I have always thought postage stamps were neat. I admit I'm the ass in the post office line asking if I can see all the current stamps when I get to the counter, so I can pick out the coolest ones. (This, by the way, is unheard of in Australia; I've only found one post office where the lady is nice enough to let me pick my own stamps.)
But I have never collected stamps. The hobby holds no appeal for me and never has. What I am hooked on, is rarity. The idea that there are only x number of something in the world sucks me in, no matter what x is. I understand the collectors that want to own what no one else owns; I don't have the ego for it, but the idea of owning something that is completely unique is a seductive one.
That's why I bought this book on a whim. That and the cover. James Barron is a New York Times journalist, who stumbled on the story of the one-cent magenta stamp at a cocktail party; the article he wrote about it led to this book, where he chronicles the path this odd-looking stamp took on it's way to becoming the world's most valuable stamp, selling at auction in 2014 for 9.5 million USD, to Stuart Weitzman, he of the red-soled shoe empire.
This is where journalists who write books shine, especially for someone like me, who knows almost nothing about stamps or philately. Let's face it, stamps do not lend themselves to page-turning drama, and philately needs all the help it can get if it's to appeal to those outside the bubble. Barron succeeded beyond my expectations. I completely enjoyed this book and spent all day reading it. His journalistic style brought the stamp's history to life, and even though he has a bit of fun with the eccentricities of "Stamp World" as he calls it, I thought he did a brilliant job describing the passion and dedication of the hobby in a sympathetic way.
I'm thoroughly surprised and delighted at how much I enjoyed this book.