The August issue of The American Philatelist arrived a few days ago and I’ve slowly been perusing it during rare periods of free-time (this time of year has always been a busy period for me but this year I am nearly overwhelmed!). American Philatelic Society president Mick Zais has a particularly interesting column this month in which he examines some of the reasons that people collect and poses the question, “Is there a collecting gene?”

An auction house once stated that collecting is, in fact, a basic human instinct; a survival advantage amplified by eons of natural selection. Those of our ancient ancestors who managed to accumulate scarce objects may have been more prone to survive long enough to bear offspring. Even today, wealth correlates to longer life expectancy — and could any form of wealth be more basic than scarce, tangible objects?

According to The Guardian a few years ago, “One psychoanalytical explanation for collecting is that unloved children learn to seek comfort in accumulating belongings; another is that collecting is motivated by existential anxieties — the collection, an extension of our identity, lives on, even though we do not. More recently, evolutionary theorists suggested that a collection was a way for a man to attract potential mates by signalling his ability to accumulate resources.”

Another site lists the following as the most common reasons people collect things:

  • Knowledge and learning
  • Relaxation and stress reduction
  • Personal pleasure (including appreciation of beauty, and pride of ownership)
  • Social interaction with fellow collectors and others (i.e. the sharing of pleasure and knowledge)
  • Competitive challenge
  • Recognition by fellow collectors and perhaps even non-collectors
  • Altruism (since many great collections are ultimately donated to museums and learning institutions)
  • The desire to control, possess and bring order to a small (or even a massive) part of the world
  • Nostalgia and/or a connection to history
  • Accumulation and diversification of wealth (which can ultimately provide a measure of security and freedom)

There’s even a “Psychology of Collecting” article on Wikipedia which says that, “When people think of collecting, they may imagine expensive works of art or historical artifacts that are later sold to a museum or listed on eBay. The truth is, for many people who amass collections, the value of their collections are not monetary but emotional — and often, not for sale. Collections allow people to relive their childhoods, to connect themselves to a period in history or to a time they feel strongly about. Their collections may help them to ease insecurity and anxiety about losing a part of themselves, and to keep the past present. Some collect for the thrill of the hunt. Collecting is much like a quest, a lifelong pursuit which can never be complete. Collecting may provide psychological security by filling a part of the self one feels is missing or is void of meaning. When one collects, one experiments with arranging, organizing, and presenting a part of the world which may serve to provide a safety zone, a place of refuge where fears are calmed and insecurity is managed. Motives are not mutually exclusive; rather, different motives combine in each collector for a multitude of reasons.”

The Wikipedia article mentions that while “there are unemotional commerce-motivated collectors, those that hunt for collectibles only to turn them around soon after and sell them. . . .collecting is still mostly associated with positive emotions. There is the happiness from adding a new find to the collection, the excitement of the hunt, the social camaraderie when sharing their collection with other collectors.”

According to a 2007 article in The National Psychologist, “Sigmund Freud didn’t see collecting as stemming from these kinds of motivations. He postulated that collecting ties back to the time of toilet training, of course. Freud suggested that the loss of control and what went down the toilet was a traumatic occurrence and that, therefore, the collector is trying to gain back not only control but “possessions” that were lost so many years ago. Well that’s Freud.”

I believe that I collect stamps primarily for the knowledge that I gain from these little bits of paper. I have learned a great deal about history and geography which I frequently use in my job as an English teacher in Thailand, as well as about other topics that may seem useless but enhance my enjoyment of the hobby (printing methods, paper, etc.). Researching the subjects of my stamps often lead me to unexpected discoveries. I also collect for the relaxation it offers, the “thrill of the hunt,” and goal of completion (“A Stamp From Everywhere”, thank you very much).

I’m not certain if any collector can narrow down the reasons they collect to just one. Can you?

Well, not really…

I never have fun when using Photoshop and there are only about two functions that I can perform using the unwieldy program (and not always with the same degree of success).  “Fun with Paint” isn’t quite as good a title, however…

If I attempt to design something, I use a combination of Microsoft’s Paint (and not that new 3D version they tried to force upon me a few Windows 10 auto-updates ago) and an open-source program called PhotoScape which is great for things like placing (and resizing) transparent background images upon other images and manipulating lettering amongst other functions.

