Sunday, May 2, 2010

Stamps - a meditation on saving money

This thing has happened much the way thought trails do. First, I saw a news segment on a woman who saves $27,000 a year using coupons. She had a big black three-ring notebook with plastic sleeves in it. I figured she put coupons for a certain aisle, like Dairy, in one (or more) sleeves. Then you could just flip flip as you go through the grocery store. This coincided with the fact that I had just made $11.00 with coupons at Kroger. Buddhists call this codependent arising, how my ideas arise from some subtle conjunction of myriad things.

I like anything I can organize (excluding my own filing). Sometimes I like to do things like sit calmly and cut out coupons. I like the very idea of saving, as well as the fact of it. And I had a source. I thought, I know Cat Welfare has something like that notebook. If you bought those sleeves new (maybe meant for photographs, the old-fashioned kind), they'd cost a fortune, but they'll be free in that notebook.

And so, things continued to come together so that I got to Cat Welfare yesterday morning - we had donations for their garage sale, anyway. And, indeed, there hidden on a low shelf was a big black binder with about a dozen of the right kind of plastic sleeves. But they were full of stamps! Someone's old stamp collection, smelling of dust and spider webs, but not tobacco smoke. I saw it as a kind of treasure trove, wouldn't you? Page after page of little envelope corners with postmarks and stamps.

And now I am having a look at it.

The oldest date I see is 1975. . . . Stamps are most often beautiful and intricate, but it seems to be desirable to have them smeared over with a postmark, for they are, all but one 10c stamp. All are American. I thought stamp collections had a theme, but I'm not seeing one here, just pretty stamps mostly, flowers and folk art. Space stations, world peace, pharmacy, Einstein, Progress in Eectronics. Patriotic faces, Lyndon, Harry S. The collector was omnivous. The last date seems to be 1980. So he did this five years, and then died. Why he? I never heard of a woman collecting stamps. Pocketbooks, more likely. It looks like it just sat since then, and at last someone decided to dammit, get it appraised and/or get rid of it. The last of somebody's belongings, unless he had a gold watch.

Trawling in stamp valuing, I try "Long may it wave," a 4c stamp I find in a block of four, postmarked, 1979. Voila, this is called the 48-star flag. But so far two sites don't want to tell me for nothing what this stamp is worth.

Try ebay. Yes, they have a whole category for stamps. Here it is, a single one postmarked "Pray for Peace," asking $1.24. The postmark on my four isn't that cool, but I think a block of four is worth something - though, why? This area is really hard to understand. It is pure collecting, not like collecting Hall pottery which at least you can make tea in.

I try Progress in Electronics, 8c. Hmm. Asking $1.75.

I find a friendly site, Jim's Stamp Album, for those of us who have inherited a collection:
If you've got a U.S. collection, I can give you some quick answers that you can use to set expectations. If a stamp was issued after 1930, is unused, is in great condition, and has a face value below 50¢, it is most likely only worth its face value. If it is used, it is most likely worth less than that.
Well, that squares this around for the night. But now I will have the nagging thought that if Progress in Electronics was worth $1.75, a number of the little stamps could be worth a little something, and add up to money. Or I could generously give the stamps to my grandson, and go clip coupons.

[image The Tre Skilling Banco yellow. In 1996 the only known copy sold for $2.3 K. That's million. Dollars.]

1 comment:

  1. I have a stamp collection! Handed down to me by my grandfather (1900s stamps when we were still a US Commonwealth country), some from my mother, and my eldest sister. They could be valuable but I will not meander the same road you did on the internet hahaha.. I am going to take a siesta :D