Wednesday 29 March 2023

Where Do Unwanted Stamps Go?


Unwanted stamps can be donated to Oxfam Canada's Stamp program. Each year, Oxfam holds stamp auctions of the donated stamps, raising up to $30,000 per year to fund their development programs!

I usually wait until I amass about 400-500 grams of unwanted stamps before mailing them to Ottawa.

Stamp Exchange Schemes

(Full disclosure: 'schemes' are nothing bad nor nefarious in this context. They merely describe how a given process works.)

About 20 years ago, I joined Stephen Haddock Stamps' approvals. Most stamps were a few cents each, some clearance ones were cheaper, and unwanted stamps would be bought by Stephen for credit.

I wanted to begin trading stamps in a novel way, and found the Forever Stamp Exchange (FSE). Often understood and incorrectly participated in, the premise was fairly simple. As a form of stamp collecting 'chain letter', collectors put willing collectors' names onto an exchange sheet, no more than five collectors per sheet.  The originator was to make ten copies, send them to collectors, along with 50 stamps. IF everyone on the exchange sheet did the same, the originator should soon receive 2,500 stamps, 50 from each of 50 collectors, and the cycle starts again.

In reality, I've only ever received about four such exchanges from any one originator, maximum, not ten. Most collectors just made it into a repeating five collector circuit. And it got expensive, because most of the collectors were overseas. 

But back in 2005, I was keen and I kept track of each state, province or country or continent I'd received an FSE from. I also developed some regular trading partners from the FSE's (top photo).

I've also participated in two out-and-back schemes, one run by a scheme operator in Levignac, France and another in Quebec. A collector enters the scheme, either with cash or stamps, states their preferences, and their name is placed three times on a five-part circuit and they're then 'back' of the out'and back. Then they return the scheme to the scheme operator after the fifth leg of the circuit, and ideally begins again with another circuit. Again, most of these are overseas, and one can be removed from the circuit between forms without knowing. Both of these petered out for me, and I'm not sure why.

This past year, I joined the International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors and I'm participating in their ISWSC Swap Circuits. For a few US dollars and the cost of one-way postage, 100 stamps arrive about each month. Each member removes some of the 100 stamps in the envelope, then replaces them with like stamps. Five ISWSC members' names are on each circuit, after which it is returned to a volunteer swap circuit manager. It's been enjoyable, perhaps the most enjoyable yet.

Sunday 19 March 2023

The Start of a Long and Noble Crusade...

....which has been years in the making.

I have had a large 'Keep' baggie for years. In it were stamps I wanted to keep for various reasons. One can't possibly remember each stamp in their collection. These stamps were ones I set aside...for future reference. But being retired, the future is now - I have had time to work through this Keep baggie, and to procrastinate!

Over the past couple of years, I sorted. First by continent, then by country. Then within each country's envelope, checking for doubles. Then cross-referencing the non-doubles with my albums. I organized each country's "Checked & Need" small envelope alphabetically by continent. I dealt with my first-line country collections first: Canada, UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and got them up to date.

Today, I decided to start my Long and Noble Crusade. It was time to finally album-ize these stamps! Taking the posts out of the pages in the first of  my three Traveler albums, I decided to start with all the 'A' country envelopes form the various continents, like Algeria, Andorra and Argentina. I'm working around the last photo-box of "Checked & Need" large envelopes, beginning with Austria!

Depending on how many additional album-busting new pages I end up with, there might have to be a fourth Traveler album!

Tuesday 14 March 2023

My Earliest Exchange Partner - Frank 'Boomer' Crotty

When I first began sending then receiving Forever Stamp Exchange forms 20 years ago, it took awhile for the exchanges to start coming back. One of my first, most prolific and longest exchange partners was 'Boomer Crotty'. Boomer had already made it to my list of regular exchange partners in 2005:
I didn't know Boomer was actually Frank. In fact, my wife and I always wondered to ourselves what that nickname meant, whether Boomer was male or female, black or white, and we didn't find out. And we didn't really need to. Boomer would send these tiny little notes full of writing. (The Gael Avenue address reminded me of the Queen's University Gaels here in Kingston. The Joliet reminded me of 'Joliet' Jake Blues, played by John Belushi alongside Kingston's Dan Aykroyd.) Here's a 2006 envelope that I saved because it made a trip back to the US for more postage:
Boomer's punctual and prolific exchanges were legendary at our daily mailbox drop-offs. If I didn't respond equally punctually, Boomer would send another exchange, beginning with 'haven't heard from you in awhile' or 'hope everything is OK with you'. It was this punctuality that disappeared recently. I had a hunch something had happened to Boomer. Tonight I decided to do a search, and my wife and I were stunned to read Boomer's obituary. 

