The Relic of Postage Stamps in an Digital Era

My toddler was playing around in my office over the weekend, and ripped a book off of my bookshelf.

It turned out to be an old postage stamp collection album. When I started the book some 25 years ago, stamps were one of the few things that were both collectible and accessible to a child with no money to actually buy anything. They were put on packages as a currency of payment, and were worthless after the post office dirties the cover with its own inky validation. Cut out the corner of the envelope, dip it in water to loosen the glue, hang the removed stamp dry, and it was a thrifty way to build…well, a collection.

Stamps are interesting because the designs keep on changing. They are the analog Google Doodle: art that remains easily accessible, changes often, celebrating social and cultural events globally. And unlike money, stamps are printed and used so often that millions of designs have been used worldwide, which keeps stamp collection an expansive hobby.

I’m reminiscencing a bit, as the role of stamps as a currency for delivery has waned in the past two decades and may eventually extinguish. Beyond the obvious move to digital communications, package delivery has evolved to be much more utilitarian, largely due to the increasing amount of packages delivered through plain UPS/Fedex shipping labels. The number of stamps and stamp collectors have definitely gone down in the 21st century, though it’s in prime position to evolve into a semi-elite branch of art collection, particularly as the production of stamps continues to drop.

Meanwhile, I’ll look to start preserving my Fedex envelopes.

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