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A Dangerous and Startling Thing...

A humorous introduction to stamp discussion boards.

by Leon Lutje
1st of March 2015

Welcome to the exciting and educational world of philately. I can see you are well prepared. You have a magnifying glass specially made for looking at stamps, tongs specially made for handling stamps, a  lamp with enough candlelight power to light up the Las Vegas strip specially made for lighting stamps, a stamp album costing hundreds of dollars specially made for storing stamps, and a Starbucks triple-double mocha send me to the outer galaxy coffee, specially made for drinking while playing with (oops! I mean examining), your stamps. You have been diligent in your preparations. I certainly hope when you sit down at your desk (of course specially designed for sitting at while dealing with your stamps)  you did not forget. . .Stamps!

Unfortunately, unlike collectors of past generations, you have another area in which you must essentially become, if not quite expert, at least proficient to navigate the world of the modern philatelist. Do not be alarmed. I am here to help. Although a dangerous and startling area of our beloved hobby, it can be mastered and when mastered, it is a most enjoyable experience. I am speaking of the, (I cringe as I write), Online Stamp Discussion Board!

Take a few moments to resume normal breathing. Relax and count to ten. We will get through this together. When we are done you will be able to ask, answer and comment with the best of them. Trust me.

As a novice, the first thing you must remember about stamp discussion boards is the simpler the question, the more complicated the answer. The question you ask with the expectation of a precise, uncomplicated answer, will trigger a few diatribes from experts the length of which, in the old days, would bring concerns of pushing your data usage limits. Most do not have data limits these days, however you get my point.

Let’s study an example. Mr. Novice stamp collector has a question. He expectantly posts the question on the discussion board. Any stamp discussion board will suffice. The exchange will go something like this:

NEWSTAMPPERSON1066: Hello! I am new to this forum, and I really love this site. Anyway, my therapist's best friend's cousin just gave me a bazillion stamps. I cannot read them because they are in a foreign language. One of them has a picture of  a guy that looks like Worf. Are they Klingon stamps? Which Scott catalog would they be in? I looked at volume 4 but could not find Klingon. Also in volume 5 I could not find Narnia. Are my catalogs too old? My main question though is what color is the cross on U. S. Scott #1016 Red Cross Issue? Thanks in advance for the kind welcome and answer.

Mr. Novice seems to be an amiable enough fellow. At this point we will not address the Klingon or Narnia issues ( no pun intended), let us go right to his question. It is simple enough. Remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. Now, if I was browsing the boards at the time he posted, I would be inclined to give him a grand welcome to the board and site then proceed to give him a simple one word answer. I would be wrong. Never give a simple answer when a fifteen-hundred word response will work as well. Let’s see what happened.

OLDSTAMPPERSON1066: Welcome NEWSTAMPPERSON1066. We are glad to have you on the board and the site. You will find many interesting articles and people in our community as well as great opportunities to ask questions and learn. I am so glad  you asked this particular question. It will give an opportunity for others who are in the same quandary a chance to learn. Fortunately, I have studied this problem for over 50 years and believe I have finally found the right answer. Your stamp U. S. Scott #1016 was printed by the esteemed American Banknote, Turnip and  Cattle Company. This printer was located in Poy Sippi, Wisconsin and was in business for three months. At the time your stamp was printed the manager of the company was Darwin Kleen, who according to records insisted on being addressed as Mr. Kleen. He was a no nonsense businessman with a Pickwickian physique. His hobbies were trout fishing and cow-tipping. The press operator on your stamp was the famed  Al “roll’em out” Brown, a legend to all postal historians. The ink mixer was Gus. Unfortunately Gus was melancholy one day due to the Chicago Cubs being throttled by the St. Louis Cardinals the day before. Thus, Gus had an aversion to the color red and mixed in extra magenta. As I can see by the scan, your stamp has a slight discoloration. This oddity is listed by Scott as U. S. #1016lol and is worth $1,000,000. Or it could be your stamp was sneezed on by a previous owner. I am not sure. Maybe SNEEZEONSTAMPSGUY can answer. Again, welcome to the site.

You might think when you read this answer there is too much information. Well, there is much great information. But our friend OLDSTAMPPERSON1066 did not actually answer the question did he? You will find many discussions start with a question that never get an answer. It makes a discussion board fun, like searching for a rare stamp in a mixture, we are looking for an actual answer in a discussion thread. Let’s see what happens next.

SNEEZEONSTAMPSGUY: Hello NEWSPAMPPERSON1066, and welcome to the club. I am sorry to report you do not have the famed “Gus” variation of Scott 1016. However, I cannot confirm your stamp has been sneezed upon. Could you perhaps get a better scan for us? My inclination is the discoloration was caused by something I have seen too often, Gerber’s beets. Please to not let your children eat near your stamps. I see hundreds a day in my business. I won’t even go into what I saw a stick of black licorice do to a U. S. Scott 292. I had to tell a lady  “no, it is not a variation with an extra bull. It is a tiny bit of licorice.” a real nightmare. Again welcome.

Realize  this is only an example of the thread. There are over 2456 answers and the thread has been active for three years. Keep in mind the original question, “What color is the cross on the U. S. Scott 1016, Red Cross Issue?”

Now for the other end of the spectrum. Asking questions is a very good way to became well versed in a particular subject. Stamp discussion boards can make the job very easy. Instead of reading tens of volumes on a subject you can simply ask a question, sit back and relax and watch the information pour in. This was the attitude of LEARNSTAMPSTHEEASYWAY. She decided she wanted to become expert on the Washington/Franklin subject. Fair enough. Although a daunting subject enough to make one cringe, LEARNSTAMPSTHEEASYWAY attempted to take a short cut. As would anyone, she expected to be inundated with massive amounts of information on the Washington/Franklin front by simply posting on a discussion board. She wanted to take it easy and not go for it all at once. Here is her post.

LEARNSTAMPSTHEEASYWAY: I know I have been a frequent poster for several years and should know the answer to this question but here goes. Can somebody explain to me why there are so many variations, errors, oddballs and types of the red 2 cent Washington stamps? Thanks

She grabbed a cup of coffee, sat back and waited for the rush. After reading the post concerning the question of the red in red cross, she was expecting mounds of juicy information she could use to impress at her monthly stamp club meeting. Ten minutes later she started to worry. No replies yet. “This is odd,” she thought. This question had given all of the stamp geeks bait and she should be reeling them all in by now. After thirty minutes and no reply she started to panic. After an hour with no replies she was helplessly in anxiety mode. After several more cups of coffee finally there was the blissful ding on her computer letting her know someone had replied. With anticipation she went to the screen.

WASHINGTONFRANKLINEXPERTGUY: Hell, I don’t know. Hope this helps.

This fine lady was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. An expert finally had a flagrant act of honesty and came clean. I am sure this guy could have gone on for pages and pages. He must have attended Experts Anonymous the  night before and was feeling drained. In any event the story has a happy ending. Our friend decided to just collect ice hockey and was in stamp heaven.

Another important issue for the novice discussion board participant is terminology. It is essential to have a glossary at your side otherwise you will be confused. I can tell you that I was totally baffled for five days following a subject. I was at a loss until on the fifth day I ran to the glossary and found a perfin is not an adolescent  puffin. Go figure.

Here is just a small sampling that will help you get started:

FDC is not Federal Drug Commission
OG is not an abbreviation of OMG
MNH is not mint not honey
FBI is not fine brilliant imperforate

This ends our lesson one of discussion boards. Go post and have some fun and learn something.

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