Early Days…Early Mistakes

I was at a Collectors Fair in Belfast on Saturday last and I noticed a small pre-printed juvenile) album on sale. I reckon it was started in the mid 1960s, maybe just a few years after I started my own collection circa 1960.

Some of the stamps looked very familiar and appeared to have been bought in packets from Woolworths Counter.

In the 1960s, Woolworths sold stamps for Collectors…specifically children. The packets were often produced by Stanley Gibbons but I believe one firm was called “Bulldog Stamps”.

Cuba 1 Haiti 1Cayman Islands 1

It is often the case that young collectors in the 1960s gave up Stamp Collecting after trying it for a very short time. Rather like young boys enjoyed recreational ball games like Football, very few take it seriously enough or have the aptitude to play in an organised way.

It was often the case that the packets of stamps in Woolworths sold as (say) “25 France”,  “15 Denmark” or “10 Iran”. They were of course starter packs which sold for (maybe) sixpence. Larger packets like “50 Latin America” may have sold for one shilling.

Sometimes stamps were sold as “20 Space”, “15 Sport” or “10 Transport”. Disproportionately these stamps which we would later call “Thematic” would come from USSR and their mostly European satellites such as German Democratic (East) Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Or sometimes stamps were sold as “10 Triangles”.

This means that these limited number of stamp packets make all juvenile collections of the time look extremely familiar. Take the three pages from my own collections.

Cuba was a satellite of old USSR and produced a lot of stamps propagandising Soviet and Communist achievement. I certainly recall the packet of stamps featuring Gagarin and Titov, the first Russian cosmonauts.

Haiti…the first stamps I ever saw from Haiti were the three “diamond shaped” Pirate stamps. Haiti was and still is, an impoverished nation. These stamps were produced for the philatelic market. Their actual postal use in Haiti was minimal, if indeed they were ever used at all.

Cayman Islands is a British territory and tax haven in the West Indies. But note that the values on the stamps (a quarter penny…farthing) is much too low to be of any reasonable use in the mail. These again are produced with the philatelic market…juvenile albums in mind.

Stamps can be “mint” or “used” but there is a hybrid “Cancelled to Order”. These are effectively stamps not used postally but have been cancelled by the Postal Authority, effectively rendering them of interest to Collectors.

Really the difficulty for juvenile collectors is to get past the first year or so …of worthless stamps and colourful pieces of paper. I guess I have upwards of one thousand stamps that originated in a packet in Woolworths.

It is at worst a total waste of time. At best, it is the gateway into general stamp collecting such as exchanging stamps that have been genuinely used. That can provide a lot of fun. Or it can be the gateway into the more obsessive world of “specialisation”…in my case, Ireland.

There are aspects of Stamp Collecting that I don’t like. Impoverished nations use “Agents” to promote their stamps as a means generating revenue beyond normal “mail” which leads themes and topics being produced, which have little relevance to the nation which issues the stamps…the small tropical island of Nauru issuing stamps that commemorate the Winter Olympics and the former USSR satellite, Turkmenistan, which produces entire sets, commemorating Lady Diana, Elvis Presley and the like.

I really do love the Post Office. I love the fact that the Universal Postal Union…supervising mail carriage worldwide is such a great force for Peace.

I enjoy Stamp Collecting. But it is not a perfect world.


About John

Dia Duit! Hello. My name is John. I am retired. I live in Ireland. I am on a five year mission to visit every city, town, village and place of historic and scenic interest in Ireland.
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