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Thursday, April 18, 2024

EDITORIAL: What Happened to the Joy of Collecting Stamps?


You remember the feel of it,⁤ right? The paper, sometimes rough and porous under your fingertips, other times glossy and sleek. The ‌thunk of the initial cancellation stamp imprint, the nib of your tweezers delicately‍ edging a newly procured treasure ⁣into its rightful place in an album. Those tiny pieces of adhesive ⁢art held an allure that has‌ seemed‌ to ‌fade over the decades – much like ​my home city of Schenectady with its forgotten industrial charm and deteriorated ⁢delights. Yes, I’m talking about stamp collecting, ​once a⁣ widely adored hobby that somehow slipped into oblivion​ under the onslaught of all things digital.

Friends, I have‍ seen the promise and the despair that ⁤comes ​with technological advancement, the⁢ excitement of new gadgets coupled with the soul-searing loss⁣ of analog pleasures. You could say the whole affair has left me as grumpy as a petulant feline that⁣ has lost its favorite sunbeam.‍ Yet, nothing fuels ⁢my indignation quite as much as the vanishing joy⁤ of stamp collecting.

Many moons ago, the sight of a stamp – ‌each a‍ petite testament to art, history, culture, and geography – brought⁣ a‌ sense of ‌unadulterated pleasure. It held the thrill of careening through time‍ and across continents without leaving the proverbial armchair, offering enticing nuggets of knowledge about countries and cultures far removed from our lives in Schenectady. Yet, today, these postage wonders, once the life⁢ and soul of communication, are regarded‍ as antiquated anomalies at⁢ best, shuffling closer towards extinction with each​ passing day.

Mention⁤ stamp collecting at your local watering hole, and you’re likely ‍to be met with an indulgent eyeroll. Tell your‍ grandchildren, and they’re more ⁣apt to snigger ⁤than eagerly​ gather around ⁣your outdated but undoubtedly rich repository of miniature artworks. ‌Bring it ⁢up to the Internet-enthralled ‍Gen Y crowd, and you may as well have declared⁤ your devotion ⁣to​ maintaining a fleet of covered wagons.

Why has stamp collecting, once a​ revered pastime, been rudely shrugged off the list of popular hobbies?

Here’s ‍an anecdote ⁣that may shed some light on this matter. When I was a boy of 12, I remember the old thrift store down on Broadway,‍ run by a Mr. Frederick Wilkins. He was an odd fella, let’s say, easily pushing past 75 back then,⁢ but his eccentricities were tempered by ‍an infectious fascination for stamps.

I ⁢recall spending⁤ countless after-school hours ​at his shop, poring over dusty old ⁤albums filled with stamps ⁢of every shape, ⁤size, ⁤color, and denomination imaginable. One day in particular, Mr. Wilkins handed me a‌ dusty old parcel. Inside it was⁤ a stamp from ‌1855, a ‌British Guyana. A one-cent stamp‌ from a limited run. The legendary “black on magenta” they called⁤ it. “This simple piece of paper,” he told me, “is a story. ‍It has ⁢a past ⁣and a journey.”

That palpable connect to history,​ unfortunately,⁢ has been shoved ⁤aside‍ by instant gratification culture – the kind notorious for assassinating attention spans and directing a cold ​shoulder towards any activity that demands patience​ and thoughtful participation.

With texts and emails rapidly replacing physical ​mail,‌ the sight of a ⁤good old fashioned letter is a rare delight. It was⁣ these tangible missives that provided a⁢ slow-paced respite from the noisy, fast-paced humdrum of life.‍ Something as innocuous as ⁢waiting for the mailman, or the satisfaction of affixing stamps decorated with the likenesses of cultural icons or ⁢national events, is now a forgotten luxury.

Today, as a 50-something resident of Schenectady, the‍ rapid digitization brings a certain sense of loss. A felt ⁢disconnection from the past, ⁤which is ironic, considering our ceaseless efforts to record every minute discrepancy in our daily lives for posterity ‌on social media. ‌

Perhaps, one ⁣could argue, ‍it is the very progression⁣ of⁢ society that caused the demise ‌of stamp collecting.‌ After all, it is often deemed a solitary pursuit, while we’ve moved‍ towards a more “social” world. ⁣But aren’t we forgetting that stamp collecting ⁤could be ⁣social too?​ The​ numerous ⁣stamp clubs that flourished⁢ across the US, mine being the Schenectady Stamp Club, were ‌hotbeds for passionate discussions, friendly barters, and shared learning.

Shouldn’t ‌we‍ mourn a hobby that,⁣ apart⁣ from⁢ its aesthetic appeal​ and emotional connection, offered ‍an unpretentious yet profound⁢ education ⁤in politics,‌ mythology, ‍culture, and history?

A gripping connection to the larger world is being ⁢brushed ‍under the ⁢rug as the enthusiasm for stamp collecting wanes. It’s a little⁤ disheartening, ⁢to put it lightly. Have ‌we become so obsessed with fleeting trends that we’ve forgotten to maintain the cycle of knowledge and‍ shared histories?

If you ⁣ask ‌me‍ (and you’ve read this far, so maybe ⁢you have), ‍I’d say aim⁢ to rediscover that lost connection. Go ⁢on, friends. Splash out on ‌a stamp album and shake off the disdain. Collecting‍ these miniature masterpieces can just ⁣be ⁣the balm for your 21st-century anxieties.

Maybe ​you’ll even reignite a spark of joy in what‌ we now seem to have forgotten ⁢- appreciating the craft of stamping,⁢ nourishment for the soul, and curiosity for the mind.

Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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