While your e-mail inbox may be overflowing, your mailbox is likely devoid of handwritten letters. Even so, stamp collectors are doing their best to keep the hobby alive.
It was a rainy and cool day outside the Kalamazoo Expo Center during the Stamp Expo, but it was alive inside with the buzz of stamp collectors warming themselves with Styrofoam cups of coffee. Stamp dealers watched the crowd traffic from behind their Plexiglas showcases as collectors hunted through their bins.
Everyone seems to have a different idea about what makes a stamp valuable. To Jayne Grenon of Otsonville, it’s all about the joy of the art.
“I don’t do it for the value of it, just the joy of collecting," says Grenon. "I collect world stamps.”
Grenon says it’s hard to get younger generations into stamp collecting.
“It’s very hard to encourage young people now because they have so many other things," she says. "It almost has to be inbred into them from relatives. I can’t even get my own grandchildren interested. The modern stuff, just today’s stuff.”
Jim Adams from Lansing has been dealing stamps for nearly 13 years; he says that most new collectors are middle aged.
“Usually in their mid-forties, and they were kind of exposed to it by a parent or grandparent when they were younger," says Adams. "And then they go through this whole period when they have no money, they’re in college, raising kinds, and around 45 or so for most people they have a little extra money because their kids have left the nest and I find a lot of new collectors are that age.”
Hartford’s Al Turner has been collecting stamps since he was a boy.
“Stamps are like all collectibles: condition, condition, condition. You can have something very old, but if it’s in poor condition it’s not worth very much,” says Turner. “Most stamps are not rare or even scarce because the government prints them by the millions or in this day and age, hundreds of millions.”
Turner says new stamps are great for stamp hobbyists because they are easily available. However, there is a difference between quantity and quality.
“Stamps that were made years ago were always engraved, so you’d get real nice impressions," he says.
Early stamps typically portrayed deceased historical figures. George Washington for example appears on more than 250 stamps. The first series of stamps to tell a story were those of the discovery of America, these were considered outrageous by congress but the people loved them. The same frenzy was true when pop culture icons were printed. According to stamps.org, Elvis Presley stamps alone brought in over 26 million dollars in revenue for the postal service. Turner:
Turner: “There are stamp auctions too; the items that are in those auctions can be very expensive. The most expensive United States stamp sells for quite a bit of money, almost a half a million dollars."
Pelkey: "Do you know which stamp would sell for half a million dollars?"
Turner: "Oh yeah, everybody does, it’s the one with the airplane upside down.”
The Jenny, a popular Word War 1 aircraft, was depicted on some of the first postage stamps issued for airmail. During printing, one of the sheets was accidentally turned upside down and because planes were so new at that time, no one noticed the error with the image.
Kalamazoo stamp enthusiasts agree that how the post office fares will not affect their hobby. The Kalamazoo County Expo Center will hold the KazooPlex Stamp & Cover Show on April 27th and 28th.