Wednesday, August 13, 2014


A long time ago (circa 1978) in a place far far away (San Diego) there was a beautiful park.   (I couldn't resist borrowing that phrase from the first Star Trek movie.)   This beautiful park in San Diego is called Balboa Park.

It was a huge park with many museums and buildings incorporated into it.    Even the San Diego Zoo was included in magnificent this park.   On weekends there was an endless variety of street performers from mimes to guitar strumming singers.   I enjoyed going to the park on weekends.   It was a great place to relax and have fun.   There was a club of people who grew bonsai plants.   I think that it was called the San Diego Bonsai Club.   They would periodically have shows and plants on display in one of the buildings in the park.   In addition to having small bonsai plants on sale they also had their large treasured bonsai plants on display.    These plants were amazing to see.

One day at the Bonsai show I talked to an oriental woman who was exhibiting bonsai plants.   She told me that these plants are passed down from generation to generation.   She showed me a bonsai plant that she treasured and had been passed down through four generations in her family.   She told me that she was so nervous that the plant might die while under her stewardship.   She was afraid that her relatives might blame her for the plant dying.   She told me that she would be so glad to pass the plant on to a younger generation and then the plant would be their responsibility and a heavy burden would be lifted from her shoulders.   I was sympathetic to her plight and her nervousness about the family bonsai plant.   That has to have been a really heavy responsibility.
     I don't have any bonsai plants but I do collect commemorative stamps.   Especially stamps that have never been used.   The unused stamps are nicer because they don't have any cancellation marks on them to mar the image on the stamp.   Everything is so crisp and clear on the unused commemorative stamps.

Can you see the difference in eye appeal between the unused stamp above and the used stamp below with the cancellation marks on it?   That is why I prefer unused stamps without the ugly cancellation marks.

I recently acquired one of these Alaska commemorative postage stamps which was issued by the post office in January 1937.   Currently it is August 2014.   So how old is it?   Excuse me while I do the subtraction.................I'm back.   I calculate 77 years old.   Do you come up with the same numbers?   Go ahead and do the calculation, I'll wait.  LOL!    But 77 years is truly a very long time ago.   Unused stamps still have the glue on the back of the stamp.    An unused stamp is rather unique and rare since most people who bought the stamp used it to mail a letter.   An unused stamp is not found on an envelope in a trunk in someone's attic.   Used stamps are found on those letters in the trunk.   This particular unused stamp has been faithfully saved and probably passed from person to person for those 77 years.   Perhaps from stamp dealer to stamp dealer or from collector to collector.   In a sense we don't really own the stamps.   We just hold them for a while and then we die and someone else has the stamp.   Someone had to be the guardian of this stamp making sure that it did not get harmed or damaged until it was passed on to the next guardian.   And so it went from guardian to guardian for 77 years.   Once I obtained one of these stamps I was now the guardian of the newly acquired of Alaska stamp.

Unfortunately, I did not keep it in a sealed container and some insect found it and ate the paper (probably to get the glue on the back of the stamp).   What a mess the stamp is.   I consider the stamp as ruined and useless.   Obviously I failed as guardian of this stamp.   After all those 77 years of this stamp being passed along from guardian to guardian and the chain ends with me.   You might say that I am like the woman who had the family Bonsai plant that she must carefully care for.   I hope that she had more luck with her Bonsai plant than I did with my 77 year old stamp.   I feel bad about the damage to the stamp from the standpoint that all of the work and care that my predecessors have done has now been for naught.   77 years down the tube.   It is only a stamp but now it will no longer be passed on.    Perhaps I could donate it to a local stamp club for them to show-and-tell of what not to do when caring for very old stamps.

Fortunately I have a spare stamp.   It is fine.   I now store my stamps in tight containers as well as my stamp book which is in a sealed ziplock plastic bag.   I learned my lesson.   By the way, the mountain in the background on the stamp is Mt. McKinley.
     Stamp collecting is fun but as I have learned it does carry a certain amount of responsibility with it.   As an example, there are only just so many of the unused Alaska stamps in around.   Each time one is destroyed then there is one less stamp left.   Of course that makes the remaining stamps a little bit rarer and worth a little bit more.   In my stamp collecting I like the commemorative stamps because of the stories that they tell.   I guess that is why they call them commemorative stamps.   And yes, sometime in the future my stamp collection will be passed on to someone else and they will eventually pass it on to someone, and so the story goes.    We all have our hobbies to make life interesting.   Have a great day.   Lew