I began collecting stamps when I was a boy. I’m not sure what attracted me to them. I suspect it was those ads in the back of magazines that made stamp collecting so alluring. At first, I could only collect the used stamps off the letters I could find in my grandparents’ junk drawers. Soon, I had enough money to buy unused individual stamps, then blocks of four (that’s important) and then full sheets. But only U.S. Commemoratives. These stamps were the ones that people always said, “Wow, I didn’t know there were stamps like that!” Then the Elvis stamp hit.
These multi-colored, multi-shaped sheets told tales of Presidents, pioneers, great women, inventors, musicians, and identified the great events of our history and the wonders of our natural world. As the “Black Americans” series began, I was sent to the encyclopedia to find out just who W.E.B. DuBois was and why was he on a stamp. I learned that the first President of the combined colonies was not George Washington. I learned that a free black man actually laid out the city of Washington, D.C. I was reminded over and over again how great Jefferson and Madison and Franklin were. I got a history education looking through those catalogues.
I dreamed that one day this collection I was building could be used to finance a new business for one of my grandsons. Alas, It was not to be.
I recently consulted an expert in Philately (that’s what stamp collecting is officially known as) to get an appraisal for a small collection left behind by my mother-in-law. Much to my dismay, he told me that the commemorative sheets she had been collecting had dropped precipitously in value during the past ten years. They served best as an asset to us on the front of an envelope.
Surely this did not apply to my commemorative sheets of two-cent, three- cent, etc. stamps from the 1950’s and 1960’s and my “rare” sheet of the 1980 Olympics that we boycotted? (Yes, first class postage was three cents once) “No,” he said. “I can give you about sixty-five cents on the dollar for them. Your older stamps won’t bring even half face value.” Gloom, despair, misery.
But is this really different from the promises made to Americans about Social Security and Medicare? With Social Security in the red this year, those “stamps” are not worth what we thought they were. And with Medicare being robbed of half a trillion dollars by the recent Health Insurance “Reform”, its value is plummeting by the minute. Rarified promises about legislation creating “savings” are just as much a hoax as my dreams of U.S. Commemorative riches. With our President traversing the world to apologize for America, we feel our exceptionalism being deflated like our real estate values.
In the immortal words of the Who, “We won’t get fooled again.” Now, everybody scream.