Stamp collecting has become an increasingly niche interest as volumes of posted mail decline, but a local club is still flying the flag for dedicated collectors.
Past president of the Hibiscus Coast Stamp Club, Royce Norton, remembers when a church hall was needed to accommodate meetings of the club’s more than 300 members.
“It used to be all of the kids,” Royce says. “Before all these devices came about, collecting stamps used to be something every family did up here.”
Currently around a dozen regular collectors come to trade, sell and buy stamps at the club’s monthly meetings. Guest collectors and speakers attend and members travel together to the annual Hamilton Stamp Fair.
Royce began collecting stamps as a boy but gave up in his teens. His interest rekindled when, at the age of 30, he was recovering from a tonsillectomy.
He has sets of health stamps from 1929 to 2016 – they were first issued in 1929 to support NZ health camps and were released annually, even through World War II and the Great Depression. NZ Post stopped issuing the health stamps last year, due to declining sales.
“Almost every New Zealand collector has health stamps,” Royce says. “I even have a pair of ‘smiling boys’ from the 1931 issue, probably one of the most well known health stamps.”
A set of ‘smiling boys’ is now valued at around $950 in mint condition.
Royce’s main interest is in stamps from the Pacific Islands and other Commonwealth countries. Some people collect stamps that feature particular subjects, such as flowers or birds, and Royce has some of these catalogued in his collection too – including a selection of nudes, butterflies and dinosaurs of NZ.
While he considers electronic forms of entertainment signaled the beginning of the end for stamp clubs, it is not the end of collecting, as there is a lot of activity online with stamps traded and discussed.
The Hibiscus Coast Stamp Club meets every month at the Methodist Church Hall, 945 Whangaparaoa Road. Info: phone L. Conolly, 427 6344.
NZ Post says that over the past 15 years, mail volumes have declined by about 60 percent. It is anticipated this will further decline by around 13-15 percent per year. NZ Post expects this has led to a similar decline in the number of stamps being used, but cannot quantify this.
The vast majority of mail that is processed is business mail which doesn’t use stamps.
The number of stamp issues that NZ Post puts out each year has remained very consistent. It is usually between 11 and 13 issues in a calendar year.
Stamp clubs and societies play an important part in promoting the hobby.