Wednesday, July 26, 2006

BE A LOVER OF STAMPS

'Til lately, I never quite realized that I've loved stamps for my whole life. When I was little, I took used stamps off of family mail and put them in my scrapbook. Now, I get a big kick out of going to the post office and choosing stamps -- rainbow-candled menorahs, children's book characters, Jim Henson and the Muppets, whatever suits my fancy or the occasion at hand. Check out all the great stamps the US Postal Service has to offer online.

What is so great about stamps? They are small but mighty, with the power to carry an important message anywhere in the world for mere cents. Stamps are tiny pieces of art. Like children's picture books, they must capture the essence of a story or an idea in a small amount of space.

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
If you say "stamp collector," this is what I picture: a man in a rust-colored jumpsuit sitting in a dark room. He is hunched over a rickety card table under the light of a brown, scratched goose-neck lamp. With magnifying glass in hand, he peers peevishly down at stamps in a dusty, 20-pound album that he's had for 20 years. He's surrounded by lots of cats and house spiders and he never shares anything with anyone.

Halt. Wait a sec. Something is askew in the land of stamp appreciation. I love stamps and this description does not fit me! What's up with that? Could I be the only one with an outdated image of stamp-collectors and collecting? According the United Nations, the average age of stamp collectors is increasing. So my guess is, whole generations of folks aren't being exposed enough to the joys of stamps.


UNITED NATIONS = STAMP MECCA
I guess there is no quick fix for the lackofstampappreciation epidemic. Wait, yes there is. If you want to get pumped up about stamps, get thee to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. I went there during my folks' recent visit from California. I know you're supposed to be contemplating world peace when you land at the UN, but all I could think about is how badly I wanted to visit their post office.

Before I could reach the UN post office, I saw something interesting out of the corner of my eye. Upon closer inspection, I discovered the UN's version of a photo booth. Let them take a picture of you or you with your friend and they will incorporate the photo into a sheet of stamps featuring different images of the United Nations. If you use these stamps, you must send the mail right there from the UN Headquarters. The best thing to do is to keep the sheet as a souvenir. I may make a postcard out of my sheet.

Once I got my personalized stamp sheet, I proceeded onto the UN post office. Holy smokes, talk about a collection of stamps to choose from! They've been producing their own stamps since 1951, so you can imagine the selection. There’s more than 1,000. I decided to get the Vienna Souvenir Collection because it included a stamp by Peter Max. I also got a set of 12 with a flying postman whose red mail satchel is overflowing with hearts as he holds an olive branch in one hand.

Here are a few fun facts about the UN Postal Administration taken from their website:

* The idea of the UN issuing its own stamps was first proposed in Argentina in 1947.
* An agreement with the US postal authorities was reached in 1951 and stipulated that the stamps be used only at UN Headquarters.
* The first UN stamps issued in US dollar denominations on UN Day - October 24 - in 1951. The stamps, an immediate success, were sold out within days.
* Other artists whose work is featured on the UN stamps include.....

Marc Chagall, France
Vincent Van Gogh, Netherlands
Paul Klee, Germany
Peter Max, North America

IN CONCLUSION
Email is great; snail mail is better, especially personal letters. What makes the intimate exchange of lofty thoughts and tender sentiments possible? Stamps do! Let's face it: stamps go around the world AND they make the world go 'round! So appreciate and enjoy the magic of stamps.
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