When is the last time you used a postage stamp? Keeping in touch via email or Facebook and paying bills electronically have almost made stamps obsolete. Of course, as a nerdy kid before the computer age, if I wasn’t reading Mad magazine or watching The Andy Griffith Show, a favorite pastime was my stamp collection. Several things drew me to philately: Appreciation of how a tiny design could tell a story and inspire you to research a historic person or event; thinking about how far that stamp traveled to bring our mail; excitement of adding new stamps to my album; and joining millions of others around the world – like President Franklin Roosevelt – a lifelong philatelist.
As a child, FDR looked to stamps to learn about the world, and later, as a polio-stricken adult, his collection offered solace. Throughout his life, including his presidency, he spent time each day with his collection. During the 1930s, he and the postmaster general brainstormed over stamp designs, colors, and themes. FDR actually sketched design ideas.
I recall carefully removing stamps from my parents’ mail and placing it in its proper spot in my album. Grownups who knew about my hobby saved stamps for me. It was exciting to get a commemorative stamp showing the golden gate bridge – a landmark I didn’t see in person until 50 years later. Or to learn about the “Final National Encampment” of the Grand Army of the Republic/Union Civil War Veterans that occurred in 1949, and the 1951 “Final Reunion” of the United Confederate Veterans! I had a friend whose grandmother was born on a plantation so Civil War-themed stamps especially captured my attention.
Those colorful little rectangular bits of paper inspired me to find out more about the subject which – pre-internet – had to be done at the library or with your home set of encyclopedia. Through the years, countless times in conversation or during trivia games, people have been surprised at the interesting tidbits jammed in the back of my brain. What other hobby is so affordable, educational, compact, and fun!
It’s sad that the U. S. Postal Service can’t figure out how to turn a profit. Their package delivery business is increasing, but they still had a 2018 loss of $3.9 billion. In the past I wrote to the postmaster about selling ad space on the back of stamps, and wrote to the citizens’ stamp advisory committee about selling ad space on their giant truck fleet.
When people ask, “How did you know that?!” I can often trace it back to things I learned from philately.
You may be wondering about the connection between marketing/PR and stamps. Stamp designs must be eye-catching, interesting and informative – squeezed into one square inch – exactly what great PR, marketing and advertising are all about: Eye-catching, great content, graphically appealing. Let’s talk!
Stanley Hurwitz is the founder of Creative Communications, Plymouth, Mass.