"You’ve got to be kidding!" Bob Wright said when asked about how many postage stamps he owns.
Having collected stamps for the past 74 years, in England and later on in Canada, he has long since lost count, with eight albums chock-full of stamps at home.
Wright, 84, was one of several stamp enthusiasts who gathered in a room at the Keystone Centre on Saturday for the Prairie Mountain Philatelic Society’s debut get-together.
Stamp enthusiast Donna Boles pulled the "herd of cats" together for the event, postal historian Darcy Hickson said, crediting her with linking like-minded people together through their favourite pastime.
Pre-emptively apologizing for going on about what some consider a boring hobby, Boles’ enthusiasm quickly puts one’s preconceived notions about the hobby to rest.
"It’s a great hobby," she said, pointing to stamps’ ability to tell a story as the key thing that drew her to the hobby about 48 years ago.
Nine years of age at the time, a lady on her father’s garbage collection route handed him a hardcover stamp album, suggesting he give it to her rather than toss it in the garbage.
Looking back on the album now, Boles said that while it didn’t have any significant financial value, it became one of her most treasured items.
Every stamp has a story, and the youngster found herself dreaming through the stamps she was able to collect, many of which gathered by her father as he made garbage collection rounds.
Stamps featured pyramids and various other landmarks and scenes from around the world, leading the young Boles to ponder the wonders of the world.
Now, as a retired adult, she has been able to knock some of these locations off her bucket list, travelling to New Zealand, Switzerland and North Ireland.
Throughout her life, stamps have remained important, both for their role in sharing the beauty of the world and their ability to tell a story and be small pieces of art in their own right.
Her favourite stamp is a 1947 stamp of Alexander Graham Bell, which marked the 100th anniversary of the inventor of the telephone’s birth. Adorned with angels, there’s just something intrinsically beautiful about the small blue stamp, she said.
Hickson takes his postal history collection in a different direction than many stamp collectors.
While many stamp collectors focus on unused stamps, his preference are stamps with a little wear and tear on them.
Marked with cancellations and other postal office directions, his collection tells an even greater story than unused stamps are able to — a collection he has bolstered with used and unused postcards.
Enthralled by the world of postal history, Hickson is concerned that philately — the study of stamps and postal history — will not reach the next generation.
"My kids don’t use postage at all," he said. "They’re not mailing, they’re paying all their bills and doing all their communication electronically, so moving forward who’s going to want to collect this stuff? They don’t have the physical attachment."
It’s an affordable hobby to get into, he said, adding that he hopes the local organization is able to drum up some support among a younger audience.
Those interested in the Prairie Mountain Philatelic Society can contact Boles for more information about the newly-formed group, at 204-727-7720.
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