A white exaggerated smile, red hair and mini top hat of the caricature-like clown portrait repeat across the page of the five-cent red, white and blue United States stamp.
“How can you look at that and not smile?”
Dick Tatton’s hands carefully grasp the corner of the plastic-covered front page in one of the many stamp books in his office.
“This is Lou Jacobs, a clown with the Ringling Bros.”
He says with a definitive ‘yes’; the sheet of stamps is his favourite.
Tatton, who resides in the Comox Valley, is a master philatelist whose collection spans decades, and is now looking to give back to the community with whom he shared his love of stamp collecting.
Beginning in Hamilton, where he worked for an insurance broker a floor above a school, Tatton began assembling stamp shows for the children.
He connected with a teacher who asked him to come once a week to talk about stamps.
“I think they liked the colour and the design; they would pick out something they liked – a bird or an airplane,” he explains.
Admitting “the weather brought us out here,” he and his wife moved to the Comox Valley, and Tatton spoke to the principal of Valley View Elementary and began a stamp club in 1999 (and ran it until 2011) along with a second club at École Puntledge Park Elementary from 2003 to 2009.
Tatton distributed more than 200,000 stamps during 400 meetings of stamp clubs at both schools. Each meeting was half an hour during the lunch break, and he kept meticulous records of each club, including the names and attendance of all the students.
He hopes this will help in distributing his collection.
“If you were a member of one of these stamp clubs and are still interested in stamp collecting, please write to me if you would like to have some stamps, a stamp catalogue, a reference book, a stock book or other related material,” he says. “Everything is free.”
He adds from a monetary standpoint, the collection is not at all valuable; its value is strictly in its sentiment.
He asks those interested to give details about their collection and what the types of stamps are of interest.
“There will be something for everyone who writes.”
Club meetings covered a variety of topics, notes Tatton, including commemorative stamps, booklets, examining conditions, and basic lessons such as how to take stamps off paper, how to mount stamps and how to use the Scott Catalogue.
While he can’t recall which stamp was the first one he collected (“It was probably a Great Britain one”), Tatton admits in addition to the Lou Jacobs stamp, “one of my favourites is one of Amelia Earhart,” he notes with a laugh.
“Flipping through these pages (of stamp books), these are the things that make it so nice for me.”
Tatton’s knowledge of the history of mail is just as prolific: he recalls the Penny Black – the world’s first stamp.
“In 1840, Roland Hill of Great Britain initiated the first postage stamp.
“They only did it for one year because it was black, people kept rubbing (the postmark) out and using it again. Then they changed it to red.”
During the Franco-Prussian War, Tatton says mail was delivered by hot air balloon in 1871 as Paris was under siege and used the air space to communicate with the free zone.
Hanging in two corners of his office, he created model mail balloons out of damaged stamps, and describes how they carried hundreds of pounds of mail, in addition to homing pigeons to be used for pigeon post.
Stamps, he notes, have a way of preserving history, as they document historical events and moments in time, such as man’s first flight. He’s quick to add stamps also commemorate people too.
“All the important people are on stamps.”
Tatton says he is sincerely thankful to all those who donated stamps or catalogues to the club, as well as the teachers and principals who helped the club at the schools.
He asks all those who write to him (no phone calls) include their full name and telephone number. Letters can be sent in the mail or dropped off in his mailbox care of Dick Tatton, 1440 Thorpe Ave., Courtenay, B.C., V9N 7K7.
Full postage necessary.