Stamp collecting

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George Larson flipped through a book and pulled out a piece of history, attached to an envelope with an ornate scrawl, addressed to Tennessee.

The 5-cent stamp, featuring a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, is from 1847, and was one of the first stamps ever issued by the United States.

The value on the stamp meant that it could only be mailed within 100 miles. “You needed a 10-cent stamp to go beyond anything that was termed local,” Larson said.

“Before these stamps were issued, you actually had to hire someone to deliver your mail,” he added.

Larson, a 62-year-old Albany resident, collects stamps, and he has thousands of them showing everything from national parks to cartoon characters to historical events, such as the moon landing.

Some are worth hundreds of dollars.

“Most of them are a nickel or dime. It’s just a lot of fun,” he said.

And it’s fun that Larson regularly shares with about 10 members of the Linn County Philatelic Society, which meets every month and holds two stamp shows a year.

Most of the local members also belong to a Salem stamp club as well.

Larson enjoys the history of his hobby, both in the subject matter of the stamps and what was happening during history as they were being developed.

“Each one has an interesting story to it,” he said.

Larson collects not only postage stamps but also tax stamps, which were required to be affixed to many documents until the 1950s.

Both Larson and fellow collector Alice Griffin, 73, of Albany, began collecting stamps in the past 15 years or so.

Griffin said she’s especially interested in train stamps.

“There are thousands of them,” she said.

She added that there’s a fellowship among local stamp collectors, and they usually know what everyone is looking to purchase.

Even stamps that have been used, that have postmarks on them, can be collected.

Some collectors make deals with billing sections of utility companies and other organizations to get used stamps so they can soak them off in hot water, Larson said.

Ironically, even as fewer people are using the mail, the U.S. Postal Service is issuing more stamps than ever before.

For more information on the Linn County Philatelic Society, or on how to get started collecting stamps, call Larson at (541) 971-1033.