My Start in Philately

Vincent Green of Sandafayre reflects on his start in the hobby.

My father is from the North West of England (imagine the Liverpool / Manchester region), my mother from the Dorset coast (imagine rolling hills) and as a child we moved between north and south as my father took jobs in both parts of the country. As a nurse my mother would work at the local hospital. My grandparents opened a student’s hotel in Bournemouth, an area rich in foreign- language schools. For a while, perhaps a year, we moved into the huge house and my mother helped her parents with their new venture.

This would be around 1973, I was 7 years old and I had the time of my life doing whatever little boys do, I recall playing a lot of football, digging (for what?) in the garden and being made a fuss of by the residents who were pleasant, educated young people from every corner of the globe. My 8th birthday came along and a new resident called Leslie presented me with a small stock book. He was Chinese, or Korean, no one remembers exactly, we think he was an engineering student and he hadn’t been at the hotel for long. I was shy of him, I hadn’t met anyone from Asia before and I had been avoiding him. On the morning of my birthday I was being carried on my father’s shoulders and Leslie approached us, he handed me the little blue book, I was non-plussed “It’s a stamp collection” my father explained “say thank you”

“Thank you Leslie”

It was a collection of East German and Chinese stamps. The DDR stamps were mostly the small 1954-56 Official stamps, a small design with the ‘hammer and compass’ symbols of agriculture and industry; the PRC stamps were mostly reprints of the 1950’s commemoratives. A giant magnifying glass (when I wasn’t using it to start small fires) helped me get lost in those finely engraved designs – I even noticed that the German stamps appeared to have slight changes to the central motif (I’m still rather proud of spotting that, it was years before I was shown the different Litho. and Typo. centres in the catalogue!)

I spent a few years rearranging those stamps, they kept me quiet for hours upon end but other things took over until I chanced across a stamp shop in 1978 and I saw in the window the new “Volcanic Rock Formations of Ascension” miniature sheet, the stamps a se-tenant strip of five creating a continuous mountain range effect. Shortly after I also bought the new Archbishop Makarios se-tenant strip of five from Cyprus, and a little later still I stumbled (quiet literally, I was on an adventure holiday, a rain- soaked and near frozen 13 year old) into a general store in the Lake District and bought the new GB Cycling and Horses sets.

And that was it. I never saved pocket money again, stamp fairs and stamp shops benefitted from my largesse until I decided that I needed to get on the other side of the counter and secured a Saturday job with a local stamp & collectibles shop.

If Leslie sounds like anyone you know. Please ask him to get in touch, I need to say “thank you” again.

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