The new cheerful Forever stamps, replacing the unexciting Liberty Bell, reminded me that at a certain age our older son attended the Anchorage Stamp Club on Saturday mornings. In the basement of an Anchorage recreation center, with great diligence and enthusiasm, he sifted through piles of stamps heaped on tables by the club’s adult sponsors.
Our other son, too much younger to understand stamps (let alone the intricacies of condition and provenance that fascinated his brother) was nevertheless intense in his pursuit of an equal number of stamps.
In spite of absolutely no interest from either son now, I’m loath to part with these tiny pictures of British gardens or Alaska wildlife, or the postmarked first-day-of-issue envelopes sent by a friend in England or by the boys’ grandfather. Little depictions of the world.
The artist Donald Evans really made worlds of stamps. The book about his work, “The World of Donald Evans,” by Willy Eisenhart delights me always. In his short lifetime, Evans created countless exquisite watercolored stamps, each one perforated at the edge (dots made by an manual typewriter) and cancelled (by a rubber stamp he carved). Stamps for imaginary countries Evans invented, and stamps celebrating everyday things from fruit to friends, umbrellas to chickens.
Evans told the Paris Review in 1975: “The stamps are a kind of diary or journal…It’s vicarious traveling for me to a made-up world that I like better than the one that I’m in. No catastrophes occur. There are no generals or battles or warplanes on my stamps. The countries are innocent, peaceful, composed.”