’ve been collecting U.S. stamps off and on my entire life.  That’s more than 40 years doing the same thing.  Granted, there’s been a lot of time not doing it, but quite a significant amount of time pouring over little pictures on sticky paper.  For most of my life, I really haven’t been in a financial position to buy a lot at a time, so additions were relatively few and far between, but now that I have the wherewithal to buy what I want, I’ve very rapidly filled in most of the holes in my collection, with the exception of the very expensive classic stamps.  I’ve taken a general inventory and stamps I’m missing between 1920 and 1993 when I summarily decided I’d had enough of the Post Office, I can count on fingers and toes.  I plan on completing that in the very short term, but what then?  Sure, I can start getting those stamps that are in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, and certainly I intend to when the right stamps come along, but as I’ve learned in action figure collecting, if I don’t keep making purchases, if I don’t see my collection grow reasonably constantly, I get bored.  Boredom is no fun.

So I’ve been thinking what else I can do.  I do have a couple of small topical collections, but to be honest, my topical interests are so limited and narrow, I very rarely ever come across anything to add.  For more than half of my topical collections, there simply exist no lists of stamps that are available.  I know, I’ve looked.  For one, so far as I know, I am the only person on the planet that collects that particular specialty, at least I’ve never run into anyone else in all my years that follows it.  That also means that the stamps that I might be looking for, especially foreign stamps, are only sold in long sets, of which I might need a single stamp.  It has always seemed like a horrible waste of money to me to buy 10 stamps and throw 9 away.

I figured I’d start looking for another country to collect, one that I could feel good about buying a lot of stamps and mounting in my album.  The problem is, as I really started to think about it, I really didn’t give a damn about any of them.  For that matter, I really don’t care about U.S. stamps and never did, at least not in the way I hear a lot of collectors talk.  I’m not that interested in U.S. postal history.  I’m not interested in “seeing the world”.  I’m not interested in the culture or society of any country, expressed through their postage.  I’m just not.  To me, stamps are interesting, they are windows into a nation’s history and culture, but they’re just things.  Collecting to me, as boring as it might seem, is getting things.  It’s not obsessing over them, it’s having them.

I came up with some general criteria for new collecting interests.  I wanted it to be something where the stamps were relatively easy to come by, where there were a decent number of dealers who carried the stamps and who sold singles, not just long runs.  It had to be generally affordable, at least to start, although I know that sooner or later I’m going to run into the same problem as I have with my U.S. collection, where everything I need is high value.  It has to be large enough so that I’m not going to complete the country in a few short months, but not so massive that I could never hope to collect it.  The topics on the stamps have to be varied and interesting, I don’t need years and years of monarchs on stamps, I want them to be something I can enjoy looking at.  Finally, I didn’t want a country that is out to screw collectors, which is a serious problem with a lot of countries which realized that putting out tons of “collector” stamps could increase their national coffers.  So nobody who puts out tons of Disney stamps or Elvis stamps or the like.  Some here and there are fine.  Anything that is obviously aimed at topical collectors, especially countries that cancel-to-order for the collector market, are right out.

One of my first thoughts was collecting worldwide airmail stamps.  That interested me for several reasons, first, I do enjoy the look of a lot of airmail stamps and it would be interesting to see the diversity worldwide.  Secondly, most countries don’t have tons of airmail stamps available.  While it wouldn’t be difficult to finish just about any given country’s airmails, there are a wealth of countries to move on to so it would be a long, long time before I ran out of things to collect.  Fantastic idea, right?  Well, not so much because most album manufacturers don’t put out separate pages for airmail or other back-of-book stamps, especially worldwide.  I could find pages for the U.S. and maybe a couple of other popular stamp-issuing countries, but for anyone else, I’d have to buy entire albums and throw away 99% of the pages, or I’d have to print my own.

I don’t want to print my own.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lazy, I do design and print my own pages for my topical collections because, as I said before, they’re mostly so limited that it’s the only way to get pages at all.  But you know what I do hate?  I hate doing pointless research.  That’s one reason those stamps are so hard to find in the first place, nobody puts together lists of them and the thought of going through thousands of pages of the 6 Scott Standardized Stamp Catalogs bores me to tears.  I want to collect, not document.

