Stamps of Approval
November 9, 2021
If you’ve gotten mail from MLT in the past, you may have noticed letters are often sent using an eclectic assortment of postage stamps. This is thanks to the passion and generosity of Jim Havlena.Jim became a MLT supporter very soon after arriving in Fort Bragg in 2005. While he supports many nonprofits, Jim says he was particularly drawn to supporting MLT because “they do good work and they accomplish things. When I see what they get done I know they are functioning quite nicely.”
Jim has been interested in stamps since he was 14 years old. While many young philatelists (stamp collectors) lose interest in stamps when they go off to college, Jim’s interest has stayed with him throughout his life. Jim also loves geography and found collecting international stamps to be a way to learn about other countries. The artwork on stamps intrigues him: “I see stamps that are butt-ass ugly, some beautiful, some obscure but always interesting.” Recently a portrait on a stamp caught his attention because it made him think of Alfred E. Neuman. Looking closer, he ended up learning about Padre Félix Varela, a Catholic priest who was part of the fight for independence in Latin America in 1820s Cuba. Stamps always bring him something new to learn.
Jim points out he is more of a stamp accumulator than a stamp collector. You won’t find his stamps pristine and catalogued in binders. Rather he keeps them in folders by value – postage value – primarily to be used in assisting nonprofits with their mailings. Jim shared stories about people buying up stamps with the hope that they’d increase in value but states it is almost impossible to make money off currently-issued stamps these days. He adds that when countries issue stamps, they run their numbers based on the assumption that a certain percentage of stamps will be purchased but never used, either misplaced or kept by collectors. “I mess up their statistics,” he says with a chuckle, “but I don’t care.”
Havlena purchases current issues of stamps that interest him at the post office. Pre-COVID he frequently went to stamp shows where dealers have sheets of stamps available at face value from as far back as the late 1940s. And it is not unusual to score sheets of stamps discounted 80% of the face value because the dealers got a giant batch for next to nothing and the average person does not want to take the time to cobble together $0.58 worth of postage from a bunch of six-cent stamps!
When asked what people should look for when receiving MLT mailings with interesting stamps, Jim says, “I know some people won’t even look at them. Some might glance and wonder why it was posted like that. My hope is that interesting stamps will make people more likely to open the letter and it won’t go straight into the recycling.” If you look closely at your MLT mail, you may notice some of the stamps still have margins attached or, if you get really lucky, a plate block with a number. While this means little to most people receiving mail, stamp collectors are excited to find these artifacts included.
Jim says he misses the times before the pandemic when MLT volunteers would gather for envelope-stuffing parties at the old office on Franklin Street. It was an opportunity for him to share his philatelic knowledge with the MLT cast of characters who Jim found almost as interesting as the stamps. We are sad that it is still not safe to gather and appreciate that Jim has already picked up envelopes to carefully apply postage to. Jim says, “My goal is to support the work the Land Trust does, and I certainly like doing it by donating stamps.”
Please watch your mail the week after Thanksgiving for MLT’s annual mailing. It contains lots of great news about conservation in Mendocino County and hand-selected stamps for your enjoyment! Much thanks to Jim Havlena for his generous donation of his time and his stamps year after year.
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