Curious collections

Fewer people post letters in the electronic age of the 21st century, but philately, or stamp collecting, remains a popular hobby.

Art in Miniature is the title of a stamp collection exhibition being held this weekend at the Redwoodtown Community Hall in Blenheim. It is the the fourth Art in Miniature show hosted by the Marlborough Stamp Collectors Club, and stamp dealers are expected to attend.

Last week Josh Black and Donna Stenhouse met at fellow collector Lynne Nicholl's house in Blenheim to talk about their interest in philately.

Miniature art: Stamp collections can be viewed in the Redwoodtown Hall, in Blenheim, this weekend when Marlborough Stamp Collectors Club holds its annual show. Club members, from left, Lynne Nicholl, Donna Stenhouse and Josh Black show examples of what can be seen.

They say stamps provide a time-framed glimpse of a community's culture.

For instance, Lynne collects stamps with a tobacco theme.

It isn't a politically correct theme in 2011, she admits, but her 80-page display of tobacco stamps won the open section of an international stamp competition in Johannesburg, South Africa, in October.

"It's interesting to see how [tobacco has] evolved over the years. Tobacco was put into soldiers' kit bags when they went off to war.

"And ... the majority of women started smoking when they started doing men's jobs in World War II."

Stamps with anti-tobacco messages started appearing in the 1970s, but there is evidence that nicotine concerns were expressed long before either of the world wars, with a 1905 postcard in Lynne's collection.

Titled "Mr Smokefiend", it shows a man with a cigarette and the words:

"No matter what place 'tis no matter who's there, with your stokers vile odor [sic] you poison the air. All smokers we cannot call rude it is true, but with those who are decent, we cannot class you."

Donna collects postcards from the 1900s showing elegant Edwardian dresses. She also gathers JRR Tolkien stamps, and is pleased at how they have held their value.

Money easily slips away when new stamps are purchased, Josh says.

He showed nine frames of Croatian stamps in an Australian Challenge as one of six South Island representatives.

Josh started collecting stamps 20 years ago and began entering competitions in the past five.

"You start doing a little bit and end up doing more and more."

It is good to have dealers coming to the show in Blenheim this weekend, but collectors are increasingly doing transactions online, he says. It isn't hard to pay $50 or $60 for a single stamp, he says, especially for cover stamps.

Stamps printed for special occasions – like the royal wedding this month and the Rugby World Cup later in the year – are also worth more than "everyday" stamps.

The Marlborough Stamp Collectors Club welcomes new members. It meets once a month with a guest speaker, a workshop or a special display arranged by one of the members.

"I always like looking at other people's collections, just to see what they save and why they save it," Lynne says.

About 30 members have entries in the show this weekend.

They can be viewed in the Redwoodtown Hall, in Weld St, from 9am to 4pm today and 9am to 3pm tomorrow.

Next year, Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 is being booked for Marlborough's first national show. It is expected to attract about 200 display entries.