Just got a letter from the UK, and it had this colorful stamp on it.
For an instant, I felt that special twinge of joy that an interesting stamp elicits; only after a moment did I remember that (a) I no longer collect stamps, not since I was a kid I don’t, and (b) none of my friends does, nor do they have kids that do that I might give the stamp to.
This is a shame, really, because postage stamps have a built-in ability to delight. They are often beautiful, they come from wondrous distant lands, they have a story to tell in their miniature image, and they are eminently collectible. In this way, every letter that you or your circle of friends and relatives received had the potential to surprise you with a “bonus”, a tiny capsule of serendipity where the stamps it bore could be boring or fascinating, depending on the luck of the draw.
All this may soon be over. I don’t know whether stamp collecting is on the decline (I suspect serious adult collectors do exist, but children may be more into video games these days). But the stamps themselves may soon be obsolete. People send less personal letters since the advent of email, and I’ve just read that the UK is planning postage stickers you can buy online and print out, and these have a bar code, not a picture (they also took out the queen’s ever-youthful profile we see in the stamp above, causing much consternation).
But meanwhile stamps still exist, and I know of one guy who makes full use of their joy-creating potential. He is a fellow History-of-Computing collector, and an eBay seller of slide rules; when I buy one from him it invariably arrives in an envelope covered with a mosaic of small-denomination stamps, each one different, all beautiful.
The riot of color is so cheerful that I collect these envelopes. What a nice way to delight one’s customers!