Trading Cards: how to burn money and fuel the flea market.

Today I want to talk trading cards, the good, the bad, and the expensive card board that will never, I repeat never be worth much of anything.

While the trade card goes back to before we were a nation, being handed out like advertisements when a product was purchased, The trading card has it’s origins in tobacco. There was a time when they would put some kind of promotional card in packs of cigarettes, a way to get a second use out of something, or really to give you something to collect that required the purchase of even more smokes to collect the cards. The most well known of these are the Allen and Ginter cards of early baseball heroes. The most valuable of which has become something of an American legend in it’s own right. Honus Wagner. Honus Wagner was a great player, and adding to the value of anything of his, is the fact that he played ball until 1917. However, his card is not valuable because of that, it is valuable because it is rare, not simply because of the age of it, but because he hated tobacco and demanded that the cigarette industry cease to use his image, making his card incredibly rare. There is an episode of “Prison Break,” where a minor thief is in federal prison because he stole a baseball card collection, which included a Honus Wagner. The value of which made his crime a felony.

 

While some cards are the stuff made of legend, they are far and few between, owned and accounted for…sometimes miracles do happen, as in the case of the family that found seven (later an 8th) Ty Cobb baseball cards from between 1909-1911 in an old paper sack while cleaning out their great-grandfather’s house. That is probably, I would say, the last of those miracles. Most cards today, are absolutely worthless, not even worth the paper they are printed on, except if you are counting the personal value they have to the collector.

Trading cards in this case, should not be confused with Pokemon, or Magic the Gathering, both of which are collectible card games. Yes they come in packs that depend partly on chance to get good things, and yes they can be sold and traded, but they are not the same as trading cards. However, I will weigh in here, I think many of the things which have ruined the trading card, have also ruined the collectible card game. It has become about money, and winning, and there is not an ounce of spirit left in it. I loved both of those games, and now avoid them at all costs.

I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone get into trading cards, especially sports cards today. There are others out there of course, that has been a long tradition. There is a familiar rule about a certain type of content on the internet, and it is much the same with trading cards, there is a trading card for everything, and I mean everything. When I was a kid, my favorites (to my regret) was Dragon Ball Z. I have seen plenty of others. There was a set for the 2016 election, and in my searching the bazar that is eBay, I found out there were Desert Storm trading cards in the 90s. I know, there were probably ones for other wars, but that strikes me as…distasteful.

Today’s cards are overproduced. I made an attempt to become a serious collector of baseball cards a couple of years ago, and it was somewhat fun opening some with my son, but very quickly it was expensive and out of hand. There is not just one set per brand, there are tons! I like Topps, and there wasn’t just a Topps set for the year, but there was also Topps Allstars, a follow up set, rookies sets, and then they started to issue sets that were made like the ones of years past (and these were the best) Allen & Ginter, Gypsy Queen. Part of their draw is that they have added cards that include real memorabilia from players, pieces of bats, pieces of shirts, things like that. They are nice, if you can find them, we found an autograph once, but again, it is far more cost effective to go on eBay and find the ones you want, than to hunt them in packs. Some of them were truly insane, but again their rarity was created one. I saw a double rip card that was listed for 2500, and it has more things inside of it that you have to rip it open to get. I do not understand. I have bought the memorabilia cards for around 5$ when I found one I wanted. What I really have is a mess of baseball cards that I have hidden in a closet so that I do not have to face them. I have organized a years worth and realized that it would start all over again.

I do not enjoy doing all of that work, as there will always be more, they are made to keep you buying, and they will eat up space, doing nothing except being printed faster than they can be collected with no value and not even the joy of the hunt to be really had. They are the predecessor to smartphone apps that require gems or something, they are the micro-transaction of the analog world.

What I do enjoy doing is opening the packs, looking at them, feeling the perfect edges, that smell of a new pack of cards, so I have come up with a way that allows me to get my enjoyment from trading cards, and then move them on in a meaningful way. I use them as extras in my letters. The letter writing community is (re) growing by the day, but for every 100 people who try writing letters, maybe five will stick to it. The dedicated I have seen, have been including things that express who they are in their letters. I have gotten stamps, comic strips, pressed flowers (an old card making hobby of it’s own.). In mine I include the comics from my tear away calendars, some stamps, the occasional sticker, but this year I started something new. I started to put my baseball cards in, one per letter. I keep on the Boston Red Sox cards, and the rest go in letters. It gave me the chance to look at each one again, enjoy it, and then use it to express my passion for the game I love.

I began to wonder, what if I could find other ones, discounted, vintage, and most likely at a flea market, cards that showed the things I loved, films from my collection since childhood, favorite shows, etc. I took to the flea market to find out, and was rewarded for my efforts. I found Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Batman, and Batman Returns. Thirty year old cards from some of my very favorite films!!! I chose to document the time in which we opened them, and realized that many of them would have a piece of bubblegum still. The gum is a left over idea, the cigarette cards never having recovered from the paper goods rationing of the Second World War, and later it was the bubblegum card that took over for it, you got a card with your bubblegum. Later, it went the other way, you got some gum with your card.

