Stamp collecting blog: Thematics and telling stories with your stamps


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07 May 2014
imports_CCGB_johnsteinbeckstampusa_79871.jpg John Steinbeck stamp, USA, 1979
Are you a story-teller or a chronological stamp collector? Thematics (stamp collecting by theme) can accommodate both, writes Matt Hill, but it’s helpful to decide before you organise your stamps ...

Earlier this year I chatted to a gentleman who had only recently begun a thematic collection, having collected by country for most of his life.

His chosen theme of authors reflected his love of literature, and he excitedly began acquiring stamps showing some of the world’s most popular writers. But, he told me, when it came to adding the stamps to an album, he got it all wrong.

Organising the themed stamps in the same way as he would lay out a country collection, he arranged his stamps by country and then in the order they were issued. The approach seemed logical, but on looking through the stamps at a later date, the collection seemed to lack purpose.

A stamp showing Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, issued by the USA in 1979, was followed by British stamps from 1980 showing authors such as Charlotte and Emily Bronte. Steinbeck was writing 100 years or so after the Brontes, so why should the stamps be shown side-by-side?

A new approach to displaying a thematic collection
Eventually the collector decided to start again, this time approaching his subject as if he was charting the history of literature. Now the Bronte stamps from 1980 were displayed next to six British stamps from 2005 celebrating Charlotte’s famous novel Jane Eyre.

Jane Austen stampThe collection began to make sense, and while he was initially worried that such an arrangement would make it difficult to identify gaps, the approach soon added further enjoyment as he planned the ways in which the story could be told in more detail.

With no clear boundaries or specific catalogue listings, thematics gives the collector more freedom than a country collection.

Whether you decide to tell a story using your stamps or arrange them in another way is part of the fun. And if you happen to get it wrong the first time around, remember that rearranging your stamps is a great and absorbing way to enjoy your collection all over again.

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