New stamping ground for postage artifacts at McGill University

"Every Stamp, a Story," a new exhibit at McGill University, showcases all kinds of postal-related paraphernalia, some of it dating 4,000 years.

'Every Stamp, a Story' on display at McLennan Library until May 14

220 stamps are on display at McGill’s 'Every Stamp, a Story' exhibit this weekend. (McGill University)

David Lank is not a typical stamp collector. 

He doesn't care about how classically beautiful the stamp is or how expensive it was. He doesn't mind if the edges are crooked or even if someone has licked it.

In fact, the only thing Lank actually cares about is the story behind it.

That was the thinking behind McGill University's Every Stamp, a Story, an exhibition in the McLennan Library that displays the world's largest collection of themed stamps.

The exhibit showcases postal paraphernalia, some of it dating 4,000 years.

From 50,000 items 

Lank, who is also the director emeritus of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies, selected 220 stamps and other postal artefact from his collection which boasts more than 50,000 postal items.

Lank chose his stamps based on their stories.

"The stamps don't have to be beautiful, they have to be interesting," Lank told CBC's Homerun.

But many of the artifacts are both.

Lank says amongst many of his favourite items is the world's first airmail stamp from 1890. This stamp was carried by a pigeon travelling from Auckland, New Zealand.

The threepenny beaver was the first Canadian stamp ever produced, in 1851. (McGill University)

Despite his love of postal paraphernalia, Lank admits some of his stamps are distasteful.

"There's another one that makes you want to barf," says Lank.

He has a stamp printed on 23 karat gold to commemorate the death of an African dictator.

A favourite for Lank though is a stamp from Abkhazia, an independent province in Georgia.

It was in response to Laos issuing a stamp of Karl Marx and the dove of peace in 1983.

In 1994 Abkhazia issued its own stamp of peace honouring Marx and Lennon — that is Groucho Marx and John Lennon.

Stamp of approval

Lank says his pitch for a stamp exhibition was not well received at first, but he was persistent.

The launch of the exhibit attracted enough interest that the library was required to livestream the opening lecture of the event.

"We're absolutely delighted," says Lank.

The exhibit is on public display at the McLennan Library until May 14. It can be found in the lobbies of the main and fourth floors.