Sunday, July 27, 2008


I am a perfectionist. Those of you who share this affliction will know how overwhelming it is to always try to be perfect. Luckily, I am able to limit my perfectionism to certain areas in my life. I do not attempt to be perfect in relationships (good thing, huh?) or in day-to-day tasks. Rather, ironically, I limit my perfectionism to my hobbies. Yeah, I know - because I enjoy it so much?

Sewing - if there's a single thing wrong, it must be ripped out.
Writing letters - the paper must be just perfect, the pen must flow easily across the paper.
Stamp collecting - I have to make sure I've found the finest stamp available to me to fill that space in my book.

That's why stamp issues such as this one nearly drive me crazy.

It looks so innocent, hanging out there on the corner of nearly every envelope. However, behind all those stamps hide a horrible secret, which only perfectionists who become stamp collectors learn. And since I've never met another perfectionist stamp collector, I'm assuming you haven't heard this secret.

There are almost as many different issues of this stamp as there are post offices.

OK. I also exaggerate. But today, I went through the pile I've been collecting from work and found over a dozen different versions of this stamp. And, of course, when you're a perfectionist stamp collector, you have to own one of each, and that one has to be the best one available to you. That's the rule.

The slightest little difference makes it a different issue. These differences occur because the post office contracts with different printers to produce all the stamps required to supply America. Each printer may do things a little differently, so things like the paper and perferations differ. And then there are different years, and ones marked "41" and others marked "First Class". And different flagpole colors. And different type colors. And ones that must be licked (yes, they still make those) and ones that are self-adhesive. And then there are coils, and booklets, and sheets, which all make a difference. Here are the different issues I found in my pile:

(To see if you can tell what differentiates each of these, click on the picture.)

I am pleased with my toil. Two of these stamps I only had one copy of. Just think - had I not sorted through them all, I might have tossed that one! Oh, what agony to have that one space blank in my book. But even worse, to think - what if I HAD that one, and I tossed it away?

But I must say, I am glad to be done with this task. It is not the most thrilling thing about stamp collecting to me. So, if you have copies of this stamp, please do not send it to me. I do not want to see another one.

But if you notice you have one that I don't, please DO send it to me! Because my collection must be complete.

Oh, never mind. Just send it to me and I'll check it myself.


Sarah said...

Thanks to your amazing lesson this spring I can actually see that 3 of them are different than the others. Beyond that I have no idea and am in awe of this level of perfectionism.

Cherie said...

Oh my goodness, all the varieties of what I always thought were perfectly ordinary little postage stamps. The ignorance of me!

Some time when you are back out this way I'd LOVE to have you come and look at the massive - and I mean massive - stamp collection that Tom and I have inherited. It has several huge books - not full - a few shoe boxes filled with carefully packaged sheets of stamps, old WW2 stamps, Nazi stamps, stamps from around the world. An old man collector had it and gave it to my dad in lieu of a real estate commission years ago. We have no idea its value but find it quite interesting from a historical point of view.

Would love your take on it. For now, we store it in a cool, dry place.

Thanks for lesson on stamp collecting, the proper name of which is escaping me at the moment.

Perfectionism can be a beast. Mine has thankfully lessened since having kids - they sap it right out of a person, which makes life freer and much more bearable. ;)

Melanie said...

Cherie -
Yes, I am a philatelist, but actually, probably the better philatelist for you to get to look at your collection would be Linore. She does world stamps, which I entirely ignore (since being a perfectionist for ALL the stamps in the world would be a job...without pay). I probably couldn't tell you anything about your collection, but I would love to see them anyway!

I can imagine kids would make you less of a perfectionist - but I think it will take the experience to fully convince me! I'm still holding out hope.

Marianne Elixir said...

Oh, and I had just been thinking it was silly of me to save all of those "cookie cutter" flag stamps. I'll have to dig through and see what these non-stamp-discerning eyes can see.

I love the perfectionism confessions. It's such a battle! I too suffer greatly from it, though, I have to second Cherie - having kids truly forces you out of it - and it's a great freedom.

Marianne Elixir said...

Okay...I have at least 3 different varieties of that stamp...I think that you probably have them all, but perhaps you could post a picture of the one you are looking for and I could see what I think.

This is fun. I can see how one gets into such a thing. Soren was very excited to look through them with me.