Lifelong learning by reviving a boyhood hobby

Among US air mail issues, the Diamond Head, Hawaii stamp (bottom row, second from left) is a favorite (photo: DY)

Going back to boyhood days, I have been an inveterate collector. Even many of the hobbies I pursued involved collecting. This included baseball/football/basketball cards, coins, and — spotlight, please — postage stamps. I collected stamps through grade school, and I credit that hobby for nurturing my love of history. After all, stamps, especially commemorative issues, tell stories, often those of notable historical events and figures. You can learn a lot about history by building a stamp collection.

At times I have dabbled in stamp collecting as an adult, but I never truly dove back into the hobby. Until now, that is. During my university’s semester break, the pandemic-induced semi-quarantine that has been my life during the past year prompted me to look into collecting again, and this time it stuck. I now have a couple of new stamp albums, a box of supplies, and subscriptions to a two mail order stamp approval services. I also hunt around eBay for stamp bargains.

All sorts of famous people have collected stamps, including such varied figures as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Warren Buffett, Queen Elizabeth II, Sally Ride, and George Bernard Shaw. But the name that stands out to me is Simon Wiesenthal, Holocaust survivor and renowned Nazi hunter. Three years after the Second World War ended, he began collecting stamps. As explained by the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.:

Simon Wiesenthal once wrote that he became interested in stamp collecting in 1948, when he visited a doctor for severe insomnia. “He suggested that I do something at night to take my mind off my troubles, and that’s how I began collecting postage stamps,” Wiesenthal explained. “My hobby has since given me many pleasant hours and helped me to meet people in many countries.”

My life is not remotely as momentous as Wiesenthal’s, but I, too, am already finding that stamp collecting is an absorbing and relaxing hobby as an adult. The subjects captured on the stamps themselves stoke my curiosity, and the process of sorting and placing stamps into my albums has a therapeutic effect. I have a pretty strong feeling that I’ll continue this satisfying and educational hobby, even after it’s safer to be out and about again.

I love US commemorative issues from the post-WWII through mid-60s. Mini works of art. (photo: DY)