I knew Boomer had a strong background in education, research and community causes, but this account of his life made clear just how involved he was. How very involved. I remember him mentioning the loss of his tiny dog friend. I also know he must have touched the lives of many other collectors all over the world, reading that he began collecting at the age of eight, just like me. I know he touched many other lives in his other worlds - church, education, literacy and his community generally. 

I'm keeping Boomer's obituary here, so I can share and remember more about Boomer's life among us: 

Frank James “Boomer” Crotty, Jr., beloved Daddy, Uncle, Great-Uncle, Great-Granduncle, Brother, and Friend, was called home on January 9 to be reunited with his wife Joan and their beloved Westie, Fitzwilliam.

He is survived by his daughter Joni-Marie (Aaron) LaVere and his cherished baby girl tuxedo cat, Betsy Beatrix, who will now live with Boomer’s adored granddog Violet (whom he called “Ultra”) and grandcats Jenson and Olivia.

Additional survivors include “his girls”: goddaughter and niece Rachel Lynn Bialko, nieces April Austin and Nita Gonzalez, and “heart daughters” Patricia and Jeanette Gruber.

Also an enormous part of his life were nieces and nephews Ray, David, Denise, and Chrissy, his brother Bill and brother-in-law Thom.  He also leaves behind numerous great and great-grandnieces and grandnephews who always brought the most beautiful smile to his face.

Boomer was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 44 years, Joan, cherished parents, Frank and Helen, brothers Michael and Raymond, sister-in-law Dorothy and her husband Norman, nephews Mikey, Scotty, Keith, Rudy, and Jerry, as well an adored cousin Betsy, after whom his little cat is named.

On December 23, 1941, Frank James Crotty, Jr. was born to Frank and Helen (Sternisha) Crotty, who loved him beyond measure. He attended St. Raymond Elementary School and then went to Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago. He excelled academically but was happiest playing sports - “pickup” baseball games were a favorite. Reading, scouts, and piano also filled his days. 

At the age of 8, he began stamp collecting which he passionately continued for 73 years until his death.

He attended Southern Illinois University where he played football, baseball, and wrestled, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in History and Government.

At SIU, he met Joan Jefferson.  They were married in June 1966 and shared a lifelong passion for teaching as well as a deep Christian faith.  Joan loved traveling, and their vacations included their honeymoon in the Black Hills, a 40th anniversary trip to Scotland and Ireland, an Alaskan cruise, two trips to Germany and Austria, and a family Christmas at Colonial Williamsburg to celebrate Joan’s cancer remission. They also had a magnificent trip to the Lake District, touring Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, charmed by the descendants of Peter Rabbit.

Boomer was a 25-year member of Hope United Methodist in Joliet. Following his spiritual calling, he became a Certified Lay Servant, sharing his gifts as a liturgist and delivering sermons. Boomer was involved church leadership, always focused on serving those in need. Boomer was also a Board Member of the Ridgewood United Community Food Pantry in Joliet.

Boomer’s passion was teaching. He was a much-loved fifth grade teacher at Lynne Thigpen Grade School, retiring in 2008 from Joliet Public School District 86. Additionally, Boomer was an Adjunct Instructor in the English Department at Joliet Junior College where he taught introductory/developmental literacy classes for 16 years, retiring at the age of 75.

His passion for Literacy knew no bounds.  Boomer was a 30-year member of the Illinois Reading Council, and was highly involved on both local and state levels. Through the IRC Speaker’s Bureau, He gave talks about incorporating children’s books in the classroom, presenting at the IRC Annual Conference, the annual READ Conference (University of St. Francis/Joliet), and for various local councils and libraries throughout the state. His final talk, “Laughture and Literature,” was given at the AISLE Annual Conference on November 5, 2022. 

In 2018, Boomer was awarded that year’s IRC Service Award that is only given to the most deserving individuals for their commitment to children’s literacy.  It was one of the greatest honors of his life.  He ended his acceptance speech with these words:

“And amidst everything else going on in the world and all the bad things, everything happening, you need some glimmer of hope to say: ‘yes, I’ll go on tomorrow.’ And that glimmer of life in the Irish sense is a penny candle which you light rather than curse the darkness. And you are that penny candle, you are that light, the future.”
Lastly, his daughter would like to honor the depth of love she had for and felt from him.  There are no words, just love, and the love we get to keep. Peace to you, Daddy, bright be the place of your soul.

Boomer and his daughter, two photos above posted by Joni-Marie LaVere.