Stamps and Postcards - Science or Play?


The point of departure is a case study of a French collecting couple, with a focus on their very different ways of collecting stamps. I shall then go back to mid-19th century and follow the different modes of collecting postal history up to our time. These collecting modes depend on societal norms for gender patterns as well as on dominant scientific paradigms. The aim is twofold; I want to point out the impact of scientific thought on everyday life, even on leisure activities like collecting, and I want to trace some lines of development in the history of gender and material culture. Much literature on collecting has been published during the last decade, but next to nothing on its most widespread branch, that of stamps and postal history, a hobby with hundreds of millions of adherents in the 1990s and an annual economic turnover of around ten billion US dollars. Collecting habits reflect ideologies of order and discipline, of knowledge and methodology, and of gender. A longitudinal study of the history of postal history collecting may shed some light on these issues.1

How to Cite

Rogan, B., (2001) “Stamps and Postcards - Science or Play?”, Ethnologia Europaea 31(1), 37-54. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Bjarne Rogan (University of Oslo)



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