Houston, We Have Stamp Collectors!

The Houston Ship Channel appeared on a stamp earlier this month. For local stamp collectors and appraisers it was a huge event, but that doesn’t mean they'll be adding the Houston landscape to their collection. That’s because they’re very picky about the stamps they choose. So who are these philatelists and where can you find them?

“This is Jonathon Topper and I’m the owner of Topper Stamps and Postal History, where we buy, sell and appraise stamp collections.”

Jonathon Topper is one of the men in Houston to go to if you’ve inherited a stamp collection. From there, you can either sell your stamps or become a collector yourself.

“I had a customer this morning come in and that’s exactly what they did. I gave them a membership application to the Houston Philatelic Society and she’s decided to take the original stamp collection and start her own collecting.”

That customer will now join the other three to four thousand stamp collectors in Houston. One thousand of whom, Topper says, are active philatelists, a hobby that doesn’t just involve collecting stamps.

“So an envelope that’s been through the mail is called a cover and that’s what I specialize in. On a cover, you can see where it came from, where it was sent to and you can see the postmark.”

So where does a stamp collector go to find covers or stamps to add to their collection in Houston. Ebay is certainly a good resource, but if you’d like to meet your fellow stamp collectors then West University Methodist Church every first and third Monday of the month is another good place to start -- especially if there’s a stamp auction.

“Lot number five. This is a large box of stamps, must be thousands in this box in envelopes and loose. I’ve seen a lot of U.S. I’m going to assume that’s mostly what it is for the minimum bid of $1. Got a dollar, need two, got two, need three…”

Over thirty philatelists are spread out around a long table facing auctioneer Ron Strawser as he moves through the lots. It’s mostly middle-aged men, but there’s a lady or two in the room. They’re patiently waiting for that one lot which may contain a very specific stamp to add to their personal collection. A collection which can be very obscure like Strawser’s.

“Belgian Congo was my primary area. Which was chosen very scientifically because I wanted to be able to put together a world class collection without being a millionaire.”

The majority of this auction consisted of all kinds of stamp literature something which Strawser says is important for budding philatelists to help them find their starting point stamp. And remember says stamp dealer Jonathon Topper a stamp is not just a receipt for paying the postage.

“When you collect stamps and these old envelopes, you touch history every day and stamps is what allows all this exchange of letters and ideas and so there’s a certain romance to the stamp collecting.”

Bio photo of Edel Howlin

Edel Howlin

Producer, Houston Matters

Edel is a producer on Houston Matters and reporter for PBS’s Newshour Weekend...