During my childhood, I watched the men in my family spend hours wearing little loops on their eyes while sorting stacks of coins and stamps. They filed them in huge books and binders, then lined the nicely labeled spines along the built in shelves in their offices. Their collections were real accomplishments. Back in the 1920's and on up into the 1960's stamp and coin collecting were in their heydays.
Electric lights in homes had made it possible for folks to stay up later and engage in a number of pastimes while listening to entertaining things on the radio or Victrola. This last week I spent some time going through those same vintage postage stamps while listening to podcasts, audiobooks and music on my iphone and drinking cups of steaming hot coffee to keep the focus going. It was a trip back in time.
These old stamps are beautiful little steel engravings done on wonderful durable papers with excellent oil based inks which have held their brilliant colors for nearly a hundred years. I can't bear to see them end up in a trash can out back. The stamp collectors may be diminishing as the older generations die off, but the artistry of these stamps is still strong and compelling.
The stamps commemorate important events and public figures in American history. Inch by inch, they proclaim our values, urge us to higher achievement and direct the viewer to messages of government propaganda during times of war. So, I am sorting them again... not into binders which will sit on dusty shelves, but into packages of colorful history to be used in new artistic ventures like scrapbooking and cardmaking where they will be put out there to be seen and enjoyed once again. Perhaps they form a field of green fields and blue skies in a lovely collage. Maybe they will just fill a bowl on a table so folks can enjoy a happy hour of browsing something other than a computer screen. At least I hope so.