Online Resources and Exhibits

Stamp Books for a Weekend Read

Clayton Rubec


The COVID-19 pandemic has created a good deal of time for us to pass indoors. Most of us are unlikely to pick up a bag of unimportant rocks to study and use some of that time. But many of us might pick up a bag of unusual books, especially if the books include stories about stamps. Do you remember Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant searching for missing rare stamps in the 1963 movie, Charade? Such movies and books with stamp storylines have always attracted me. As a stamp collector, I have a library of philatelic catalogues, journals and historical books, possibly like many of you. But once in a while, I also read a fiction book with a stamp twist that makes the read even more fun. Here are eight books that, as a stamp nut, you might find interesting. There are lots of other titles with philatelic storylines. A few other titles are offered to attract your philatelic reading time.

Cover of The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects

John Tingley. 2015. The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects. Princeton Architectural Press, New York, New York. 175 pages.
This is a remarkable story of a man named W. Reginald Bray (1879-1939) who tested the obscure regulations of the British postal authorities. He did so by contriving a wide range of strange things to mail to himself, including himself, a dog and various bits of fruit, shirts and coins. He also created highly collectable covers that acquired rare postal markings and one of the world’s largest autograph collections. The book is profusely illustrated with postally-interesting items.

Cover of The Stamp Collector

Jennifer Lanthier (author) and François Thisdale (illustrator). 2012. The Stamp Collector. Fitzhenry and Whiteside Publishers, Markham, Ontario. 32 pages.
This book is story about two boys, one with a love of stamps, the other a love of reading. It is an unusual and dark story about the boys’ lives that unfold in a prison camp in China. One becomes a prison guard who likes to keep the stamps off incoming letters, the other becomes a writer whose stories (written before being imprisoned) are loved in other nations. The power of words in letters to the imprisoned writer (that he is prevented from ever seeing) is explored. The story is told through drawings and brief text. It was created as a fund-raiser by PEN International, an organization supporting imprisoned writers and journalists.

Cover of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Alan Bradley. 2009. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. A Flavia de Luce Novel. Doubleday, Toronto, Ontario. 416 pages.
This was the first in a series of warm books (now twelve) about the life of a pre-teen girl and her unusual family living in a ramshackle manor house in England in the early 1950s. Its author, Alan Bradley, is a Canadian. Young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a love of poisons, finds adventure and murders to solve in her rural British environment. This first book in the series includes significant reference to her father’s stamp collecting devotion and a penny black stamp that saves their financial skins. The father’s philatelic interest is a recurring sidelight to the stories that unfold.

Cover of Going Postal: The Story Behind the “Forever Stamp”

Allen Sanford. 2008. Going Postal: The Story Behind the “Forever Stamp”. Trafford Publishing, Bloomington, Indiana. 108 pages.
The gist of this short novel is that the American people and small mailers are being hoodwinked, bamboozled, fleeced and taken to the cleaners by a bunch of self-serving ingrates. The author obviously felt that the Forever Stamp should be free. It is an interesting read with other views on the efforts of the United States Postal Service.

Cover of Postmark Paris, a Story in Stamps

Leslie Jonath. 2005. Postmark Paris, a Story in Stamps. Chronicle Books, Shanghai, China. 108 pages.
This is a pleasant story, told mainly in illustrations, for children ages 9 to 12. The colourful world-within-a-world of postage stamps illustrates this account of a young girl's experiences in Paris. When she and her family move to the city for a year, one of the first places her father takes her is to the stamp market. Her adventures are magically captured in the dainty images of the postage stamps she collects. Read this one to your kids or grandchildren.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Stamp-Collecting President

Brian C. Baur. 1999. Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Stamp-Collecting President. Linns Stamp News. 167 pages.
All of us have seen philatelic items in auctions stating “ex-Roosevelt collection.” This book has photos and illustrations to guide the reader to further understanding of how important President Roosevelt's stamp collecting hobby was to him in his life. It describes how he got into stamp collecting, his accomplishments in promoting the hobby while President, what he liked to collect, and information about the auctions that were held to sell his collection after his death.

Cover of The Scarlet Ruse: A Travis McGee Novel

John D. MacDonald. 1980. The Scarlet Ruse: A Travis McGee Novel. Reprint Series No. 14, Random House, New York, New York. 336 pages.
This author was once my favourite for a beach read with a tall glass of lemonade. The main character, a private investigator named Travis McGee, is getting lazy. Drinking Boodles gin on his sailboat The Busted Flush has become a full-time job. But when he hears that six figures’ worth of rare stamps have wandered off, McGee finds himself back in the salvage business. To deliver on this case, McGee has to be suspicious of everyone he meets, because the stamps he is looking for are the property of the mob.

Cover of Antigua, Penny, Puce

Robert Graves. 1936. Antigua, Penny, Puce. Penguin Books. London, United Kingdom. 255 pages.
This is a story of intrigue and squabbling among family members of the right to auction off the “world’s rarest stamp” and the ends they would to in order to prevent that.

Here are 28 more (mainly British) stamp story titles for you to consider in your leisure time:

  • Hit Man, Lawrence Block
  • The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogey, Lawrence Block
  • The Case of the One Penny Orange, E.V. Cunningham
  • Bloodhounds, Peter Lovesey
  • The Chinese Orange, Ellery Queen
  • The Adventure of the One Penny Black, Ellery Queen
  • The Mandarin Mystery, Ellery Queen
  • Big Money, Peter Turnbull
  • Black Mail, Doris Disney
  • Mrs. Meeker's Money, Doris Disney
  • Unappointed Rounds, Doris Disney
  • Cancelled in Red, Hugh Pentecost
  • Darling Corey's Dead, Maurice Welk
  • Death of a Postman, John Creasy
  • The Great Mail, Clarence B. Kelland
  • The Postage Stamp Murder, George C. Bester
  • Stolen Stamps, J. Bruce Chiltenden
  • Chalon Heads, Barry Maitland
  • Dead Letters, Sean McGrady
  • Town Without a Zip, Sean McGrady
  • Sealed With a Kiss, Sean McGrady
  • Dutch Blue Error, William Tappley
  • The Fourth Postman, Craig Ric
  • McNally's Secret, Lawrence Sanders
  • The Mystery Box, Frederick Highland
  • Return of the Jenny, Dick Stark
  • Solomon's Seal, Hammond Innes

Copyright © 2020 Clayton Rubec
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This page was last modified on 2020-10-06