Byline: By RHODRI CLARK Western Mail
Most children get the collecting bug, and there's nothing better for them to accumulate than postage stamps. Stamps take up little storage space. They don't have to be kept in a controlled climate, or polished regularly or displayed in glass cabinets. Used stamps are also free, or can be bought cheaply in bulk. That prevents stamp collecting becoming another competition of affluence among children, with humiliating consequences for the ones whose parents can't or won't keep up. Stamp collecting is also vaguely exciting for children, especially at Christmas when parcels and cards, bearing exotic stamps, arrive from distant relatives.
The most attractive aspect of stamp collecting to young eyes is the colour and variety of these slips of paper.
Countries use stamps as miniature billboards, showing off a unique bird or flower, spectacular landscapes, folk dancers, a person in historic costume or paintings from an art gallery.
The choices speak volumes about each country. Today's adults may remember puzzling over stamps showing the faces of African or Asian dictators, or stamps from Communist countries showing a factory or the Kremlin Congress Hall. Laugh not, for next year Wales will get a special stamp issue to mark the opening of the National Assembly building. How exciting will that make Wales appear to collectors overseas?
UK stamps portray the British as set in our ways, deferential, arrogant and boring. Most of the stamps you see on everyday envelopes have the same side profile of the Queen's head, almost unchanged for decades. Royals are still the only living people allowed to be depicted clearly on UK stamps, and every stamp has to have the Queen's head somewhere on it. UK stamps are probably the only ones in the world which don't bear the name of the issuing country. …