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The Romance of Stamp Collecting

Philately's Romance Novel

One of philately's all-time bestsellers,  published by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. in 1947, had over 20 printings in its first five years.

Serious philately -- no matter how scholarly and detailed it can become -- has always started with a few stamps, an album and some hinges. It would be hard to find anyone in our hobby whose first memory of collecting stamps wasn't tied to those three simple objects.

But if philately is to convert the casual collector with his album and hinges to the ranks of more advanced philatelists, it usually involves somehow capturing the imagination of that person.

Nothing in our history did exactly that better than the book pictured above.

Not only does "The Romance of Stamp Collecting" share the throne with Herman Herst's "Nassau Street" as the all-time best-selling general interest book on philately, its contents are just as relevant and exciting to read as they were when the book was first published in 1947.

Ernest A. Kehr held a dream job for a stamp collector. In the days when New York's powerful metropolitan daily newspapers devoted entire section to stamp collecting, Ernest was Stamp News Editor of The New York Herald-Tribune. His daily columns were read by hundred of thousands. And his flair for telling a story was masterful.

His book is his own story of how he got involved in stamp collecting and the countless famous and not so famous people he encountered along the way. The book continues to have a magical quality that can draw in any reader, whether child or adult.

One of his best tales is of when he was a young boy and had a chance meeting with world famous philatelist Alfred F. Lichtenstein. Mr. Lichtenstein, then president of New York's Collectors Club, kindly gave the young Kehr a choice copy of a Cape of Good Hope triangle. It was a gift that turned Ernest into a lifelong collector, one of our most honored.

Philately, if it is to exist on into the future, must continually rejuvenate and reinvent itself. Books like "The Romance of Stamp Collecting" once did this job quite admirably. The hobby needs this kind of universally available handbook today -- one that would occupy a prominent position on the shelves of every bookstore.

Things I've learned about stamps

I have remarked before in this space that philately's literature is so large in depth and quantity that there may be no other hobby in the world that has as many wonderful publications -- from great book like the one shown here to more than 1,000 actively published periodicals.

We may bemoan the fact that Ernest Kehr's book is no longer in print, but his book is certainly still available. Of course, one would probably not find it on the shelves of many bookstores, but if one uses the Internet, the seeker will quickly find it. The pristine copy illustrated above was found at www.abebooks.com by doing a simple search for "Ernest A. Kehr". The purchase price, like that for many used books, was quite attractive.

If you would like a delightful surprise (and are interested in our hobby's literature), try doing a search for "Stamp Collecting". Get ready for some fun!

Greg Manning