Thursday, January 30, 2014

Philatelics: the objective virtues of stamp collecting

“Those bright little pieces of paper will carry your words across oceans, over mountains, over deserts, and still more difficult: over savage frontiers (the most savage of which are not on the underdeveloped continents). ... Think of the human ingenuity, the technological development, the large-scale synchronization of effort that were required to create a worldwide postal system.”

“While the world politicians are doing their best to split the globe apart by means of iron curtains and brute force, the world postal services are their quiet, unobtrusive way...what is required to bring mankind closer together: a specific purpose cooperatively carried out, serving individual goals and needs.”

“It is the voices of individual men that stamps carry around the globe; it is individual men that need a postal service; kings, dictators and other rulers do not work by mail. In this sense, stamps are the world's ambassadors of good will.”

“The pleasure lies in a certain special way of using one's mind. Stamp collecting is a hobby for busy, purposeful, ambitious people...because, in pattern, it has the essential elements of a career, but transposed to a clearly delimited, intensely private world. A career requires the ability to sustain a purpose over a long period of time, through many separate steps, choices, decisions, adding up to a steady progression toward a goal.”
“The minds of such people require continuity, integration, a sense of moving forward. They are accustomed to working long-range; to them, the present is part of and a means to the future; a short-range event or activity that leads nowhere is an unnatural strain on them, an irritating interruption or a source of painful boredom. Yet they need relaxation and rest from their constant, single-tracked drive. What they need is another track, but for the same train...that is, a change of subject, but using part of the same method of mental functioning.  Stamp collecting fulfills that need.”

All quotes are from “Why I Like Stamp Collecting,” by Ayn Rand, Minkus Stamp Journal, 1971. You can find the Minkus article archived at several sites, among them, Kenmore Stamp here.

On December 11, 2013, the U.S. Postal Service honored Ayn Rand with an essay in the series "How they Collected."

The hobby is called “philatelics” or “philately.” Phil<love of. A<not. Tela<tally, count, tax:
The stamp shows that the tax or fare has been paid.  Rand’s comments apply to many, perhaps most, collecting interests, certainly to numismatics.  The same sort of moral arguments could be made for collecting pens and writing instruments, watches, or antique tools.  Ultimately, the moral context comes not from the object, but from the person who pursues it.

The Art of Finance
Money as Living History
Numismatics: History as Market

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