I harboured a secret hope that among the riffraff, the stamp valuer would find a hidden gem.
I imagined that one of those old English or Australian stamps was worth a fortune, akin perhaps to the Pink Panther diamond or that golden nugget. I saw beach front properties, yachts and first class flights in my future.
Instead, the valuer flicked rapidly through my childhood stamp albums, muttering a bit and finally disclosing their net worth -- nothing.
Nothing? Had he even lingered on the stamps from Tonga? Any stamps shaped like bananas had to be taken seriously (these were my favourites when I was in the thick of my collecting). I had thought that excessive fondling (they had raised bits around the perimeters of the little bananas which were to this childhood philatelist quite wondrous) may have diminished their value, but they were definitely worth a raised eyebrow and an appreciative nod. They had maintained their gaudy yellow for more than 50 years.
I asked him about the mint collections of flowers and frogs that formed little sticky stamp pictures?
He told me to use them as postage.
He slapped my albums into my basket, to attend to the long line of former childhood philatelists, each wearing that look of expectation that I had when I first made the approach.
I noticed their albums were a similar vintage to mine and I listened for a while as their hopes too were dashed.
My own basket weighed more than it should have as I lugged it to the car and a closer inspection revealed a wealth of coins and notes. The valuer had inadvertently added part of his own collection to mine. I returned them, wondering why everyone else's collection contained the Pink panther equivalent.
I mean, I would have skipped out with $5, but instead I left reflecting on a childhood wasted.
Those hours lovingly cataloging headshots of kings and queens, ordering them in date or price order were suddenly seen as time that I should have spent outdoors.
Back then though stamps weren't my only obsession. I also had an impressive collection of leaves (my favourite was heart shaped and considered my most valued possession) and bus tickets. You would be surprised at the variation of bus ticket that took me to school in the 60s and 70s. Luckily for the valuer, these little gems had long since been discarded.
I am only left to wonder at today's value of a bus ticket paid for with a threepence.