Correspondence in the mid-19th century was a complicated matter, due in no small part to the difficulty carriers faced in collecting revenue to finance their operations. A common practice at the time was for the recipient to pay for the document at the time of delivery. Although historical accounts differ, the invention of the modern stamp is generally attributed to Sir Rowland Hill, an English educator and social reformer. Hill also noted that postage stamps should be marked so as to avoid reuse, giving rise to the now ubiquitous postmark.
Stamp collection is now an international hobby, enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Oklahoma City resident Joe Crosby discovered the hobby early in life. As a young man, Crosby would accompany his father on trips to collect and catalogue stamps, catching the “collector bug” at the young age of nine. “Any collector hobby is genetic. You can’t help it,” Crosby remarks. “The trips with my Dad got me interested and kept me interested until I was old enough to start a collection of my own.”
Crosby had to take a brief hiatus from stamp collecting during his time in college and in the United States Army, where he served as a Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). After a time, he was stationed in Washington, DC, and resumed his hobby by visiting antique stores throughout the area. “I would often collect rare stamps and sell them to interior decorators, since many of them aren’t able to locate them on their own,” he explains. He sold his collection for $1,000 in 1967 and quickly realized he could make money and enjoy his favorite pastime. Crosby moved to the metro area from Lawton in 1966 and has been involved in the Oklahoma City Stamp Club ever since.
The OKC Stamp Club was founded in 1936 and held its first meetings at the Biltmore Hotel. The group now meets at 7pm on the first and third Wednesday of every month at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City. “We offer a variety of programs of interest to beginner through advanced stamp collectors. There are always stamps to buy for your collection, and opportunity to trade or sell to fellow collectors,” Crosby says.
The Stamp Club is affiliated with the American Philatelic Society, an international organization created in 1886 with over 40,000 members worldwide. Crosby’s work with the OKC Stamp Club has brought together hundreds of people throughout the metro area, all with a common passion for finding, collecting and cataloguing millions of stamps printed since Sir Rowland Hill’s pioneering invention.
Crosby’s personal collection contains tens of thousands of stamps from all over the world. He’s particularly fascinated by pre-World War II stamps. His personal favorites are stamps from Indian Territory—the lands that would later become the state of Oklahoma—and he likely owns the largest collections of such stamps in the world. One of his most unique array of stamps is from correspondence between two brothers during the Civil War. “One fought for the Union and one fought for the Confederacy. They both sent letters home to their families detailing their experiences during the Civil War,” Crosby explains.
Crosby’s personal collection is filled with stamps valued at a wide variety of prices; some are worth pennies, while others are significantly more valuable. “I don’t collect for investment opportunities—I collect because I love to do it,” Crosby explains. As a collector for more than six decades, he’s seen nearly every type of stamp imaginable, but the sheer volume of stamps worldwide means there is always something new to discover. To Crosby and his fellow collectors, stamps are representations of history and the events that shape it.
Eager to share their passion, Crosby and other members of the Oklahoma City Stamp Club will host OKPEX, a national stamp show accredited by the American Philatelic Society, on June 17-18th at the Reed Conference Center in Midwest City. Crosby will chair the event throughout the weekend. OKPEX will feature 115 competitive multi-frame and 10 one-frame exhibits. “They will be judged by a highly qualified jury approved by the American Philatelic Society,” Crosby adds. Pricing of stamps is determined by a master list of stamps issued by recognized governments, and market value is generally viewed as the price agreed upon by a knowledgeable buyer and a knowledgeable seller. “In 2013, over $500 million worth of stamps were bought and sold on eBay alone,” Crosby says.
For more information about the OKC Stamp Club, visit www.okcsc.com.