Daniel Morris chats to Richard Camp, chairman of Telford Stamp and Card Club, to find out more about the popular hobby and its links to the past.
From the inaugural Penny Blacks to those that have commemorated landmark moments across the globe, for almost 200 years postage stamps have been a part of everyday life and have preserved history as it has unfolded. As a collectable, the humble stamp is one of the most iconic on the planet, serving as the basis of a hobby that has captured the young and the old for generations, and is beloved around the world, including right here on our own doorstep. A keen stamp collecting – or ‘philately’ – enthusiast for over seven decades, Richard Camp is the current chairman of the Telford Stamp and Card Club. One of the 60 million people across the globe with a passion for postal history, as Richard tells it, the joy of stamp collecting is almost as old as the history of the adhesive postage pay marks themselves.
“Stamps started in 1840, right here in Britain, after pressure on the Government to introduce a fair and cost-effective postage payment system,” he said.
“Other countries soon followed suit – Brazil in 1843, America in 1848, France in 1849. They rapidly saw the success of the British system and adopted it. Soon it spread far and wide.
“By the 1850s there were known to be collectors, and dealers then began to appear. Stanley Gibbons – ‘The Home of Stamp Collecting’ – was founded in 1856, when it began as a stamp counter within a family business in Plymouth.“Stamp collecting shot ahead from then onwards. By the turn of the century it had got into royal circles, and King George V – as a grandson of Queen Victoria – was an avid collector. He founded the Royal Collection. The Royal Family now have a superb collection of stamps from all around the world.” Since its inception, the popularity of stamp collecting has grown and grown, and in the modern age is a pastime with a great deal of organisation behind it. “In many places these days there are stamp clubs,” said Richard. “These will cover maybe a large town or city, or a county. In Shropshire there’s the Shropshire Philatelic Society which covers Shrewsbury and north/west/south Shropshire, and used to cover the whole county. But in 1969 there were enough collectors in Telford to start a club based in the town – the Telford Stamp and Card Club, which covers Telford and east Shropshire.“Stamp clubs are then grouped together in areas known as federations. The one that covers our area is the Midland Philatelic Federation. “They give support to stamp clubs and organise activities – stamp fairs, exhibitions and competitions. And then there’s the Association of British Philatelic Societies – the organisation that helps stamp collectors at a national and international level, dealing with the bigger exhibitions.” Now in his 80s, Richard’s passion for stamp collecting goes all the way back to his school days. “I was around eight or nine,” he said. “When I started off I wanted to collect stamps from the whole world, and we used to buy them from all over the place. There were no stamp dealers in my hometown, neither was there a stamp club. So it was very much a question of swapping stamps with my schoolmates. “When I realised I couldn’t collect the whole world I decided to reduce it to the British Empire, as the Commonwealth was still known then. And when I realised I wasn’t going to manage that either, I just focussed on stamps from Great Britain and then later added France because I’m a bit of a Francophile! “Now I have most GB stamps, except the expensive ones. I have gone backwards in time and collect pre-stamp envelopes which can often be bought for around £10 and have interesting markings on them.” As Richard relates, much of the joy of stamp collecting is found in the diversity of the hobby and the ways that collectors can make it their own. “There are plenty of ways to collect depending on who you are or what you’re interested in. Some people will collect ‘themes’ rather than stamps from a particular country – trains, wildlife, famous faces, etc. Some people collect stamps showing their work or other hobby interests. There are many different ways to do it, and you can do it at the level you want, spending the money that you want to spend.” In difficult economic times such as these, this is the reason Richard believes stamp collecting may be the ideal relaxing hobby for many people. “Stamp collecting can indeed be quite cheap, whereas many other things that people collect are often expensive. But if you just collect the modern stamps that come out, this can be a cost-effective way to enjoy the hobby.
“Stamp collecting is also very educational. I’ve learned a lot about history and geography – anniversaries, cities and landmarks – through collecting stamps. It always helps when it comes time for a good quiz!
“In general it’s an interesting hobby that you can pick up and put down as you want. And it’s very relaxing.”The Telford Stamp and Card Club is passionate about driving enthusiasm for philately in the area and serving as a resource for keen and would-be collectors.“The Telford Stamp, Postcard and Coin Fairs are run by our club,” said Richard. “These involve a series of dealers exhibiting their wares and the opportunity for anybody to be able to come and have a look at some interesting pieces. At a good fair, we can get between 150-200 people. They’re open to all, and we don’t charge entrance to the public.” As far as advice to anyone looking to get into philately, Richard suggests exploring the passions of current collectors, and he and his cohorts are happy to assist anyone looking to get involved in the world of their hobby. “You should go and have a look at what other people are collecting, and the best place to do that is in a club,” he said. “Most stamp clubs will let you in for free for two or three visits, so you can go and have a look and see what other people are doing, then you can make up your mind as to how and what you want to collect.
“We’d be delighted to see all comers, and to see a range of fascinating pieces, be sure to visit one of our upcoming fairs.”
Upcoming Telford Stamp, Postcard and Coin Fairs will take place on April 8, July 8 and October 14 from 10am to 2pm in the Belmont Community Hall, Wellington Centre, Telford. TF1 1HU. If anyone has a collection they no longer want, Richard can advise on disposal – he has sold stamps for charity for over 40 years so has a wealth of experience in the stamp trade.