These Stirring Times

That we live fast in these latter days, the present exciting state of affairs in philately well attests. New issues are following one on the heels of the other, almost overlapping perforations, so to speak. Errors pursue hotly. The Omaha stamps are upon us. Our army and navy are making the way for sweeping changes in colonial issues. And a vast new revenue issue is going into circulation.

The philatelist has scarcely time to ponder a moment over one move e’er another glides before him and withdraws his attention. The daily newspapers are filled with the decrees of the post office department. The Omaha circulars, the establishing of army post offices, the regulations for mail facilities in Cuba and the Philippines, the methods of circulating the revenue stamps, and a dozen other matters claim public attention and add to the distraction of postmasters and mail clerks, but most of all they keep the stamp collector on an eternal qui vive. Not only has he scant time for speculation as to the results of this or that late addition to the annals of philately, but scarcely for the watching for and picking up of each new set of stamps.

The editors and writers for the philatelic press, gladly and eagerly seizing on so much material for news-giving and discussion, are no longer forced to grind and rehash antediluvian subjects, and so the fast-flowing productions of their pens swell the interest that is upon us. With such conditions, how can the summer of 1898 be a dull one in philately? I prophesy that we shall not soon see a more vigorous campaign. The uninitiated, having constantly before them so many sources of information, not only through the philatelic press, official circulars, and the daily papers, but even in the popular magazines and periodicals (for instance, the July Strand Magazine contains two articles appertaining in a degree to philately – one on the Postmen of the World and the other on Stamp Designs) cannot help but soon become the initiated, and, as their insight into our fad grows and the panorama of new issues floats before their gaze, will not the mania seize upon them – will not Philatelia cast her spell over them and once under her influence become hopelessly entangled?

I may almost say that a crisis is taking place in the annals of stamp-collecting. While we are staring aghast at the rapid succession of anniversary issues, jubilee sets, commemorative stamps, and speculative ventures of national post offices; while we are scrambling for the latest issue of Canada, the Newfoundland surcharges, New Zealand reprints, and Cannibal Island errors; while we are awaiting with bated breath the Omaha set and the new revenues in all the combinations which the reading of the decrees seems likely to multiply interminably; while we are striving to keep abreast of the rapidly moving events, there is taking place a metamorphosis in philately, and eight months from now conditions will prevail that have been unknown hitherto. I believe that our ranks will receive a vast increase soon and that a general knowledge of stamp-collecting will become almost universal. But aside from this I dare not prophesy. Whither are we tending? In what direction will the fancy of the collector turn? Will the old collector, the collector of today, be left behind or side-tracked, the fads of the newcomers leaving his collection hopelessly unfashionable and valueless? The new collectors will be numerous enough to form the majority and set the pace. But the enthusiasm of the older collectors will have its influence, and it behooves every ardent lover of stamp-collecting, as it has been and is, to train and direct, by example, speech, and the pen, all the newcomers within his radius, in the good old way.

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