We opened the TMNT cards first. The quality of the cards was ridiculously 80s, even to the point that they were mislabeling turtles, but it was fun! Even better, I have not encouraged the industry, and these things will not remain in my house long. They will become the odd ephemera of my letters, part of my lettercraft, which is good as I am not very good at making creative cards or anything like that. On a sidenote, my cousin Lucas decided to try a piece of that thirty year old gum, and neither of us recommends that experience. Their are plenty of videos out there telling you that is an awful idea, and now we are telling you.

There is a special place inside you for opening old trading cards, the cards you wanted as a kid but were probably not a good use of money, and now I have gotten to scoop them up for a steal at the flea market. I will not always be on the hunt for them, as this one time out has given me enough cards for letters for years, but if I see some for the right price, I will keep the variety going, but the letters are a means to an end, I still like opening the packs and seeing the images of my film heroes on pieces of cardboard.

I have enjoyed this experience, but I am sad to say, the age of the trading card is dead, and we missed the funeral by a few decades. I do not recommend this hobby, the hunt is dead. Unless there is a truly rare sports card you are after, the hunt is held on a reservation, you can find complete sets of the cards you want or even whole cases of the store boxes for a fraction of their cost on eBay and there will be no hunt to speak of. If you can find a way to recycle what is essentially high dollar trash from a flea market into something meaningful, then I beg you to do it. However, do not let me stop you from something you are passionate about, but the trading cards of today are a collector’s black hole.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

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I detest competitive eating

I have written about many things that I enjoy in the world of analog hobbies. Now perhaps it is time that I write something in the negative column. I detest competitive eating. I always have.

There are many frivolous pursuits in this world, and the realm of analog hobbies almost always involves some sort of consumer product that, if not the object of the hobby, is some sort of supply for the facilitation of it. For instance a stamp collection usually needs nice pages to put them in. Fountain pens need ink. Cameras may need film. In the cases of stationary and such, we use much nicer things than we need, surely a ball point or Ticonderoga pencil, with some notebook paper would do, but we indulge ourselves in the better pieces. That’s all well and good. However, I cannot abide competitive eating.

According to feedingamerica.org, 41 million in the United States alone face food insecurity. 13 million of them are children. However today I read this article, Competitive Eater Downs 501 Chicken Wings For Record-Breaking Win – TIME.

Molly Schuyler is the new champion of the eating world it seems. 501 chicken wings. It makes me sick. I suppose hobby shaming isn’t a thing yet, so here you have it.

Now, I have my excesses. I collect things. I could always do more charity. I buy things I don’t need. I have written about the need to be wary of consumerism, which is a warning to myself as much as anyone. I find competitive eating to be the very worst though. 13 million kids who are not sure where their next meal comes from, and we have people celebrating this.

I grew up in Chattanooga Tennessee. I believe that it is the home of the Krystal burger. I do love Krystal and they are fairly common where I come from. I remember that about the time I was starting to drive, around 2003, Krystal put itself through a revitalization. They remodeled or cleaned up their stores, made fresh new commercials and continued to sell the same great product. They also had Krystal eating competitions. I remember well that I was confused as to why they would do that. If they could sponsor some ninety pound person to eat several hundred Krystals, why were they not hosting free burgers for the homeless, or ensuring that some of the 5.4 million seniors in food insecurity, had a hot meal.

I have always been troubled by seeing hungry people, be it in life or on television. I was never hungry. Not once in my childhood did I miss a meal. I was just always upset by witnessing hunger. Later, as a young adult I walked the streets of Baghdad and saw hungry people. So many hungry kids we didn’t know how to help them all. We also had to transport humanitarian aid packages to refugee camps due to the “resettlement” as they called it when people reclaimed their homes with the downfall of Saddam. We transported and delivered the goods to make sure they got to where they were going safely. I have pictures of the kids who cheered our arrival knowing we brought food, some school supplies, and probably sweets in our pockets. I would post them, but I’m still not certain that is a good idea, for their sakes. I see those kids every time I put food on the table for my kids. It makes me mindful to teach them the ideas of charity and gratitude, to be sure not to waste.

I see those kids when I look at these people too.

I did not come here to chew the fat on this subject, I came here to say exactly what it is. These competitive eaters and the institutions which facilitate them are morally bankrupt, reprehensible, deserving nothing less than the complete disdain of everyone with any kind of human decency. In the case of Schuyler’s latest “achievement,” the culpable party is the entire city of Philadelphia. They put on the Wing Bowl every year, whether the eagles go to the Super Bowl or not. I suppose they are trying to tell us that Philadelphia is a utopia where there are no poor or hungry people? I’m wagering that this is not the case.

