LONG?BEACH - When members of Peninsula Postal Stamp Club realized that they'd never seen or heard of a collection of stamps featuring kites, it didn't take them long to start one here.
After all, what better location for such a collection than the Long Beach Peninsula, where kiting is a way of life. And what better place to house it than the World Kite Museum, with its international collection of kites and kite-related objects.
Now the community can soon see the results. Club members have completed a permanent display in a large card-table-size shadow box where a world map is surrounded by stamps featuring kites issued in dozens of countries. Each is accompanied by a small flag representing the stamp's origin. Stamps were prepared with archival-quality mounts and the display is covered with a clear acrylic sheet.
Club members John Dawson, its president, and Ray Millner delivered the display to the museum this month. They noted that in its history the United States Postal Service has only issued one stamp featuring a kite - this one celebrating Benjamin Franklin and his history-making discovery of electricity.
Other nations, particularly those in Asia, on the other hand, have sheet after sheet of kite-related stamps to choose from. It was difficult to narrow the selection to one stamp for each of those countries when there were so many choices, Millner says. Club members considered visual effects of the display, choosing kite stamps for color or unusual design. Those not used with the map have been prepared by club member Trudy Hannon for viewing in a notebook accompanying the shadow box as part of the permanent collection. The notebook also includes covers, the envelopes imprinted with kite-related artwork, which some collectors prefer to the stamps themselves.
Worldwide, stamp collectors may select subjects ranging from specific animals to transportation or buildings or sports or events - virtually anything under the sun, Dawson points out. For example, he says, "you could fill albums with the thousands of stamps representing royalty in England. Theme collections are unbelievable, and unique."
That's why it was even more surprising to club members when they discovered they could establish a collection that not only was no one else working on, but one that was particularly suited to the community.
Hannon put her husband John and son-in-law Ray Vinzent to work to construct the display case. She found a National Geographic map of the world for the display background. And Hannon herself had the expertise, as the former curator of the Lewis County Historical Museum in Chehalis, to make sure that archival quality materials were used to help ensure its longevity.
Hannon points out that the project hasn't ended. "We'll continue to upgrade the display," she says, as kite stamps from more countries are found. Currently, she considers that probably the most unusual stamp is from Malta. Finding one from Barbados also surprised club members. Hannon views kite stamps from Taiwan as "most elegant".
The three-cent Ben Franklin U.S. stamp is one of the oldest on the map. One from Costa Rica probably pre-dates it. Asian nations are particularly well represented, reflecting the widespread popularity of kite flying in those countries. Australia, too, has issued a number of kite-themed stamps, club members say.
The club members locate stamps in specialty magazines, in catalogs, on the Internet, from other clubs, or by word-of-mouth. Some they've bought, but many more are donated. In 2008 the kite museum had received Taiwan and Chinese kite stamps, which were mounted by Hannon and Dawson for the museum's special Chinese New Year's celebration and are now permanently displayed. Over the years, other kite stamps had been sent to the museum, whose quarterly newsletter has featured a "Kite Sightings" column.
"We'd put them in a folder called Kite Stamps when they arrived," says Museum Director Kay Buesing. "We gave them to the stamp club when they began their collection."
She is excited about the results. "It's a marvelous addition to the museum," Buesing said. Not only are the stamps fun to look at, but they're also an educational tool, reflecting political and cultural history of the countries issuing them.
The stamp club itself is hoping the display will inspire more prospective stamp collectors. For its next project members are considering planning a show of children's collections to encourage more youngsters to enjoy the hobby. Dawson and Millner, both became collectors when they were young. Millner thinks he was probably five. Now two rooms of his home are filled with albums. Dawson was seven, those early years augmented by his eventual 28-year career as a mail carrier.
The club's membership is small, varying in size with seasonal residents. But the group now has a permanent meeting place, Dawson says, something they've lacked in the past. The Long Beach Grange has given the club a room to store collections and equipment as well as hold their monthly meetings. The meetings are on the third Saturday of each month at 11 a.m. They are informal get-togethers and visitors are always welcome.