My primary collecting focus right now is attempting to obtain A Stamp From Everywhere (ASFEW). The number of stamp-issuing entities depends on how they are separated out into territories, departments, offices, agencies, and the like.
When I started this endeavor, I made a spreadsheet based on lists found on the Linn’s Stamp News and Stamp Atlas web sites. This list had a total of 914 individual stamp-issuing entities. Since then, I’ve come across an even more complete spreadsheet on the Stamp World History blog that lists more than 3000 stamp-issuers. Another site I’ve seen claims more than 50,000 (!) but I think that includes many local posts and stamps issued by various schools, youth organizations and the like.
For the time being, I’m striving to complete my original list and my current total includes some 199 different entities. I started this particular collection just a little over two years ago so I feel I’m doing fairly well.
All of this was inspired by reading a review of an album called The Single Specimen World Gazetteer Stamp Album made by Terra Nova Publishing of Pennsylvania. This album includes some 600 entities with a space for one stamp from each place, along with a small map and brief synopsis of the stamp-issuer. These elements all inspired me to start a similar collection, albeit without a “proper” album due to high shipping costs.
As I began going after countries via the worldwide mixed packet route (and, more recently, targeting specific entities), I stored the stamps in blank stock books – a temporary solution until I’d found an album. After much deliberation on the matter, I recently decided to create my own album – designing pages that I could print as I added new countries and that would eventually be stored in a binder (or several). The former has proved far easier than the latter!
I tried out a number of free and trial versions of dedicated album page-making software but quickly grew frustrated with the results. It wasn’t until a month ago that I turned to the familiar Microsoft Word to see if I could create the pages I envisioned using that. I was very pleased with the ease with which I could design using Word and soon had a nice template in a two-page-per- entity format with a pleasing semi-modern border design.
I knew I wanted the pages to include flags, maps and coats of arms for each country and it took me a while to balance these elements in an attractive way while still leaving room for the stamps and write-ups. The left-hand page includes an information box including location, government, estimated population, etc. along with brief political and philatelic histories. The right-hand page displays the stamp itself along with catalogue number and information, plus a brief write-up of the subject matter portrayed upon it.
It does take me about 90 minutes to create each page once I have the research notes for the write-ups. Most of this time is taken up by trying to condense the information into an interesting and coherent account of the stamp-issuer’s history. In the past month, I’ve made pages for seven countries so I am off to a fairly slow start. When I do have time, it is yet another enjoyable aspect of the hobby for me.
One of the difficulties involved in collecting A Stamp From Everywhere is deciding exactly which stamp should represent the entity. For many stamp-issuers, the only issues were overprinted stamps from whichever nation had sovereignty over it or they had fairly uniform designs of numerals or monarchs. In such cases, I tend to go with the earliest released stamp that I can easily afford. For those countries with a bit more longevity, I desire to show something of their local identity be it culture, clothing or symbols. So much the better if these are engraved single- or bi-colored stamps as these have always been my favorites. I try to avoid using issues such as British Commonwealth omnibuses which feature similar designs for all of their colonies.
Of course, there are many instances where I obtain full sets in order to get at that single representative stamp for a lower overall cost. Or, I simply fall in love with certain stamp-issuing entities and end up with more than just the one stamp I’d strived for. As a result I seem to be building something of a general worldwide collection alongside the A Stamp From Everywhere focus. That is one reason why I’ve finally purchased a proper album after several years of temporary stock book storage. This album, Scott Modern pages in a Stanley Gibbons binder, hasn’t yet arrived yet but it will bring me full-circle to my earliest collecting days as I’d received my mother’s old Scott Modern as a gift for my tenth birthday. Little did anybody realize that I’d still be collecting some four decades later…