A couple of points. Firstly, this is not to include people who finish some larger than average meal and the restaurant gives you a T-shirt or takes your picture. Some of the accomplishments above are like that, but we are not talking five pound pizzas. That is a waste. If your finish the big bob burger or whatever, good for you. You can still take that home. You will probably never be in possession of 501 chicken wings, that when consumed in a single setting for a contest, are an immense waste. Secondly, ignorance is not an excuse. You do not have to be able to quote hunger statistics in this country or any other to be able to tell that competitive eating is for human trash. You do not have to know how many hungry children there are to know that there are too many for this kind of vile spectacle to continue. Other writers have called for competitive eating to be banned, but in many cases, such as this USA Today article, the ban call comes from the dangers posed to the competitors. I do not care one jot about these competitors. I know, it is a poor humanist who says that, I am working on it. Really though, I do not. I do not even agree with a ban. We are America, not the USSR, and we cannot just ban things we do not like, or that or so wasteful that it could be a crime in some places. However, I do say that what we can do is ensure that we spread the word about how many hungry people there are, proper food charities, and the fact that this human garbage…disposal is not an athlete, and not a champion. Oh yeas a champion eater to be sure. Also a champion at putting a finger in the face of every kid who goes to school mostly because they are served a hot meal there, at laughing at every hungry person in the world, a champion at stepping over the poor to receive this year’s “Trump Greatness Award.” This is America for you, and this is why the other countries hate us. You do not have to respect these people. I am not calling for harm, but we can stop supporting the businesses that put on competitions where they can get 10,000$ for overeating during an obesity and eating disorder crisis, nestled just nicely on top of the poverty I have already mentioned. Here’s looking at you Nathan’s hotdogs. We can put these people on every social media website where readers will care. We can call them out for the scumbag gluttons they truly are.

Some people will not like this. I’m ok with that. It is time to pick a side. Please, do not like this, and then go try your hand at pie eating or something. For those who haves the depth to hate this, here is Feeding America. Their Charity Navigator results are very good, so I put my trust in them.

In closing, this is an analog hobby that I will not support. It is one that I will cheer the end of. In anticipation of someone asking, “but what if they donate to Feeding America with their eating winnings?” Firstly, prove it. Secondly, food is still a resource which must be grown, raised, and prepared, and which can be made scarce. Giving currency to the food charity does not cancel out criminal amounts of food waste created by competitive eating.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

New Buildings In Moscow, Postage Stamps of the Soviet Union, USSR, 1983

These stamps here are perfect examples of Soviet stamps being meant to be sent and seen outside of the Union.  These are architecture projects in Moscow, that to me smack of modernness, and more importantly exhibiting what they had done for the olympics three years prior.

The entire series was issued on December 15, 1983.

This are the first ones I have catalogued and written about that are printed in relief.  The basic idea is that the image is etched out of the plate and when the object is printed, the ink fills in the spaces that were etched out.  It makes for incredibly beautiful and detailed stamps.  They are some of my favorites, and I often have to fight the urge to touch them to feel the printing.

At the end there will be more photos.

1979 Natalya Sats Musical Theater

This is the Natalya Sats Musical theater, formally known as Moscow State Academic Children’s Music Theater Named After Natalya Sats.  All infomation cited as (Wikipedia) can be found here.

Details: Issued 12-15-1983, face value 3 Kopeks-it would have sent a postcard.

Natalya Sats was the director of this institution in 1921, long before this building was opened in 1979.  Sats and her institution were part of Lenin’s wife wanting children’s art education to resume.  Sats had a break in her directorship due to the purges, but resumed until she died in 1993 at the age of 90.  (Wikipedia). It is very interesting, and if you have time you should read more about this fascinating institution for children.
The Central House of Tourists

Central House of Tourists

Issued: 12-15-1983

Value: 4 Kopeks, postcard or domestic letter

The hotel is now called the Astras, and it is still in use today.  Thirty-three floors, 537 rooms, opened 1980.  What I find interesting is the tiny silohouettes of people in the windows, all the way down the hotel.

Russian Soviet Federation House

Russian Soviet Federation House

Issued: 12/15/1983

Value: 6 Kopeks, post card, domestic letter, small registered item.  I believe registered to cover international as well.

As of 1981 this was the seat of Soviet government, and it is still in use for that purpose today.  It is listed as the Russian White House,  it reads to me more similarly to 10 Downing Street in London, home of the government and Prime Minister.  It replaced the Grand Kremlin Palace, which to me is funny.  It would seem that Bolsheviks would have wanted something clean and modern, unassociated with the czars and aristocracy, so this coming so very close to the end of the Soviet Union surprises me.  Of course, they did not know it was going to end in a decade.

I love this one.  Just look at it.  It makes stamps today look cheap by comparison.

Izmailovo Hotel

Izmailovo Hotel Complex

Issued: 12/15/1983

Value: 20 Kopeks, Postcard, but in five kopeks it will be more than a post card ever was, domestic letter, registered item.

