Stamp Collecting: During hard times, some people look to stamp collecting

By Breck Pegram/Ky. Stamp Club, Published:

During the hard financial times of the Great Depression of the 1930s, instead of declining stamp collecting actually went into boom times. This was helped by such famous stamp collecting icons as H.E. Harris & Co. of Boston and the storied stamp dealers of the times Max Ohlman, Robson Lowe, Herman “Pat” Herst Jr. and many others.

One of the basic reasons for the stamp collecting boom was that it was and is a hobby that lends itself well to providing a lot of enjoyment and education for a very small financial outlay. While a family didn’t have the funds for a cruise or a new car, a small amount spent on stamps was usually affordable.

By this time it was well known that King George V and President Franklin D. Roosevelt along with less notables, King Farouk of Egypt and Hetty Green’s son, Ned, were stamp collectors. This notoriety did not hurt the hobby at all.

One prominent promoter of the Depression era was the radio talk program, The Ivory Stamp Club with Captain Tim. As you might guess Proctor & Gamble Co. played an important role in this part of stamp promotion.

Additionally, Walter Kaner, a well-known journalist with the Long Island Press had a stamp program on WWRL in New York City that drew many listeners who went on to become well-known stamp collectors on their own. Elmer Long, a stamp dealer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania discussed stamp collecting in the 1930s on WKBO radio. Even later in the 1950s, J. & H Stolow produced a weekly stamp show in New York City.

There are other media accomplishments such as the part stamps played in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “Charade.” The famous radio detective Nero Wolfe, played by Sidney Greenstreet brought notice to the Hawaiian Missionary stamps in an episode titled: “Stamped for Murder.” There are many other examples like these in the media.

If any of you remember radio shows or even movies in which stamp collecting was a subject, I’d like to hear from you. You can email me at: with this information and perhaps we can share this with our readers.

Stamp promoters

Perhaps you know a stamp collector. Most stamp collectors today are the best promoters of the hobby. They are usually educated people whose knowledge has been increased over time by their stamp collecting activities and hobby. They have a natural desire to share the happiness and knowledge that the hobby has brought to them and you can easily see this in their enthusiasm for it.

Another segment of the stamp hobby that aids in the promotion of the hobby is the stamp dealer. Most stamp dealers are very helpful and if you are a recent or long standing customer they are fountains of knowledge about stamps and they will many times help customers in any way they can.

We do not want to leave out the United States Postal Service among the promoters of stamp collecting. The postal service does make an important contribution to the hobby in the form of holding first day ceremonies when most new stamps go on sale.

This produces publicity for the stamp being issued and subsequently for the hobby. While occasionally the issuing of stamps does cause controversy, the overall effect is positive.

The postal service also participates in most major stamp shows each year. They cooperate with stamp show sponsors and have postal employees on hand to sell current stamps and cancel envelopes (“covers” as collectors call them) being issued at the show.

I would have to add that on an individual basis many stamp collectors have located a favorite post office in their area. With the help of the personnel there, they get questions answered. 

I do not think we can do without the United States Postal Service. It is an important part of life in the United States. In a state like ours where there are a lot of small communities, the post office is a vital link in our society. While purchases of stamps by collectors are the most profitable transactions for the postal service, we cannot picture life without them.

I hope that you will consider coming to our upcoming meeting 2 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Baptist Church, 130 Holmes St. We’ll be glad to help you gain a better understanding of this most interesting hobby. 

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