Boys Life magazine, H. E. Harris, and Stamp Collecting

For many Baby Boomers, their main introduction to stamp collecting came from Boy’s Life magazine. Published since 1910, Boy’s Life is a publication of the Boy Scouts of America and the Cub Scouts of America. The magazine was sent for free to anyone who was a member of a Cub Scout pack or a Boy Scout troop.

For boys in the 1950s and 1960s, Boys Life was an exciting magazine of adventures and projects, and there were many pages devoted to philately.  Ads for approvals from H. E. Harris and Kenmore were among the most prominent. It was the combination of Boy’s Life and H. E. Harris that brought hundreds of thousands of young people into our hobby. Most began collecting with a simple Harris album (costing $4.95) and a packet of a few thousand different stamps (costing a couple of bucks). Add a package of hinges, a magnifier, and pair of stamp tongs and a youngster was ready to go for under $7.50.

We often see many of these Boy’s Life/H. E. Harris collections today. They are hosed in Harris Ambassador Albums or Statesman Deluxe Albums or Citation Albums. They contain anywhere from 1,000-10,000 stamps (depending on the packet that the boy bought and how long he worked on his stamps). They had little resale value then and have none today. Remember how many stamps were produced. Major countries like the United States, Great Britain, or Germany were producing stamps for Post Offices that were carrying billions of pieces of mail. There was no email or Internet, and long distance phone calls were expensive and uncommon. Nearly all communication went by mail. The main postal rate stamps were produced by major country post offices in the billions. Thousands of unemployed or volunteers soaked these stamps off countless envelopes donated by big mail receivers just to fill out these packets. The value of the stamps fifty years ago was just the cost of the labor to produce the packets. Today, collections made up of these stamps have no value.

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