Seven people sat around tables at the Monroe County Public Library, pouring over albums full of stamp collections. They were members of the Bloomington Stamp Club, a group that traces its origins to World War II. They’re not sure if it began in the late 1930s, but they do know it was going on at least as early as 1947.
Philately is the formal name for the study of stamps. Most of the men said they have been serious collectors for nearly 20 years.
President Mark Goodson’s interest is in postal history, so he collects covers — the trade name for envelopes — more than he collects stamps. He said he’s learned about postal efficiency by reading the postmarks on envelopes from years gone by.
“I have one letter from the 1800s that was picked up at 9:30 a.m., then traveled three different trains before arriving to the person at 4:30 p.m. the same day,” Goodson said. “The railroads were more efficient.”
He said he wouldn’t have know that kind of history without stamp collecting.
John Baumerts has been in the club for 11 years. His interests include German stamps from 1919 to 1923.
“The inflation rate was so high in those years,” Baumerts said. “You can find stamps that weren’t able to be used after four days.”
For him, it’s the chase that keeps him collecting. He’s always looking for the odd stamp, the niche German artifact from years where people struggled.
“You do it for fun,” Goodson said.
Baumerts took it further.
“You do it for the hunt,” Baumerts said. “It never gets boring.”
In boxes on one table, there were stamp collections waiting to be sorted. They didn’t belong to anyone in particular. Goodson said the group would work on sorting and organizing them to be sold at January’s meeting.
One person had thrown in a handmade printer-paper stamp album, the title page reading “Space” in all capitals. A huge album for collecting stamps from around the world took up most of a box, its contents sometimes falling out, creating the need for a rubber band against the rich-looking leather. Some of the stamps were from hundreds of years ago. But Baumerts said it wasn’t an expensive hobby.
“You don’t do it for the money,” Baumerts said.
Goodson said most of his new envelopes might cost $4-5 if bought new. Bought second-hand, they can cost as little as 50 cents.
The collectors love what they do, but Goodson has one worry: membership.
“We don’t have any new blood,” Goodson said. “People just don’t join things the way they used to.”
He polled the men for how many years they’d been with the club: 11, 15, 20, 30.“I’ve been president for 25 years,” Goodman said. “I look around, and I just keep being president.”