This weekend, I decided that it was time to change the small logo at the top of my “other” stamp blog, A Stamp A Day. After all, I hadn’t done anything to the design of the blog since I started it over a year ago (I am VERY happy with the theme — a free WordPress theme called Spun).A Stamp A Day

That logo was just a simple “edit” of a stamp issued by France in 1963 for an upcoming philatelic exhibition (Scott #1078):

France #1078 (1963)
France #1078 (1963)

But this didn’t even include the name of the blog, something that kind of bothered me but also allowed me to use the image from time to time here on Philatelic Pursuits and as an avatar on various stamp forums that I’m a member of.

I’d planned to make a new one for quite some time but it’s just hard to find the free time (another detractor is that I didn’t save a copy of the “unlettered” version so I’d have to start from scratch). This weekend, I finally had plenty of downtime and made several versions:

After I made those, I thought, “Let’s do some more!” Once I get started on something, it’s hard for me to stop.

My second try with “editing” a stamp was an attempt using Monaco #C16 issued in 1947, my favorite stamp-collecting themed stamp (I also collect FDR topicals):

Monaco #C16 (1947)
Monaco #C16 (1947)

My first tries at obscuring the cross-hatching in the upper-left and below the country tablet were fairly awful:

I then decided on a “wipe” approach to the upper-left cross-hatching (mainly because any lettering I placed over the cross-hatching was completely unreadable):

Hey! This is fun! Let’s see what the United States #1474 from 1972 looks like:

United States #1474 (1972)
United States #1474 (1972)

German Democratic Republic #91 issued in 1951 for Stamp Day:

For my final stabs at stamp “editing” this weekend were to work on two booklet panes issued in 1986 with a stamp collecting theme: Sweden #1588a and United States #2201a:

Sweden #1588a (1986)
Sweden #1588a (1986)
United States #2201a (1986)
United States #2201a (1986)

I even added a couple of items to the selvage of the Swedish stamp (at the top is the Phuket provincial seal) and at the bottom is a stylized entwined U.S. and Thai flag design. I had some problems removing elements and some of the quadrilles on the U.S. issue in particular are out of alignment. I will go back and fix these at some point, but my “free time” on a Sunday morning had come to end….

Admittedly, what I’ve done is quite basic. But the point is: If I can do this, then anybody can.

My biggest problem now is deciding which of these that I like the best. Which one shall have the upper left corner of the “A Stamp A Day” blog for the next year? I applied the Monaco stamp yesterday but it appears too large so I’ll resize that. I may end up setting it so that a different image appears on each separate click.

In preparing this article, I thought I’d also share a few stamp “designs” I made earlier this year. They may see eventual “release” through my Muang Phuket Local Post; I haven’t printed any of my creations for that project in almost two years (the last being a souvenir sheet for ASEAN Day on August 8, 2015). I have found somebody who can print these labels on dry gum paper and apply perforations so I may do that at some point in the future. The personalized image at the head of this article was created entirely in Photoshop (one of my few “successes”, I suppose but I’m still not entirely happy about it); I’d planned to make covers for my 50th birthday at the end of 2015 but never finished it.

“Admirals” refers to several series of definitive stamps depicting King George V released by Canada (1911–1928: Scott #104-134, #162,172, #178-183, and #MR1-MR7), Rhodesia (1913-1923: Scott #119-138), Southern Rhodesia (1924-1930: Scott #1-14), and New Zealand (1926: Scott #182-184).  Although George V had succeeded Edward VII as King of England and the British Dominions on May 6, 1910, stamps depicting his reign were not issued until the latter part of 1911. The delay in producing the new design, some 18 months after the King’s accession to the throne, had more to do with the process of preparing new printing contracts than with the time needed to actually produce the new stamps, although there were objections to the King appearing on the stamps at all. These particular stamps are called the “Admirals” due to the fact that the King is portrayed in the ceremonial uniform of Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal Navy.

The first of these were the 1 cent and 2 cent denominations issued by Canada on December 22, 1911. These saw postal use for about 16 years, which was longer than any other definitives except for the Small Queens released from 1870 until 1897. This was the start of the first series of the Canadian “Admirals” released from 1911 to 1931 with eleven different denominations ranging from 1 cent to 1 dollar. These depict King George V in profile, facing the left.

Canada #104 (1911)
Canada #104 (1911)

The engraving of King George V on the 1911-1931 Canadian series is modeled after two photographs by H. Walter Barnettby and the other by W. & D. Downey. The engraving was mastered by Robert Savage of the American Bank Note Company whose main base of operation was in New York but which also had printing facilities in Ottawa, Canada. These issues are perforated 12 x 12.

