Rooms Full of Stamps

Many collectors who thoroughly enjoy their hobby imagine that their pleasure in their hobby would increase if only they had more stamps. The fantasy grows from one album to a dozen to a full shelf to a stamp room. A while back, we were called in on a case of philatelic gluttony gone wild. The collector was a wealthy mid-western man who lived in a large home which had a 3,000 square foot detached grounds keepers home. It was this home, all 3,000 square feet, that he devoted to stamps.
Every week saw new cartons come to his stamp home. He spent most of his time bidding at auctions and online. He liked collections and dealers stocks— really anything that could be bought at a low percentage of catalog value. His philatelic appetite was so voracious and his means so sufficient that he had hired a local dealer to come to work for him full time to arrange and keep in order his philatelic holdings. It was a full time job just to open the boxes of new purchases and arrange the stock books on the shelves by country and area. We were called in by the collector one day when he was considering selling his home and wanted to know what to do with his stamps.
Philately has been a hobby now for over 150 years. There are about 250,000 serious collectors now, and there have been similar numbers of more serious collectors throughout our hobby’s history. If the average collector collects for 20 years, this means that there has been seven complete turnovers in the collector base in the history of our hobby. Every one of the 1¾ million better collections that have been made through time have been for sale, have had the better and more desirable pieces removed and sold and have left a (usually physically large) philatelic balance of stock books and duplicates and First Day Covers and the rest— all material that collectors bought but which are not very desirable. And this residue from better stamp collections never disappears, but rather is added to as each generation makes its collections, buys its new issues, and services its First Day Covers. And that century-and-a-half long accumulation of philatelic material doesn’t even include the millions of more basic collections that have been made by people for whom the philatelic bug never caught on.
So boxes of stamps, tens of boxes of stamps, rooms, even homes full of stamps often contain little that collectors want in the way of individual items. The seven hundred plus cartons that we bought and packed up from this man’s home will now be sold to the next generation. Philately has a wide appeal. Some people like rarities; some like order. But many want to fill a home with stamps at a low percentage of catalog.
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