In a modern world where people’s spare time is monopolised by smartphones, you could be forgiven for thinking our old traditional hobbies had been consigned to the past. But as Liam Hunt discovered, Notts is still stamping its name on a bygone passion. Welcome to the world of philately.
In a quiet corner of Nottingham city centre, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the chain pubs and identical coffee shops, you’ll find one of Nottingham’s oldest businesses.
In 1942, at the height of the Second World War, the small shop opened on Wollaton Street to supply stamps to the armed forces.
Three quarters of a century on and Nottingham Stamp Centre is a hub for hobbyists and the only full-time shop of its kind in the East Midlands.
And its owner says philately – the collection and study of postage stamps – is not a bygone tradition because it is alive and kicking in Notts.
David Hardy has run the business for 20 months. But like previous owners wants to keep the shop largely unchanged. He says Notts is first class for stamp collecting.
“Philately has always been popular in Notts and at one point it had as many as five stamp shops, it also has a very strong philatelic society,” he said.
“I think it has a strong future in Notts, I’m planning to be here for the next 10 years, there appears to be no imminent decline in the area.
“Whilst the internet is a growing area for bringing younger generations into the hobby, a lot of people still want and need to see the stamps before they buy them.”
The Penny Black postage stamp: Famous but no golden ticket
- Famously the world’s first postage stamp
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David said: “The Penny Black is very popular but it is also common. It is well known because it was the first stamp. Most people like to own one and say they’ve got the earliest stamp.”
The future of philately appears to be in safe hands as David says he has even been contacted by children at local schools who have started after-school stamp clubs.
“There are some local youngsters collecting stamps, I’m told they are strong stamp collecting schools that run clubs usually every year and there are more boys and girls collecting this year for the first time.
“There is certainly still an interest from youngsters.”
Nottingham Stamp Centre houses hundreds of thousands of stamps, although David says he has never quite found the time to count them all.
He said: “People travel some distance to visit, and I get people travelling from Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, there are few stamp shops around the country.”
Notts is home to three philatelic societies; Nottinghamshire, Greater Nottingham Co-Operative and Radcliffe-on-Trent.
The Nottinghamshire Philatelic Society dates all the way back to 1913.
Honorary President and longest-serving member of the Nottinghamshire Philatelic Society, Allen Wood, said: “I think philately is fairing better in Notts as the three societies are still thriving and have been for a long time.
“Philately has always been popular in the area – Notts has been such a good home for stamps because there has been a history of it for a long long time, members have always continued along the same route.
“People can be proud of the fact that it has been going for so long and maintained its ability to attract people for well over 100 years, there are not many voluntary organisations that are over 100 years old.”
He added: “It is good to know that there are some youngsters who are still doing it and have been prised away from their smartphones.
“I think in the future what will happen is that young people drift away from it perhaps when they get girlfriends or partners and they come back to it later in life, their interest is always rekindled they never lose it totally.”
Allen says he too has collected stamps all his life since beginning as a youngster and has a very unique area of interest.
“My interests are Lesotho and I also collect Ethiopia, most collectors have a country or themes that they collect,” he added.
“There is a reason why I collect both these countries – I made contact with someone in Lesotho in 1967 who I have raised money for ever since and the reason I collect Ethiopia is because my brother at one time worked there.
“You will find most people have an interesting story or background as to why they collect that particular thing.”
David adds there is more to being a collector than people think.
“Collecting does get passed down from generation to generation, a non-collector doesn’t always understand collecting stamps.
“Collecting stamps can often be seen as boring but there is a lot of history and knowledge to gain by collecting – it certainly comes in handy during a quiz.
“Once a collector, always a collector.”