Author: David Letch
I have been collecting stamps since early childhood and like many other novice collectors, I would collect anything and everything! Postage stamps are like little pictures which can transport you to faraway places or times past. The variety of images and themes depicted on postage stamps is endless, so there is something for everyone when it comes to stamp collecting. In my early albums I would sort the stamps into countries and I enjoyed trying to identify which country some of the stamps came from. Dad worked as a travel agent in Adelaide and he would get stamps for me from his international contacts. I collected stamps from envelopes I would swap stamps with friends. Gradually my collection grew and naturally, material from Australia was in more plentiful supply, so my Australian stamp collection grew the quickest.
As a child, collecting Australian stamps taught me a lot about Australian history, and the process of sorting my collection taught me about how to organise and systematise my collection. Many commemorative stamps had the year of the event printed on them, so I could sort them sequentially. Not all stamps came with the year of issue printed on them though, so this presents a problem! Eventually, catalogues became necessary to get the stamps in the right order and to identify missing items. Catalogues also listed values, and this created excitement about the possibilities of discovering valuable items.
My collection of Australian stamps continued to grow, and I would invest my pocket money in purchasing missing items to fill those elusive gaps. I remember frequenting a barber shop in Salisbury, a suburb of Adelaide, where the barber sold stamps as a sideline. I was awed at the sight of Australian stamps I had never seen before, especially the older ones like the high value commemoratives, 'Roos, KGV and State Issues. I managed to pick up a few of the higher value commemoratives in Used condition with my modest pocket money, so I had started to invest in Australian stamps. I started buying items from professional stamp dealers, sometimes just to get a look at those elusive high-value stamps in the stock albums and displays. By the mid-1970's I had a reasonable collection of Australian stamps, mostly in Used condition but missing many of the Kangaroo and KGV issues and high value early commemoratives. I learnt about assessing condition and put it into practise when buying and swapping. I probably drove the dealers nuts by fussing over $2 items from their stockbooks!
My collection impressed my Grandad, and he started collecting too. He was newly retired and he was looking for a hobby and an investment sideline. He had more pocket money than I did, so his collection grew much faster than mine.
He quickly built collections of Australia, Papua & New Guinea, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Pacific Islands. He could buy mint as well as used stamps and like many collectors in the "boom" years of the 1970's and early 1980's, he collected everthing Australia Post issued, in bulk, thinking they would be worth a fortune some day. I tried to get him focused on buying the expensive early Australian stamps, but with limited success. When the boom ended, prices fell for many of the stamps issued in the modern era, but prices continued to rise for the early Australian stamps, a trend which continues to this day. The reason is simple; limited supply and expanding demand.
When Grandad passed away, he left me his collection and some difficult choices. I was overwhelmed with the volume and scope of the material. It took up a lot of space and I couldn't see the sense in keeping up with new issues given the collapse in the market for the standard modern material. I decided to keep his Australian collection (sans first day covers and pre-stamped envelopes) and I sold the rest to a dealer for a pittance. I still regret parting with his collection of early Papua and New Guinea, which I regard as beautiful stamps, but I had learned from his experience that one needs to focus in order to build a significant and valuable collection, unless you have unlimited resources! Grandad succeeded in picking up some nice mint Kangaroos, KGV and high value early commemoratives, some of which I still have to this day.
I stopped collecting new issues many years ago, preferring to invest in the scarcer earlier issues. I began with incomplete simplified sets of the Kangaroo and KGV series and focused on trying to fill as many gaps as I could. I knew next to nothing about plate varieties,shades or postmarks. Eventually, I joined a stamp club, and I met someone who taught me a lot about plate varieties in the Kangaroo and KGV definitives. I began collecting plate varieties about 10 years ago, focusing on the KGV definitives.
My journey with stamps has been a passage of mind and emotion. Collecting stamps has enhanced my understanding and appreciation of history, it has also developed my organizational skills, my research skills, my commitment to a goal, and my patience. I have learned that a focused collection can also be a very sound investment. Perhaps for me the most important reason why I collect Australian KGV stamps is an emotional connection that I have with them. They connect me with a place and time: Australia, between WWI and WWII. These were formative years for the country I love and older people whom I loved. When I see a postmark or KGV cover I imagine that place and time. When I look at that profile of King George V, I remember Grandad.
The creation of the KGV variety stamps website is a continuation of my journey with stamp collecting. Eventually, I hope to sell my collection through this website, and in doing so, I can pass on significant savings to my buyers by avoiding costly dealer and auction commissions.