Monday, January 05, 2009

Packing up the Christmas Tree

All too soon the Christmas break has come to an end. I have just a few tasks left to do - store the tree that I just boxed up, get some groceries and vacuum the main floor. Sharon will be busy putting paint on a wall this afternoon. The house is much quieter with just Chelsea home in the morning. I'm finishing up some stamps today, Switzerland is my goal. I have half of a good sized stock book full to either mount in my album (not that many, I have a respectable Swiss collection) or sort into my trading boxes. I actually sort my traders onto dealer 102 cards. Not that I am pretending to be a stamp dealer, it is just easier that way. For me the relaxing is in the process, which is quite complex. When I get stamps I first sort the on-paper (meaning someone has carefully torn away the rest of the envelope and left the stamps stuck to the paper - I like this as often well meaning folks damage stamps trying to remove them for me!) into colours. Yup - that matters. It is the colour of the envelope that is a problem. White ones are great! But colours can bleed onto stamps in the soaking process. Then I soak them in three bowls: lukewarm water till then almost fall off the paper, water with a bit of salt and baking soda to neutralize acids, and finally a clean water rinse. I dry them on wax paper covering whatever surfaces my loving wife allows. This I call the soaking party - you should join me it is lots of fun!

Dry stamps and stamps already off paper get put into a tupperware container on my desk. This was overflowing at the start of my Christmas break (in fact I had a box beside it full too!). I tend to toss anything that is damaged and my oldest daughter has been playing with those stamps. I then sort the stamps from my bin into 12 boxes (of various sizes)each full of envelopes (almost one for each country). These boxes are labelled: Machins, Regional Machins, Europe Collected, Oceana Collected, South America (which is also Central America and the Caribbean), Great Britain, Europe, Africa, North America, Asia Collected, and Australasia. These boxes are always full of goodness, ready to sort.

From the boxes I sort the envelopes into stockbooks - one country at a time. Actually I only do this for countries I collect. The others get packaged into auction lots that I take to the club's auctions or sometimes put up on ebay. A few are accumulations that I plan on making into a collection at some point - Austria is one such culprit as I have two lovely full baggies of Austria in those boxes. In the stock book I end up with rows of the same stamp. This is important because often stamps have printing variations. Today I was looking for fibres embedded in Swiss stamps. The colour of little threads in the paper will tell me which printing a stamp is. Actually one stamp had an added feature of a pike (weapon) with either 3 or 4 lines left of the guys hand. I have a lovely little 10X loop with a light that I keep constantly at hand. The other thing I check a lot for is watermarks and the interval between perforations (along the edges of the stamp). Once I have identified just which stamp is which from a row, I see what I need in my album. I prefer postally used stamps (even when the mint, or unused, version is worth more) so I sometimes switch up a stamp in my album because I now have one with a much nicer cancellation. I then update my want list and find the appropriate section of my card files for the traders. If I don't have a 102 card for that stamp variation I make one and price it at 1/3rd the catalogue value (my catalogues are from 2001, but a trip down East should net me more recent ones! Thanks to my uncle-in-law Raymond). As you can imagine my file boxes of traders are quite full. I have been getting these nice red dealer boxes - I have three of those so far. But I also use the boxes the cards come in and kleenex boxes fit perfectly sans cover. I will take a box with me to the club or us it to easily find stamps my few penpal friends ask me to locate. Everything is Scott numbers except the UK used to be Gibbons numbers, now it is both. The reason for that is I have a full colour Stanley Gibbons checklist for my favourite country to collect. You might have guessed this from seeing 3 boxes just for the UK! I love Machins.

Alas, today I will clean up the last of the collection and get my desk ready for a semester of studies. Sharon asked me what I think about when I'm working on my stamps. I told her, 'nothing at all' as that is sort of the point. I'm one of those guys who is always thinking. Stamps distract me long enough to rest. Mental work is quite taxing - despite the way that society has devalued it.

This is a bit of how I spent my holiday. I hope yours was restful too. Now back to weightier things.

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