Dennis Mosbeck needed all of 15 words to tidily describe the joy of collecting stamps as a hobby.
"The nice thing about stamp collecting is you can do whatever the devil you want," Mosbeck said.
It's around that simple premise that the Merrimack County Stamp Collectors group was created in May 2004, providing local philatelists an outlet to share their pastime without "any structure whatsoever," according to founder and group president Dan Day.
No structure whatsoever? That's speaking The Insider's language! So we stopped by the group's monthly meeting at the Bow Mills United Methodist Church to get a handle on just what was shaking.
The group is a little more than 20 members strong - with 15 or so showing up regularly at the monthly gatherings, Day said - and includes enthusiasts from all over the state and even Massachusetts. There is also a fair amount of crossover with the Manchester Stamp Club, which meets on the fourth Monday every month in the Queen City.
The Concord meetings are as informal as advertised, with pots of coffee and plates of cake at the back of the room and a large, square table in the middle where members gather and chat. There is no beginning, middle or end to the meetings; rather, the conversations and deals begin as the attendees meander in, and continue until everyone has exhausted his or her agenda for the day.
"The whole idea is just to have fun with what we're doing," Day said. "It's very comfortable, very informal. It's just about sharing everything we've got, and that's all different kinds of stuff."
Indeed, most members have a focused area of interest, whether it be U.S. stamps, international stamps or stamps dedicated to a particularly country or event. The size of the collections range - though Day estimated his has grown to "a couple-hundred thousand" - and members can bring as few or as many as they like to any given meeting.
Day said he began collecting as a child but stopped until he retired several years ago. Once he began collecting again, he and his wife decided to see if they could get a group of people with similar interests together.
The meetings were initially held at the Centennial Senior Center in Concord until the center closed in 2006, prompting the move to Bow, where the group continues to meet on the third Tuesday of every month at 1:30 p.m.
Day's story was not unique, it turns out, so the club quickly gained traction.
Members will often sell stamps to each other, though for those who aren't looking to spend money - as Mosbeck, a self-proclaimed "junk collector," admitted in his case - trades are also frequently negotiated. Attendees will regularly bring new finds and information to the meetings and share the knowledge with the rest of the group.
One such item was a tool brought to last week's meeting by Ron Emery. The item allowed one to take detailed, close-up photos of a stamp and transfer them directly to a computer, allowing one the opportunity to more closely examine an otherwise diminutive item.
Such considerations are hardly trivial. Discussion quickly turned to one stamp that can vary in value from $300 to $70,000, depending on the difference in one microscopic detail.
The meetings also include discussions about upcoming auctions or trade shows, another popular venue for purchases and trades, and include several publications focused on stamp collecting as a hobby.
For the members of the club, the stamps represent much more than dollar signs. Pat Gareri, who said his collection of 40,000 or so stamps is largely focused on used foreign items, is currently trying to find a stamp with a cancellation date to correspond to every day of the year. He is charting his progress on a wall calendar.
He also collects duplicate stamps from members of the club and sends them to a VFW in New York, where they are later dispersed to children's groups and veterans.
The history behind the stamps is equally appealing to many members.
"Every stamp ever made was created to honor someone or some event," Day said. "You learn geography, you learn history, and a lot more if you want to go in depth.
Day also noted that many foreign stamps are written in native languages, providing an opportunity for members to learn and share an entirely different kind of knowledge.
"If you're not sure, bring it here and show it to everyone," Day said. "It's good to be able to talk about the concerns we have together."
The group has stayed true to Day's premise of keeping things casual. Dues are a robust $1 per meeting, Day said, and new members are always welcome. A pair of interested parties attended for the first time this month, blending seamlessly into the discussion around the table.
"It's all about enjoying what we do, and sharing," Day said.