Thursday, 10 January 2013

Collecting postal history

The first challenge for the postal historian is to decide what to collect. One approach is to eliminate countries or eras that do not appeal or that are impractical – it can be quite surprising how long the list of rejects can be!

I don’t speak Chinese, Russian or any of the non-English languages spoken on the Indian sub-continent and in my eye that is an almost insuperable barrier to creating a high quality collection of these areas. Much of the Indian material also suffers from heavy climatic discolouration and I would take no pride in displaying tatty-looking material however rare it might be.
Other countries are too expensive to collect – either because I would be in competition with other, far more wealthy, collectors who have forced prices of even quite plentiful material sky-high (19thcentury USA would be a good example of this) or because large quantities of material never existed and what does exist is being chased by a, albeit much smaller, group of enthusiasts.

Another constraint is where all the interesting or unusual covers are held in a few, sometimes a very few, exhibition quality collections -effectively leaving nothing for everybody else. Just try to locate decent material from the Orange Free State to see what I mean. This doesn’t always have to be expensive material. I am aware of one massive hoard of Guyana provisional stamps on commercial covers that is in private hands. This was put together in the 1980s when the stamps were issued and I am tolerably certain that no other significant stocks exist.
Next time – after the deletions, what is left?

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