Though I'll never make it to full-grade philatelist, I have to admit that I've enjoyed doing the research for this series. While navigating the labyrinth of spotty stamp collecting info available on the web, I've browsed auction sites, fan collections and home pages of philatelic societies. I've found thick tomes of arcane info, scanned in their entirely and uploaded as huge graphic files into back corners of the internet. I've learned about forgeries, inversions and imperforates, and about the rival enthusiasm among collectors for the different varieties of cancellation marks.
Unlike the stamps in our German feature, adorned only with stoic engine turnings or austere civic subjects, the eastern European stamps in my collection are much more ornate. Proud works of illustration and design in their own right, many of them even carry the name of their creators. Fans of stamps issued by the former republic of Czechoslovakia, for instance, could start a baseball league with as wide and distinguished an array of artists as they have to choose from. Even the engravers themselves are traded. Poland's Czeslaw Slania, is considered the best, but his work spans the post-war period, which is outside the scope of my collection. So I guess my earlier engravings of the Polish royal crest are mere also-rans.
For all I know, I may be misreading this information entirely. The quick study needed for a couple of five hundred word essays cannot compare to the intensive research put forth by the average stamp collector. But one thing about all of this that's crystal clear -- the vast amount of obscure and confusing documentation associated with this hobby is far too much for me. My main concern here is my safety. I guess if my house gets ransacked after I post these stamps, I'll know I had the ultra-rare inverted imperforate non-forgery.