A self-described "recovering philatelist", Michael Nabi is a worldwide stamp collector, focusing specifically on topical collections and postal history. APS interviewed Michael to learn more about his philatelic background and his memories in the hobby.
Read the interview below:
Q: How did you become interested in philately?
A: I became interested in philately in 1953, when I was 9 years old. My “Uncle” Johnny Hilford (not a blood relative, but a friend of our family) gave me a stamp from Madagascar (Scott 269). I was fascinated by something from a far-off land that I knew nothing about. My parents gave me an album for Christmas, the H E Harris Ambassador, to house the stamp and others that were to follow. I still have that stamp in my first album.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the role Franklin Roosevelt played in fostering my interest in philately. We shared the same birthday, literally, I was born on the next to last birthday he was to celebrate. My Harris album was replete with pictures of Roosevelt with his stamp collection and that gave the hobby the patina of acceptability as something I could pursue.
Q: What revived your interest in the hobby?
A: When I went off to college and later law school, I didn’t even take my album with me, but it was waiting for me when I returned home. I moved to Hawaii to practice law and still didn’t take my album with me. What a missed opportunity since Hawaii has such a rich and colorful postal history. When I returned to Florida I took up the hobby again. My mother still had my old album tucked away in storage.
I spread out from pure stamp collecting and became interested in preparing my own 1st Day cover cachets. I also did a little postmark collecting, super bowls, world series, etc.The women at the downtown Jacksonville FL post office became my good friends. They knew of my interest as I was the strange guy who was always coming in to buy the latest commemoratives. In early March, 1987, they excitedly gave me a First Day cover of Enrico Caruso. New York was the official site of the issuance ceremony, but there was a secondary ceremony in Jacksonville where Caruso’s son was the guest of honor. He lived in Jacksonville. When my covers were delivered, I gave the postal workers one and they got Mr. Caruso to autograph one for me. That’s been a theme, if people know you are a philatelist, they will go out of their way to give you something that you might be interested in.
Q: What stamps do you collect and which ones are your favorite?
A: I’m not really a philatelist, I’m more of a stamp accumulator. If there has been any shortcoming of my “collection”, it is the lack of a theme. If it’s interesting, I’ll find a spot for it in my album. I was never motivated to collect any particular theme, if you don’t count the excursion into 1st day covers.
Q: Would you consider collecting specific topics?
A: If I were to continue collecting (I’ve gotten away from it in the past 20 years), I would concentrate on covers and postmarks. I would also be a little more discerning in my postmark collecting. For example, how great would it be to have the Super Bowl LVI postmark on a cover with a Vince Lombardi or George Halas stamp.
Similarly, I have a postmark from the “Golden Dome” station set up for the Notre Dame/FSU game on November 13, 1993 when FSU was #1 and Notre Dame was #2. It’s just on a plain flag stamp. How much better would it be if it was on the Knute Rockne stamp.
Q: How have you inspired others to join the philatelic community?
A: I’ve decided to sell my collection. I am 78 and when I pass on, it’s going to be difficult enough for my step-daughter to get rid of my possessions, so I don’t want to burden her with that obligation. I don’t have any relatives or even close friends to give the collection to. But one way I want to “get rid” of my collection is to bring young people into the hobby. I have started publishing a blog aimed at homeschoolers where I would like to offer free packets of, say 100 miscellaneous stamps. I am also pointing them to the APS album downloads if they don’t want to make the modest investment in a more complete album unless they are sure that interest in the hobby will stick. A couple of months ago, I discovered the “This Day in History” posts from Mystic Stamp Company. I have unashamedly plagiarized one of these columns a day and posted it on my facebook page (with attribution). My FB friends are mostly older and I don’t think they are interested in taking up a new hobby, but I do know I’ve piqued their interests judging from comments I have received.
Q: Do you have a favorite collecting memory?
A: Earl “Butch” Smith lived two doors down from me as I was growing up. He was very competitive and would not allow himself to be outdone. When I got my album, Butch had one a few weeks later. Mine was the 1953 edition, his was 1954. We would challenge each other to “fill a page” and he always seemed to be able to fill pages more completely than me. But if it wasn’t for Butch driving me on, I never would have had as thorough a collection as I did have.
Q: Are your philatelic interests related to your career?
A: My interests have really not related to my career. But I did teach for eight years, and my wife and I homeschooled two of our grandsons and I think that is why I want to pass the hobby on to that group. I have found out that three of my former students were also collectors, but I never knew that when I had them in class. I wish I had known. They were among my brightest students which I think is a common correlation.
Q: What is your favorite stamp series that you collected?
A: Perhaps my favorite series is the 1943 Overrun Countries stamps. The pictures in my album were, of course, black and white. But when I first saw these stamps in person, wow, I fell in love. The Overrun Countries Series paid tribute to thirteen countries overrun and occupied by Axis powers. Each stamp has a denomination of 5-cents and shows the flag of the honored country in natural colors. The stamps were issued at various dates in 1943 and Korea in 1944.
In the mid '40's, the go to method of printing postage stamps was engraving.
The overrun countries' stamps are printed with full color. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing contracted with a private firm, the American Bank Note Company, to produce the series - the first U. S. stamps to be printed by a private company since 1893. This was due to the method necessary to produce the colorful stamps. These stamps were priced at 5 cents, although the standard cost for a first-class stamp was 3 cents. These stamps were intended for use on V-mail, a means whereby mail intended for military personnel overseas was delivered with certainty. Because of the relatively limited usage, they were difficult to "collect" and usually needed to be purchased.
I used to go to one of the downtown variety stores to buy my stamps, but there was a confectionery on my way to school. The owner used to sell stamps, under the counter as it were. I used to save my “candy” money to buy these stamps one at a time. I was overjoyed when I completed the overrun countries collections although I was a few weeks behind Butch Smith completing his collection.
Q: Any advice to stamp collectors who are just starting out?
A: Don’t try to collect every stamp possible. Sure, you want your collection to be as complete as possible but stick to one theme. I thought I could suggest to my homeschoolers a “Manifest Destiny” minicollection consisting of these stamps, for starters. In addition to getting the stamps, parents could have the new collectors write about the history depicted on them. There could be many, many other thematic mini-collections
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Always be alive to the history of your stamps. First of all, what is the history of what or whom is being depicted. But just as important for the sake of philately, what is the actual history of the development of the stamp itself. How did a stamp honoring James McNeill Whistler come to be the very first Mother’s Day stamp? Why was the Love stamp of 1995 known as the “death angel stamps”? What in the heck is that cat (the very 1st cat depicted on a postage stamp) doing on the Spanish stamp honoring Charles Lindbergh?