by Lloyd A. de Vries
Vol. 15 - Your New Public Library
If you surveyed 100 stamp collectors who use the Internet in connection with philately on how they use the Internet, I'll bet 98 or 99 of them would answer e-mail. The "also-rans" would be the World Wide Web, discussion groups and chats. The reasons would be buying and selling, communications, current events, admiring collections, and socializing.
If that's all you do on the Internet, you're missing a bet.
That's the advertising slogan of Yahoo, one of the Internet's most popular search engines and "portals," as in "gateway" to various sites on the World Wide Web. Using Yahoo and its competitors, including InfoSeek, Lycos, Excite and Ask Jeeves, you can find a wealth of information. My personal favorite is Google. You can reach any of these sites by putting "www." in front of the name and ".com" after it; for example, www.google.com
There are also specific-function sites: Encyclopedia Britannica (www.britannica.com), the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (www.m-w.com), Dictionary.com, and more.
Recently, writing about the possibility of a Gary Cooper stamp, I wanted to get more information on him. Google sent me to a major fan site; the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) gave me his filmography and height (6-foot-3).
The U.S. plans to issue a Navajo Necklace stamp at Americover 2004 this summer, which is being held in Indianapolis. That's some 2,000 miles away from the home of the Navajos, so other than the name of the city Indianopolis what's the tie-in? I typed in "Navajo Indianapolis" in Google, and soon found that there's a major museum of Native American art in the city.
It's amazing how much good information there is on the Internet, and much of it is in English. Belgium issues a stamp for the Koekelberg basilica? Hey, no problem: The Belgium Travel Network has a page that tells you about it.
Who was Karl Arnold, honored on a German stamp a few years ago? A post-World War II politician instrumental in the reconstruction of the country. (OK, I cheated here: I had Google translate the site from German into English, not all of which made sense.)
Actually, the best translation site is babelfish.altavista.com.
Whether you're writing about stamps for publication, or writing up stamps for exhibiting, or you just want to know more about the people, places and events on those tiny pieces of paper, the Internet might replace your local public library as your first research stop.
Come to think of it, my local public library is on the Internet!
Virtual Stamp Club Home Page