So I went back to the drawing board, as it were.  I started thinking about countries in which I had any interest.  Obviously, Japan came up because I have spent a lifetime enjoying and collecting anime, but my wife already collects Japan so that’s out.  Why buy 2 of the same stamp all the time?  I half-heartedly thought about China but ultimately rejected it.  Granted, it is a popular collecting topic these days, which makes more stamps available, but that’s also it’s downfall.  The popularity of Chinese stamps also pushes the prices up and the selection down.  I then thought maybe something like Kenya or Tanzania, one of the African nations which routinely offer cheetahs on stamps, my one topical interest that drives me craziest, but again, availability is going to be extremely problematic for nations like that, there just aren’t many, if any, dealers out there who sell singles and I know I’ll end up with spotty coverage and an inability to fill holes without buying a ton of extras I don’t want.  Count that one out.

While I haven’t made up my mind for certain yet, I’ve been thinking a bit more about collecting Australia.  There seems to be a better selection of Australia than I’ve seen for other countries, with the possible exception of Canada and Great Britain which I have no interest in, plus more recent issues seem to have a heavy animal/space/science theme to them which I quite enjoy.  I’m trying to decide if I want to continue my trend, as I did with U.S. stamps, of only collecting MNH stamps from 1900 on and used stamps pre-1900, or just to give up and collect all used.  Certainly, that will make the costs minimal and probably easier to find, but something deep inside of me really wants mint stamps.  It’s something I’ll have to battle out internally.

But oh look at what they have!

If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  You know my criteria, maybe there’s something I’m not considering?

I’d love to know.

P.S.:  It’s now a month or so later and I changed my mind a couple of times on what I posted here.  First, although I did initially decide on Australia, after searching for dealers who carried mint stamps, I was disappointed to find that my usual haunts had many, many more used stamps than mint.  I really didn’t want to collect used and therefore, I scrapped that idea.  Also, the majority of Australian dealers, no surprise, were in Australia and that meant higher shipping costs.  Then I turned my attention  back to China, just on a lark, and found that exactly the opposite was true, there were many, many more mint stamps than used and there were a lot of dealers in the western hemisphere.  Therefore, I made my decision and started collecting China.  Sort of.  See, while I was looking, I came across an approval dealer who I told I was going to collect Australia and they sent me a huge selection of Australian stamps.  Great, now what do I do?  I felt bad not buying from them, so I did the only logical thing and… started collecting Australia as well.  Now I have two countries running and have been greatly enjoying both.  As both collections grow, I’m sure I’m going to be even happier, seeing pages get completed.  It didn’t have to be an either/or decision, sometimes the right choice is both!

Collectors Getting Butthurt

It really bothers me that when people start asking the “hard questions”, so many people freak out.  As most know, we’ve been having a discussion over on an action figure forum regarding how collectors act and what makes one a collector.  I think I’ve made some very good points and I’ve had a lot of people agree with me, but there are some hard-core people who simply cannot handle having to define their terms, instead trying to make them as vague and generic and all-inclusive as possible in order to keep from hurting anyone’s feelings.  It feels a lot like the accomodationist nonsense we’ve talked about so much here, where anyone, no matter how absurd or demonstrably wrong, has to be coddled so they don’t feel bad.

We’ve pussyfooted around the question, but eventually, I had to ask outright, “What are the defining characteristics of a collector?”  That’s when all hell broke loose.  I was immediately declared boring by the people who simply didn’t want to deal with the implications of the question, probably for fear that they wouldn’t fall under the definition.  “You’re probably one of those people who has to have all the terms in their life defined!  How dull!”  However, it is an important question though, one that does need to be discussed. Continue reading Collectors Getting Butthurt

The Good Old Days

After posting that article on collecting, I got to thinking about how things used to be.  This isn’t necessarily going to be a “good old days” article no matter what the title says, so much as an article on why I do things the way I do them and my formational years as a collector.

See, back in the olden days,  before the Internet, the only way to get a lot of collectables, be it toys or comics, was to find a local store, find someone who did mail order or wait for an annual convention.  The conventions were the big deal in those days, especially if you had a massive regional convention nearby.  In my case, it was always San Diego Comicon, back in the days when it was good.  You saved up your money, you made checklists of what you wanted and you waited all year to be able to get into the dealer’s room. Continue reading The Good Old Days

Collector or Accumulator

I know it’s a matter of definition, but I consider myself a collector of various things.  I’ve collected a lot of different things over the years, starting with stamps when I was much younger, moving to action figures, gashapon, comic books, regular books, DVDs, coins, etc. over the years.  I even got involved with collecting stickers for a very short time back in the late 70s/early 80s because I knew a lot of people who did and I guess I went along with the crowd.  I’ve been very open that I have the “collector gene” and I enjoy getting a variety of objects. Continue reading Collector or Accumulator

Freaking Out the Stamp World

I just love watching people freak out over nothing.  In a recent story, Sweden announced that it’s going to stop producing stamps.  Immediately, the stamp collecting world donned sack cloth and is lamenting the end of the world.  Oh no!  The whole world is going to stop making stamps and we’ll all have nothing to collect!  The horror!  The horror!

