GHANA - CIRCA 1957: a stamp printed in Ghana shows Stamp of Gold Coast Overprinted in Red, Ghana Independence, Christiansborg Castle, circa 1957

From stamp collector to stamp killer!

My Dad was a stamp collector so I became one too as a young boy. I don’t think anyone now is one, but in the 1970s; pre internet with only 3 TV channels and no daytime TV then ”hobbies” were a vital way to stave off boredom.

My father owned a business that exported all over the world so there was always a plentiful supply of new stamps to look up in the massively heavy Stanley Gibbons Catalogue- the world authority regarding stamps that had lists of all stamps issued; with pictures and values. I would then stick into to my album- pages dedicated to different countries.

Pocket money was saved and spent; sending off for stamps by postal order to fill in any gaps of missing stamps within sets. Hour upon hour in school holidays were spent in my local Wolverhampton stamp shop before I finally would invest 20p in another one!

I would go to The Post Office every time a new set of commemorative stamps was issued and buy 2 sets- one to keep as “mint” or unused and one set to stick on an envelope and to send to myself so I has a used set that had been stamped. At school I was a member of the Stamp Club- the word “nerd” was not invented for another 30 years- but you get the picture.

And the reason I know this is I have an Elizabeth 2 Gold Coast 2 penny stamp (worth 23p today- I just looked it up) that has been overprinted with that date. It was common for newly independent countries to use up the stamps that were in stock before launching new designs. Ghana did that later in the year. You can see both stamps here.

There were some practical benefits from being a philatelist (google it I think my geographical knowledge is better than most and you learn a lot of history because countries issue stamps at significant times in their history. So ask me “When did Ghana become independent of UK?”- Answer: 6th March 1957. What was Ghana called before independence? Answer: Gold Coast

There comes a time when you have to specialise when you become a serious philatelist- so I stated to collect George VI UK stamps and when you’ve collected all of those you go full nerd and start to collect the same stamp that has been printed at different Security Printers- Thomas de la Rue, Bradbury Wilkinson and Harrisons.

And that is why, when as a graduate in 1982, I applied to de la Rue and other printers in that sector- ending up at Williams Lea as a Graduate Management trainee- in the days when they were a City printer. With some irony 33 years later- 25 of those years in transactional and direct mail I am still in an industry, now running a dynamic print operation- killing stamps one letter at a time!

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