Bob Newman has been an APS member since 2004 and is from from Marblehead, Massachusetts. He reached out to share an interesting story from his days as a young stamp collector, and has many more stories that he will share in the future.
Read Bob's story below:
It must have been about 1980. I lived in Melbourne, Australia in those days and I’d been a stamp collector since the age of five. A big, national stamp show having been trumpeted in the newspapers, I needed no prompting, so went along, parked my second-hand, white Datsun in the lot of an old Victorian exhibition hall with a high dome and acres of wooden floor. Besides the glass frames full of prepared exhibits on varied themes---from Australian bush airmail cancellations to ‘’bananas on stamps’’, dealers sold stamps and philatelic material of all descriptions from a warren of small booths. A busy hum pervaded the huge hall. I circulated at my leisure, carefully checking all of the booths. While I was sitting on a simple metal chair in front of one dealer’s stock of albums and packets, I overheard a conversation next to me. A blond man in his late 40s with a British accent was discussing his collection with another guy, an Australian. After the Australian left, I happened to ask the British man if he were interested in a page of British stamps I had just discovered in a book I was looking through.
"No," he replied in a modest tone, "actually, I've more or less got the U.K. complete."
Now, Americans often use such expressions, but we understand them to be exaggerations, a mere manner of speaking, but for an Englishman, understatement being the usual style---well, I was somewhat surprised and decided to ask further.
"Do you really ? How did you manage that ?" I asked.
"It's an interesting story." he told me. "I could tell you if you aren't in a hurry."
I assured him that I was not.
It was during the early part of World War II. This gentleman had been a schoolboy then, living on the outskirts of Bristol. One bright morning he was walking to school, after a heavy German bombing raid the night before. As he walked along the street, he saw a house that had been completely demolished by a direct hit. Everything around it was covered in white papers- - -millions and millions of them. One old man was desperately trying to pick up as many pieces as he could, but it was an impossible task for one person. It looked like snow lying on the ruins. The house had belonged to three generations of lawyers and the entire contents of their many decades of legal cases lay on the spring earth, amid the rubble of the house. The schoolboy stopped and began to help the man pick up papers and put them in boxes. He worked all day without even stopping for lunch.
When evening came- - -and it comes late in spring over in England- - -the old man expressed his gratitude for the boy's help and offered him five pounds as thanks. Five pounds today is around $8.75, but it was much, much more in those days. Workers in factories might have earned five pounds in a week. The old man’s offer was extremely generous. But this schoolboy was a stamp collector. As he had toiled picking up the thousands upon thousands of letters, he had noticed a great number of envelopes with stamps on them, going back to at least 1840, when the first black postage stamps with Queen Victoria's portrait on them were issued, the first stamps in the world. The boy had no idea of the value of stamps, but his collector's instinct was aroused. He refused the five pounds. The old man insisted that there must be some way that he could express his gratitude.
"Do you think I could have one of every kind of stamp on these envelopes ?" he inquired.
The old man agreed immediately.
The boy skipped school the next day as well and spent the entire day going through the boxes and pulling out examples of stamps and envelopes. When he got home and had time to check with the catalogue, he discovered that he had one of every British stamp issued in the first century of philately.
"And", he concluded his tale with a slight smile, "it's worth slightly more than five pounds today. I keep it in the bank."
It was terribly un-English of me, but I had to know. "How much do you think you earned that day in 1980 terms ?"
It was around $40,000.
Some British stamps from Bob's collection.
If you want to share your stamp story, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!