Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why Do We Collect Stamps?

A recent spate of articles on the internet have promoted several themes as to why humans collect things. Written by psychologists sociologists, these articles attempt to explain some of the complex interactions that take place inside the human mind. They explore why some people will dabble in collecting and others will obsessively collect any and every item they can get their hands on.

Why do we collect stamps? This article will try to explore some of the reasons why stamp collectors choose to collect stamps, and more importantly why collectors continue to do so, once started.

  • We want to de-stress. Stamp collecting can be a perfect way to unwind at the end of a busy and stress-filled day. The time spent looking through stamps, finding and filling empty holes in an album, or on other, sometimes menial, collecting tasks help us to reduce the stress of the day. Of course, for the obsessive-compulsive collector, stamp collecting may actually increase stress, as the person struggles with their inner self.

  • We are obsessive. Blank album pages pose a challenge to many collectors. Sometimes, while putting stamps in albums, we see a few "holes" that just beg to be filled. We know we will have to get on an auction site, trade with others, or jump through several hoops just to complete the one page. In fact, some collectors can't seem to rest until they have that special stamp.

  • We like orderliness. "A place for everything and everything in its place" is the perfect motto for folks like these. Some collectors will arrange and re-arrange their collection, especially thematic collectors, as their collection expands.

  • We want to connect. The very essence of philately presupposes communication with others, otherwise there would be no purpose for stamps nor letters. Many collectors make lifelong friends and trade stamps, correspondence, and other paraphernalia in the servicing of their hobby. As a hobby stamp collecting requires that a person establishes connections with others in order to acquire material for their collection. It gives us a sense of belonging.

  • We want to avoid boredom. Imagine a life without stamp collecting. For many, the world would be a much less exciting place. Non-collectors probably won't understand, but those who are active in the hobby know that philatelic pursuits chase out boredom and is the perfect antidote to rainy days, or long winter evenings. There is always something left to be done to a collection; it is never finished.

  • We want praise. Imagine the excitement that a person feels when their stamp exhibit garners the praise of their family, their colleagues, and other collectors. Likewise, personal websites where people share their particular aspect of philately with others.

  • We want to learn. Many collectors will study their stamps and seek out additional information about certain topics. This quest for knowledge can be triggered by something as innocent as seeing a stamp and wanting to learn more about the topic. And stamp collecting is well-known for its ability to lead one to a treasure trove of information about geography, history, nostalgia, and the geopolitical forces that shape countries.

There are many other reasons that people collect stamps. There is a connection to wealth, as we hope to accrue a collection that is worth more next year than today. There is also a connection to permanence and remembrance, since some will want to leave a legacy to their children. But for most of us, the prevailing reason is that we like it! What other reason is needed than stamp collecting is enjoyable?

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