Today, somewhere near the bottom of a box of books, I found a stamp album. Within 0.25 seconds I'd gone from thinking 'What's this crap? to visualising the rare, unperforated 1872 Ceylon 2d blue that was waiting to be discovered.
I opened the album and was disappointed to see that none of the stamps had been issued before 1950. I decided to test out a theory which claimed that you could tell how wealthy a country was by its stamps. The richest nations are supposed to have small, dull austere stamps whilst the really poor countries have beautiful, large, colourful panoramas.
The results seemed to confirm the theory: Denmark - boring, USA - boring, France - boring, Rwanda - beautiful, Belgium - boring, Cameroon - beautiful...
The collection seemed to be completely random until the penny eventually dropped and I noticed a recurring theme: space.
The stamps mostly looked as if they'd been designed by the same person, with lots of earnest-looking astronauts, rockets blasting into space and satellites beaming propaganda into the living rooms of the civilised world. However, one nation bravely decided to buck the trend:
Good old Equatorial Guinea. Their stamp commemorating the three dead cosmonauts of Soyuz 11 is in a class of its own. There can't be many stamps (if any) that feature corpses.
I also noticed another set of stamps produced by Equatorial Guinea celebrating the success of the manned mission to Venus - something that has never happened and probably never will.
Apparently stamps are quite a lucrative export for developing countries, so you have to admire the Equitorial Guinean Post Office for staying one step ahead of the space programme. I look forward to their series celebrating England's World Cup victory.