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Stamps - Classes To Collect

( Originally Published 1893 )



TODAY is a day of specialism. Each month finds us deeper and deeper into the study of our stamps. You will find that specialists study their stamps to an extent far greater than the general collector, for, in his limited field, his energies are not scattered to the extent that those of a devoted general collector are. We all admit and perhaps this is one of our pet arguments as to the benefits of Philately—that the study of our stamps, and the knowledge gained thereby, is one of the most important advantages conferred by the Goddess Philately on her prostrate admirers and worshippers. This granted, to make a proper and advantageous study of our stamps, it is, of course, reasonable to state that it is not wise to have a field too extensive, else it is a case of " knowing everything, yet knowing nothing well." For these reasons I am to-day an exponent and supporter of specialism, and it is my intention in this article to briefly outline a few desirable specialties.

Specialism may be practised to a greater or less extent. Some collectors seem to have the idea that to be a specialist you must throw up the greater part of your collection and confine yourself to a single country. This idea seems to me to be sheer foolishness. We are all specialists of a kind. We all have some favorite country that we prefer to all others, even though we collect everything from everywhere. Thus a general collector is in a small degree a specialist, having some country he devotes more attention to than to others. Now I shall not attempt to deal with the most important district to collect, for in all likelihood I should find few of my opinion ; but I shall, instead of dealing with the districts, on the other hand, deal with the important classes to collect.

What is to my mind one of Philately's most interesting fields of specialism, and one which has assumed surprisingly large dimensions of late years, is postal-card collecting. We can find but few collectors of postal cards of twenty years standing, yet to-day the hosts of post card collectors only serve to show the more rapid advance of this part of our science. From a point of beauty, postal cards are even superior to stamps, that is, on the whole. When secured in an unused state, they are especially beautiful. The price of cards is but a trifle higher than those of stamps, but a post card collector is as content with his collection of two hundred varieties as the stamp collector is who possesses one thousand. Dealers in post cards who devote all their attention, or the greater part of it, to dealing in postal cards, are plentiful, and as a result we are enabled to secure both used and unused cards at very reasonable prices. Magazines devoted solely to the interest of postal card collectors, are published both in America and Europe, and these are doing much toward increasing the interest in this branch of Philately. The Postal Card Society of America, although the only one on this continent, is one of the best managed Philatelic societies in existence. Its departments have a purpose in view, and are in a state of great activity. Its officers are efficient, its members earnestly interested in its success, and composed, as it is, of workers, we have a model society. The only matter relating to postal card collecting is the arrangement of the cards. We are now led to believe that both an English and an American dealer have succeeded in completing an album in which the cards can be placed and shown to advantage.

Revenue stamps have for years been despised and scorned as stamps not fit to collect Why so? For no other reason than that they were for revenue use, and not for postal use. The cloud of ignorance which has so long hung over the eyes of collectors, hiding from their vision this matter in its true light, is at last beginning to lift, and disclose to their long dimmed vision their errors, mistakes, and lost opportunities of the past. In plain words they now see their foolishness in leaving neglected so important a part of Philately. Five years ago revenue stamps were a drug, and could be bought for a song, but during the past year the demand has increased to such an extent that already they are commanding prices which are in many cases one hundred fold higher than those at which the same stamps could he bought for five years ago. The collecting of revenue stamps was brought before Philatelists in the following manner : Dealers began pushing and booming the revenue stamps, each dealer those of his own country (specialists gave rise to the above), till step by step the dealer brought country after country before his customers' notice, first United States, then Mexico, then Canada, then Great Britain, and so on until at last the whole earth was included. At the time of writing revenue-stamp collecting has increased to a degree even more remarkable than the increase of postal-card collecting has been. Dealers all over the country are advertising, "Revenues a specialty." Great Britain supports a first class journal, published solely for revenue collectors. I myself can see no reason whatever why revenue stamps should not occupy the position of influence with stamp collectors that postage stamps do. As to beauty, excellence of design, harmony of color, etc., they are in many cases superior to postage stamps. The uplifted curtain of the future discloses to our view the time, not now far distant, when revenue stamps will be collected equally as much as postage stamps. In a very short time many of the rare revenue stamps which can now be bought at low prices, will command prices quite as high as the rarer varieties of postage stamps. " A word to the wise is sufficient "; complete your sets " while it is yet day, for the night cometh," and the favorable opportunity will be forever gone.

Space forbids me to deal fully with a couple of other classes of collecting, which are almost as equally interesting as the two named above. Entire envelopes are now exclusively collected, especially in unused condition, in which state they probably form the most beautiful and interesting branch of our hobby.

Again oddities are collected by many, as an outside specialty ; why I cannot tell, but evidently not for their beauty—albinos, mis-cuts, mis-strikes, double impressions, and in fact anything of a like trashy nature seems to be carefully hoarded up. Don't do it

Another very :useful specialty is that of counterfeits, which are of great value for comparing with the genuine stamps, and the Philatelist who masters the points of difference between the genuine ani the forged stamps has acquired an important portion of his Philatelic education.

So much for a few interesting side specialties, for either specialists or general collectors.

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