FOR youngsters (and adults) tired of the increasingly hard-core world of baseball-card collecting, Olympic stamps may be just the ticket.
The Spanish stamps issued here for the Barcelona Games are selling like hot cakes. Strolling vendors hawk ready-to-mail Olympic envelopes, and the second-ever exhibition of Olympic and Sports Philately and Coins is being held in conjunction with the Games.
"The philatelic public is trying to bring in some of these kids by showing them that they don't have to pay $10, $15, $20, et cetera, for a stamp," says Mark Maestrone of San Diego, president of Sports Philately International, a group of about 450 worldwide collectors. Olympic stamps worldwide "are actually very, very reasonably priced."
In fact, the price of admission to the global hobby is the cost of a stamp. In the United States, the US Postal Service is currently selling six 29-cent commemorative stamps depicting volleyball, gymnastics, boxing, soccer, and swimming.
A sixth honors baseball's acceptance as a medal sport and shows the winning American design from an International Stamp Art Contest.
Olympic stamps date back to 1896, when Greece, host to the first modern Olympics, helped finance the Games with the sale of stamps. Olympic stamps since have proliferated worldwide.