Opened in 1979, this is actually a hotel complex consisting of four separate hotels.  It was built, in keeping with the theme, because there were not enough hotel rooms for the coming olympics in 1980, that were to be hosted in 1980.  These are still in operation today, ranging from 3-4 stars.  Interestingly this was the world’s largest hotel until 1993, when another was opened in Moscow.  It was beaten by the expansion of the MGM Grand in Vegas (Wikipedia).
1980 Olympic Press Center

This one, I admit, gave me some issues.  I had a hard time with the fact that the words in this case are printed in cursive.  I turned to soviet-postcards.com, and it just came back as “News Publishing Agency.”  I looked at buildings added to Moscow in the time frame, and found the part about it being for the olympics.

1980 Olympic Press Center

Issued: 12/15/1983

Value: 45 Kopeks, this would only have been used to send a registered item, and I speculate internationally.  Stamps were meant to show off to the world, and historaical rates say that no domestic letter needed more than 40 Kopeks.  Registered was between 6 Kopeks and 1 Ruble (100 kopeks to the ruble).  I figure this to be where all the press conferences, maybe the ceremonies and such were held for the olympics in 1980.  Now it is simply noted as being used as office space.  That is a step up from all the abandoned spaces created for the Olympics.

 1976: Postage Stamps of the Soviet Union

When I started writing this guide to the postage of the Soviet Union, I was still a new collector, but I had a whole year catalogued already.  I had the idea to write a blog/guide later.  Really the two are linked, as there was no such guide when I started.  There still is not now.  There is a rather expensive book, which I should probably get around to buying, which tells the names and some basic collectors information, but still this is the age of the free internet.  This information should be readily available.  So that is what I am trying to do, to share knowledge and information with at least a dozen people.  

    I catalogued 1976 first, I will be going back to write about these while I do 1983.  It will get me all caught up and it will help to keep new content being produced by me.  

    1976 was a big  year, Cold War wise.  You can read the full Wikipedia entry here.  Here is my take on the themes and key events that I see:

    The world was held in a seemingly unending Cold War.  Large events had come and gone and yet not much had changed.  The United States involvement in Vietnam was over and the nation was fully communist at this point.  The world could be described as tired at this point by this unending ideological struggle.  Technology was ramping up more and more, gaining speed as more was developed and advanced, helping to cushion some of the dreariness of the unending Cold War.  There was also hints at what would become the 1980s, as terrorism was picking up, and while terrorism will be later seen as the theme of a post Cold War age, it was also a result of the tensions created during this time, but one persons terrorism is another’s political strife.  You will see punk music taking off as a sign of stagflation gripping the West, stagflation being one more symptom that this was never going to end and was kind of hopeless, as the Sex Pistols say a year later “no future for me.”

  • Gerald Ford was president, but Jimmy Carter was elected same year
  • The Cray 1 super computer was introduced
  • The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Soviet hockey team
  • The Red Army Faction Trial begins in West Germany
  • The United States Vetoed a U.N. Resolution to form an independent Palestine
  • Cuba’s current constitution enacted
  • Toronto Blue Jays are formed 
  • Videla dictatorship is started in Argentina
  • Argentinian dirt war starts
  • Apple Computer Company is formed
  • The Ramones release their first self titled album
  • The Phillipines open relations with the Soviet Union
  • The Soweto Uprising begins in South Africa 
  • Strikes against communists raising food prices begin in Poland 
  • Socialist Republic of Vietnam formed
  • The United States Bicentennial 
  • The first class of women are inducted at the United States Naval academy, Annapolis 
  • Family Feud debuts
  • The Viking I lands on Mars
  • The United Kingdom breaks ties with Uganda after the hijacking of Air France 139, which also saw Israeli Commandos involved later against the Palestinians 
  • The Seattle Seahawks begin playing 
  • The First (known) Ebola outbreak occurs 
  • Viktor Belenko lands his Mig-25 in Japan and requests asylum from the U.S. (this one is good, we took it apart and examined it, and the Japanese returned it in crates, billing the Soviets $40,000 for crating services)
  • The Muppet Show is first broadcast
  • The “Night of the Pencils” occurs
  • 100 Club Punk Festival goes on
  • U2 is formed
  • The Cultural Revolution in China concludes with 
  • Clarence Norris, last surviving “Scottsboro Boy,” is pardoned
  • Microsoft is registered
  • The Viet Cong is disbanded and folded into the Vietnam People’s army
  • Mao Zedong dies
  • California’s sodomy law is repealed 
  • Richard Dawkins publishes The Selfish Gene
  • IBM introduces the IBM 3800, the first laser printer

All of these can be found on the Wikipedia page for 1976, and more.  This list was cherry picked by me from the larger one.  It is to be your jumping off point or refresher for this year (and decade as I am starting here) so that you can put yourself into this decade and thinks critically about it.  Reading about these events, listening to the music, will begin to give you a grasp of the worlds state, if you want it, so that you will perhaps better understand the stamps the Soviet Union was producing.  

Analog Savage 

Brandon Bledsoe 

Life in instant 3

I have given up on the slide shows, they were a nuisance.  I have opted instead for a few photos hear and there with a link to the full collection.  There should be little to no narration, just analog still frames of life with no do overs.  Full album here.

