By Matt Hawkins
Many youth develop an early interest in sports cards. While they chase after the hot rookie cards and dream of Honus Wagner's rare 1909 T206 baseball card, other youth like Norm Beckman ventured into the world of stamp collecting.
Beckman, a member of the Southern Illinois Stamp Club, recalled childhood trips where he gravitated toward the thumbnail-sized items.
"We would go to
American Topical Association Executive Director Vera Felts stumbled upon the hobby when she sent in a few cents for a set of stamps from a cereal box.
"I sent in my allowance, and what came in the mail?" she said. "Beautiful stamps. They were women with plaited hair. It opened up a whole world to me."
Fellow SISC member Richard Chaklos recalled the ease at which stamps used to be available.
"In the older days, everybody wrote letters. There was a ready supply of stamps," he said. "As a kid, it was a cheap hobby. People knew you collected and would give the to you. You could get them from various sources."
With stamp production covering several centuries, multiple continents and countless countries, collections cover the gamut.
"That's one nice thing," Chaklos said. "You decide what you want to collect. You can just collect one thing or you can collect the world. People can become real philatelists and study stamps. There is a lot of variety in colors and other things that make for an interesting collection."
Even mistakes become collectible. The 1918 "Inverted Jenny" is a rarity. Only one sheet of the error - a Curtis JN-4 plane accidentally printed upside down - was found.
"You have to pick what you want to do," Beckman said. "If you try to do it all, you'll be up a creek. You have to specialize in what you want to do."