Philately means more than stamp collecting, it covers a much wider spectrum than that, but most ordinary folk just stick to the simple meaning – stamp collecting. Stamp collecting is one of the easiest hobbies to start especially if you have some access to a business that receives post from overseas.
My uncle George was involved in an import and export business in the 1960’s and was a great source of used postage stamps from all around the world. He used to send me all sorts of stamps but the ones that I liked the best came from Poland. They had various series of stamps that pictured animals, insects and birds and as well as the standard rectangular stamps they issued triangular ones as well.
Some of the stamps that he sent me from Africa featured animals as well. Sometimes there would be a stamp that celebrated a special event, at that time African countries were being given independence from the British Empire and they issued special stamps.
Now I soon discovered that the scope for collecting stamps seemed enormous and it quickly became apparent that if I concentrated on a type or design of stamp or maybe the stamps of one country I could build up a more focused and meaningful collection. In the end I concentrated on stamps from any country that featured animals and of course uncle George’s contributions of Polish stamps were the basis of the collection.
The other main source of stamps was from a company that offered approvals that I found advertised in one of my comics, I think that it was The Ranger or possibly Eagle featuring Dan Dare and his side kick Digby.
The system was easy enough, every month a book of maybe 50 stamps attached to the pages with the special stamp collectors hinges was sent to me, it was exciting when I was eight to get my own post, each stamp was included in a section of the book which was priced. Perhaps on the first two pages each stamp cost a shilling, on the next two pages one shilling and three pence and so on. All I had to do was select the stamps that featured animals and return the rest with a postal order to cover my purchases.
Over the months the approvals company realised that my interest lay in collecting stamps with animals on them and included more in the selection that they sent me. They were decent enough to spread the animal stamps through the price range as well so that I could always afford something from my pocket money.
In those days the only other easily accessible way of adding stamps to my collection was to buy packs of assorted stamps from the stationers, these were relatively cheap but often contained duplicates and only rarely had stamps with animals on them included. These days it is much easier to select stamps to match your theme.