A Plea-Lets be in Agreement about Gum

Imagine the year 2100. You are starting to collect stamps and have progressed beyond the latest chip hologram issues and are beginning to acquire the stamps of the early twenty-first century. You get all the self adhesive issues, paying special attention to see that none of the adhesive has yellowed with age and that none of the die cutting between the stamps (replacing what in a previous day had been perforations) are folded or in any way loose. And then you begin to look for stamps issued before 1990 and you start to learn about gum.
Rowland Hill’s second greatest insight, after the very idea for the postage stamp itself, was that the stamps should be gummed. This seems obvious to us now, but in the period before stamps all proof of payment on envelopes and legal documents were hand-stamps (or cancellations) or manuscript markings and the idea of using gum for ease of patron use was a great customer service innovation. Stamps still would have caught on even if the first issues were not gummed and users had to provide their own mucilage. After all,  first stamp issues were not perforated and still millions of postage stamps were sold and used. Stamp gum was originally an organic compound derived from tree sap and gum continued to be organic in composition until it began to be phased out about 1990. So our new collector from 2100 is going to have a tough time finding his gummed stamps in perfect condition. Only careful handling and low humidity will keep gum fresh for more than a century.
But is it likely that collectors, over a century removed from any personal philatelic experience with gum, will value it the way that collectors do today. Think of the areas of philately-cut squares, revenues and precancels come to mind- that continue a downward spiral of popularity largely because they are no longer found in any significant way as newer issues that collectors desire when they are younger and so will try to obtain when they reenter the hobby in middle age. Special service stamps too-special deliveries and parcel posts for instance-also have declined in popularity for the same reason. It is very possible that we are nearly at the end of the fetish of gum worship and that the huge premiums for Never Hinged stamps which we see today will soon be another footnote in our hobby’s long history. This is a plea that we all be in agrrement about gum.
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