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Tech-savvy stamp collectors energise an old hobby

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Tech-savvy stamp collectors energise an old hobby

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Anita Lo

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Anita's vacation is often interrupted by postage stamps.

Finding your local stamp dealer may not be everyone's holiday priority, but for Anita Lo, 26, she is often the first port of call.

What started at the age of five with Grandpa's old album and the £ 1 sacks of assorted stamps from a second hand shop for charities has increased to a collection of several thousand that is updated regularly from his travels.

"For a lot of people, a stamp is just a stamp; it's the queen's face, both first and second class, but there's so much more," says the London public relations consultant, who has already spent £ 100 on a stamp with Olympic theme in Russia.

"I love going through antique shops. When I'm in Barcelona or Prague and I'm attracted to all sorts of designs; it can be an attractive flower or something from my date of birth, but I always like to shop in person for spots or ear corners. that can devalue them in droves ".

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Not surprisingly, as a younger collector, Anita takes a digital approach to her hobby.

She shares her collection on Instagram and WhatsApp, and uses an online catalog to search for items by price or country, rather than the traditional print copies made at auctions.

However, with her dusty image, her hobby has raised eyebrows among the peer group and she admits that her "geeky" reputation may leave her in conflict.

"It's in my best interest and I like it, but I don't go to big fairs and would never join a club or society; my perception is that they're mostly full of people my parents' age, they're a bit of a nerdy and I don't want to be seen this way. Since I don't know anyone else my age doing this, it's a hobby I do a lot on my own. "

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Graham beck

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Technology allows Graham Beck to share the stories behind the labels

On the other hand, creating your own You Tube channel Exploring Seals to interact with other 32-year-old Graham Beck enthusiasts is taking a less solitary path.

To date, he has uploaded 70 videos that randomly select him and explore the story behind him, a journey that led him to an Icelandic volcano and the three statues of freedom in New York, Paris and Las Vegas.

The South African native, now based in New York, says it is the story behind the label that resonates with the new generation of philatelists (as stamp collectors are known), rather than paper types and Specific print styles that often excite the old school collector.

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"I discovered my old childhood album by cleaning the attic and started to google the images and had this epiphany: I realized how fascinating stamps really are with all this social history documented on these little pieces of paper. They give you a unique perspective on different subjects and that's what gives other hobbies an edge. "

Technology, he says, was the facilitator in establishing its provenance and reaching a new audience. His most popular video has attracted 80,000 views and he sees an online revival of the subject via Twitter and Instagram, and the growing use of multimedia at trade shows as critical to engaging the next generation.

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Collectors usually need help organizing their stamps

"We need to capture the excitement of stamps – whether learning more about stamps on YouTube or using QR codes on stamp displays on exhibits that can be scanned with your phone and linked to a video. Everything may seem a bit puzzling to the traditional collector, but I am in favor of experimenting and encouraging more people to collect ".

It's a sentiment echoed by George James, Commonwealth chief of stamp trader and philatelic editor Stanley Gibbons in London.

He cites how the little-known world of competitive philately, which sees attendees exhibiting their collections worldwide at shows such as London-based Stampex, has been elevated by more accessible online information.

"The provenance is much more detailed now; one of my clients is a Boer War collector and he has military correspondence from besieged cities that he displays along with information about the specific soldier; his photograph, military record, all the context that brings it about." "person for life – philatelic material is no longer just the envelope".

With a heritage dating back to 1856, the rare stamp trader has been a consistent barometer of the impact technology has had on commerce.

Recognized for its collector's catalogs, the recently launched My Collection app allows collectors to virtually store and manage their collection, a move that James says has been embraced by traditional collectors.

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Getty Images

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Stamp collecting has gone from its early low-tech days

"I think there's a perception that, because of enthusiasts' traditional demographics, commerce would be technology-resistant, but it's actually the opposite. E-commerce was adopted almost immediately and authentication techniques such as ink spectral analysis are in force since the mid-1950s. – '90s.

"With the amount of money involved at the top of the market, fraud detection technology has become very sophisticated and widely adopted."

Stanley Gibbons internal specialists will check for fake postmarks or other discrepancies regarding letter size and perforation spacing and, in more complex cases, will send them to The Royal Philatelic Society.

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Stanley Gibbons

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George James says the internet has been the "best thing" for stamp collectors

Here, forensic specialists will use a spectral video comparator – the software used to authenticate notes and passports – to compare the optical properties of ink and identify clues lost to the naked eye.

And for the collector who wants to become a detective, a new generation of automated analysis tools allows them to check for problems with pre-ordering the seal, usually at no cost.

"Image analysis software, such as Retro Reveal, which can edit a stamp image in 50 different ways to expose anything fraudulent, is widely used throughout the hobby," said James.

"It's another way technology has made commerce much more open and fair. The internet has been the best thing for philately."

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