by Gail Yost
Hobbies can be a valuable source of family enjoyment and relaxation. They
can also provide a valuable source of education. One such hobby—stamp collecting— lends itself to fun and academic enrichment in various subjects, especially the subject of history.
or example, Linn’s Stamp News reports that one teenager’s hobby has received national recognition. When he was only seven years old, Kurt Gladzfelder took up the hobby of stamp collecting. He combined his new hobby with his growing interest in space history. Now, at the age of fifteen, Kurt is showing his stamps in an exhibit featured at the Canadian Museum of History in Hull, Quebec, Canada. His exhibit entitled "Exploring Space" includes more than 200 stamps. Kurt’s hobby has allowed him to make history himself!
Your goal for your child may be more modest than what this young man has accomplished. In fact, you may be content with just piquing an interest in history.Whatever the area, it has most likely been featured on a stamp (or two). World history, United States history, and state history—all are well represented on stamps and ready for collecting.
For this article, we will focus on United States history. You and your child might be studying our U.S. presidents. Since stamps have been issued for every U.S. president, you could ask your child to collect stamps featuring the presidents. And at least one of our presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was also a stamp collector. Even during his presidency, Roosevelt faithfully continued to add to his collection. To enhance his project, your child could mount his president stamps with a thumbnail sketch that he has written about each man.
Other historical figures are featured on stamps: authors, statesmen, scientists, writers. One black American, George Washington Carver, is remembered for his contributions to agricultural chemistry. Carver developed more than 300 products from peanuts. Hundreds of other individuals are honored by a stamp that bears their image.
Many of America’s most famous landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, are the subject of many stamps. Stamps can even depict recent changes in history. In April 2002 a pane of fifty different 34-cent Greetings from America stamps went on sale. The original Greetings from New York stamp pictured the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City in the top-right corner. But, after 9/11, the design was revised.The stamp’s New York skyline no longer includes the towers. History, as it is happening, is being recorded on stamps.
Now that you have some information pertaining to what is available for collecting, you need a few terms to use as you and your family venture into the hobby. Definitive stamps, also called regular issues, are released in large quantities. They remain in use for an indefinite time, often several years.They can picture a number of subjects, though heads of state, flags, plants, and animals are the most common. Commemorative stamps are produced in limited quantities and can be purchased for only a limited time. Besides honoring an event, anniversary, or person, commemoratives may feature a nation’s culture and traditions. Commemoratives are usually larger and more colorful than definitives. Therefore, they are usually more sought after.
Sources for used (canceled) stamps are as close as your church. The secretary opens mail by the bundle and often just disposes of the envelopes (and their stamps). Try talking with her about putting aside those used envelopes for you to check before she throws them away. Once the word gets around at church that you want to start a stamp collection, you’ll discover collectors in every pew! Most are eager to help young people get into the hobby, and many have stamps and encouragement to share.
For new stamps and further information about stamp collecting, check with the philatelic department of your central post office or log on to the United States Postal Service website, usps.com.
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