Specks of history

From my Dad’s stamp collection. The top ones are over 100 years old.

The notion of strange bequests sent me rummaging in a spare cupboard, to look once more at the stamp collection I inherited from my father.

Whether he would have left it to anyone else is doubtful, as all my Dad’s friend’s seemed to have predeceased him, and it’s unlikely he would have left it to a society or museum.

I had expressed admiration for the collection. When shopping with Mum, in SE Asia, we were always on the lookout for stamps that Dad might like and anytime a new issue was announced by the local Post Office, we were expected to go and collect a set.

Having been made aware of Dad’s collection, I seem to have spent almost 50 years looking for stamps. It was something I thought would please my father and as there weren’t many things that did, I put some effort into it. Not that he ever expressed much excitement about my finds!

These Laotian stamps were among the first I bought.

Laos always had huge and some, quite beautiful stamps.

I found it ironic, given that Laos was such a very poor country. And still is, sadly.

My mother’s contributions were probably more appreciated, even though they seemed boring and unattractive. At the time my father had in mind to collect a complete set of one country’s stamps, meaning every stamp ever issued.

He selected Viet Nam, both North and South, as it was then.

Mum heard of a stamp dealer in Bangkok that could supply old stamps from around SE Asia. Old, they are. Beautiful, they are not!

The Vietnam collection was large but my dad soon realized that the complete “set” was unachievable.

The stamps on the right are from 1927.

In those days you had to provide your own glue.

Although he gave up the idea of collecting a whole set from any one country, my dad continued to collect stamps from SE Asia when he could obtain them. In the albums, he made annotations of historical events. Each stamp is in fact a speck of history.

These Thai stamps are much nicer, don’t you think?

Of course they were produced using modern technology.

My parents left Asia in 1965 and spent most of the next decade in Barbados where they ran a small apartment building.

I’ve come to view the collection as a sort of history of my parents movements around the globe.

While living in the West Indies, my dad took up a contract to go to Madagascar for a year, but he disliked the work and they soon returned.

My parents were still comparatively young and for the most part they were happy.

I remember those as years of sunshine and flowers.

But inevitably, my parents began to age and were tired of being responsible for looking after apartments that other people seemed always to make a mess of.

So they made the decision to move to Florida. When the stamp collection was unpacked, my dad began adding US stamps to the fairly large number he already had. These are now attractively laid out in three large albums, carefully annotated.

It all lives in a large box inside a spare cupboard and I very seldom look at it because it tends to evoke sad memories. And “one day” it won’t mean anything to anybody.

7 thoughts on “Specks of history

  1. My mother saved everything and had several scrapbooks that she put together during her lifetime and I learned that habit from her. I am now on my 5th one that I started when I was about 20. I have slowed down with the things I am adding now because, as you say, one day they won’t mean anything to anybody. I’m sure my son won’t want them and they will be trashed. The first one is crumbling now, but I still like to look through them all from time to time.

  2. You shouldn’t take for granted that your son won’t want your scrapbooks. After all, in our life times, we have seen an amazing amount. Remember, Jon Katz was given the farmer’s diaries and he got so much from them. Sometimes I wish I had held on to one or two more thngs!

  3. But at this moment in time, your blog, and generosity, in sharing pictures, stories and vast knowledge of the world, mean a great deal to many people. By the wonder of technology, treasures that are you and your family are now preserved forever. Thank you for such a gift; each post brings me enjoyment.

    And there must be a philatelist museum/organization that would be thrilled to “inherit” that amazing stamp collection.

    As I sit here at 73, without children or grandchildren, I think many times about all of the beloved “detritus” of my life and the fact that it doesn’t mean squat to anyone but me. (I’m recovering from a broken leg that happened on the first day of Corona and nothing much to do but think.) So my plan is to enjoy my “things” for as long as I can and maybe, occasionally, part with something that a friend or relative seems to like.

    I believe it’s true that our “things” might give much to others at some point, as you mentioned about the farmer’s diaries. We may never know if they do, but it’s a lovely thought.

    Thanks for your blog.

    1. Thank you. Yes, it’s impressive and I keep hoping I will find someone who will enjoy the stamps. I’m not sure how popular stamp-collecting is these days, considering you can design and purchase stamps of your own creation!

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