A friend asked me why I care so much about saving the USPS. It’s in my genes. Grandfather O’Connell, who was an eye surgeon in the US Army, would travel the world, sending his son, my father, stamps from places he traveled or wanted to see. In the beginning, it was just stamps commemorating events in the USA. My dad did not use the stamps for correspondence. He saved them. Yes, my father was a big stamp collector, but the only stamps that went into his stamp album were the canceled stamps. He placed the uncanceled stamps in his safe deposit box. That was where Grandfather O’Connell kept his, and he assured my father that they would continue to increase in value. So they kept saving stamps. And writing letters.
Grandfather O’Connell wrote my dad in August 1947, enclosing stamps that he said had come from his safe deposit box. In his letter, and through the years they wrote each other many letters, he told my dad that their value “was enhanced.” Dad had two kids then – my sister and brother – and thought of the stamps as an investment for the children’s future. These stamps were from British colonies, in denominations of two to five cents. They all looked similar, with two sovereigns on each stamp, but a different colony under the faces. Dad kept them in his safe deposit box until 1998. He needed money to care for mom and himself, and asked me to retrieve them, as well as the USA stamps. I tried to sell them, to no avail. They were worth just what was printed on each USA stamp, and the British stamps had no value. Did I tell him that? I can’t recall. I only remember giving him a check for whatever he needed – an amount that we could afford to give.
When I was in elementary school, my father tried to get me interested in his collection, and I did enjoy looking at the stamps and learning the history behind them. He encouraged me to collect them, too. It was an easy and inexpensive way to become familiar with the world. I should have paid more attention. By looking at the stamps, and discovering their origins, I might have done better in World Geography classes. But I was not as ardent a collector as he was. I kept his album, adding stamps to it whenever I got a different one from friends with whom I corresponded. Then I set it aside, and forgot about it. I did enjoy using my stamps – writing letters and postcards to people that I loved or wanted to know better. Each time a commemorative stamp came out, I bought it and used it. I still had his album when I taught at River Ridge High school for twenty years. Some students would show an interest, and flip through the pages. The album of canceled stamps was on one of my shelves at River Ridge High School when I retired after a 35 year career in education. I don’t know it is there or if it was discarded.
The uncanceled USA commemorative stamps that my father collected are still in my possession, as well as those from the British colonies from the early 20th Century. As far as I know, none have increased in value. When I brought them to a local Stamp Expo, several exhibitors told me that they were worth only their face value. If I use them on letters or postcards, I will need a lot of stamps for today’s postage. An envelope large enough to accommodate 30-55 stamps would require more than the normal fifty-five cents postage. As for the British colony stamps, they can not be used for USA postage. Once in awhile, if I need one or two cents more in postage, I use stamps from the O’Connell collection. Each one reminds me of my dad, who passed away in 2008. Using his stamps on snail mail makes me happy.
So that’s why I am obsessed with saving the Postal Service. The love of stamps is in my blood. The love of writing is also in my blood. I enjoy writing letters, cards and postcards and I’ll keep writing until my handwriting is no longer decipherable. Then I can do what Grandfather O’Connell and my dad did – use a typewriter. Oh, wait. We don’t have those anymore. I guess I’ll use my computer and print out my letters.