Stamps have a new value, and it has nothing to do with a rate increase from the postal service.
The Bothell Sons of Norway chapter rounds up used stamps and delivers them to TUBFRIM, a Norwegian humanitarian organization that sells the items to raise money for tuberculosis research and assisting handicapped children.
This philatelic philanthropy is something the organization is doing a lot of these days.
Sons of Norway delivers around 440 pounds of stamps to the program every year, making the U.S. a top contributor.
TUBFRIM’s sales last year amounted to 590,000 kroner, the equivalent of around $121,000 in American currency.
But there’s potential for more.
“They have more orders than stamps right now,” said Sue Waldrop, who handles the stamp drive for Bothell’s Sons of Norway. “We’re searching harder.”
The Bothell lodge has already accumulated 100 pounds of stamps for 2008, which is more than any year in the past.
Previous tallies have ranged between 20 and 70 pounds since Waldrop took over the collection operation in 2004.
This year’s numbers skyrocketed early on after the lodge hit a few jackpots.
One woman contributed 40 pounds of stamps that she found in the Pennsylvania home of her late father.
Another donor brought in 30 pounds, telling Waldrop that they were from his departed father, whom he said had a “habit” of saving canceled stamps with no particular purpose in mind.
“My mom used to do that kind of thing when she was working in a doctor’s office during the ’60s,” Waldrop said. “She would hang onto the envelopes when people paid their bills. She must have known that someone would want to use them some day.”
Waldrop started a stamp collection as a child after shattering her ankle in a boating accident. The incident left her with a permanent disability, requiring that she keep the injured leg elevated for several hours a day.
Sorting stamps gives Waldrop a way to stay occupied during those times.
“I have the TV on, and I can just sit there cutting and sorting stamps,” she said. “It’s an evening project for me. It’s nice being able to help somebody instead of just sitting in a chair.”
TUBFRIM asks donors to leave a half-inch margin of envelope space around the used stamps in order to preserve their perforated edges.
The organization also accepts post cards, stamp collections and even calling cards.
On the Norway end of the TUBFRIM operation is Arvid Syvertsen, who runs a used-stamp shop in the city of Nesbyen. He and an assistant sort the items and sell them to collectors and wholesalers.
Where do most of the shipments coming from?
Syvertsen told News of Norway: “It is very hard to say, but it seems that there are a lot with addresses in California, the state of Washington and New York.”
TUBFRIM got its start in 1928, when a Norwegian postmaster by the name of Ditlef Frantzen began collecting and selling used stamps with the goal of financing tuberculosis research and providing aid for children afflicted by the disease.
The organization started directing its efforts toward handicapped children as tuberculosis became less of a threat.
TUBFRIM has raised more than $3 million during its 80-year history.
Groups that donate to the organization qualify for a pair of round-trip tickets to Norway with every one pound of stamps they contribute.
Waldrop said the Bothell lodge would use the trip for one of its regular raffle drawings that raises money for a scholarship fund.