Stamp collectors in Holland often travel to Amsterdam on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In the afternoon, they make a beeline to the Nieuwezyde Voorbugwal, a familiar side street of the Dam, the main thoroughfare in the Dutch capital. They flock to the “unofficial” open air market where they know they can buy, trade or sell stamps and often find that elusive item they had been searching for. Schools are closed and many youngsters become enthusiastic stamp dealers.
It all started around the year 1910. A group of youngsters began gathering in front of a stamp store on Gravenstraat. They began showing and trading stamps. The store owner was not very happy at this competition. He had to call the police many times in order to get the youngsters chased away from in front of his store.
The part time stamp dealers discovered that the Nieuwezyde widened towards the Dam and that the extra room offered would eliminate not only further hassle from the store owner, but would accommodate more customers and they adopted this new location.
Soon other problems beset those young stamp enthusiasts. Shoppers discovered the street an excellent parking spot. The new twist did not deter the youngsters, they decided to adopt the car hoods as counter space to display the boxes of stamps, covers and other material they were offering. The market flourished at the new location and attracted many young and old collectors.
The onset of World War II stopped the open air bourse but it resumed operations immediately after Holland was liberated. Soon activities reached pre-war peak and the future of the bourse became enhanced when traffic became banned in the area. Bike saddles began serving as counter displays.
One of the stallholder’s wives recently commented to a visitor: “Collecting stamps is great for everyone – it teaches geography, history, botany – you name it….My husband took up his childhood hobby again when he retired, and now he enjoys it again. We’re here for the fun, not for the money.”
Parisians also have a popular open air stamp mart. Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau appeared in the Academy Winner “Charade”. The opening scenes of this classic thriller were filmed in the Parisian stamp market, located a few steps away from the Champs-Elysees, at the corner of the Rue Marigny. It attracts many collectors and tourists on Thursday and Sunday afternoons.
During the winter months, regulars, whether buyers, sellers or browsers, carry a large umbrella. It is more to protect the stamps because swift attention is needed as soon as rain drops make their appearance.
There were reports of a stamp bourse operated in London, on Change Alley, near Birchin Lane, and even one in Vienna, Austria but no details were found in any of the perused stamp journals. Details from readers will be welcomed.
When traveling abroad, it would be wise to plan a visit to these bourses, and to the various stamp museums that are located in almost all world capitals. Stamp dealers can advise about special philatelic attractions. Most stamp dealers advertise in the yellow pages, or local stamp federations can supply necessary addresses, and locations of stamp clubs and meetings.The philatelic experiences abroad will only confirm the adage “travel broadens the mind”. Most collectors in the Netherlands, Belgium and France have an excellent knowledge of English but attending meetings abroad is also an excellent way to practice foreign languages and excellent stamp journals are available in all European countries.