"Is that all you collect . . . one stamp?"
He was scornful! He surprised me! The speaker was a dealer at a fairly large stamp show. When I asked him about a particular stamp, which happened to be my favorite little adhesive, for an unknown reason, he got carried away. I tried to assure him I collected a great variety of stamp material, but he was really hung-up on the fact I took time for "a one-stamp collection." I left him confused in his own musings and went on to other more client-serving dealers.
The gentleman's reaction, however, has remained with me. I am now aware of several people who have, among their stamp treasures, a one-stamp collection. No one should underestimate the significance of such an addition to a collection. Some collectors have created fascinating exhibits with one stamp while others simply enjoy the pleasures of getting as many possible uses of one stamp as are possible.
William R. Weiss, Jr., gave the United States 15-cent stamp of 1870-1890 great exposure with his fine book on the subject. His one-stamp exhibit, moreover, has merited much positive feedback and gold medals. Bill Welch, editor of The American Philatelist, told me how he treasures his one-stamp collection. He even looks at it with a special passion. Others who have pursued one stamp usually have wonderful things to say about their specialist collection because it features a great variety of items, all of which dominate with one stamp.
My obsession for a Canadian stamp (Scott 210) does not label me an outcast as the dealer in the above dialogue suggested. It wouldn't matter, though. I would still collect that one stamp. Collecting Canada Scott 210 in all its glory and many uses is one of the most exciting things I have done. It has drawn attention from a broad audience, especially at our local stamp club where everyone looks out for my stamp. They have been wonderful allowing me to add many special items. Several dealers now have me on their list. Some call if they come across an item that includes No. 210. Others send material on approval.
Scott 210 has been a favorite since I was a child collector when I found one among some old envelopes in our attic. It has only been in the last decade, however, that I plunged madly into a love affair with that stamp. It is at the top of my list at stamp shows, and I feel jilted if at least one new usage does not go home with me.
The stamp is not a rarity; nor is it hard to find. More importantly, it is not expensive. It was issued August 16, 1934 to honor the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Canadian province of New Brunswick. A two-cent denomination, it was designed by the Canadian Bank Note Company and bears the imprint of the Great Seal of New Brunswick. It is said to bear the original seal of the Province of New Brunswick, which was prepared under the direction and authority of King George III. Nonetheless, the actual model was the first seal of Queen Victoria before a new seal was delivered after Canada's Confederation in 1867.
The obverse of the seal, which is depicted on the stamp, has a ship sailing up a river with great trees on either side and the Latin inscription: SIGILL PROVINCIAE NOV BRUNS [The Seal of the Province of New Brunswick]. The provincial motto Spem Reduxit [Hope Restored] appears below the ship on the seal and the dates 1784-1934 are prominent at the top.
The appeal of the stamp and that it has a somewhat mysterious background led me to commence my collection. There is little solid information about how this stamp came to be. Canada's Post Office was reluctant to issue a third commemorative during the summer of 1934, having already issued two on July 1. Nonetheless, someone prevailed and the stamp was issued in August.
I started my one-stamp collection by getting used singles, especially those with readable cancellations. I still add new ones from time to time. I then added a few mint copies in singles and multiples along with the corner inscription blocks for Plates 1 and 2. There were four plates prepared for Scott 210, but only two were used to print stamps. In the early stages, I managed to get a complete sheet of Plate 2 at an auction. A later auction yielded a full sheet of Plate 1.
The excitement truly started when I looked for covers. What a field! What an opportunity to study 'my' stamp! Today, I can boast over 150 covers in two albums, displaying numerous philatelic topics and uses for Scott 210. My covers include at least a dozen First Days with six different city cancellations and different cachets. First Days were not plentiful because the stamp came out with very short notice catching many collectors off guard. I have countless advertising pieces and a couple of postage due covers. The two-cent value of No. 210 sometimes fell short to carry letters to their destination, and postage due was required.
A convenient use has three 210s paying the air letter rate of six cents. Since mail by air was new in the 1930s, I have several first flights; some of them signed by the pilot. I have many registered covers where No. 210 helps make up the going rate of 13 cents in 1934. Some these were sent to the United States and Europe. One of the most unusual finds are two covers with United Kingdom cancellations. The letters were mailed at sea and cancelled at the first port of entry in Britain. I even have two postal used bisects, which, I am confident, were done as a prank, but they have found a home in my collection.
I also have a cover that made two trips to the Dead Letter Office because of incorrect address. It reveals much about the sender whose entry on the cover, before it went to the DLO a second time, is amusing.
My stamp was used on picture post cards, bank business post cards, and on cards exchanged by ham radio operators. There are also RPOs and perfins. The OHMS (On His Majesty's Service) perfins are much-sought-after. My collection features two of the four different positions. That perfin, however, is not known to exist on cover. No. 210 was used as a revenue stamp too. If banks did not have proper excise tax stamps, they often used regular postage stamps. I found my used single in a dealer stock book. I knew it had a special significance, so I paid the 25-cent charge (a steal) and scurried to find someone with a good magnifier. There was stamped "PAY TO THE ORDER OF THE ROYAL BANK OF CANADA". What a find!
I did splurge at one point to purchase an imperf pair. There are only 75 possible imperf pairs, so that addition enhances my horde. There are also six possible imperf blocks of four, but my budget will never allow such extravagance
One of my covers had a brush with royalty. It was cancelled on the ROYAL TRAIN in May 1939 when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (now the Queen Mother) visited Canada. David Beech, curator of the British Library Philatelic Collections says the King's "enthusiasm for philately is well known." He was a knowledgeable stamp collector.
I can go on and on. A one-stamp collection is as much fun as collecting worldwide. Each different usage or special cancellation adds new information about that one stamp. The search is never ending, and the gems are found when they are least expected. My hand-painted cover with a 210, for instance, is special, not only for attractiveness, but also for the historic scene.
If you have not experienced the joys of a one-stamp collection, you may want to give it serious thought. My stamp has a special history which I will learn some day. It has no pretense to rarity or celebrity status, but it is a lot of fun. It is also 'king' of my collection.
If you launch a one-stamp collection, choose carefully. You don't want to collect an extreme rarity or a stamp that will cause you to put a second mortgage on your property. It is a great adventure in stamps not to be missed. The next time you go to a stamp show try to find a one-stamp exhibit. You will be urged to get going in a similar fashion.
If you want to share your joys of a one-stamp collection, post your message on the boards at Collectors Universe. It will be a pleasure to hear from you.
Michael O. Nowlan was born in Chatham, New Brunswick Canada. He grew up on a nearby farm, was educated, and became a teacher. In retirement, he follows his life-long avocation of writing. His credits include 16 books (four books of poems, two children's titles, and anthologies for schools). In recent years, he has written extensively about stamp collecting for CANADIAN STAMP NEWS, GIBBONS INTERNATIONAL STAMP NEWS, and other philatelic publications.