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The Personal Collection — Itís All About Yourself!

By John M. Hotchner

Virtually every stamp collector will run up against a time when they find themselves bored by what they save. It is natural, and the feeling will likely pass, but there is one collecting area which does not allow for boredom, and that is what I have come to call The Personal Collection. Not only is it a challenge, it is fun and full of surprises.

And of course it is entirely scalable to your wallet. You can collect as widely about your origins, interests, connections to others, professions, etc., or as narrowly as you wish. Letís look at some of the possibilities.

What country were you born in? Where do you live? What is your ethnicity? Your heritage? Starting with the United States, collect entire countries or just the issues since the date of your birth; or from the year of your birth. Collect those stamps that have subjects related to your region, state, or city of birth. Half the fun is identifying which stamps those are, how they relate — some will be obvious; others less so — then putting them on your want list and hunting them down.

Donít discount the possibility of foreign stamps that may relate to your chosen locations (or any other parts of your life). For instance, Elvis Presley has been honored on the stamps of several dozen countries. He was born in Mississippi, went to school and had his permanent home in Memphis, Tenn., served in the U.S. Army in Germany, made beach movies in Hawaii, gave live concerts in many U.S. cities — perhaps you are old enough to have attended one? — and met and befriended President Richard Nixon. There are hundreds of other possible connections, and you can take them out to several degrees of separation.

As will be true in any and every category, you will not be limited to postage stamps. There are first day covers, normal cancellations showing the city of your choice, or a message that may relate, meter messages, cachets, covers sent from or addressed to people significant in your life, and even old stampless covers.

Stamp variations can include essays and proofs, EFOs and varieties, and non-postage labels such as revenues and cinderellas. What can be included is limited only by how widely you search and how open your mind is to the possibilities.

What countries were your parents/grandparents born in — and when? Or go back generations if you need to learn where your roots are. When and where was your spouse born? Your children? You can also include material that relates to brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins; in fact any identifiable relative. What were their roles in life? What have their accomplishments been?

Where did you grow up? Are there sports you participated in, instruments you played? What were your dreams? Where did you go to school and university?

Have you traveled? Have you lived abroad? What kind of conveyances did you use: ships, planes, trains, cars? Have your children done a semester abroad?

Have you met any famous people? Do you have historical heroes? What bridges have you crossed? What monuments have you seen?

Have you served in the military? Where? Under whom?

What causes do you believe in? Work for? Contribute to?

Have you a favorite flower? Artist? Sports figure as you were growing up ? Pets?

What have your vacations been like? Canoeing or camping? Visiting the beach? Sightseeing or visiting family? All this and more are portrayed on stamps.

What kinds of cars did your family have over the years? What were your favorite toys? Are you a blood donor? Been involved with the medical profession in other ways?

What comics characters have you loved? Entertainment personalities?

Your lifetime has seen major, world altering events. What do you especially remember as having an impact on you and your family?

Did you believe in Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny? What other holidays have you celebrated?

Where did you meet and court your first love? Your spouse? Serious significant others?

What products do you use — camera, TVs, computers, telephones, radios? What leaders have been in office in your lifetime? What other famous people have you met or heard speak in person?

What should be obvious from this incomplete list is that there will be many stamps — U.S. and foreign — not to mention covers, cancels, meters, etc. that can be used to illustrate important parts of your life, and the lives of those dear to you. And given that you are the most fascinating person you know, digging out related philatelic material should never get boring!

Do you want a way to make this even more challenging? Look for the best possible connection — and the best philatelic item. For instance, my paternal grandfather was born in Krakow, Poland (then Austria-Hungary) on February 12, 1875. I can find a Polish stamp honoring Krakow with little difficulty. A little more difficult is to find a cover cancelled in Krakow. The ultimate, though would be to find a cancellation from Krakow on the date of his birth. If I want to get way out in left field, it would be nice to find one on that date addressed to a member of his family.

If I am satisfied with a stamp, I will shoot for the oldest or most valuable stamp I can afford, or a variation of it such as an essay or printing variety. The point is that the challenge is continuing. This is truly a quest that never ends.

Finally, as you acquire material on yourself and your family, consider doing personal frames of stamps and philatelic material that illustrate the lives of people to whom you give gifts. Nothing says ďI love youĒ like a 12" x 14" frame of stamps that illustrate the important parts of the recipientís life. And though it requires an investment of time to outline it and find the material, the cost will likely be minimal.



Should you wish to comment on this editorial, or have questions or ideas you would like to have explored in a future column, please write to John Hotchner, VSC Contributor, P.O. Box 1125, Falls Church, VA 22041-0125, or email, putting "VSC" in the subject line, at jmhstamp@verizon.net

Do you already have a stamp collection based on same facet of your life? Join us in the message board and tell us about it.

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