Adventures in Stamp Collecting

20 Fillér Stamp Honoring Hungarian Radio Manufacturing

20 Fillér CTO Stamp Honoring Hungarian Radio Manufacturing

One would think that nothing can be so staid and stolid a pastime as stamp collecting. Mind you, it’s getting increasingly difficult since most stamps—in the U.S. anyway—are of the peel and stick variety. As a child, I remember soaking stamps still attached to pieces of envelope and postcard in lukewarm water to remove the gum. Then I carefully dried the stamps under a blotter weighted down with a book so the stamps wouldn’t curl. The end result was pretty presentable.

But then the Soviet block discovered CTO—short for canceled to order—with perfect cancellations that were printed right on the stamp which came without gum. In effect they were mint ungummed stamps.

Of course, mint never used stamps were more expensive. Putting them in albums caused a certain amount of existential angst. One could use a stamp hinge, but (horrors!) it left a mark on the gum. The option was to buy expensive mounts in which the mint stamps were wholly encased.

My guess is that there are relatively few stamp collectors left, and that they are mostly aging rapidly. What with smart phones and their ilk, kids are not interested in anything that requires patience, knowledge, and care. Too bad! I learned a lot from my old hobby and had lots of fun.

This is the first of several posts under the general heading of “Adventures in Stamp Collecting,” consisting of stories I remember from my collecting days.

Some of these stories are more interesting than they seem at first glance.