Susan Martin is a librarian, and her current position is serving as the chair of collection development and management at the James E. Walker Library, Middle Tennessee State University. She is the steward of the library’s collections and collections budget. Managing a 21st century university library collection involves many Excel spreadsheets of data, as well as reading and negotiating contracts for electronic books, journals, and databases. One area that Susan has privilege to have influence in is the library's Special Collections which focuses collection and preserving physical materials, now including stamps. She is new to stamp collecting, beginning her personal collections in the Fall of 2021, and joining the APS and several other philatelic societies almost immediately.
The APS interviewed Susan to find out more about her stamp collecting journey.
- What inspired you to collect stamps?
I am going to give credit toward my husband. He’s collected stamps since he was young. Over the years he tried to get me interested, but I was stubborn and kept referring him to my one failed attempt at stamp collecting when I was young. [I was given a beginner stamp book, packet of stamps, and some hinges. I found the hinges to be too fiddly; I preferred to affix the stamps to the page as one would a letter. The album eventually got tossed.] Ultimately, I should have listened to him earlier. It’s an endless, amazing field to explore and learn
While I didn’t start my own personal collection until the Fall of 2021, my first foray into the philatelic world was through video. During the COVID lockdowns of April and May 2020, I joined him in the evenings watching various stamp videos on YouTube, specifically, the tin can mail and perfin episodes of Exploring Stamps. Stamps were not boring. Stamps were history. Stamps were cultural. Stamps were political. Stamps were amazing, and there was so much to learn.
- What inspired you to create your blog and what are your future plans for it?
I created my blog, (https://reluctantphilatelist.blogspot.com/) as a way of engaging with the philatelic world. While I enjoy a good stamp video, I prefer the written word. A blog would afford me the opportunity to explore various aspects of the philatelic field, but not commit me to deadlines or writing anything lengthy. I am not sure how popular blogs are now in a world of social media and other writing platforms, such as Substack. I searched for another means of engagement, and I joined Twitter (@ReluctantPhila1) where I’ve had more success interacting with fellow philatelists. I also want to give a nod to the American Topical Association’s fabulous Facebook group page. I am considering joining Mastadon as there’s a growing philatelic community there.
I haven’t updated my blog since July, and I am not sure where I want to go with it. I am attempting to launch an Open Access (OA) philatelic journal entitled OpenPhilately. This journal is housed on the Walker Library’s Open Journal System (OJS). For APS members who are unfamiliar Open Access the process of making research available online, free of charges and other barriers. OpenPhilately has no access charges for either authors or readers. I am looking for contributions for the inaugural issue (tentatively scheduled for Summer 2023). Articles, reviews, exhibits in PDF are welcome, and I am open to exploring video essays as well. Interested folks can find out more by checking out the OpenPhilately website https://libjournals.mtsu.edu/index.php/openphilately or by contacting me.
- What are your plans for your other social media platforms?
I’ll continue to post on Twitter, and as mentioned above, I will most likely appear over on Mastadon. After writing these responses, I feel as if I should resurrect my blog!
- What are your favorite stamps that you have?
That’s a difficult one! When it comes to stamps I am a bit of a magpie – anything shiny, which translates to many, many stamps! However, if pressed some of my favorites from my personal collection are these:
Czechoslovakian newspaper stamps (1945, Stanley Gibbons CS N467-N476)
I love the vibrant colors of these stamps, as well as the image of the newspaper delivery person. To me the design is happy with the movement of the arm, legs, and the font, particularly of the “h” (haléř). Although if you look closely, the visage of the delivery person is serious. The stamps seem to capture the social and political mood of the country at that time. Relief that the war is over but concerns still linger.
100th Birthday of Aleko Konstantinov (1963, Stanley Gibbons BG 1361)
Another one of my favorite stamps is this commemorates the 100th birthday of Aleko Konstantinov (1963-1897), a Bulgarian writer known for his humorous Bai Ganyo tales, as well as his travelogue, To Chicago and Back, where he recounts his experiences traveling to Chicago, attending the 1893 World Exposition, and then returning home. The stamp has Konstantinov’s image, and the selvage depicts his character Bai Ganyo (a traveling rose-oil salesman).
Federal Depository Library Program cinderellas
Finally, I really enjoy finding philatelic materials in unexpected places. Our library is a member of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), and we affix these labels to selected FDLP materials. After I started stamp collecting, I obtained three and added them as cinderellas to my “libraries” topical collection.
- How did you learn about APS?
My husband is a member, and I knew about the APS from him.
- What about APS made you want to join?
Interesting question. I already had access to the American Philatelist, as my husband was already a member. Having access to the American Philatelist is an important part of why I will stay a member. However, I joined to establish myself as a collector philatelist in my own right. I would like to get more involved with the APS if possible. I do not have the ability to donate funds, but I do have the ability to donate my time and talents.
- What stamps do you collect?
I am fortunate enough to collect both personally and professionally. For my personal collection, I focus on collecting Czechoslovakia (1918-1992) and Bulgaria (1878-present). Aside from these two countries, I am interested in stamps from Eastern European countries, particularly the Cold War period. I also collect topically. My primary topics of interest are higher education/academia, libraries, as well as books and printing. But I also have a small topical collection of stamps depicting the various US states in which I have had the pleasure to call home.
Professionally, I curate a small stamp collection which focuses on revenue stamps (wine, malted beverages/beer, and distilled spirits) and postage stamps depicting any aspect of alcoholic beverages from its agricultural components to its history, production, and consumption. These two stamp collections support our larger Distilling, Fermenting, and Brewing Collection.
We are also expanding our topic collecting and include Tennessee, horses, and anything celebrating pop-up and moveable books. My aim is to supplement our monograph and archival collections in these areas with philatelic materials. Additionally, I’ve started to expand our philatelic formats and collect postcards, cachets, and covers.
- What membership services do you use the most?
The digitized backfiles of the American Philatelist and other philatelic journals that the APRL provides through the Robert Mason Digital Library.
- What services do you look forward to using/ what new services would you like to see?
I plan to continue to use the digital library and may explore other APRL offerings. I would like to see the digital library expand, particularly in digitizing philatelic monographs. I would also like to see the APRL partner with philatelists who are active on social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube and archive their content for the future. I am afraid if the philatelic community does not take steps to preserve the digital, social media conversation, an increasingly important part of modern philately will be lost to future generations.
- Has your knowledge of the hobby changed since joining APS?
Well, yes, but my joining the APS completely coincided with my taking up philately as a hobby.
- Anything else you would like to add/share?
I would really like to connect more with philatelists. I would particularly like to connect with folks who are local, as well as fellow librarians worldwide.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts on philately!