stamps to coins to baseball cards to just about anything we could
toss in—Beanie Babies, just about the entire world of Disney,
Hummels, every official and unofficial and bootleg and unauthorized
and second to last third annual farewell tour live music from
your favorite band—collecting and becoming a self-taught-expert
on things is something where just about all of us could look around
our home, spot something, point, and express an admission of guilt.
have hobbies. We have things that interest us. And, usually—for
reasons that might involve cost, storage space, differing interests
for different people—the way we pursue (or don’t pursue) those
hobbies vary over a lifetime.
I was younger, I tried to get interested in stamps and coins.
The fascination lasted for one weekend trip with some friends
to a hobby shop that specialized in stamps. Beyond that, I don’t
think you could string together more than five minutes of attention
from my childhood.
that’s not true. I vividly recall my parents, during a family
trip to Washington, DC, bringing their children to the National
Postal Museum one morning for a visit that involved many of the
Smithsonian locations… and that was a pretty interesting trip
for a variety of reasons. I’ve always appreciated some of the
stories and histories involved in several specialty hobbies, including
stamps and coins.
what I want you to consider is a bit more simplified than why
some of us find things interesting or mind-numbing. And that is
cream… chocolate cake… a wonderful steak cooked specifically to
order with a tremendous horseradish cream sauce on the side. These
temptations and others are things that all of us can agree are
indulgences that we enjoy, even though we all recognize that they
do not represent the healthiest of choices and shouldn’t be a
daily part of a wonderful diet.
that logic, and you have what I think applies to the vast majority
of times when you mention stamp collecting to people. Because
deep down, some of the stories are truly amazing…
the early days of any postal service usually involved sending
mail postage due… collect… pay upon receipt. So, often, mail
delivery was turned away because intended recipients couldn’t
afford to accept it. In 1840, the world began to change a
bit, when the first postage stamp was offered in England.
the indulgences… delicious and wonderful, but perhaps not everyday
treats? Most people seem to understand that stamps, and the history
of them in America and around the world, can be interesting, fun,
and cover important ground. And at the same time, those people
also seem to lack long-term focus and excitement in the field.
is with that lacking long-term attraction that we suddenly arrive
at too much of a good thing.
over two decades ago, work began on a commemorative quarter program.
You know the one… fifty states, five released per year over a
ten-year run. Madness resulted as people began collecting them.
wanted them in as perfect a condition as they could find. People
bought specialty storage items and display units. All sorts of
then, the U.S. Mint has gone a bit nutty trying to follow-up on
the successes of that program. Coins to celebrate U.S. Presidents,
national parks, American history, and even a series of pennies
specialized for Abraham Lincoln. And, there are more.
be clear about something… I’m not saying that these efforts are
a bad idea. Potentially confusing since many of them involve coins
in circulation, but not necessarily bad.
I am wondering about is overall interest. Be honest. Did you know
there were four different styles of pennies issued about ten years
ago to honor dates of Lincoln’s birth (1809) and the first Lincoln
cent (1909)? Did the run of nickels—known as the Westward Journey
series—get you as excited about checking out coins as the 50 States
across a bicentennial quarter or a wheat penny can be pretty neat.
Pushed far enough though, and it moves into an area that tests
don’t remember exactly how I finished my set of commemorative
quarters. It might not have been assembled in order or within
days of the final coin release. But I can recall that I finished
collecting all fifty.
can also remember when I heard that the nickels would be joining
the effort to have a special run, and not being that excited about
continuing coin sorting and collecting efforts into other areas.
Fifty quarters. I was good with that.
wife and I aren’t head-over-heels avid collectors of anything.
We have some things we’ve purchased, and you might say collected,
over time. Many of them likely wouldn’t matter to you. That’s
fine. And if you are collecting all the different coin styles
as the circulate, fantastic.
remove the interest, and regardless of the fascinating details,
all of us eventually lose track. And I find myself wondering how
long each of us lasted, and about the reasons we drifted off.