Postage stamps, that is.
When I was a kid, I collected stamps. My grandparents traveled a lot and would bring me stamps from around the world, plus they had a travel agent friend who would save me all her canceled stamps. My parents got me a subscription to receive the First Day of Issue stamps from the US Postal Service. I checked out books from the library to learn more about my stamps and the countries they came from. I was even in a kids' stamp collecting club for awhile.
I loved getting new stamps and I loved carefully soaking and drying canceled stamps. I loved checking maps to see how far my stamps had traveled and I loved seeing the way other countries spelled their names on their stamps. I loved putting the stamps in my album and I loved going back and looking at the ones I had.
But more than anything, I loved seeing the different colors, designs, and images on stamps. Every stamp was a work of art. Lots of countries featured beautiful flowers, landscapes, animals, and things like that. Many had featured a country's ruler or leader. I was especially fascinated by the countries who would honor American entertainers or athletes or even cartoon characters on their stamps. It seemed so strange that a country on the other side of the planet would randomly issue a Donald Duck stamp, for example. I learned a lot from my stamps. Did you know that the Rubik's Cube was invented by a Hungarian man or that the first Rubik's Cube World Championship was in Hungary in 1982?
My stamp collection is at my parents' house. I haven't looked at it in years. But I've been thinking about it the past few weeks. It only occurred to me recently that by saving and organizing stamps, I was actually collecting art on a scale that was small enough and affordable enough for a kid. My stamp album was my own personal art gallery, where I could sort and rearrange and organize tiny works of art.
As usual, I bought holiday stamps to put on my Christmas cards this year. Usually, there is at least one secular set that I love, plus a religious set based on famous paintings. This year, I liked the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer set and the Winter Fun set, so I bought them both.
I realize that stamps are primarily functional and that it doesn't especially matter if a stamp leads the eye off the side. But considering how much effort is put into creating beautiful stamps many times a year, I'm a bit surprised that this wouldn't be a consideration. I'm dying to look back through my huge stamp collection and see how often stamp subjects face left, right or center. Stay tuned...