Stamp collectors must pay attention to the tiniest details

George Washington has appeared on more U.S. postal stamps than anyone. Franklin D. Roosevelt was an ardent stamp collector.

In honor of Presidents Day, and the 75th anniversary of the Salem Stamp Society, I did a bit of research on philately, the collection and study of postage stamps, postmarks and stamped envelopes.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the most famous stamp collectors in U.S. history. He sketched the original designs of many of the stamps that were issued during his presidency (1933-45).

Philately has fascinated everyone from royalty (Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Rainier III) to rock stars (John Lennon and Freddie Mercury).

The American Philatelic Society estimates there are more than 5 million stamp collectors nationwide, and lists more than 500 chapters on its Web site.

Salem Stamp Society is one of eight active chapters in Oregon. The club was founded in 1933, and today has about 70 members. They may not be famous, but they are just as passionate about their postage portfolios.

Dick Boyle is the club's unofficial historian, having been a member for 37 years. He joined when some of the founding fathers were still around, including the late H.R. Robinson.

"He sort of set the tone for the club," Boyle said. "We were kind of well thought of by virtue of his performance and involvement in a variety of exhibits and so forth."

Other important contributors included Harold Douris, Ed Payne, Connell Ward and Clark Will. Boyle shared some of their stories last week at the club's regular meeting.

The Salem Stamp Society meets the second Wednesday of each month at the Marion County Fire District 1 station on Cordon Road NE. Meetings include slide shows and presentations, door prize drawings and auctions.

Many of the members have been collecting stamps since childhood.

"Then you get married, have kids, and it gets put on the shelf," said Bob Reynolds, vice president of the club. "And then you come back to it."

Boyle followed a similar path. His interest was rekindled when his wife, Margaret, worked at a San Francisco travel agency and brought home stamps from mail sent to her office.

Dick Boyle, who retired in 1991 after working 20 years at Oregon State Hospital, has a simple reason for collecting stamps: "I love the geography and the history and everything else it represents."

He is a topical collector, someone who focuses on a particular theme or subject. Other subsets in the hobby include EFO (Error, Freak & Oddity) collectors, those in the market for misprints.

The world's first adhesive stamp, featuring the reigning Queen Victoria, was issued by Great Britain in 1840.

When the U.S. issued its first stamps seven years later, it decided not to honor living people but the country's history. The 5-center had the first postmaster (Benjamin Franklin) and the 10-center the first president (Washington).

Presidents have been stuck on stamps ever since, with a portrait of every late president on at least one U.S. stamp.

Washington's image graces a record 242 and counting, according to a video transcript posted on the Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum Web site. The number is ambiguous, because it depends on who's counting and how they're counting.

A stamp of a particular denomina-tion or design, for example, may have been issued at different times with variations in perforations, watermark or color. Attention to minutiae is a prerequisite for a serious philatelist.

"You have to be obsessive and like to organize things," Boyle said.


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