If you are looking for a serious piece about stamps, please skip to the next piece. This is a human interest story with a moral at the end.
Turn back the clock to early 1983. I was reading STAMPS magazine at the time. I noticed a small write up about the Western Pennsylvania Precancel Society (WPPS) meeting. I was collecting stamps and I knew a little bit about precancels. I wanted to learn more. So I wrote to the contact information given.
That person was Steve Pavlina, WPPS Treasurer. The March 1983 meeting was being held at Steveís home in Cheswick, PA. Cheswick is a small town northeast of Pittsburgh, PA. I lived in Somerset at the time. Cheswick was just over an hour drive from my house.
I wrote to Steve and said I wanted to come to the meeting and maybe join the club. I received Steveís friendly reply back that I was more than welcome to come. Lunch would be provided. They would have beer and coffee available at the meeting too.
I was 17 at the time. I remember showing Steveís letter to my mother. She said, ďYou need to write back to him. He thinks youíre older than you are.Ē I wrote back and humbly pleaded my case. Could a soon-to-be 18 year old come to this adult meeting? Steveís reply was even more enthusiastic than his first. I wish I had saved those letters from Steve!
I went to that March meeting in Cheswick. It was the first organized stamp meeting I ever attended. The rest, as they say, is history.
Steve was a very friendly host. All of the people at the meeting that day welcomed me with open arms. Everyone was 50+ years old. At the time, I didnít know any different. Now I understand why they were so enthusiastic to have me join. I was fresh blood in the club. And I was 30+ years younger than everyone else!
Two of the best friends I made in the club were Steve and another collector from Erie, PA: Dave Johnson. Dave is still alive. Dave turns 82 this year. I drive to Erie about 3 times a year to visit Dave. We reminisce about precancel stamps and the WPPS. I was inseparable from Steve and Dave. They took me under their wing and showed me many things about stamps. I learned a lot from them. I could write volumes about stories with Steve and Dave. But space is limited here and I want to get to my point (thanks for staying with me so far).
Twenty years later, cancer took Steve away on Nov 24, 2002. It was one of the worst days of my life. I lost my stamp buddy. I lost my friend.
I recently picked up a significant part of Steveís original collection. Iíll spare the details since it isnít the main point of my story. Also, Dave is disposing of a lot of his philatelic material because of failing health. Because I was talking about stamps with pedigrees, I now have a lot of philatelic material in my collection with a predigree As I look through my collection, I see many ex-Pavlina and ex-Johnson items.
Outside of me, no one knows what ex-Pavlina or ex-Johnson means. If I tried to sell stamps that way, others would say, ďex-Who?Ē To anyone else, they are just stamps. To me, they packed with memories. They are priceless.
One of the things Steve had in his collection is a set of Zeppelins (Scott #C13-15) used on cover. Up until now, I never had a set of Zeppelins in my collection. Scratch one off of my want list.
When I look at that set of Zeppelins, I donít see a valuable set of used stamps. I see my stamp buddy. They are ex-Pavlina. Those stamps mean more to me, because they were Steveís. Catalog value is meaningless compared to the sentimental value.
I have other stamps in my collection too from Dave. They are ex-Johnson. I have a set of precancel stamps that no one knows exists. They came from Dave. They are rare, yes, but not worth more than a few dollars. Someday I will show these precancels to the world and the story will get out. Today isnít that day though. Rare stamps, yes, but the sentimental value means more than anything. They are from my friend.
As many of you know, I collect used US stamps too. When I was younger, like many collectors, I was focused on how many stamps I needed to complete my collection and what the catalog value of my collection was at any point in time. Iím glad that Iím beyond that stage. I have a want list of stamps I need. Like most collectors, there are many on there that I may never be able to afford unless I hit the lottery. I donít care. I enjoy what I have.
I understand the thrill of adding new stamps to your collection and watching the catalog value increase. I get it. And Iím not faulting collectors who are like that. Not at all. Iím saying that there is another level that I hope other collectors will find someday.
The profit in stamp collecting is the fun you get out of it. That makes me one of the richest people on this planet. Sometimes you have money. Sometimes you donít. But all of the memories of stamp collecting and the friends Iíve made along the way are something that doesnít change. No one can take away from me.
That is my wish for each of you. That you can add ďex-PavlinaĒ or ďex-JohnsonĒ material to your collection and enjoy it. Because it came from your stamp buddy. Or you can add that stamp youíve long sought after. Not because that item is worth a certain dollar figure. But because itís a memory. Or itís a prize that you worked so hard for. That, my friend, is what stamp collecting is all about. Go and enjoy your stamps!