An Introduction to Russian Stamp Collecting

A fascinating and fun hobby appealing to people of all walks of life


Most of this web site has been written with the expectation that you, our valued visitor, are already actively collecting stamps and probably have something more than a casual interest in Russian stamps, too.

But maybe this assumption is wrong.  In case of this being so, I offer this page as penance!  :)

 
  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 Russians!

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 cars!

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 issues).

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.

 

 
 
 
 

This page last modified on May 15, 2010