Stamp Collecting in General
This is hard to write!
Why do people collect stamps, and why should you join our number?
One of the great things
about stamp collecting is that it truly can be enjoyed by many different
people, with many different interests, varying amounts of spare time, and
varying amounts of money, too! You don't need to have anything
special, and you don't need to be anyone special, to be a stamp collector
- it really is a universal hobby.
Plus it is one of the few
hobbies out there that actually can involve its members in both buying and
selling - indeed it seems that some people get more fun out of the trading
than they do out of the collecting side of things. (Note that I say
"fun" - many people enjoy trading, but few people get very wealthy at
it!). Most hobbies seem to have evolved to a point where enjoyment
of the hobby involves spending lots of money that you never see again -
with stamp collecting, the money you invest in stamps can be largely
recouped at any stage if you sell them again. It is a fun way of
saving your money - and much more interesting to look at than bank
statements! And, for younger people, stamp trading teaches them
valuable lessons in terms of the best use of their money, and how best to
buy and sell, and so on.
Collecting stamps is
educational - but not boring! Indeed, the educational aspect of
stamp collecting - the almost imperceptible slow learning about foreign
countries and cultures as you collect their stamps and notice their native
plants, animals, ethnic customs, festivals and holidays, famous people,
etc, has been used as a subtle propaganda tool by some countries
(including Communist Russia!) and to selectively spread positive
information about the country to the rest of the world! Have a look
at Russian stamps from World War 2, for example, and notice how the
Russian soldiers are shown in noble poses, heroically liberating oppressed
peoples, etc, while the enemy, when he appears at all, is shown as
depraved, animalistic, and, of course, always losing to the brave
Many people find that their
interest in stamps evolves to an interest in the countries that issued the
stamps they collect, and stamp collecting provides an excellent way to
encourage younger people to develop a broader interest in and awareness of
the wider world around them.
Collecting stamps can be a
family pasttime, and even a family business. It can be a great
common interest shared by the whole family, and can form a basis for
mini-vacations when the family travels to exhibit and trade at stamp shows
around the country (and even around the world, too).
Collecting stamps can be as
affordable as you choose, or as expensive as you wish! Whether your
budget is $2 a week or $2000 a week, you'll find plenty of ways to spend
it, and will get plenty of pleasure in return.
Collecting stamps can tie
in with other (thematic) interests. If you are a dog lover, maybe
you will collect dog themed stamps. If you really are a rocket
scientist, then maybe you'll collect space themed stamps. If you
like old cars, then guess what - you'll find lots of old car stamps also
to collect. Adding a philatelic extension to your other hobbies can
be a fun way to enjoy your other interests more fully, and at low cost -
for example, it is much cheaper to collect old cars on stamps than as real
Stamp collecting is an
excellent antidote to high-stress modern life. I was/am, myself,
your typical "Type A" aggressive workaholic and spent way too much of
every day hard at work, and way too little time relaxing and calming down
from the tense demands of high pressure work. Stamp collecting is
the complete opposite to such horrible things - it is hard to get too
stressed over a stamp, isn't it! And the quiet slow careful sorting
through of stamps, identifying them, mounting them in albums; all of this
is a wonderful way of relaxing and enjoying life at a much calmer pace.
Russian Stamp Collecting
Russia is one of the most
interesting countries in the world for the stamp collector. If you
like the thought of having an absolutely complete collection of a major
country from the day it was formed to the day it ended, it is realistic to
plan to put together a full collection of every stamp issued during the
Soviet/USSR period, and at a reasonable cost.
If you like delving into
research and sifting through many very similar but subtly different
stamps, hunting down obscure variations, and puzzling out unusual finds
that don't appear in the mainstream catalogs, then there is plenty of
that, too. The period between the fall of Tsar Nicholas II and the
stabilisation of the Communist government is full of a wonderful confusion
of different issues, from various breakaway governments, plus the chaos of
what was happening in "official" Russia, added to which, inflation was
making overprints appear every which way! Lastly, if you like new
issues, you have a wonderful chance to collect every new issue from 1992
issued by the new independent Russia and the "Commonwealth of Independent
States" (but note my comments on
the validity of recent new
There is a whole sub-branch
of Russian philately to do with "zemstvo" stamps - stamps issued by local
governments for local postal services. This has a huge amount of
unexplored territory to retain anyone's interest for the longest time.
To make things even more
exciting, there is a reasonable amount of philatelic fraud surrounding
some Russian stamps, same as with other countries, and the chances are
that sooner or later, you'll find yourself noticing stamps that are
counterfeit (and, of course, in the sometimes surprising world we live in,
sometimes the known counterfeit stamps have become more valuable than the
real stamps they were trying to copy!).
Indeed, just about any
conceivable sub-branch of philatelic interest has a full expression in
some form within the Russian region.
Collecting Russian stamps
can be both easy and hard. It is easy because most stamps have their
year of issue on them, making it easier to identify and add them to a
stamp album. It can be hard because if you want to start to get into
a more in-depth understanding of the stamps and what they represent,
you'll have the fun of learning some of the Russian alphabet so that you
can read and pronounce the words on the stamps.
Interest in collecting
Russian material is on the increase. A lot of stamps have been
brought out of Russia by emigres, and there is an abundance of material
for collectors to fairly easily acquire.
For people of my
generation, who grew up knowing, for sure, that the Soviet Union was "the
enemy" and the threat to the free world, it is all the more fascinating to
look back now, through the stamps we collect, at the "paper tiger" that
this nation turned out to be, and hard not to feel relieved that the
cataclysmic confrontation between the US and the USSR never occurred.
Perhaps even a study of Russia through its stamps and the history and
social attitudes that they portray can help us to slightly understand the
mystery that was - and still largely is - this huge nation, and its place
in the world.
I'm sure hooked on Russian
philately myself, and I hope that you too will come to appreciate its
subtleties and its pleasures.
If I can do anything to
assist you as you build your own interest in and understanding of this
hobby, please let me know.
And, welcome; to the web
site here and the hobby as a whole.