The Travelers Notebook

So, I do not mean to sound Jerry Seinfeld here, but is this thing The Midori Traveler’s Notebook, or is it The Traveler’s notebook, which happens to be have notebooks made by Midori?

    

    I have been using the Lihit Labs A5 cover, before this.  I have been talking myself out of getting this system for over a year now, but with an impending trip to New York coming up I was basically obligated to get it.  I mean, we will be traveling, and this is the Traveler’s Notebook, it just would not have made sense otherwise, right?  

    I am not going to list paperweight, dimensions, materials, everyone else does that and, if you have made it to this point, I am betting you can read, and all that information can be found here.  Really, I cannot do reviews of a lot of things, I have tried it, and I realized my problem was the technical standpoint, I am no good with it.  My area is the emotional realm, the personal, the…this isn’t true either.  My area is the inconsequential and unnecessary.  

    The Midori (as I will henceforth call it), is not simply a notebook, it is a system.  When you order it, it will show up in a cloth bag, which is in a box, and that is in plastic.  If you are OCD, you will love it.  I did not even want to open it.  It was neat and orderly, it was something you find in a clean room ( I have never found a clean room) and it just had a wonderful symmetry to it.  It is like buying a new shirt, you dont want to take it out of the plastic and remove the pins, you know it will never go back.  

     When you do open it, after you have enjoyed the packaging, you will find inside the bag the cover and a plain notebook.  I have not used the plain as I enjoy lined and grid paper.  The way this works is it has a main band attached through the leather and this…lug?   

    If you use just the notebook it comes with, you can just put the band on the staple page (dead middle) and walk away.  If you use more than that, you will need to order some of the hand elastic bands.  

    I placed the lined notebook in the picture so that you could see how they package things.  It is beautiful, it even has a nice little number on it.  Anyhow, the elastic bands, you use these to stick multiple objects into the system.  You place one around the front cover of one notebook and the back of the other and voila!  Me?  I have four things in mine so far, with a fifth probably on the way.  This is my lay out.  

    So I have a zipper pocket, a file folder, a daily planner, and a notebook.  The zipper pocket and the file folder are placed under the main band as the anchors, and then I put a notebook on either side of the file folder and placed an elastic band around the covers and the kraft file, BAM!  Amazing notebook.  

    Why does this appeal to me?  I think this requires a trip back in time.  

     That is my journal from high school and partly just after.  If you see the stuff sticking out of it, you will see that it is chocked full of souvenirs.  It has tickets, flower petals, movie stubs, a drink ticket after an ABI party in Germany, a drawing I stole out of a bathroom stall of Hitler using a toilet brush on himself, all kinds of stuff.  If you are still reading this then you know what is going on here.  The people who read this kind of stuff, you, they know notebooks.  The best way to describe this is, the way outsiders would,  I like to stuff my notebooks full of crap.  

    The travelers notebook facilitates this!  You do not have to break the spine of a book, and you do not have to depend on the back pocket like in a Moleskine, because while the back pocket is cool, it is only good for me to get the stuff back, I need it to be put in with the page that it goes with.  The notebooks for this thing are small, so they will be used quick, probably before I bust the spine.  That is not the best part.  The best part is that they make accessories for it, like double sided stickers for mementos, or, and this is the best, STICKER POCKETS!!!!!!!.  The sticker pockets are stickers applied to a page that put a pocket on it, and I do not know if they are purposefully this size, but it is the perfect size for Fuji Instax photos! Which I love to stick in a journal.  They used to be such a process, but no longer!  The stickers and pockets come on a sheet that is, of course, sized to the Midori books so they fit in your accessories pockets!!! The OCD is just being stroked sensually!  

    Everything fits together, and I love it.  I have not even gotten around to the actual paper.  Do not buy this if you hate ghosting (where you can see what is written on the other side of the page.  I have used both fountain pen, and regular pen, pencils of all sorts, and they work great, unless you hate ghosting.  Let’s go down the line of what I love and how I use it.

Daily planner:

  • It has room for two months, with a 31 slot index before each one.
  • Each page is numbered, so you can use it as the day of the month or a page number
  • A slot to check off which day of the week it is.
  • One page, one day. 
  • This leads to the notebook

Notebook:

  • I enjoy the paper quality
  • There is enough room to throw a date on it and use it like a journal i I need more space than is allotted by the daily planner
  • Because they are paired up with the daily planner, I do not feel the need to number the pages or conserve, it is simply an extensions, so paste all photos!
  • Did I mention the price isn’t bad once you are just buying the notebooks?

Zipper pocket:

  • I currently use it for stamps, envelopes, basic stationary…despite there not being any tear out stationary…I’ll fix that
  • I plan to put an eraser or two, which was basically impossible with he Lihit cover 
  • I could put a pocket notebook in the front pocket, but the back would be better.  
  • The back pocket is not a zipper, but it is an open faced pocket, two actually one on either side.  I store the stickers and sticker pockets in it.  I will leave one open in which I will place things I pick up until I get home and can put them in the notebook, temporary storage.

