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Park Forest man has put his stamp on club’s annual show

Duane Larsshows his collectinational parks issue 1934-1935.  |  Jaime Angio~For Sun-Times Media

Duane Larson shows his collection of the national parks issue of 1934-1935. | Jaime Angio~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 29, 2013 9:53AM



Duane Larson knows a thing or two about history and geography. It’s knowledge he gained through almost 70 years of stamp collecting.

“I think it started when I was a kid,” Larson said. “I was probably 6 years old and I got a stamp album and a bunch of stamps for Christmas or a birthday and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Larson, 75, of Park Forest, has been a member of the Park Forest Stamp Club for more than 40 years, serving a few times as its president.

It comes as no surprise he will be at the 53rd annual Postage Stamp Show on April 6 at St. Irenaeus Church, 78 Cherry St., Park Forest, exhibiting some of the millions of stamps from his collection.

“I had a stamp store, and cases and boxes in storage,” Larson said. “One time I bought 6 million stamps from one individual.

“I collect specific areas in one country. In the U.S., I collect the national parks issue of 1934 to 1935. That’s the only year they issued them.”

Larson once owned stamp shops in Harvey, Homewood and Park Forest. He started collecting U.S. stamps first and later had to narrow down his selection process.

“Living in the U.S., I started collecting U.S. stamps,” he said. “In school, we started studying foreign countries. This was during the war, so I started collecting Germany and Japan, Italy, what was going on during World War II.

“You start out collecting the whole world, putting stamps into each country and the album. And then little by little, you got that album full and graduated into a bigger album, and then you realized you couldn’t collect every stamp from every country in the world so you had to start specializing.”

Larson grew up in Jamestown, N.Y., and came to Midwest to attend Purdue University. He graduated in 1960 with a degree in psychology but never completely lost his passion for stamps.

“I sort of set the stamp collection aside for a few years, then after I got out of college I got back into it and have been collecting ever since,” he said.

He worked with RR Donnelley and then a pharmaceutical company before turning his hobby into a profession.

“I had been dealing in stamps on a part-time basis, selling at shows and doing some mail order business,” he said. “I got transferred to the Chicago area about 1969, and I was collecting stamps and coins at the time and visiting all of the stamp shops in the area.

“I walked into a place called Rosemoor, which I followed from Roseland to their store in Harvey. The owner said he was ready to get out of the business and wondered if I wanted to the buy the store. I was still working for the pharmaceutical outfit at the time, and I thought that would be an interesting field to pursue.”

Larson didn’t make the jump then, but a few months later left the pharmaceutical company and was looking for “something new.”

“I said, ‘Is the business still for sale?’ And he said, ‘Yeah’, and so I bought it,” Larson said.

Stamp shows and coin collecting have taken Larson all over the country and even the world.

“I’ve gone to shows in England, Switzerland and France,” he said. “We go to a small island off the coast of England called Lundy Island, and personally I’ve been there nine times.”

Larson, a divorced father of two, has won more than 50 stamp-collecting awards.

“They judge your exhibit and award you prizes: gold, silver, bronze,” he said. “I’ve won local grand awards and gold awards at the national level.”

Larson also has a master’s degree in music choral directing from Governors State University. He plays more than 10 instruments and sings with the South Suburban Chorale group.

“I play the trumpet, French horn, piano, guitar, bass, a little bit of everything and I’ve been a professional musician for over 40 years,” he said.



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