The 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 10 cent denominations were reprinted at later dates with different colors. Every denomination of the King George V issue were printed in panes of 200 and 400 stamps and cut into and issued in sheets of 100 stamps, or in booklet form with pages of four or six stamps. They were also released in coil form with three different perforation varieties and were first released in November, 1912. The last stamp issue of this series to be released was the 2-cent carmine issue which had the unusual perforations of 12 x 8 and was issued on June 24, 1931.

During this period, Canadian stamps and their usage were affected by many factors.

  • World War I interrupted the supplies of pigments from Europe as well as the supply of high quality steel used for printing plates.
  • The printers changed from printing stamps on wet ungummed paper to dry pre-gummed paper.
  • A growing population and increased use of the mails required that the printers find faster ways of printing greater numbers of stamps.
  • In 1915, a 1¢ War Tax was placed on each piece of mail. Eleven years later it was repealed.
  • The postal rates changed numerous times. This resulted in new stamps being issued to meet these rates, and existing denominations being issued in new colors.
  • Increased use of stamp vending and affixing machines prompted the Post Office to issue stamps in coil format.
  • Increased popularity of stamp booklets resulted in their continued issuance during this era.
  • New services such as Airmail were offered by the Post Office.
  • Old cancelling devices were gradually phased out as new types of cancels were introduced.

The unusually long issuing period required new dies and several plates to be struck, resulting in a large range of flaws and other varieties for a stamp collector to study. It is because of these factors that the “Admirals” are some of the most extensively-researched stamps in Canadian philately.

Canada #166 (1931)
Canada #166 (1931)

Stocks of the earlier Canadian series of King George V definitives began to become exhausted in 1928 so a second series was prepared and issued beginning in August 1928. Rather than portraying the King in complete profile, these stamps portrayed King George V with his head in a quarter turn to the left. The series was issued in six denominations of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8 cents, with a different color for each value. The first stamp of this series to appear was the 4 cent released on August 16, 1928, while the 8 cent stamp was the final to appear, issued on December 21, 1928. Stamps from this series that were also issued in coil form and include the 1, 2 and 5 cent denominations.

A number of books detailing the “Admiral” issues of Canada have been published. There are also a number of excellent online guides, including an overview on the Canadian Philately blog extensive sites hosted by the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada and the British North America Philatelic Society.

Rhodesia’s “Admiral” stamps were released between 1913 and 1923, portraying King George V facing straight. Four values were printed from a single working place while the remainder were bicolored and printed from double plates. Three engraved dies for the head were used which can be identified from the shading on the King’s ear and the shank of the anchor on his cap badge. Shades for these issues are numerous. These stamp issues were perforated with gauge 14 or 15. Because of this numerous color varieties and other factors, correct identification can be difficult the collector. Many books on the subject are out of print and difficult to obtain as is other source information.

Southern Rhodesia #1 (1924)
Southern Rhodesia #1 (1924)

Using the same design as those of Rhodesia were the first stamps to be inscribed SOUTHERN RHODESIA, fourteen engraved stamps printed on unwatermarked paper, perforated 14, released in 1924; a coil version of the 1 penny scarlet, perforated 12½, was released in 1930.

In New Zealand in 1924, it was considered that the demand for 2s and 3s stamps was such that two new stamps were required to replace the “Duty” stamps that had been in use up to that time. As Viscount Jellicoe was then Governor-General, it was considered appropriate to depict on the stamps a portrait of the King in the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet, Viscount Jellicoe having been the commander of the British fleet at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

The New Zealand Cabinet approved the stamp on July 1, 1924. The three stamps (Scott #182-184) were designed by H Linley Richardson of Wellington.  The dies were engraved by Waterlow and Sons, London, while Bradbury Wilkinson produced the printing plates which were printed by the Government Printing Office, New Zealand, in sheets of 80, perforated 14, on paper watermarked with NZ and a star. The first printing of the 2 shilling in deep blue and 3 shilling in mauve was on thin Jones paper and released on July 12, 1926. The engraved impressions are generally rather poor.

In May 1927, the 2 shilling New Zealand Admiral was issued on a thick Cowan paper and the 3 shilling was later issued in September 1927. The impressions on the Cowan paper are far better than those printed on the Jones. Initial printings of the 2 shilling value on Cowan paper can easily be distinguished from the earlier Jones paper as they are a much lighter and brighter blue. The color became deeper in later printings. In November 1926 a 1 penny stamp was issued with the same design. The stamps remained on sale till May 1935.

New Zealand #183 and 184 1916), on piece
New Zealand #183 and 184 1916), on piece