Whenever Rockly Austma arrives at a post office counter to mail a letter, she tells the clerk to use a proper postage stamp, not metered postage.
The reason is to keep stamps alive – and, if the recipient gets the hint, to send letters back with stamps.
Call her a stickler for the hobby, but Austma has collected stamps for 71 years, since she was seven.
Sorting a new collection at the bi-monthly gathering of the Cloverdale Senior’s Stamp Club, she shows off pages of her favourite genres: Flowers, birds, British royalty and the Olympics.
Today, she’ll only keep a few of the stamps that have come in. The rest, once soaked, dried and organized, will go towards fundraising at the Canadian Cancer Society or to the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver, which sell the stamps to dealers or other enthusiasts.
Photo: Port Kells’ Rockly Austma sorts stamps at the Cloverdale Seniors’ Stamp Club.
Club organizer John Jackman, 81, says stamp collecting is easy to get into and needs little outlay of money to get going.
All one needs to start are tongs to handle the stamps without damaging them, a magnifying glass and an album.
Collectors can buy, trade, sell or donate their stamps, and most eventually specialize in specific themes or countries, and often have friends in foreign countries with whom they trade.
Jackman exchanges stamps with collectors as far away as the Vatican and Israel.
The term philately comes into play only for the most serious collectors – enthusiasts who take the time to examine watermarks, flaws and perforations that may not be visible to the naked eye.
“I don’t like to call myself a philatelist,” admits Jackman. “I’m an advanced collector.”
Club member Mike Doin recently discovered that he owned a series of three-cent Canadian stamps with a spelling error.
“Don’t think that I found those (myself),” he says with a laugh. “I read about them.”
In one error, the Canadian Mint reprinted a series of animal-themed stamps with word “auna” written instead of “fauna.” The re-printed stamps of that series, according to the Scott Catalogue, are worth more than the originals.
Currently, the number of club members is about 15, and Jackson says there’s always room for more.
Austma says her adult kids and grandchildren haven’t taken up the hobby, even though she’s got a large collection to pass on to them. Her grandkids, she admits, are into coins.
The Cloverdale Seniors’ Stamp Club meets the second and fourth Monday of each month at the Cloverdale Seniors Centre, located at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre, 6188 176 St. There are no club fees, but club members are also expected to be members of the Cloverdale Seniors’ Centre. First-time visitors are welcome, however. For more information, drop by or call John Jackman at 604-574-3182.
Photo: Can you spot the error? Sometimes, mistakes at the mint can mean that re-issues can be worth more than originals, as they’re often printed in smaller numbers.