Kraft File:

  • Two sides, pockets on the inside, one per page, that allow you to store things you may need through out the day.  Each one also has a smaller slot for things like business cards.  
  • I plan on using it to hold our items for our trip, plane tickets, show tickets, schedules, reservations.  It is kind of the official type of pocket.  The formal pocket.  


   This may become my go to system.  I will come back with an update after New York.  

    The parts I plan on ordering are some pan am stickers which will go in the pockets, so that my travel writing it kitche, a pen holder, a book mark/stencil, and a weekly planner.  I feel the need for a weekly spot.  This system could really fill the gap for those who need a bullet journal, but hate the idea of drawing their own planner pages, like me.  This is officially part of my EDC.  It comes with one leather page marker in it, and I made one out of a thing my kids made me for Father’s Day, but I think you could put more leather cord into the lug.  

    I will tell you my favorite part.  When you are finished for the day, you put the second elastic, which is tied in the back, around it to keep it closed, and you throw it down on the table, it hits with a heavy satisfying thud of a notebook that speaks of someone who is well travelled and worldly.  When you hear this thing hit the table, you know people know you are interesting because of your heavy leather notebook.

5/5 

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

Stamps of the Soviet Union: 1983: Part 2

We are back with some more postage stamps from the Soviet Union.  The year is still 1983 (and at the rate I work, will be for a while.)  Some stamps will be more interesting that others, some I will do in large groups just to get them out, others may be here by themselves.  The Savage has four stamps for you to read about today.  

Firstly, something less interesting, in terms of actual Soviet things.  A commemorative stamp plate for Rembrandt’s “Potrait of the Old Man in Red.”  

     Rembrandt’s work is often featured in commemoration on Soviet postage.  Why?  Was he Russian?  No, he was Dutch, and they so much as tell you so on this plate.  The reason for so much Rembrandt is told to you on this plate as well, in short.  Catherine the Great purchased a good few of them–twenty-three actually–and they live in the Hermitage museum to this day.  

     It was issued on 1983/11/10 (YMD) and comes individually numbered.  The top of the plate reads “State Hermitage Musuem: Leningrad.”  The top of the stamps also says “State Hermitage.”  The bottom of the gold border on the stamp says Rembrandt, and the tiny print below that is the name of the actual piece.  The middle of the plate reads (roughly) “An assembly paintings situated in The Hermitage by Rembrandt, 1606-1669, the greatest Dutch artist of the 17th Century.”  Below this is the seal of The Hermitage.  

   The Hermitage actually has a Rembrandt room for all of these pieces.  I suppose it is worth noting the city is no longer called Leningrad, today it is Saint Petersburg.  

Next, is the 60th Anniversary of Aeroflot.  

    Instituted in 1923, Aeroflot was the state airline of the Soviet Union, and today is the flag carrier of the Russian Federation and their largest airline.  The airliner featured is an Ilyushin-86, introduced in 1980 and retired from civilian service in 2011.  The Russian Air Force may still use a couple.  There were 106 of them produced and they were the first Soviet wide body, and the second four engine wide body in the world.  The plane was reliable, but the engines, in true Soviet fashion, came off the assembly line outdated by twenty years when they were new.  Still this model never saw a fatal incident.  

     The bottom of the commemorative plate says “The largest airline in the world.” Below that says “60 years.”  

    A lesson came with that translation.  A lesson about Russian.  The three words came out by my hand as a name, airlines, and peace.  I typed them into translation software individually and they each came out as I had translated them.  On a whim I typed the same three words, no more no less, in as a whole phrase, and it came out “the largest airline in the world.”  I have learned not only a new trick, but a lesson that some things will not be easy, and I may need a Russian…
Now, let’s get into the really good stuff!

The 113th Anniversary of the birth of V.I. Lenin


    This kind of thing is in now way special.  I have seen all the years, but it is not far fetched to think that the only years there were not stamps celebrating his birth were 1922-24, the years he was alive and that they had stamps, and the year he died.  However, what makes this one interesting, in my opinion, is the sketch on the bottom right of the plate.  It has Trotsky.  Trotsky!  Trotsky was a no-go.  Stalin hated this guy, had him assassinated even.  Animal Farm tells the tale.  There were even some assassinations arranged in house of people falling out of favor, and their murders were blamed on others as being members of supposed “Trotskyist Plots” against the state.  This was the start of the purges!  Color me red with surprise at finding Trotsky on a Lenin stamp less than thirty years after Khrushchev denounced the boss.  The Rest shows Lenin with peasants, and with a soldier.  The bottom left sketch I am unsure about.  The Stamp itself is not bad either.  I feel it shows Lenin the revolutionary, speaking to a crowd.  Note the banners on the top and bottom right, and Lenin’s cap crushed in his hand.  
  Lastly, a stamp to commemorate World Communication Year.  

    Aside from Leon making an appearance, this is my favorite of the day.  In 1981 the U.N. decreed that 1983 was to be World Communications Year, a year to develop communication infrastructure.  They were not simply talking about improving phone lines, what they were describing was globalization.  

