Fun with Stamps


by Ron Shanahan

An Introduction to Stamp Collecting - Part 1

Advertising to Frama    

The traditional image of a stamp collector is seen in the logo of 'Showgard' mounts. It shows a man, probably in his seventies, looking through a magnifying glass at a stamp he is holding with a pair of tweezers (tongs) However, go to stamp days, visit clubs and check readers of, and writers for, magazines and the current image (in Australia anyway) is somewhat different. There are increasing numbers of female collectors, a lot more youngsters and middle aged people and the general attitude to the hobby is much more relaxed generally. Unfortunately, for competitions in anything above club level, there is still the "stuffed shirt" attitude to entries. Even Thematic and Topical classes are so bogged down with "rules" for layout that the casual visitor is put off. It is rather like reading an advanced textbook as opposed to a "general" one. It may be clever stuff but very off putting for the "amateur". I was involved with the competitive side of the hobby years ago (with some nice trophies to show for it) but found the collections were getting very specialised and serious. With this in mind I decided to form a collection which allowed the fun to come back in to my stamps. Obviously this would be for my own benefit as FIP would not be impressed! How to approach it though? I finally decided that the easiest way would be alphabetically and called the collection simply. . . .

Philatelic Fun-damentals

The A to Z of Stamp Collecting Showing that the hobby can be fun.

A is for Advertising

Stamp booklets were an obvious choice for advertisements as there were text interleaves between the panes of stamps. The July 1968 booklet with the "Kingfisher" cover contained an advertisement for the "British Heart Foundation Appeal" At that time the American Tourist was a very stereotyped image and reading the first line of the advert. formed an immediate mental picture for me.


"I don't think I had ever been to a place quite so ugly, and it was jammed with tourists, almost all of them ugly also - fat people in noisy clothes with cameras dangling on their bellies. Why is it, I wondered idly as I nosed the car through the throngs, that tourists are always fat and dress like morons?"
Bill Bryson "The Lost Continent - Travels in Small -town America" 1989

B is for Booklet

Booklets have been a very much overlooked area of philately in the past but are gaining popularity rapidly. The small 'sheet' of stamps contained in a booklet is called a 'pane'


These panes killed two birds with one stone as they had advertising on the pane as well!

* * * * *

In 1987, the British Post Office introduced new style 'Window Booklets', so called because the front cover had a small 'window' allowing one stamp to be seen...

Thus we have 'window panes'.

C is for Coil

^Take me to your leader^

^I'm the Leader^
Another somewhat neglected section but full of interest. Many different types of vending machine have been used and the stamps are delivered horizontally or vertically. There are different perforations, large holes, small holes, coil joins etc.

Things can go wrong with these sometimes too!

D is for Definitive

A definitive stamp is a sort of 'everyday' stamp. One that is not issued to commemorate any particular event nor is a special issue. They do not last as long as they used to and the low values now include what were high values.

E is for Exhibiting

F is for Frama

In Australia, FRAMA machines replaced coil vending machines, and instead of a normal stamp a sticky label was dispensed. Introduced in 1984, they originally had "barred edges" with or without postcodes depending on where the machine was situated. Later types had "ringtail possum" and "frilled neck lizard" designs. Later still the koala appeared - even an athletic one that stood on its head!

Strange things happened with these labels, sometimes they were printed on the gummed side and some didn't seem to be worth the paper they were printed on.

Very handy if you were caught without a stamp, these machines did however appear to be sensitive to vibration, because as the last staff member left the Post Office and slammed the door, a little sign fell across the coin slot of the machine.

Photo supplied courtesy
Stephen Knight, MA, Curator Colne Valley Postal History Museum.

Copyright EARS Leisurewrite 1999.

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