Ayn Rand on stamp collecting from “Why I Like Stamp Collecting"
which appeared in the Minkus Stamp Journal in 1971
The pleasure lies in a certain special way of using one’s mind. Stamp collecting is a hobby for busy, purposeful, ambitious people – because, in patterns, it has the essential elements of a career, but transposed to a clearly delimited, intensely private world…. A career requires the ability to sustain a purpose over a long period of time, through many separate steps, choices, decisions, adding up to a steady progression to a goal…. Purposeful people cannot rest by doing nothing…. They seldom find pleasure in single occasions, such as a party or a show or even a vacation, a pleasure that ends right then and there, with no further consequences.
The minds of such people require continuity, integration, a sense of moving forward. They are accustomed to working long-range…. Yet they need relaxation and rest from their constant, single-tracked drive. What they need is another track, but for the same train – that is, a change of subject, but using part of the same method of mental functioning. Stamp collecting fulfills that need….
In stamp collecting, one experiences the rare pleasure of independent action without irrelevant burdens or impositions. Nobody can interfere with one's collection, nobody need to be considered or questioned or worried about. The choices, the work, the responsibility - and the enjoyment - are one's own. So is the great sense of freedom and privacy.
People cannot interfere, but they can be very helpful and generous. There is a sense of "brotherhood" among stamp collectors, of a kind that is very unusual today: the brotherhood of holding the same values...
The pursuit of the unique, the unusual, the different, the rare is the motive power of stamp collecting. It endows the hobby with the suspense and excitement of a treasure hunt - even on the more modest level of collecting, where the treasure may be simply an unexpected gift from a friend, which fills the one blank spot, completing a set...
There is a constant change in the world of stamps, and constant motion, and a brilliant flow of color, and a spectacular display of human imagination... Speaking esthetically, I should like to mention the enormous amount of talent displayed on stamps - more than one can find in today 's art galleries. Ignoring the mug shots of some of the world's ugliest faces (a sin of which the stamps of most countries are guilty), one find real masterpieces of the art of painting..."
In all those years (when not active in stamp collecting) I had never found a remedy for mental fatigue. Now, if I feel tired after a whole day of writing, I spend an hour with my stamps albums and it makes me able to resume my writing for the rest of the evening. A stamp album is a miraculous brain-restorer.
Ayn Rand began collecting stamps at age ten, but as with many of us, she gave it up as other things in life caught her interest. Similarly, as with many of us, decades later she began collecting again with unbridled fervor. She was pictured on a stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1999. Today, more than 25 million copies of Ayn Rand's novels have been sold and continue to sell almost a million copies a year. Her novels continue to challenge the minds of readers and are debated on college campuses.