OU alumnus George Bibbo cleaned out his closet and donated Wednesday more than 45,000 stamps--preserved in shelves over his button downs--to the University of Oklahoma Foundation, Inc.

The collection, fronted by his father, James Bibbo, Jr. in the mid-1920s, is one of the few complete collections of Non-Cancelled U.S. Commemorative and U.S. Air Mail stamps issued by the United States Postal Service and only the third complete collection on permanent display in the United States.

The collection, formally presented Wednesday, is displayed at the United States Postal Service's National Center for Educational Development, 2801 State Highway 9.

"Do we typically get stamp collections? No, stamps don't really fit in here," said Robyn Tower, OU associate vice president the office of development. "But the postal training center was very interested in it, so OU agreed to take the gift and loaned it to the postal center to be displayed."

Bibbo, a previous donor to OU and 1974 graduate in architectural design who's worked with several Madison Avenue agencies in New York, along with his brother and sister inherited the collection in 1986.

After his father passed away in 2000, Bibbo purchased the Air Mail portion from his sister, who was going to sell it on eBay, and bought his brother's portion--the full sheets--in 2008 when Bibbo discovered the stamps were being used as postage.

"It just galled me to see the collection split up or squandered," Bibbo said.

Bibbo's son isn't a collector, and he knew the only way to keep the collection intact was to donate it.

This collection will serve as extension of the ongoing stamp memorabilia at the postal center, said Scott Morgan, manager of the center, as he walked along a corridor of the Northeast Learning Center, where the collection is showcased, pointing to large-scale images of stamps such as one of baseball player Mickey Mantle.

The postal center has about 20,000 employees who sift through its doors every year for training. Morgan said this made the center an optimal location for the collection, which will rotate through the cases to minimize light damage.

The collection includes favorites of Bibbo's, such as those of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the first commemorative stamp.

"They're just so cool. Just look at the engraving," he said pointing to the case holding the Columbians.

Bibbo said a winter of snow shoveling when he was 13 in his hometown of Tarrytown, N.Y., yielded his first and favorite stamp -- a full page of 1962 Project Mercury commemorative stamps honoring John Glenn as the first American to orbit the Earth.

"Stamps capture moments in our history as vignettes, recording them for all time," said Bibbo as he turned to his father's set of the Project Mercury stamps, safeguarded in one of the stamp books displayed on a table.

But Bibbo admitted he's lost his set of Mercury stamps.

"I've moved a lot," said Bibbo, who now lives in Toronto. "It's somewhere. I just need to find it."

To view the collection and reserve a tour, call the postal center at 366-4302.

Nanette Light 366-3541 nlight@normantranscript.com

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