     Globalization was a term that came into use in the 70s, and is embodied, I feel, by the 1980s.  World Communications Year was supposed to show that in this new age of technology and progress no person (in a U.N. member state) was not to be disconnected from his local, state, and global community.  To me this is globalization.  It calls forth images of movies like Jumping Jack Flash in which Whoopie Goldberg works on a computer in a bank, effecting transactions in seconds between far away nations.  It is the sattelites in the sky, the computer, world news services, it is again, the bank seen in Ghost featuring ultra modern money laundering via the wire.  It was the cell phone and finally some things that we today call collectively, the internet.  That’s what 1983 was supposed to be about, to me that was what the 80s represented, and it is what the symbols on this stamp show.  I am not unsure what to make of the horn surrounding the globe in the image, and I do love how they highlighted their nation on the globe (The U.S. would have done the same.) I feel the idea of this stamp, the year, globalization, a good bit of the Cold War, and the 80s can be summed up by the largest symbol on the stamp, the radio waves which emminate from the stamp and onto the plate.  

Go watch and 80s movie and hunt some themes.  Better yet, do it while enjoying your stamps.  

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

Do you really like that? Using caution and discretion on the road to analog

My Great-Grandmother passed away recently.  She lived through a lot of things that we study in school, The Great Depression and World War II come to mind first.  She was a young woman when the Chicago Cubs were in their second most recent World Series.  Her death was preceded by about four years of being in assisted living due to not being able to care for herself, basically Alzheimer’s.  When my family began to inventory her home, it was found to be stuffed full of dollar store deals, yard sale finds, and things that had been on sale in bulk.  Notebooks by the hundred, odd singing bears, crap from every era since not long after the sixties.  The house was not all, there is a smaller house and multiple falling in storage buildings on the property.  In short, she had been hoarding.  Not the worst I have ever seen, but some of it.

Last year David Sax published The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter.  I have not read it.  I may, it is nothing personal to the author, it is just another book on the stack…yes, an actual stack.  I hold firmly to my belief that you can run a page and blog called Analog Savage without having to read a book about analog things.  The point here is that the title reflects a point I had made before, the idea of ‘The Real.”

The real to us is things that matter.  It is the quilt I am making for my son and the hours of my life that are sewn into it.  It is the tactile experience, it is the activation of the senses.  The real is craftsmanship, it is something original, something with a purpose.  There are a million ways to describe the real, and it is almost certainly easier to point out what it is not, rather than what it is.

That brings us to the dark side.  The real involves real things.  Physical objects.  They actual mass, real things take up real space.  I would say they cost actual money, but you can blow money on digital things as well.  The real, being analog, it all involves actual crap that takes up space and has to be stored and maintained.

I am the worst about it.  I am not a hoarder, but my friend Carl says that my hobby is having hobbies.  My wife says that my largest collection is my collection of collections.  These statements are both true.  Let us introduce the book pile.

There it is.  That is my personal monster.  Now, before you set about judging, I did not buy all of those and just not read them.  Many of those I was given by my Great Aunt, in a story that goes back to the Great Grandmother, and I have just not been able to get to them, or I have been listening to them as audiobooks.  There is a convoluted twisty canyon of thought that you do not need to sort through here, but they are on the floor because if they are on the shelf I will forget about them.  I am working on them.

We seem to always be in a race to outperform previous generations in materialism.  We just have so much crap.  Those books are not crap, they are heirlooms, and a chain of the thoughts of someone I love.  My Baseball cards on the other hand…

I love comic books, despite my hate/hate relationship with the publishers right now.  When I was in my latest collecting and reading frenzy of comics, before the writers decided that having a good story was the wrong way to sell books and titles proliferated into madness, I carried a monthly collection of twenty books or more.  When the storylines started to turn, I kept buying.  When it had advanced well past the point of sticking it out, I kept buying.  When even my favorite characters failed to please (google Bat-Chappie), when they made sure to involve each character in multiple series and big world shattering events came every quarter to squeeze every cent from us (secret wars…) I kept buying.  Why?  The same reason that a lot of people buy more and more, to bee seen as being current.

Keeping up with the Joneses is not just about the house and pool anymore.  It is now about showing how much you love something by keeping piles of it to sleep in apparently.  I had to buy Batman comics no matter how much they sucked due to my status of self-appointed supreme Batman fan of the world.

Now I have to apply a simple test, asking myself “Do I like this or do I wish to be seen as liking this?”  It does not break the cycle immediately, but it does confront me with the truth of some things.  Am I going to enjoy this, play it with friends, read it, use it, or am I going to try to find a corner in a closet to get this out of sight out of mind so that I do not need to feel bad for having spent the money on it, maybe pulling it out once in a while to show off when the thing is mentioned.

