From time to time we are lucky to receive accounts of how experienced philatelists got started in the hobby of collecting stamps. Sometimes these short articles also coincide with other features that we are presenting either here in the APS Blog or in The American Philatelist. The following is just such a work. We are sharing this not only because it is an interesting story of collecting and a personal legacy in the hobby, but also because it ties together articles in the October and November issues of the magazine.
As we strive to share the philatelic experience with a broad audience, gaining insights into personal histories and the role played by stamp collecting is vital. Understanding history is important and has long been a strong motivation for stamp collectors. Tying history to real-life people and experiences brings the past alive. Honoring those who made positive contributions to times past helps define the character of a community.
Why I Started Collecting Stamps
By Art Schmitz
At 9 years of age in 1932, I was already intensely interested in history and geography. This awareness was partly because my Dad had been wounded in France during World War I, but also because I was very aware of what was happening in Europe. I read the daily paper and listened to such radio programs as The March of Time, a dramatized version of what was happening in the world.
It was only coincidence that we used Ivory Soap, a product of Proctor & Gamble. At that time, the company sponsored a radio program featuring a Captain Tim Healy. Intrigued by his British accent and the stories he dramatized with references to the postage stamps of the world, I was hooked.
For a few cents and Ivory Soap wrappers I got my first soft-cover stamp album. Money was scarce for a 9 year old, but a lot of stamps were available at 2 cents apiece and were promoted in the windows of small shops. My original aim was to get at least one stamp from each country shown in my album.
Art’s entry to collecting is a story echoed by collectors across the country. In the October issue of The American Philatelist, columnist Wayne Youngblood introduces the legacy of Captain Tim and the Ivory Stamp Club. The article relates the story of how Proctor & Gamble introduced young collectors to stamps and how other businesses sought to attract the same audience with similar philatelic promotions.
After Art Schmitz submitted his story, a gentleman in the U.K reached out to share more about his friend, the author. Graham Smith (aka Great Granddad Graham) wrote to let us know that not only is Art Schmitz a lifelong stamp collector, but he is also a decorated veteran of World War II. Smith shared that their “very, very special” friendship dates back to “the dark days of 1944.” He even provided us with a photograph of his friend in uniform.
We are sharing Art’s collecting account and the additional information from Mr. Smith to highlight the connections enabled and enhanced through philately. While these two friends met through the circumstances presented by a world war, this modern day reconnection occurred when Art told his friends that his stamp-collecting account was going to be published.
Here in the U.S., we honor veterans in the middle of November. Consequently, the November issue of our journal, The American Philatelist, includes articles inspired by the service of military men and women. So it seemed to us especially significant that we could share Art’s story and the tribute born of a friendship forged in war. Thank you both for your service in a time of worldwide need.