Stamp Department - Part 1

In the preceding section we have had much to say about the stamp dealer. Now let us understand the stamp department of a great department store. Of course these, too, are stamp dealers and are just as much a part and parcel of the hobby as the stamp dealers we have been discussing. But under the able leadership of a man of amazing insight the stamp department of a department store fulfills its own special place in the world of Philately. As we have seen, the hobby traces its origin back to the period shortly after stamps were first issued to the advertisement of the English lady who desired to accumulate enough "penny blacks" to paper her room. Of course this was hardly stamp collecting as it is known today. But within a few years after this inauspicious beginning the great stamp firm of Stanley Gibbons was founded in London and certainly by the 1870's the late John W. Scott had established in this country the firm that was to bear his name. Both of these gentlemen were pioneers and promoters. Both realized the necessity of spreading word of the new hobby and both published a great many magazines, albums and catalogs of postage stamps of the world.

Yet it is hardly possible that a hobby, which started in such immature desires as the wish of a young lady to pretty up her bedroom should grow to its present impressive importance unless there had constantly been leaders to promote its growth. Gibbons and Scott were such leaders. Yet were either alive today it is not likely they would recognize the vast avocation they had created. New leaders were needed to keep the hobby abreast of the changing times - and new leaders have constantly appeared to keep the hobby a living thing.

And, of course, with the passing years there were more and more stamps. With the vicissitudes of war more and more nations passed into oblivion or were newly created, all of which issued postage stamps. This multitude of new stamps and new nations created a change in the hobby of collecting stamps. The problem of providing albums and catalogs for all of the world's stamps became ever more pressing and the followers of the hobby began to "specialize." They limited their collecting interests to the stamps of a single country, a group of countries or a particular kind of stamp. This limiting of one's collection was a boom to the existing album and catalog publishers who, following the trend, aided and abetted it by publishing specialized albums. For a while it appeared that the collecting of stamps - all stamps - was to be thwarted by this lack of desire to accept the challenge presented. It was much easier for the album publisher to "go along with the gag" - much easier for the stamp dealer to "specialize," build a collection of some particular nation or subject and ignore all other stamps.