Apologies for such an awful pun (sorry, not sorry), but a few years ago while I was living in Shrewsbury in the English Midlands I attended lots of auctions. They were often held in drafty barns or damp village halls in places Google maps had yet to find (rusty farming tools, used catering ceramics and some really weird pieces of home stuff that would not look out of place in a horror film) and in the town (lots of chairs, glasses and faded pictures sourced from County Set house clearances when the owner had died).
Indeed, the most poignant lots were hundreds of photographs of unidentifiable people dating back decades. With eyes full of life and expectation, the images offered glimpses into family life, birthday celebrations; proud, hopeful couples at weddings; patriarchs and matriarchs dressed in the their Sunday best … but that’s for another day.
Once, as a winning bidder for several boxes of random books and magazines, I ended with up albums of hundreds, perhaps thousands of postage stamps from the UK and just about every other territory around the world. I was quite thrilled. My paternal grandfather had introduced his grandchildren to the joy of stamp collecting in the 1970s, but today just one cousin is still taking an interest. So, now, there’s me as well.
So what to do with my haul of stamps?
Well, after several house moves the albums have just resurfaced and flicking through them one recent lockdown evening I happened upon these citrus examples (pictured).
Stamps are full of stories. There’s always a tale in these little works of art and genius design … somewhere seeking foreign exchange by selling stamps – St Kitts & Nevis, for example. Or showing off great science and technology – the Soviet Union space stamps are remarkable examples of art, design, technology, science pride and politics packed into a tiny, throwaway space.
I suspect these three stamps from Cuba (oranges, variety Citrus Simensis Osbeck) and Gabon (grapefruits and mandarins) were sold to raise foreign currency or perhaps as a soft power reminder as to what agricultural products they produce for export.
So, this year visit your local post office and ask for the latest designs and brighten up the envelopes of the Christmas cards you send.
If you’re in the UK you can get a set of Christmas stamps showing nativity scenes in stained glass. Recent editions have included Star Trek, Rupert Bear, Brilliant Bugs and Sherlock Holmes.
Make someone’s day with a card and £1 work of art.