Saturday, March 29, 2008

The collecting gene

At the Guardian, Simon Garfield on mid-life crisis and compulsive stamp-collecting. A good list there in the middle, although I am made slightly suspicious by the ease of the psychological conclusions he draws:
I had a basic catalogue, but it was far too crude a compass to steer me through so many subtleties of shade and printings and plate numbers and postmark cancellations, all of which affected price. I would have been dissatisfied with any purchase; I could never afford the best and it pained me that someone somewhere - actually, almost everyone everywhere - owned a better example.

The one place that tried hardest to dispel this feeling of helplessness was Stanley Gibbons, but I found it had the opposite effect. The weight of its history was imposing and its main showroom, with its ornate ceilings and gilt cornices, far too grand for a shop. The staff tried to entice young collectors with a huge selection of accoutrements; even if you couldn't afford the stamps, surely the pocket money would stretch to a tin of hinges and a set of Showguard mounts. Or perhaps tweezers, or one of the new albums with names from nowhere: the Number 1, the Gay Venture, the Improved, the Safari, the Swiftsure, the Worldex, the Devon, the Exeter, the Plymouth, the Abbey Ring, the Philatelic, the Senator Standard, the Utile Standard, the Oriel, the Windsor, the Tower, the New Imperial, the New Pioneer, the New Thames, the Strand, the Nubian. They were all unbelievably similar.

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