Monday, August 15, 2011

Stamped in my memory

What was your gateway drug into collecting?

A lot of us card collectors were addicted barely out of toddlerhood. We were "using" as 5- and 6-year-olds, mindlessly consuming without even knowing that we had a habit.

For me, there were two collecting addictions before baseball cards came along. One was Matchbox cars, and the other was stamps.

Matchbox cars were my first love. My interest in them was so long ago that I can't remember the first one I ever owned. I do remember specific purchasing highlights, and going to the drug store with hard-earned allowance money to score a sweet Matchbox hanging in the toy section. But I shunned Hot Wheels. Not realistic enough.

At some point, subconsciously, I realized that I'd never stick with collecting cars and moved onto stamps. I became so enthralled with stamps as a "big person's pursuit" that I treated it as if it was going to be my job someday. One day I would be A Stamp Collector, Esq.

I received one of those stamp album 3-ring binders for Christmas. It was separated by country with dozens and dozens of stamps for each country, many of which I've never heard of before (and some of which do not exist anymore). It was a prized possession. My grandfather would find me stamps from other countries and I'd learn the fine art of steaming the stamps off of envelopes using a tea kettle.

But like most kids, I had no clue what I was doing. The stamp album was much like a sticker album with spots to place specific stamps. I couldn't lick the stamps and put them in the album because most of them were off of envelopes. So, I'd roll up a piece of Scotch tape and affix it to the back of the stamp and place it in the designated spot.

That's a big no-no.

I found this out when I was in fourth grade, and the school set up some sort of "diversions/hobby" elective week. Each afternoon for a week, you would go to your diversion of choice and learn about some hobby. I picked stamp collecting. And that's when I found out that you were supposed to use some other sticky source to affix stamps. Tape was, basically, for morons.

I could barely look at my stamp album when I came home.

I tried to find ways to fix it, but there was just no way. I think I bought another stamp album -- it wasn't as nice as the previous one I received -- but the interest was gone. Perhaps this crushing realization is what pushed me headlong into baseball cards. I don't know. I was collecting cards at the same time by then, and I'm sure I thought about how collecting cards seemed a lot less complex than collecting stamps.

So, I probably owe stamps for my current decades-long card collecting habit.

Knowing that history, you might think I'd go wacky for all the stamp cards that are in Gypsy Queen and Heritage this year. But I don't. I do appreciate that Lifetime Topps sent me this Billingsley (and that Shields guy) stamp card from this year's Heritage. They're not easy to find, it's numbered to /62, and it does say "congratulations" on the back.

But a stamp just doesn't do it for me like it once did. Neither do Matchbox cars. I don't understand why people shell out big bucks for the stamp cards, coin cards, or a lot of the other things affixed to cards these days. But I've talked about that before.

However, this stamp card shall remind me of my second collecting love of stamp collecting. And that makes the card wonderful in its own way.

(Note that the top corner of the card says '62-'10. Isn't this 2011 Heritage? Do they all say that?)

Lifetime Topps sent a few other cool cards, too:

The final Dodger card I needed from this year's Heritage. Get well, floating head Jansen.

A gold parallel of the Albuquerque Dukes' second baseman.

A Target Throwback of the alternately amazing-agonizing Hong-Chih Kuo. Who knows what the bullpen will look like next year.

A Goodwin Champion card of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. I really don't know what to do with this card. Maybe I should test my airbrushing skills and see what Mattingly would look like in royal blue.

It's been 35-plus years since I collected a stamp. Now, I'm like most people and try to keep my stamps at a minimum because they cost too much.

Kind of sad, in a way. But I can handle only one hobby at a time.


  1. That's funny, I also started out with stamps before baseball cards, although I think it was the pursuit of baseball cards that drove me away from stamps (allowance only went so far) rather than any traumatic experience. I'm now starting to get back into baseball cards again after an 18-year hiatus (has it really been that long? ugh.), and it is everything I remember, both good and bad.

  2. I did collect Matchbox cars as a kid. I think I even had a case, sort of like an attache with dividers. But I don't think that necessarily preceded card collecting for me. I have shadowy memories of buying cards when I was six. My Dad collected stamps most of which he sold but I have some, mostly odd countries. I have a boatload from Kirabati. You'd have to look it up. I did.

  3. I had GI Joe's, but not for the purpose of collecting. I played with them. They weren't the big, 12-inch dolls. They were shorter and had moveable joints. They also came with sweet weapons and names like "Tunnel Rat".

    My mom ended up selling them all in a big box at a garage sale. I think the total was $20. Someone made out like a bandit.

  4. The first thing I collected was those small Fawcett Peanuts paperbacks. I didn't so much collect them as read them like crazy when I was a kid, but they were the first bit of ephemera that accumulated greatly that I still actually have. That and Mad Magazine, but my mom purged those one terrible weekend.

    I got weird into stamp collecting in the mid-'80s during a card collecting lull. And I mean weird, scary, obsessive compulsive weird. Like, for a month I had to have every stamp I could find with an overprint. Then it was internal governmental tax revenue stamps. I sure wish I knew what the hell happened to me in the early '80s to cause me to turn to a semi-normal kid into a complete nutjob.



  5. I never did the stamp thing, much to the chagrin of my grandfather. I have collected a few coins over the years, but mostly stuff that comes from family members. I was hooked on cards from the moment I opened my first pack of 1981 Fleer. I know, I know...

  6. I cringe at the Lost Collector's story of his mom selling his GI Joes. My mom did the same!

    I have way too many hobbies night owl. Heck, even trying to keep up with 2 different blogs is hard. It's fun though. Never collected stamps, but I too can relate to Matchbox cars. For me it was also GI Joe as I mentioned, Transformers, Atari and eventually comic books and baseball cards. To this day that really has changed (well I did trade in my Atari for a Xbox 360). See, I told you I had too many hobbies.