If it fails the test, just be honest.  Being analog is about actually enjoying the thing, not piling the thing up.  Am I going to interact with my Soviet Stamps every day?  No.  Am I preserving something that there will never be any more of, and getting a truly rewarding experience while doing so?  Yes.  Will I interact with my baseball cards every day?  No.  Am I enjoying them for more than five minutes after having opened them?  Not really…

This post was just to caution you about the rabbit hole of the analog things.  Now people write books about how to get rid of crap.  One of them I enjoyed just for the irony of it.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo is a book, in which there is a chapter about getting rid of your books.  This is where people got the notion of the whole “throw out things that bring you no joy,” I would caution against this extreme approach as I shove my treadmill, sister, and anything that resembles non-hobby work out the door.  The second irony is that they sell this book in the container store, and in the book she says that organizing is not tidying, it is just putting the crap somewhere else, somewhat neater.

This is the balance the tagline at Analog Savage speaks of, appreicate the printing press without buying one. To collect stamps you will need stamps, but start with a theme.  If you are going to explore the analog, be picky, be thorough, exercise discretion and judgement, and half fun without being buried under the weight of crap you do not actually care about.

Analog Savage

Stamp Collecting: Great Analog Hobbies

For many analog hobbies, it is true that if you look near the heart of the thing, collecting can be found in some form or another.

For me the love of the stamp came naturally, and was partially detailed in a previous post, but here is the short version.  My Grandmother was a Rural Letter Carrier.   My mother worked there off and on, My grandfather also worked there, and later my grandparents would retire from that post office.  It is/was one of my favorite places in the world, it is the post office for home, Soddy Daisy Tennessee.  I used to play out in the parking lot, and there was a wall to keep the ground from collapsing into the lot.  If you climbed to the top of it there were railroad tracks, it was at this rural post office, as a boy, that I saw the tan tanks on trains heading off somewhere in the early 90s.

Stamp collecting goes back to the advent of well…the postage stamp.  I love history, and if you look closely enough, there is a history lesson in every postage stamp.  What makes it great as an analog hobby besides that?  Well, it does not require a lot of start-up capital or specialized equipment or the thing we all seem to be short on, time.  It can be as simple as buying a sheet of stamps that you like at the post office and putting it away.  Places like Hobby Lobby sell bags of around 300 stamps for about ten dollars a bag, and there is a big mash up of stamps in those.  You will, of course, come across many repeats, but there are great things too, I have pulled plenty of WWII war bond stamps out of those bags.

I collected ever since I was a child, and it usually consisted of putting away sheets of the stamps that had come out and my family bought me what they believed I would like. Remember for me, the post office was a deep part of life.  I looked forward to the post office picnic every year.  There were good prizes for the games, usually postal related.  The point is, I was never one to trace rare stamps, or to have a giant book, but what I did have was Classic Movie Monsters, Bugs Bunny, and I Love Lucy.  This hobby allows you to pick your own involvement level.  Minimal investment, a vague interest, and the willingness to research.

Here is where I will say this for the first time: Digital for the win.  This hobby has been improved through the wonders of the Internet and the personal computer.  Guides, and lists, that used to cost money, are now available for free online.  My real collection is the stamps of The Soviet Union, and a website called Collectors Net has saved me the price of a sixty dollar book.


You will all have to forgive me from this point on with this post, I was just informed that I lost a family member tonight.

I decided to involve my son in stamp collecting and so we expanded a bit.

We buy the bags together, sort the stamps together, and then we do his favorite part, we soak the stamps in hot water and peel them from the paper they are stuck to and dry them in books.  It is time together, not in front of a screen (minus part of the research, if we do not use the hard copy encyclopedias) and he gets to learn some things.  Stamps do not offer much in the way of the tactile, but even at four, the taste he had gotten was enough to make him excited to see the National Postal Museum in Washington D.C. and as I said, it does not involve a video game or a television.  It steps into the real a little bit.

Bottom line-  You can start a quick and easy collection that can grow with your knowledge on the subject.  You can give the collection and the passion to your kids.  You will also be in some good company, FDR and Freddy Mercury counted among the great philatelist.

Let’s address that, philately, the study of stamps, is not stamp collecting.  However, you usually cannot collect stamps without some light philately, so do not get hung up on the two being used interchangeably.

The Bullets:

  • low initial cost
  • something for everyone-national icons, celebrities, sports, the stamp world almost has it’s own rule 34.
  • low initial knowledge need
  • Self-adhesive stamps are the devil

Tip  Bullets:

  • look up the Vario system, second to none stamp storage pages
  • The National Postal Museum has better articles than I could ever write on how to get started, right here.
  • get the kids involved
  • pick a niche at first-Hollywood, musicians, Soviet Russia, Cold War-era, the 80s, there is no limit to niches
  • Every year the post office puts out a complete guide to every U.S. Stamp ever, get it as your first serious purchase, runs about 45$
  • slow down, enjoy the learning, and the collection
  • pull it out and review it sometimes
  • Read articles
  • Getting a pen pal or two can help, they usually have cool foreign stamps if they are not from U.S.

Get out there and get an old fashioned stamp, and look at it.  If you are still collecting in a year, maybe you will be ready to study how they are printed.

Ganger-Bjorn, The Analog Savage

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