Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 28, 2011 – Stamp Collecting

Stamp collecting is one of those hobbies that few kids bother with.  When I was young, I collected stamps and still have most of them.  The collection is not particularly valuable.  Most of the unused stamps from the 1970’s are worth their face value, so when you adjust for inflation, they are worth even less.  But for most kids, stamp collecting was not about their monetary value.  It was about buying the latest commemoratives at the post office and always learning a little something about geography and history.  Stamp collecting was about older family and friends giving you the stamps they received on letters from foreign places.  It was a way kids connected with the wider world.

Over the course of the 2011 Project many of the postage stamps I have saved all these years have made it into the various art pieces.  Today I was going through old stamps and had a startling revelation.  Stamp Collecting made me into a socialist! 

My impressionable young mind was corrupted by the subversive messages on postage stamps.  I am not talking about the images of tractors and factories on stamps from Hungary or the DDR.  The red star emblazoning Soviet stamps had nothing to do with it.  It was all those left wing stamps put out by the U.S. Postal Service.  Under Nixon’s watch, stamps were promoting the U.N., the Peace Corps and even a whole series glorifying postal workers.  Gerald Ford allowed stamps promoting energy conservation and collective bargaining.  And that old lefty Ronald Reagan allowed stamps promoting public education, credit unions and celebrating social security.

Now, seriously, none of these stamps were controversial in their day and there was no reason they should have been.  And anyway, presidents have little say about postage stamps, but can you imagine if any of these stamps had been released during President Obama’s administration?  Fox News et al would be screaming socialism. 

Years later and I am still learning something from stamps.  They are a little history lesson, or even a time capsule.  40 year old stamps from a time when the United States was a country where most of us saw government as a force for good that was improving our country and improving our lives. 

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