As a boy, Ralph DeBoard’s attraction to a world beyond his own began.
He’d seen Marlon Brando’s “Mutiny on the Bounty,” set in Tahiti, and couldn’t get enough. He wanted to learn everything he could about this tiny island in the South Pacific. He was infused with the type of young wonder that lasts a lifetime.
So he collected their stamps. For DeBoard, it was natural. In a time that predates Wikipedia, there was no better way to lose himself in the island’s history.
Nearly everyone in the Oklahoma City Stamp Club has a similar story. While their particular interests in the hobby may vary, most have fallen under the same cycle. Hooked as a child, ventured off to do other things later in life but returned in midlife. And they always return.
DeBoard gave a 40-minute presentation entitled “The Postal History of Tahiti” to the club on Tuesday.
While the title may sound stale at surface level, DeBoard points to postcards more than 100 years old, telling of island adventures and past conquests. The communication between a group of people, he said, is the best way to learn about them. What defines us more than the messages we share with others?
DeBoard delivered his message to a room of more than 25 eager listeners inside the Asbury United Methodist Church, 1320 SW 38, which hosts the club. Aside from a pair of teenage boys, everyone in the room is in at least their late 50s.
There’s no denying philately — the term derived from a Greek root word that is collecting’s most well-known niche — is getting older, DeBoard said. While he was captured in his youth, few millennials are sharing that experience.
“They’re on their computers and watching TV, playing with their smartphones and with their computer games, but I’ll tell you something, it really is true, doing this is 50 billion times better for them,” he said.
Blessing and a curse
Though some will argue stamp collecting has met its final days, it’s also in its finest hour, said Joe Crosby, the club’s president.
“With the Internet, we’re able to do all kinds of marvelous research, and everything’s being digitized now.”
The Internet is both the hobby’s greatest competitor and its greatest asset. The prevalence of information on the hobby, as well as the ease to which it can be accessed, is unprecedented.
Crosby believes the availability of information will eventually bring people back to collecting.
More than just ‘paper’