Dennis Welbourn was idly looking at some of the stamps he had been collecting in his spare time when he noticed he had stamps relating to The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda, the United States, Australia and England. That got him to thinking.

Patricia and Dennis Welbourn examine the stamp collection
Patricia and Dennis Welbourn examine the stamp collection

Gosh, I thought, I wonder how many Salvation Army stamps are out there in the world? So that got me to looking,” he says. It took years of acquiring, trading and collecting, but Dennis now has 94 Salvation Army stamps from 32 countries, and he is always on the lookout for more.

“The Salvation Army Lady”

This is not Dennis’ first foray into philately—the collection and study of postage stamps. Born in Hamilton, Ont., he started saving stamps as a young boy with his father.

“But when I got to be a teenager, girls became more interesting,” he laughs, “and then I got married and had a family, and that was that. I put my stamps away.”

But he resurrected his hobby with retirement and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I needed something to do and so I started up again,” Dennis says. “I can’t shovel snow anymore and I can’t cut the lawn as we now live in an apartment.” He and his wife, Patricia, started attending stamp shows, and some relatives and a few people at his church donated some of their own collections to him.

“We let people know that we are Army people and we’re proud of it.”—Dennis Welbourn

“That kept me going through the pandemic,” he says. “If I didn’t have my stamps, I would have gone around the bend!”

This was when he noticed the Salvation Army stamps he had mixed in with the rest of his stamp collection, and that sent his hobby in a new and unexpected direction.

The Welbourns started attending stamp shows on a specific mission. Patricia, who goes by Trish, would go up one side of the dealer tables while her husband would scan the other side.

“Soon, the dealers started calling Trish ‘The Salvation Army Lady’ because she was always looking for Army stamps,” Dennis smiles.

“I Like a Challenge”

When the stamp shows all closed down during the pandemic, Dennis widened his search online to collectors all over the world.

Stamps from Antigua and Barbuda

“I’d send collectors a list of the stamps I wanted and they’d mail me what they had, and then I’d send another list to another dealer and so on,” he says.

Dennis has been in touch with collectors in England and Australia to see what Salvation Army stamps were available out there. And like any good collector, he has “grail stamps” he would love to obtain.

“Yes, I have a list!” he says. “I think there’s about 19 I’m still looking for.”

Dennis acquired one long-sought-for Salvation Army stamp from Korea by trading 164 stamps he possessed from Bermuda.

“It was a great exchange,” he says. “This stamp was one I really wanted to have. And I had duplicate stamps, so I was happy to help out a fellow collector.”

Another time, Dennis read in Salvationist that Greenland had just released a Salvation Army stamp.

So what did he do?

He contacted the Army offices there!

“I got a hold of some Salvationists in Greenland. They were kind enough to go to their local post office, and they sent me the stamp I wanted,” says Dennis. “Sometimes it’s a challenge, too—and I like a challenge.” 

Proud History

Dennis is a third-generation Salvationist who attends Meadowlands Corps in Hamilton.

A collection of stamps

“My grandfather was an officer. One uncle was a colonel, the other was a brig - adier, I’ve got a few cousins that were majors and two uncles were missionaries in China—I guess you’d say I’m the black sheep of the family,” he laughs.

“I was just telling my corps officer that I don’t remember when I was saved because I’ve always been at church, from the earliest time that I can remember.

“The Salvation Army is part of my life,” Dennis says simply.

Dennis and Trish are not shy about their faith.

“We let people know that we are Army people and we’re proud of it,” says Dennis. “People in our apartment building all know that my wife and I go to The Salvation Army. And they come to us with their problems. People from different parts of the world and from different faiths. They come to ask us to pray for their family if anyone is sick because they know we care.”

So, collecting Salvation Army stamps for Dennis is not just about the pretty pictures.

His Salvation Army stamps show Salvationists working hard to help people, both spiritually and practically.

“They are a history of my church and that’s what I appreciate,” he says. “When I look at the accomplishments on these stamps, it makes me proud.”

Like any collector, Dennis has his favourite stamps. They may not be the rarest, oldest or most expensive, but they speak to him. Here are a few, in his own words:

Stamp from Antigua
When The Salvation Army first started in Antigua in 1903, its members didn’t have a church, so they held their first services under a tree. That tree was memorialized on a stamp in 2003.

At a stamp show one day, a dealer called us over to see if we were interested in a postcard showing a Salvation Army wartime canteen with soldiers standing around. Of course, I wanted it but when we brought it home, my wife realized that one of the soldiers in the background was actually her father, who was a serving soldier! To anybody else, it’s just a postcard, but to us, it’s an important part of Patricia’s family history.

Stamp from Monaco
One that really struck me was a stamp from Monaco with Catherine and William Booth on it. I hadn’t realized that The Salvation Army was there and that they had anything to do with Monaco. That surprised me and I was so glad to get that stamp. It’s different. It’s history and that’s what keeps me collecting.

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