For the last year or so I've been collecting everyday stamps, some to send to the Bransby Home of Rest for Horses (because charities like this can make money from used stamps), and other, more special or limited edition stamps for their beautiful designs and for future creative projects (like COLLAGE!) Yesterday I spied a Stanley Gibbons 'Gay Venture' Stamp Album for sale at a car boot sale. It was very old and quite tattered inside and smelling distinctly 'vintage', but it was jam-packed with stamps from all over the world.
The colours and shapes and designs were so impressive, from exotic animals, birds of paradise, butterflies, mushrooms and toadstools to the typography and colours and franking marks of long ago.
When I enquired how much the album was, it was a little more than I was willing to pay. I thought it was definitely worth that price, but that I didn't want to pay that much. The old man who was selling it asked if I was a stamp collector. I replied that no, I wasn't really, and it was more about the designs and nostalgia to me than the monetary value of a particular stamp.
I placed the album back down on his table and said I would leave it for someone who was a 'real' stamp collector to discover, and be able to add to their own collection. I genuinely meant that and it wasn't any kind of bluff.
But then a wonderful thing happened and the man said that seeing as I was 'a nice wee girl', he would half the price he had originally quoted. I really did want the album and so I agreed.
It felt like it was meant to be mine, and that within its old, old pages, I would find immeasurable inspiration for creativity in my projects. And because he had been so kind, I met him in the middle and offered more than half price. Win-win! Good deeds all round, and a warm fuzzy feeling of happiness and belief in kindness and humanity ensued. I couldn't wait to pore over my new, 'old' stamp album properly.
I particularly love these William Caxton special edition stamps, as I studied the first printing press designed by him while I was at university. It felt like history and education coming back to find me through the creativity and design in my life now, and it took me right back to my discoveries about that time.
Often you never get to revisit the things that you learnt at school, college or university as they are no longer relevant to you or purely academic with no bearing on modern life (hello algebra...), but this coincidental find was a little chord of connection.
I don't believe that stamp-collecting is really a thing of the past, or something just for 'older' generations, (though I am looking forward to comparing notes with my Dad who used to collect stamps as a boy, and has a very similar kind of stamp album).
But how many other stamp collectors are out there, and has that number increased with the surge in art journalling and scrap-booking, collage and other paper-crafts?
Stamps can be so personal and beautiful and I love the idea of receiving a handwritten letter in the post, glancing at the stamp to get a clue as to who sent it, (in fact, that very thing happened to me this week. Thanks lovely Tracey!), and experiencing the excitement and anticipation of what might be waiting inside.
Letters and postcards were a lifeline before email and the internet and text messaging. I just wonder how many people have received love letters and happy news and sad news with the stamps from this album?