It'd probably be a stretch to say that Paul Morton's favorite time of the year is Oct. 15 and 16, but it'd be close to the truth.
It's not his birthday or anniversary with his wife, Jenny, nor a national holiday of any kind: It's the dates for the annual NewMexPex, held again in Rio Rancho.
The New Mexico Philatelic Exhibition - from which "NewMexPex" is derived - will be at Meadowlark Senior Center again this weekend, running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
There is no charge for admission or to park at the senior center for the sixth annual such show for the sponsoring Albuquerque Philatelic Society and the Rio Rancho Stamp Club; Morton belongs to both.
Although stamp collecting is thought by many to be a hobby for old-timers - and, looking around at a stamp club meeting, it's easy to make that assumption - Morton has found a way to make it a fun and challenging hobby.
Morton said at a recent meeting of the Rio Rancho Stamp Club, which meets the first and third Wednesdays of every month at the senior center, that he started collecting stamps as a youngster, growing up in Grant County.
And, he continued, he later formed a chess club while in high school.
"It took me 50 years to put them together," he explained, then literally showing Rio Rancho Stamp Club members several of his chess set collections - one comprised solely of salt (filled with Morton salt, of course) and pepper shakers.
Morton has assembled an exhibit - 15 sheets, each 8½ by 11 inches in size - "marrying" chess and stamps, with a salute to one of his chess-playing heroes of yesteryear, the late Bobby Fischer.
Morton knows just enough about stamps, Fischer and chess to be dangerous.
His exhibit, which you'll be able to see at NewMexPex - Morton also has a multi-"frame" exhibit on Grant County - basically introduces people to his favorite board game, assuming "You know nothing about chess" and ends with information on Fischer, who is the only U.S. world champion.
"All six pieces, how they move, the object of the game, etc.," are explained in his exhibit.
Several nations have honored Fischer, an expatriate of the U.S. after he defied an embargo in 1992 and went to Hungary to play Russian Boris Spassky, with commemorative stamps. They're displayed on several pages in Morton's exhibit.
"There's a wide variety of topics," he said. "You can find almost everything on stamps."
A wide variety?
Fellow stamp club member and NewMexPex co-chair Thomas Clinkenbeard, for example, has assembled quite a few exhibits: "Mozambique Co.," "The 2-Cent Washington of 1883," "Stamps Tell the Story of Nuclear Energy," "Golden Statuette (about Academy Award winners)," "The Byrd Stamp" (issues and uses, and it includes a signature of Byrd), "Around the World in 80 Days," "Yuri A. Gagarin - First Human in Space," "Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart," "Elvis and the USPS," and "The Man, The Myth, The Legend - Bruce Lee."
Once you've decided on a topic, you can get a head start on your search by doing a Google search: Stamps, first-day covers and the like can always be found on eBay.
"It's a lot of fun," Morton says. "But it's a lot of work, as well. Whatever you collect, have fun with it."
For more information on NewMexPex, contact Morton, the co-chairman of the event, at email@example.com.