a magazine for the next generation of stamp collectors


Screentime – Lisa Berthin, StampCat Stamps (Full Interview)

*Published Winter 2024

A self-professed beginner collector, Lisa Berthin (StampCat Stamps on YouTube) has made 50 Youtube videos since 2021 with 1.3 thousand followers. You can find her practicing #xtremephilately – bringing stamps out into the “real world,” and sharing the vibrant stories behind the designs on the stamps themselves.

How would you describe yourself as a collector?

A few words/phrases that I would use are beginner, non-traditional, and exploratory. I’m more interested in the image pictured on the stamp and what can be learned about that subject rather than the actual specifications of the stamp itself – I don’t care for things like watermarks, varieties, or specifications of the physical stamps. By exploratory I mean I am not yet committed to any particular countries or topics, and I’m still figuring out what I’m doing and what I’d like to collect!

You collect stamps featuring cows facing left, which is amazing. Do you know how many different stamps you have that fit that description? What kicked off that very specific collection?

My topical collection of cows facing left was inspired by one of the episodes on Graham Beck’s Exploring Stamps channel! He was at a stamp show talking with the executive director of the American Topical Association (Vera Felts, at the time) and he asked, “What is the craziest topical collection you’ve come across?”  She replied that one of their members collects “Holstein Cows Facing Left.” I was extremely amused by this answer – just the obscurity and randomness of it. I laughed to myself and thought, “Well how many of those could there really be?” As you can probably guess, I then started finding stamps with cows facing left everywhere. Eventually I just started buying them when I encountered them. My current Cows Facing Left collection has 71 stamps from 35 different countries.

I love seeing others’ reactions when they ask what I collect and I reply with “cows facing left.” It’s fun to spot them when I’m looking through books at dealers booths, and I’ve also received many as gifts from viewers.

I just spoke to Dawn Hamman from the American Topical Association who mentioned running a topical listing for heifers facing left – was this you?

It wasn’t me who has the topical listing with the ATA – but perhaps it’s that original collector! I’d love to meet them one day and see their collection. (I should also mention – my collection is technically Bovines facing left – I learned that “cows” are female, and I haven’t done enough research to know if some of my stamps are actually showing males/”bulls.” Some of my stamps I think are also technically Buffalo or Bison and not cattle. But “Cows facing left” has a nicer ring to it!)

How did you get your start on Youtube? What inspired you to start your channel?

Even before collecting stamps, I loved watching vlog-style YouTube videos for fun. How I started my own channel is tied into the story of how I became a collector. In 2021 (during the pandemic) Ontario was in yet another lockdown. I went to visit my parents, who were in the process of renovating their home office. During the renovation, all of my Dad’s old stamp albums were spread out on the dining room table. I started looking through them and was captivated by the art and the variety of topics shown on the stamps from countries all over the world. On a whim, I searched “stamp vlog” on YouTube and came across Graham Beck’s channel Exploring Stamps. I was immediately hooked. I loved everything he was doing and decided I also wanted to collect stamps and document my collecting journey on a YouTube Channel- and that’s how the StampCat Channel was born!

One of the themes of your channel is xtreme philately – can you tell us more about what that is and how you got started with it?

Xtreme Philately is a concept popularized by Graham Beck where you find the image shown on a stamp in real life, and take a picture of the stamp at that location. It’s loads of fun, because for me it combines travel and adventure with stamp collecting, which is very different from the traditional way that we usually view stamp collecting. By visiting these locations, you can often learn more about its history – usually if it’s important enough to be shown on a stamp, it’s either a view worth seeing, or it has an interesting backstory. Xtreme philately is now how I choose what sights to see when I travel – it’s a great way to do some unconventional sight-seeing and explore somewhere new! 

Do you have a favorite xtreme philately experience so far?

It is so hard for me to pick just one! I like so many of them all for different reasons – either the view, the company I’m with, or the ‘obstacles’ (usually weather related) that I had to face to get the picture. I think when I consider all of those factors – my most recent adventure doing xtreme philately at Watson’s Mill in Manotick is my favorite so far. A lot of things actually had to align at the last minute for me to get that photo. I was in Ottawa that weekend with my parents for a family event, and we decided at the last minute to visit Watson’s Mill. Since I had not planned on doing any xtreme philately that weekend, I had not brought any of my stamps or tongs with me! I actually put out a post on social media asking if anyone local could let me borrow a copy – and was able to find one! I’m also very happy with the actual photo of the stamp itself taken at the Mill, as it seems to match the season perfectly – the picture on the stamp shows the leaves with vibrant fall colors, and we just happened to also be there in the fall. Finally, I had a great time touring the mill spending time with my parents. Now that I’ve started my own family, it is more rare that I get one-on-one time with them, so that day stands out in my memory also for sentimental reasons. 

What stamps/locations are on your list to visit?

One page from my stockbooks is actually dedicated to stamps for possible future xtreme philately! Right now, most of the stamps are from places around Toronto and Niagara Falls. Otherwise, I usually start stocking up on stamps for xtreme philately after I book a trip somewhere. I don’t have upcoming trips planned right now, but hopefully that will change soon! 

Your Mail Day videos put a fun, philatelic twist on the typical “haul” video; do you know about how many postcards/letters/stamps you’ve received from fellow philatelists and fans of your channel? Can you show us a favorite?

I recently counted that I’ve received over 100 letters and postcards from viewers, and I’ve received items posted from 27 countries, which is amazing! My favorite item is probably a hand-drawn cachet made by a viewer from Toronto to commemorate the birth of my son, coined by my followers as “stamp kitten.” She sent me the cachet in advance of my due date suggesting I could get it postmarked on the day he was born as a personal commemorative item. Besides that, another one of my favorite philatelic items is the longest stamp in the world, issued by Kyrgyzstan, and sent to me by Kyrgyz Express post.

   

In many of your videos, there are three pieces of art in the background featuring silhouettes of Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander. Can you tell us more about those?

I’m happy you noticed those! I love Pokemon and grew up playing the games. Some of the stamp accounts I follow on Instagram showcase stamp art – making collages with stamps or incorporating stamps into art pieces by theme or color. I decided to try my hand at it, and made a Pikachu from a sheet of yellow Marianne stamps sent by a viewer in France. After that I had to complete the Pokemon starter set with Bulbasaur and Squirtle (using green and blue Machin sheets from the UK) and Charmander (using a sheet of old orange Germany stamps that I bought on Ebay.)

If you could recommend just one of your videos to someone who wants to get excited about collecting, which one would you choose?

This was a hard one to choose because my videos seem to span such a wide variety of topics, but I would suggest the “Istanbul Adventure: Extreme Philately in Turkey” video since it starts with a quick summary about how and why I got interested in the hobby, and shows what exactly you can learn from doing xtreme philately. Plus I get to show off my exotic vacation to Istanbul.

Where can our readers find you on social media?

You can find me on Instagram @stamp.cat and on YouTube at the channel StampCat Stamps.