I bought this Stamp Album in Brighton several years ago, and the book dealer was surprised by my delight, apologising that there there were so few 'desireable' picture stamps with Brazilian Footballers, Liberian Orchids or Old Master Paintings from the Canary Islands. This album represented more clearly than my words ever could, the experience of becoming a Junior Philatelist, e.g.

• my huge ambition and a certain paucity of means -

• my carefully formulated plans for classification and their immediate thwarting

• how far I fell short from the ideal of the Purist in pursuit of Prime Condition

• an irritation at the overwhelming choice of Heads of State as the main pictorial feature.

Here I sat aged ten with clouded magnification lens made from the poorest plastic, carefully assembling the Collector's Kit under the Anglepoise.

Firstly there was a fat packet of those semi-transparent paper stamp hinges with inadequate powers of adhesion and a curious taste. Second into the light was a pair of tweezers with rubber coated handles. I can't have used them at all, as I mounted the stamps at a terrific speed, pressing them down with a greasy thumb. I had a red circular plastic tank with a small sponge to wet the mounts but it was diverted to another use almost immediately.

When I saw the SPECIAL AGENT album I was surprised by the incongruity of the link between the Postage Stamp (Philately is so sedate and pointless) with the dynamic life of the Agent. The Agent was clearly desperate to leave Rhyl, so oblivious was he to fellow Mortorists many of whom must also have been philatelists. The rationale "How to Start a Stamp Collection" had a pleasing ring to it. Certain album pages had closely packed examples in anticipation of getting thousands more. Other pages were blank (Abyssinia) and unlikely to bear a single example. Stamps were slapped down with little regard to the rows of dots which tried to impose some order on the page.

The album reminded me that as a paid up member of the Stanley Gibbon Stamp Club,I receiving a wallet of gaudy stickers on approval every month, I found that I much preferred job lots of miscellaneous foreign stamps to be found in Charity Shops where bulk was achieved by the inclusion of mass collection of examples from Finland, Australia and Germany. In engraved style they were dense and given to spiralling energy within their tiny fields. Sometimes the designer had tried to compress a vast plain or teeming city into a space no bigger than a ... postage stamp.

Even more delicious were the swathes of black parallel lines and illegible letters loaded onto the stamp's surface by the franking machine, givng Britannia a Groucho Marx moustache, and obliterating several off-shore islands at a stroke. The act of removing the stamps from the envelopes very often damaged them beyond repair. These I loved. I didn't have worry about value.

Each of the examples scanned above has its own characteristic feature, but I draw your attention to the 25 cent Ceylonese stamp with the stolid feature of George the Sixth appearing through the Palm Fronds in close association with the Temple of the Tooth.

from the collection of the American Bank Note Company, Christie's New York 1990
POSTAGE STAMPS OF THE FAR EAST, Sotheby's 1996, a density of tiny tales
see also Coins, Tiny Tales