Friends of the Farlow founding member Moselio Schaechter donated his collection of mushroom stamps to the Farlow Library. Assembled over the course of three and a half decades beginning in the 1970’s, the collection includes more than 2,000 fungi-themed stamps, postcards, and envelopes from over 160 countries and territories.
Philatelic catalogues indicate that the earliest stamps with images of fungi was a mid-1958 release of 10 stamps from Romania, followed by a 5-stamp set in Czechoslovakia later the same year, and a 7-stamp release in Poland in 1959. Schaechter’s collection includes complete sets of each of these releases.
Schaechter says he was initially drawn to collecting mushroom stamps as a “window into ethnomycology – which mushrooms are appreciated as food, feared as poisons, emblematic of the local biota.” Reflecting on whether stamp collecting was a successful strategy for this study, he found that amongst wealthier, developed countries, the stamps often provide insight into what people find interesting. In developing countries, however, the quality of the stamps is less consistent, making them more difficult to study. Subjects are sometimes selected at random and can be mislabeled or unlabeled.
Mushroom stamps have been issued by countries all over the globe, and if Schaechter’s collection is any indication, some of the countries which are particularly fond of mushroom stamps include Bhutan, the former Czechoslovakia, Guinea, Russia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Schaechter collected 38 sets comprising 235 stamps from Russia alone! On the other hand, while building his collection, he noted that the United States seems to have largely ignored the popularity of mushroom stamps in other countries. The collection does include one set of stamps from the U.S., but the two images of mushrooms are part of an overall “Northeast Deciduous Forest”-themed sheet and are not especially prominent.
To see the collection, e-mail Lisa DeCesare, Head of Public Services and Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org.