I am not a philatelist. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I like stamps, but I only really ‘collect’ stamps from countries (and entities) that don’t exist anymore. I use the term collect quite loosely… since I only have a single binder. I like the impermanence associated herewith and so my collection starts with Zululand and works it way through defunct fiefdoms like Rhodesia, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, British South Africa Company, Somaliland and the fantastically short lived, Republic of Biafra.
I am fascinated (for example) that the Republic of Biafra, while fighting a bloody civil war (in which over two million non combatants died) the secessionists still had time to create and manufacture their own stamps. (Stamps being such an important and intertwined concept in presenting statehood… or rather it used to be)
In any event sometimes when people hear you like stamps they want to gift you their bottom drawer. People imagine that all stamps have some sort of inherent value, so they take their motley collection of stamps that their grandmother dutifully removed off every letter she ever received and kept in a shoe box… and they take it to a collector or purveyor of rarities… who politely smiles and tells them to @#$% off. Disappointed they are still unlikely to simply trash the proceeds of an inordinate amount of labor by their forebears. So they look for someone to offload them on. ‘Here you go’ they say, thrusting you their shoe-box. They grin at you like they’ve just given you this massive boon that may potentially fund your retirement. ‘Eh… thanks… I guess’ you mumble.
Several of these shoe boxes have lived untouched in the back of my cupboard for several years now. This is not a story about finding some rarity in among the detritus of someones postal life (the chances are of that are about 0.001%) but last night… instead of booting up my PlayStation I’d took a stab at one of those shoe boxes. (not altogether willingly as there is also some form of behest from my wife who wants the shelf space they occupy)
I didn’t get very far. I got distracted by a folder containing two dozen Soviet era stamps. Not worth anything (I don’t think)… but they were so… very… odd looking. There was something fantastically, eh… communist about them with their Cyrillic script and CCCP branding. Anyways, I’ve decided, as defunct states go… the Soviet Union definitely ranks up there and so might be a worthy addition to my collection.
I find it quite interesting that the communists actually used stamps. Why wasn’t their postage free? (I really thought about this for a long time last night) I mean surely the greatest socialist minds of the time could have figured something out?
But I guess they couldn’t.