Collectors mail it in

Sequim Gazette

One group of collectors gets their licks in when they can — just not on their collections.


Roy Castell, left, and Richard Fleck look through an unsorted stamp collection at an informal meeting of the Strait Stamp Society.


The Strait Stamp Society, a 38-year old club of stamp enthusiasts, continues to find joy in looking for rare and particular stamps from around the world.


Their annual Strait Stamp Show runs for a 16th year on Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Sequim Masonic Lodge. Entry is free.


Cathie Osborne, show chairman, said stamp collectors go for all sorts of different collections.


“Some collect only U.S. stamps, others Latin America or Great Britain. I collect stamps with bells on them,” Osborne said.


She thought bell stamps would be a narrow enough interest that she wouldn’t be too invested, but 40 years later she continues to collect and find new styles being offered.


“You can spend as much money as you want,” Osborne said. “I thought I could limit it to bells but I’ve found it grows.”


Osborne said she started collecting after her first son received a stamp album. As a young mom and collector she found it nice to put things in order and have it stay that way.


Phil Castell, insurance agency owner and stamp collector, said he collects because it’s fascinating to delve into the history of stamps.


“It’s the thrill of the hunt,” Castell said.


Richard Fleck started collecting stamps at age 19 while going to school in Vancouver, British Columbia. He went to a coin and stamp shop and bought a sheet and found himself hooked on the hobby. He left Canada with a lot of stamps but focuses most of his collecting on U.S. stamps.


Lou Ladwig collects Word War II stamps and enjoys making displays including his recently compiled Mexico exports stamp collection that shows where items come from on a map.


Castell said he’s working on multiple album collections but one includes stamps from each country in the world that has issued a stamp. He’s looking for either the first stamp issued or whatever comes closest. He calls all collectors completists.

Send in the stamps

Organizers expect about 200 people to attend the stamp show.


One of the annual draws for collectors is the Strait Stamp Society’s annual cancellation. This year Lynne Fulp’s drawing from a photograph in the Sequim School District boardroom is featured as a stamp and a print on a letter. Sequim Postmaster Steve Allen will be on hand to issue the “cancellation.”


Castell said the show has something for all ages, including stamp giveaways for children, displays, vendors, food and old and new stamps. He will be selling old and modern stamps for face value or less. Dealers are willing to give free stamp appraisals of local collections, too, Castell said.


Some collectors go for used stamps only, Osborne said, and they are happy.


One popular attraction is the penny stamps tables where leftover, duplicate and used stamps are left out for 1 cent each.


“Some people spend all day sorting and spend 10 bucks and have 1,000 stamps,” she said.

Modern mess-ups

Stamp rarities and mistakes remain topics of discussion for local stamp enthusiasts.


Roy Castell, Phil’s father, said he heard about the recent Statue of Liberty flub in Britain before Phil did in Sequim.


The U.S. Post Office issued a stamp with a photo of a replica statue in Las Vegas rather than the original in New York City. A collector noticed a small block under the crown that’s not on the original statue. Phil said the post office is sticking with the stamp despite the mistake.


Ladwig said a similar situation happened when the post office offered a sheet of stamps on notable people of the West. The post office used a picture of cowboy Bill Pickett’s cousin instead of Pickett himself, so sheets became valuable.


Phil Castell said the post office created a lottery system for the error sheets, through which he found a way to receive four. A stamp price guide estimates an error sheet is worth a few hundred dollars but a replacement sheet is less than $20.


Collectors say mint condition is essential for stamps to retain their value.


Hinging, a lickable stamp mount, once was a popular way to display stamps but now collectors prefer plastic sheets similar to baseball card sleeves. The hinging process could leave marks, remove glue and/or cause ripping.


In order to price stamps, collectors need stamps to receive credentials from an appraiser. Phil Castell once spent $25 for credentials on a stamp he thought might be worth a lot but found it was valued at $1.

Future of stamps

Becoming a modern-day stamp collector is becoming harder, club members say.


“It used to be that collectors would soak off stamps but now self-stick stamps don’t come off as easily,” Osborne said. “You have to use chemicals. Kids can’t use those.”


Roy Castell said stamp collecting is becoming harder in England because they use certain glues, making it difficult to remove stamps.


Ladwig said new protocol in the post office for printed postage rather than several stamps takes away part of the fun of receiving a package.


Osborne said collectors haven’t figured out how to classify make-your-own stamps available online through the postal service. In years to come, she thinks people will remain interested in stamp collecting, but it probably will be harder to find used stamps.


“It’ll be interesting to see where it (the hobby) goes.”


The Strait Stamp Society has a casual membership that meets at 6 p.m. the first Thursday of each month at the Sequim Library. They do as little business as possible and leave time for members and other stamp societies to lead a program and for a stamp show-and-tell.


For more information on the stamp show and club, call 683-6373.

Reach Matthew Nash at
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