Stamp collecting transcends time for Lakewood Ranch family

Lakewood Ranch resident with 1 million stamps takes after his dad

srocco@bradenton.comApril 6, 2014 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Sy Bricker remembers sitting with his dad, watching him organize stamps at the kitchen table. All the careful ways he would touch them, cherish them.

Julius Bricker was a construction engineer in the Bronx, and at the end of a long day, he would play with stamps. This was his time, his relaxation.

Sy, only 4 years old, would get Dad's garbage stamps, the ones that had little value.

The tradition between father and son remained intact -- until 4 turned into 14 and there became better things for Sy to do.

• • •

Sy Bricker went to college, got married and had two sons. After countless Little League games and football games, after the kids moved out and had kids of their own, Sy, now 70, found his way back to the kitchen table.

In fact, Sy's own table is now covered in stamps. Overflow from the million -- literally 1 million -- stamps that live in the back room of his Lakewood Ranch home.

There are stamps everywhere. Stamps in big binders along the walls. Stamps in tiny books along the walls. Rolls and sheets of stamps covering desks. Three of them. Stamps on shelves. Stamps in filing cabinets. Stamps in the closet. Stamps on the floor.

"It just burgeoned into a disaster called my stamp room," he smiles.

Sy, a retired middle-school social studies teacher, has the first stamp the government issued in 1847: a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, valued at $800.

Some collectors are topical, meaning they only collect stamps relating to birds or cars or flowers. Some are general -- they collect everything. Sy, however, is a country-specific collector, just like his father. He collects all United States stamps.

His favorite? A set from 1893 honoring the discovery of the new world. Pictures of Columbus and ships decorate the pretty postage.

But the Inverted Jenny is the apple of his eye. In 1932, the government misprinted the Jenny plane upside down, skyrocketing its value.

"A stamp I'll never get," he said.

It's valued from $225,000 to $1 million, depending on the condition.

So, exactly how much time does Sy spend pouring over his stamps each day? "According to my wife -- too long."

Where other wives may roll their eyes, however, Lucy Bricker embraces her husband's hobby. She helps organize stamps while watching her evening medical dramas and game shows.

"It stops me from eating," she says with a smirk.

Lucy, 69, drives her husband to stamp shows all over the country 18 times a year. They can never fly. His collection is too large to ship.

• • •

As time goes on, and as collectors die out, people like Sy Bricker will become harder to find.

"The time crunch that an individual has today is different than it was," Sy says. "It was about a simpler life 30 years ago."

But Sy's grandkids may prove him wrong.

When Samantha and Macie, ages 7 and 8, come to visit, they sit with Grandpa for hours organizing by subject or value. He pays them $5 each for helping.

A tiny, homemade box hangs from a string on Grandpa's stamp room door.

STAMP DROP OFF BOX is scrawled in blue marker.

Sy always sticks a few of his garbage stamps inside, the ones that have little value.

Sabrina Rocco, East Manantee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.

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