Wizard Harry Potter’s community may have used owls to deliver messages, but many muggles — ordinary human beings rather than witches and wizards — still use old-fashioned stamps.
The 29th Annual Mid-Cites Stamp Club Expo 2016 in Grapevine Nov. 11-12 appealed to both by featuring J.K. Rowling inspired “The Magical World of Harry Potter,” science fiction and fantasy.
“We think it’s exciting,” said Ralph Poore, 64, of Arlington, the show’s general chairman who conceived of the science fiction theme because he is an “uber-geek” who learned to love the genre watching Star Trek as a youngster.
The U.S. Postal Service had a booth with standard stamps for sale, including a set of recently issued Star Trek stamps that honor the original TV show’s 50th anniversary.
The expo held in Grapevine the past 19 years featured a 26-dealer sales area, a silent auction, a giant mixture pick, a beginning collectors center and a U.S. Postal Service booth.
Exhibits chairman Ray E. Cartier said they hoped the science fiction theme would appeal to a younger audience they are trying to court.
“Unlike texting and social media gossiping, stamp collecting imbues children with a hobby that not only entertains them but sets the stage for finding interesting things within geography, cultures and history,” Cartier said. “More importantly, research is a trait that most adult collectors today cite.”
Several years ago, Cartier conducted a study of adult collectors and how they came to have an interest in the hobby.
“The general pattern is that someone introduces a child to the colorful world of stamp collecting,” he said. “Those children may collect for only a few years between the time they discover them and discover boys or girls as being more interesting.
“College, jobs, families then take a priority until something clicks in their 30s, 40s or 50’s and they return with an interest in some topic or specialized interest.”
Cartier said that more than half of the collectors in the American Topical Association held degrees and about 25 percent had advanced degrees. Most put original research as one of the key ingredients of their hobby.
“Stamp collecting draws people who like to research,” Cartier said. “They really get into the nitty-gritty behind-the-scenes information.”
Among the novice stamp enthusiasts at Saturday’s expo were Carson and Brayden Blair, ages 10 and 14 respectively.
The North Richland Hills youths were having a grand time paying a quarter each for surprise envelopes that contained such gems such as a sheet of stamps from a 1981 commemorative collection honoring White House architect James Hoban.
“It’s fun getting all these stamps,” Brayden said.
Although those stamps were common and had little monetary value, there were high dollar stamps for the serious collectors.
Dave Cobb of Newport Harbor Stamp Company in Newport Beach, Calif., was offering one of the oldest U.S. stamps in existence, an 1851 Benjamin Franklin stamp he was selling for $69,000.
Asked how he could part with something so valuable for the right price, the vendor said, “I would sell it in a second. This is a business. There’s no room for sentimentality.”
The free expo offered people the opportunity to see fine exhibits, locate dealers who may be able to buy or sell stamps and covers — envelopes with a design and purpose — and meet with people who share their interests.
“This year, after our board decided to use a theme of science fiction and fantasy, I was able to find several exhibits along these lines including what is today the most popular exhibit in the country, “The Magical World of Harry Potter” — 128 pages of interesting philatelic material,” Cartier said.
Van Siegling, a distinguished collector and a member of numerous professional stamp organizations, prepared the exhibit that has been displayed in many states and also voted “Most Popular” at World Series of Philately shows. It also has been displayed at libraries and movie theaters. The Grapevine exhibit was his Texas stamp show debut.
“I love science fiction — especially Harry Potter — and I love stamp collecting, so I was able to merge my two hobbies,” said Siegling, who was bedecked in a wizard-like cape.
Cartier, who is 76 and has been collecting stamps since he was eight, said it’s important to appeal to the younger generation so they can discover what he found.
“I’m trying to expand people’s knowledge that this can be more than a single person collecting for himself or herself,” Cartier said. “It’s very social and you meet a lot of people. I like to discover things and share them.”
Cartier, who is retired from his longtime career as a purchasing agent for General Dynamics, said he and his wife Karen of 52 years have a social stamp life that will get busier next January as he becomes president of the Mid-Cities Stamp Club that meets in Arlington, Granbury and Irving — the latter soon to be moved to Euless.
“I enjoy it,” the Arlington man said. “I get to meet a lot of people in my retirement.”