Bob Caughie has always been a collector.
He started as a young boy living in Occidental, collecting stamps of athletes, animals, presidents and palaces. He went on to work at Chevron, but in his off hours, stamps filled his world.
When he retired in 1989, Caughie devoted himself full-time to his hobby, opening Pacific Stamp Exchange on Grant Avenue. Today the tiny shop, stacked to the ceiling with boxes and flip files, is one of the last remaining stamp stores in the entire Bay Area.
Here philatelists, the term for people who collect and study stamps, can find interesting or unusual stamps, some of which are extremely valuable. Among Coughie’s collection are stamps commemorating world leaders such as Winston Churchill and Vladimir Lenin, stamps from the 19th century with Queen Victoria's visage and revenue stamps used by England to tax its colonies.
“Every stamp is a piece of art and has something to do with a country…the leaders, famous people, architecture, you name it,” says the 68-year-old Caughie. “It’s a little window into that world.”
On a recent day, a prospective buyer stopped in to check out the collection, poring over binders that are organized in alphabetical order on shelves ringing the tiny shop. But the art of stamp curation and collection may be a dying one, with little interest among younger generations, according to Caughie.
"Because of technology, texting and all that, younger people are not too interested," he said, shaking his head. "It's too bad. There's so much to learn from stamps."
Pacific Stamp Exchange is located at 866 Grant Ave. Unit 3. For more information, call (415) 898-2585.