I’ll be honest.  Who cares.  First off, from a personal standpoint, I couldn’t care less about Sweden or their stamps, so whether or not they keep putting them out is entirely irrelevant to me.  From a larger perspective though, modern stamps worldwide have been largely pointless for many years anyhow.  Many countries are doing little more than photoshopping photographs and sticking them on stamps, there’s little artistic merit to what’s come out and, as I’ve said before, lots of countries, the United States included, have been milking the collector market by producing hundreds of new stamps every year.  In 2006, for instance, the U.S. released 161 commemorative stamps for the year.  Buying that set would cost you about $200.  That’s a lot of money for a bunch of colored pieces of paper.  Jumping back 40 years to 1966, they released a grand total of 17 commemorative stamps and it costs less than $10 to buy today.

Add to that the fact that many modern stamps are just stupid and simplistic compared to the intricate engraving work on classic stamps and you shouldn’t be surprised that I’m not really all that interested in them.  Stamps used to require artistry, now they just require Photoshop.  The stamp to the left, part of the 1898 Trans-Mississippi series, painted by noted artist James McWhirter, is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and detailed stamps in all of U.S. history.

Compare that to the stamp on the right, which could easily have been done by a 5-year old with a set of crayons and a pad of paper.  This kind of thing is commonplace, I suppose because they crank out so many stamps per year, they just don’t have much time to spend on making them look decent.

 

So beyond the fact that stamps are released in far too great quantities and they’re ugly, there’s another reason I don’t really care if stamps are going away.  The reality is, the world is changing.  Mail service just isn’t needed as much as it once was.  We’ve moved almost entirely to electronic communication and bill paying.  Sure, you’ll still need someone to move packages from one place to another, but it’s much cheaper and easier to print mailing labels and affix them to your packages than it is to try to get the right combination of denominations of stamps.  Like it or not, the world marches on and we all have to accept that.  While stamps may be fun and interesting, the reality is that they may very soon serve no useful purpose in the modern world.  So be it.  That doesn’t stop 175 years of existing postal history and millions of worldwide stamp issues already in existence, most of them more attractive and interesting than anything the USPS or most other modern post offices have put out in years.

Let them die.  I’ll be working on my collection of classics, which are wholly unaffected by the modern world.  They look better and really, that’s one of the things that keeps me interested in the hobby, not modern self-stick labels with the artistic quality of a 4-year old’s scribbles.

What Is It About Money?

I’ve noticed this for a while, but since I went back to collecting stamps, it’s become much more pronounced.  For a large segment of the collecting population, collecting is all about making money.  They want their collections not only to be worth something, but to make a profit.

Why? Continue reading What Is It About Money?

Not An Issue Of Money

Over on an action figure forum, people were complaining about the new price increase at Target for the Justice League Unlimited 3-packs from $15.99 to $19.99, just as Target announced that they were not picking up any more JLU merchandise, effectively killing the line months before it’s scheduled end.  Lots of people were upset, understandably so, that not only wouldn’t they be able to get the last couple of 3-packs because Target wouldn’t carry them, but because Target was gouging people on the last 3-packs of the line.  Most of us recognize what Target is doing, they’re raising the prices so that, in a few weeks, they can “clearance” the line at the original $15.99 price point and not lose any money.  It’s sleazy, but what can you expect? Continue reading Not An Issue Of Money

Ah, Those Wonderful Kitties

Thought I’d be 100% positive for a bit.  Don’t faint.  As you know, I collect stamps and one of the things I collect are cheetahs on stamp.  It’s called a topical, which makes sense, it’s collecting a particular topic on a stamp instead of a particular country.  Lots of people collect cats or dogs (I do that too), trains or trombones, etc.  I happen to collect cheetahs.  Why?  Heck if I know, I just like cheetahs.

So I guess I ought to show some of them off.  These are stamps I collected years ago, they probably represent a tiny percentage of the total number of cheetah stamps available worldwide.  I’ve started to put together a list of all the stamps I can find, a checklist so I know what I need, but until I can find some more, here’s a small selection of what I currently have.

Warning, below the fold is graphic intensive.  Enjoy. Continue reading Ah, Those Wonderful Kitties