Darrin Lettinga is a worldwide stamp collector who has his own blog on Facebook. He has collaborated with philatelists on YouTube and is in the process of creating his own channel. APS interviewed Darrin to learn more about his plans for the future in the hobby.
Read the full interview below:
Give a brief bio and background of how you began to collect stamps?
I am Darrin Lettinga and I blog about stamps and stamp collecting on the Facebook page, Definitively Stamps. I have a bachelor’s degree in Russian Language and Literature, however my day job is as an event manager for a 4-star hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan where I live. I have been working in the hotel industry for more than 25 years and primarily as an event manager. I am married and have 2 adult children, both boys, and both have degrees in computer science. My oldest son works for a well-known tech firm and my youngest son just graduated and is looking for a job. My wife works as a horticulturist for a local company that provides indoor and outdoor plants for companies and organizations.
I have been collecting stamps since the age of 10. I started with an HE Harris Traveler Stamp album and a big, orange bag of worldwide stamps on paper. I paused stamp collecting in the latter part of high school and college but restarted when I left the United States and lived abroad in South Korea from 1988 to 1996 and haven’t stopped since. When I arrived in Korea in 1988, one of the first stamp related things I did after being there a couple of months was to go to the main post office in downtown Busan and purchase the full set of Seoul Olympics stamps issued in 1988 and years prior. I still have them to this day in my Scott Korea album.
Examples of some of the Seoul Olympic stamps from the time period
Who inspired you to collect stamps?
My mother. She noticed my interest in those magazine and matchbook ads from HE Harris for worldwide stamps and went ahead and bought that first bag for me. She took me to a local brick and mortar stamp seller (there were a couple of stores back in those days, now there are none) who was able to provide me with the basics of how to soak stamps and purchased my first set of stamp tongs. She never collected herself, however.
What stamps do you collect?
I am an unapologetic worldwide stamp collector. When I began collecting, I was primarily a US collector but later branched out by buying albums for Canada, Russia, Japan, Korea, PR China, Netherlands and Ceylon. Now, however, I print and mount my stamps on Steiner pages and organize my collecting around this. I frequently skip from one country to another. I like to accomplish some sorting or mounting of stamps in a country for a while but when that is done, will move onto a new country that catches my interest. I also have a small but growing topical collection of Dragonflies on stamps, covers, cinderellas, etc.…that I am trying to grow into something substantial and interesting.
What are your favorite stamps that you have collected?
I have had many favorite stamps throughout the years but mostly I like long, complicated definitive series from all countries, whether modern or classic. Some examples of this that I actively collect are UK Machins, US flag over porch and Ireland bird definitives, etc.... Currently I really enjoy collecting the classic King Carol definitives of Romania with their myriad perforation and paper varieties.
Examples of stamps from the king Carol definitive series of Romania
What inspired you to create your blog?
Initially I started the blog as a way to advertise stamps I was selling on eBay, but I have never been consistent about selling on any site so later it became more of a way of just having a conversation or a sort of journal about what I was working on. Over the last several years, I have tried to be more consistent about posting on the blog but I will often go for weeks with no posts, especially when I am busy at my job which, in some months, is a bit overwhelming.
I really just want to have that conversation with other stamp collectors now because I feel that what I do and am doing is what most stamp collectors do. All of us like to see the stamps that everyone else has, we like to answer questions about our stamps or get answers to questions about our stamps, we like to identify stamps and we all like to see what everyone else is working on or purchased at the stamp show or bourse, etc.…that’s the heart of stamp collecting and these are just some of the reasons why I post pictures and tell my stamp collecting story.
Are your philatelic interests related to your professional interests?
No. A couple of times I toyed with the idea of starting a topical collection of hotels on stamps or something similar but my job has really never been something that was directly tied to my hobby and I haven’t wanted it to be.
Are you planning to incorporate your stamp collecting interest to other social media platforms outside of Facebook?
I really want to create videos on YouTube and have an interesting channel on that platform like Ted Talks Stamps and Graham with #philately. I have a Definitively Stamps channel already established on YouTube and I have posted one video that I did with my iPhone but I don’t feel the quality is very good and I need to learn the tools better to create and edit videos. It is not hard, as far as I can tell, but taking the time to learn how to do it and do it well sometimes elude me. I also want to have better quality audio and video tools so that my videos don’t look and sound amateurish.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to the hobby?
Collect whatever you want. However, also make sure to learn the basics of stamp collecting so that you properly handle and house your stamps so that they are not damaged and still retain at least some of the value that they had when you purchased them. Collect stamps because you enjoy collecting, because you like the topic, the details, the puzzle of identifying and cataloging your stamps, and not because you think you will make a buck. When I sell stamps, my main goal is to get that money so that I can buy more stamps. I have never and will never expect to buy and sell stamps as some sort of investment.
What are your plans for the future of the blog/your involvement in philately?
I want to be more consistent about posting on my page. I want to post a long series of posts about my work on one country or one topic. I would like to do more swap & research blog posts with other collectors from any social media platform. I want to cross-post on other pages and other groups on Facebook if the page or group allows it.
I would also like to re-start my membership and participation in our local stamp club once I can find the time, which seems to be never but it is a goal of mine.
Anything else you would like to add?
I have a couple of soapbox items that I would like to add. First, I know too many collectors who ignore modern stamps and collect, “the classics”. I was also guilty of this at one time but I feel it is time to stop ignoring everything printed after 1940 and look at the diversity of beautiful and interesting stamps available from the 50s, 60, 70s and 80s. Also, look at modern definitives from various countries and explore collecting them.
Too many traditional collectors are hung-up on self-adhesive stamps being some sort of disaster for the hobby and they refuse to collect them. I have a hard time understanding this.
Second, I don’t agree with mostly older collectors who say that stamp collecting is dead and it is a moribund hobby. In fact, I feel the opposite. To me, the pandemic has done much to revive stamp collecting and it is experiencing a new renaissance. The more stamp collectors who embrace social media like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and others, the better it will be for the hobby. It is time for more philatelists to show up and start blogging, posting videos and content, so that stamp collecting continues to take off as a hobby for everyone.
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