Wow. It has been a long time since I’m written anything for the site.  I doubt I’ll ever get back to my pace of 5-7 articles per week in the old days – at least not until I have entered the “old days” of retirement.  But I’m hoping to check in once every week or so.

What have I been up to?

Things have changes a bit since 2017.  After twenty years with the same company, I was pushed out when they decided they didn’t want teleworkers any more.  A few hundred of us were affected.  We got six months advance notice and I got 30 weeks of severance pay, so the company handled it as well as possible.

Just as I was starting to get really nervous, I landed a contract gig that started just as my employment was ending.  After about a half year as a contractor, I signed on as an employee.  I’m now an IT Business Systems Analyst who is responsible for helping build computer systems for the investment accounting area of a large multinational financial services company.  It’s a lot more interesting than it sounds.

I’ve actually been doing some writing – just not on this site.  My friend Lazy Man runs Lazy Man and Money, a personal finance site.  When I write for his site, I make more money – because he pays me in cold, hard cash.  The Soap Boxers has never really made much money, because you guys aren’t very responsive to advertisements.  (Just once, could someone use my Amazon link to buy a 4K big screen TV?)  So when I have articles that could be a fit for his site, they usually end up there.  Here’s my author page on his site.

Having said that, a lot of my writing wouldn’t be a good fit for his site.  Meaningless ramblings like this one, for example.  So even thought I’m doing freelance work for Lazy Man and Money, there should always been context for The Soap Boxers – as long as I don’t get too lazy.

My new hobby

I turn 45 in a couple of weeks.  As I slowly step toward middle age, I realized that I need a vice – my very own mid-life crisis.

I’ve decided to dip my toes into the lake of philately.  Henceforth, I will be collecting stamps, primarily New Zealand stamps issued prior to 1970.  Why New Zealand?  Well, it has become sort of an adopted country for me.  It’s a long story, but I have become a fan of New Zealand’s cricket team, which predisposed me toward collecting stamps from that country.

My most recent article for Lazy Man goes into some of the details of my recent foray into stamps.  I’m not going to regurgitate those words here.  Partially because I hate writing the same article twice, but mostly because when I do freelance work, I won’t erode the value of the freelance article by writing the same content for my own site.  That isn’t fair to the site owner.

But I am willing to slide off onto a tangent.  Today, we’ll take a look at my most recent purchase.

New Zealand Health Stamps

For decades, New Zealand has produced stamps that raise funds for government-funded summer camps for children with health issue.  Dozens of stamps have been issued over the years.

This particular collection was offered on eBay for $25.  At some point, I’ll need to acquire these stamps, but they aren’t yet at the top of my list.  But a quick glance showed that there are a lot of unique stamps.  I could fill a lot of holes in my album pretty quickly.

I decided to use eBay’s “Make an offer” function.  My offer was about 2/3 of the asking price – $16.50.  The worst case scenario is that the seller would reject my offer or simply ignore me.  Since these stamps aren’t at the top of my list, that wouldn’t be the end of the world.  The more likely scenario was that the seller would counter somewhere around $20.  But the seller quickly accepted my offer.  I saved $8.50 by making an offer.  In a few days, I should have the stamps in my grubby hands.

Uncovering the treasure

What, exactly, do we have here?  For one thing, a LOT of duplicates.

It appears that there are about three hundred stamps, with somewhere around 35 unique stamps.  Almost all of the stamps appear not have been postally used.  While I’m not insistent on unused stamps, they do look nice.  Newer stamps (and these stamps will be far newer than many I acquire) aren’t difficult to find in unused condition, so they don’t command significant premiums.

I’ll end up trying to sell off a lot of the duplicates by putting together sets of 25-30 unique stamps.  I’m not going to make a lot of money this way – maybe $2-$3 for 25 stamps.  It might help other collectors quickly fill several holes in their own collection, though.

Which of the stamps do I like the best?  Definitely the triangles, which are from 1943.  The brown ones are Princess Elizabeth, who would subsequently become queen.  The green triangles – aesthetically more pleasing to me – are her sister Margaret.  When you reach the end of the triangles you’ll see about ten rectangles of an identical design.  These are the 1944 stamps of Elizabeth and Margaret together.  The right half of the fourth row from the bottom has green stamps with a handful of brown mixed it.  These are Elizabeth holding Prince Charles.  The middle of the third row from the bottom has some red stamps with a few brown ones mixed in (you can see the edge of the brown ones if you squint).  The brown are Prince Charles and the red are Princess Anne.  How do I know this?  Do I have x-ray vision?  Nope – I simply know what the edges of those particular stamps look like.

How did I do?

Overall, this appears to have almost every Health stamp from 1935 though 1958, with the exception of 1939 and 1940.  The most valuable stamps are in the top two rows – there’s a good chance I can pay for the whole lot by selling off the duplicates from those rows.

Now I’ll try to see if I got a good deal.  This is the tricky part.  There are many different stamp pricing catalogues and sites, and you can come up with very different values by using different sites.  In my fairly limited experience so far, StampWorld seems to have relatively conservative estimates.  If I wanted to acquire a single copy of each unique item in this lot, StampWorld says that it would cost about $20.  That’s understating it a bit, because of  inconvenience (and additional shipping costs) of acquiring the items piecemeal.  I could easily end up spending more on postage than on the actual stamps.  That’s annoying – I’d rather the bulk of my purchase price go to the actual seller.

How much did I pay?  $16.50 for the stamps and about four bucks for shipping.  So I ended up paying the same amount it would have cost to pick up the stamps piecemeal, and I have some extras to sell.

The future

My articles will probably be a bit philately heavy for a while.  They say nobody is as fervent as a convert, and that’s definitely true i my case.  I’ve been reading everything I can find about New Zealand’s stamps, and I’ve been haunting stamp auction sites.  My normal hobby is sports, and there’s a complete dearth of sports at the moment.  I’m working from home (no commute) and the kids are (reluctantly) pitching in with some household chores.  For the moment, I actually have spare time, most of which is devoted either to stamps of NCIS.  So I can either write about stamps or Mark Harmon.


Speaking of Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon is the son of Heisman trophy winner Tom Harmon.  Mark’s mom was 1940s actress Elyse Knox.

Mark’s sister Kelly was briefly married to John DeLorean.  Yeah, the guy who designed Marty McFly’s time machine.

Mark’s sister Kristin Harmon married singer Ricky Nelson.  Ricky was a star in his own right, and was also the son of Ozzie and Harriet.  Two of Kristin  and Ricky’s sons where Gunnar and Matthew of the musical group Nelson.  (Although Kristin and Ricky later divorced, Mark must have had a decent relationship with his sister’s in-laws, as an episode of Ozzie and Harriet pops up during an early NCIS episode).

That’s a lot of star power in one family.  But we’re not done.

Mark Harmon’s wife is Pam Dawber.  You might know her as Mindy from Mork and Mindy.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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