Stamp Collections. I used to collect stamps, same as most kids my age. We would steam them off envelopes, attach them with little shiny paper hinges to an album, arranged however you liked. Apparently that’s not how serious stamp collectors do it. They don’t even collect used ones. I think they’re missing out.
But this is the #writephoto challenge for this week – a nice picture of stamps, from KL Caley at New2Writing.com. My effort is 500 words, helped by a quiz question on Helvetia this week.
The Stamp Collectors
“What does Helvetia mean, Grandpa?”
“It’s the old name for Switzerland, Ben. It’s what the Romans called it. Switzerland decided to use it for their stamps.”
“We don’t have our name on our stamps, do we?”
“Not now. But we used to. Look, here’s one, with the picture of George 6th on it.”
“The King. Before the Queen. He was her father, and when he died she became queen.”
Ben turned over a few pages of the album, looking at the shapes and colours, occasionally picking out more country names.
“These are nice. Why would they use triangles for stamps?”
“Why not? There were lots of different shapes then. But mostly, they’d make them easy to print. Triangles, squares and rectangles are easiest to print and separate. In those days they’d come in one sheet, hundreds to a page, with all the gaps between them perforated so you could tear them apart easily. That’s why they have crinkly edges…”
But Ben’s attention had finished, stamps forgotten. A dog barking outside had drawn him away.
Thirty years later, he returned from a business trip just in time for Grandpa’s funeral.
“You look tired,” Annie said to him as she drove down the motorway slipway from the airport.
“Yeah. Long meetings, big evening meals, too much Swiss wine… I’ve got two weeks off now. Since I’m executor, they’ve given me compassionate leave.”
Going through his grandfather’s things was a trip back in time. Annie was a brick: finding and labelling boxes and sacks; keeping tabs on times and meal breaks; coffee and tea just when he needed it.
“I think that’s everything of value, then, no more paperwork. Bank accounts in order. Just like you’d expect with Grandpa.”
“No hidden antiques to make our fortune?” Annie asked. One could always hope.
“No. The legacy will have to do. Good of him to do that really. We’ll get a share of the house when it sells, too.”
“What’s that you’ve got?”
“His stamp albums. We used to look at them when I stayed… after the car crash. He and Gran were very good to me.”
Annie nodded. “No Penny Blacks in there?”
Ben laughed. “No. Just the same old rubbish all the people of his generation had. I’ve already checked online. Stamp collections are recommended to go to a tip, or paper recycling if plastic can be removed. Nobody wants them.”
Several years passed; Ben was flicking through the stamps deciding whether to throw or not. With their first grandchild on its way, it might be something to do on a rainy day with a power cut.
A brown envelope tucked into the page with the Swiss stamps caught his eye.
‘Nothing much, but worth keeping,’ in Grandpa’s careful lettering.
Ben opened it carefully, and gasped…
After valuation, and several media interviews, he announced he would be opening a stamp gallery in conjunction with the British Museum. The Penny Black was not for sale. It was heritage, for all kids everywhere.
See more of my flash fiction here.The Stamp Collectors | #writephoto Flash Fiction '“No hidden antiques to make our fortune?” Annie asked. One could always hope.' 500 words #flashfiction Click To Tweet
6 thoughts on “The Stamp Collectors | #writephoto Flash Fiction”
Hi Jemima – took me back too – and one of those treasures has not appeared!! I gave my mother’s and mine to a local charity. Fun flash fiction … cheers Hilary
That’s a good story, Jemima….I had to smile when you said Ben had a fortnight off because he was executer …. It takes a lot longer than that. But I can imagine a couple of weeks is all he would get.
I really liked the ending 💜
Yes, it took me months when I was… but yes the ‘compassionate leave’ rarely lasts more than a few days.
And is indeed a lot less than compassionate 💜
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