My First Day in the Philately Business

I had landed the ‘Saturday Job’ at a stamp shop by first asking for advice on identifying a Cape of Good Hope 4d blue triangular stamp, then I asked if they had a Saturday position that might suit a 15 year old schoolboy?

The owners had taken my details and later that week called my school to ensure that I wasn’t a delinquent or master criminal. I got the call and having agreed terms (£5 per day and all the tea I could drink) reported for duty the following weekend.

Having dreamt of turning my beloved hobby into a career for a couple of years I was the most nervous and excited I’d ever been. By then I’d spent very little time with my head in school books and a great deal of time with it buried in stamp magazines and catalogues. I’d set about learning my hobby in the way my contemporaries had built their knowledge of rock stars, dinosaurs, cars and aircraft. I believed I was ready for the big time.

Firstly I was shown the kettle (it transpired I was to be the shop’s Tea Boy) and then to a desk, a large brown box was placed in front of me. What could be inside? Mauritius classics? Penny Blacks? My boss lifted the lid and a cloud of white powder rose to engulf me and I started to sneeze. The box was filled with white powder; it was like a scene from a gangster film.

“Drugs?” I ventured. Obviously there was more to the stamp business than I had ever imagined. What would I tell my mother?


I looked at the settling contents again. Until that point the only chalk I had come across was the sticks that teachers threw at you “chalk?”

My boss pointed at the small white hillocks “inside this box are buried hundreds of complete sheets of 1937 Coronation omnibus stamps. The chap who bought them many years ago thought it wise to sprinkle French chalk between each sheet. I want you to carefully (he emphasised carefully, clearly the only person expected to be in contact with this stuff was me) and with your fingers brush off all the chalk from each sheet…”

It was a long, dry day by the end of which I had lost all moisture from my body, my eyes had nearly glued shut and I had worn away, in the style of an old- fashioned safe breaker, the finger prints on both of my hands. My parent’s car arrived at 5pm and I left without any money but £5’s worth of First Day Covers.

As I climbed into the back of the car my mother twisted in her seat to face me, and her eyes widened in shock “Oh my! You’re as white as a ghost!”

As I blinked through the white haze my Father asked how my first day had been.

“I had the best time! I want to do this forever!”

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