Saturday, February 19, 2022

Stamp Collecting and God?

Found - My Old Stamp Collection!

My Mom passed away recently, and as my Dad was cleaning things up in their house, he discovered my old stamp collection - from 40 years ago!  I brought it home and went through it and was rather surprised
at some of the stamps I found.  I'd forgotten that Mom had casually helped me by occasionally purchasing mint stamps at the post office when she went there.  I'd also forgotten that I'd purchased some older stamps myself.  I decided to do some research and see their value now, and the cost and effort it would take to get started at collecting again.

Learning About Stamps

Philately (the study of stamps), as I discovered at the local stamp store, is pretty involved.  Stamps can be: 

  • Printed on different types of paper.  Did you know that some stamp paper is UV tagged and fluorescent when see under a Ultra-Violet light?
  • Created with different adhesive types.  Older stamps used gum (glue), most newer stamps are self-adhesive, like stickers
  • Separated by:
    • a manual process (like scissors) These are generally very old stamps.
    • perforations (the lines of holes you rip to separate a stamp).  Because there are different types of perforations, there are actually special rulers to determine which type a stamp has.
    • machine cut - with self-adhesive stamps
  • Mint or Used - generally mint stamps are worth more, but there are a bunch of factors that can come into play, like:
    • their 'face value' (the original cost of the stamp) 
    • a used stamp's cancellation mark - some people actually collect these!
    • was there an error in the printing? Scratched plates, missing ink, ink scum, hickies, mis-aligned or missing perforations can cause a stamp's value to skyrocket
  • Older or newer, obviously.  Older stamps were printed using a different type of printing process
    (gravure). This print process meant that older stamps didn't have many colours, and the stamp's design could often be seen embossed through the paper on the gum side of the stamp.  I was surprised to discover I could buy older mint stamps relatively cheaply.  I enjoy the history and nostalgia of the older stamps.  I was shocked to discover in my recent e-bay purchase that the seller had gratuitously included an 1863 Queen Victoria stamp from Nova Scotia and a 1943 Newfoundland airmail stamp - before they were provinces of Canada!
  • Given a 'Scott' number.  This essentially a code that uniquely identifies the stamp in its country of origin and can also make users aware if its an anomalous stamp in some way, depending on the code any predicates it might have.
 All of these classifications for stamps probably shouldn't have surprised me - I'd spent almost a decade of my life as a printing pressman.  Having that printing experience accelerated my interest in collecting again and motivated me to learn more.

Stamps and... God?

How does God figure into stamp collecting?  I got to thinking about this last night and realized there a bunch of interesting parallels.  I'll just highlight a few of the main ones here:

We are all unique and precious in God's sight. 

"Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands...."  Isaiah 49:16a
"Why even the very hairs on your heads are numbered."  Luke 12:6b
Each stamp is unique.  Its place on the printed sheet is actually given a code.  Individual stamps have a personal history for a stamp collector.  Used stamps will have unique cancellation marks that can make them special to collectors.  Similarly, we are all unique and precious in God's sight.  God knows our personal history from before we were born (Psalm 139:13-16).  God has a special purpose for each of us, just like stamps are printed, cancelled, and used for mail delivery all over the world.  The exact same two stamps printed beside each other on a sheet could end up with completely different cancellation marks on opposite sides of the world!

God uses our imperfections to make us better.

"I’ll refine them as silver is refined, test them for purity as gold is tested." Zechariah 13:9
"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8
In many cases, stamp imperfections increase the value of the stamp. Missed UV tagging, print plate scratches, ink colour inconsistencies, and mis-placed perforations are all examples of 'mistakes' that end up making a stamp 'better' in the eyes of collectors.  God also uses our foibles, mishaps, issues, and errors, to transform us into something precious and valuable in His eyes.  


"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"  John 3:16
Stamp value attribution can be rather complex.  Whole catalogues are published annually that attempt to gauge the value of stamps.  Just one stamp in these catalogues can have a plethora of prices depending on different conditions and ways it could be collected - some of these I've mentioned above.  Essentially though, an individual stamp's true value comes down to one simple thing - how much a buyer is willing to pay for that particular stamp.

Our value with God could be judged the same way.  Its not hard compare ourselves to others and estimate our worth to God based on what we've accomplished for him, or how perfect we think we are.  But our real value to God comes down to one thing:  What price was He willing to pay for us?  

The Bible says that our sin separated us from God, and the price for that sin is death.  But it also says that God gave His only Son to 'pay' that price for us and put us back in right standing with Him.  God gave the most valuable thing He had for us!  We must be highly esteemed and valuable in His eyes!!  

"So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger?"  Roman 8:31-34

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