Kyabram Free Press
Will John be the last man stamping?
A K mart manager concerned about the after hours habits of his staff was the prompt Kyabram's John Werner needed to start on the path to becoming what we believe is one of the region's last stamp collectors.
John, 67, has an extraordinary collection of stamps and in commemorating Stamp Collecting Month explained to me last week how his passion for philately started.
“I was working in K mart at Campbellfield and the manager at the time was trying to encourage us to do something after work, other than drinking,” he said.
“He sent a few of us down to the post office at Ringwood and recommended we start collecting stamps.
“That was 1974 and it started from there.”
Fast forward to today, and taking pride of place on the book shelf of John's Saunders St unit is part of his 55-year collection of Australian stamps.
John has every Australian stamp that has been produced from 1966 to 2020 — and is well on the way to completing the feat for 2021.
John's intense connection to his collection was obvious when I asked, stupidly, if he had every stamp from the year that he started.
“You have to, that's what a collection is,” he said.
But John is not collecting for himself, in fact, he hopes that his collection acts as somewhat of an inheritance for his nieces and nephews.
“I am collecting for them. Whether they are interested or it just ends up in the skip, I don’t know,” he said.
“I wasn’t a stamp collector as a kid, I didn’t collect anything actually.
“You get to a certain age and think what are you going to leave as a legacy. That is why I collect.
“When the last tack goes down on the coffin, I don’t know what is going to happen. Hopefully it (the collection) is worth something.”
John has had his challenges with the collection, more so on a storage front than maintaining the desire to collect the Australia Post corner pieces.
“I was living in a bungalow, which had a bit of a vermin problem, so I had to relocate part of the collection,” John said.
“My sister-in-law’s father has 1966 to 1999, because they are all going to his grandchildren.”
He has been in Kyabram since 2003 and has a strong rapport with energetic Tongala post office licensee Tyler Stagg.
Tyler works closely with John to ensure he is kept up to date on any releases and has them ASAP to add to his collection.
“Because of COVID every two months I visit Tyler at Tongala, which allows me to put money aside for the stamps,” John said.
But it has become a more costly pursuit as the years have passed and John carefully budgets to ensure his income is sufficient to not only collect, but also live.
“A stamp in the mid-1970s was 33 cents and now they are $1.10,” he said.
John's budget notepad has only a few items to tick off — power, food and stamps.
“I know the stamps are coming, so I can budget for it. Wednesday night I have a roast meal prepared for me, but apart from that I budget carefully.”
He said the passion was hard to explain.
“You just can’t stop, and while I can’t get every component of every release, because it would cost a fortune, I do have every stamp released,” he said.
John's favourite year of stamp collecting was the 1988 Australian bicentenary.
Every year Australia Post releases a Collection of Australian Stamps booklet, which all sit neatly in order (until I got there) on John's book shelf.
“You are paying for the stamps, you are not paying much for the book,” he said.
John said he was hopeful the inheritance would live on with the next generation of his family.