Stamps, for some, are more than just postage. They are seen as little pieces of art that should be collected and preserved. The selection of collectible stamps is vast: They can depict monuments, famous figures, countries, and almost any national occasion or historical event. Stamp collecting is a hobby that most anyone can do and it can be either a fun pastime or a serious pursuit. People who are interested in stamp collecting will achieve the most enjoyment when they understand the basics.
Your First Stamps
The first stamps that a person purchases represent an opportunity to learn by doing, as they can be used to start a simple collection. To begin, the novice collector should purchase a selection of whole-world stamps to sort by country and arrange in an album. When identifying stamps, remove any that cannot be readily identified and research them at a later date. There are a number of ways to continue getting stamps. People can purchase additional stamp packets, or they may ask friends or family to save stamps from any international letters that they receive. Another option is to connect with dealers who are listed in stamp magazines. These dealers can send stamps to collectors who can keep and pay for the ones that they want and return the stamps that they do not want.
Used or Unused
Stamps will either be used or unused. Generally, people should choose to collect one type or the other, as mixing them often has less aesthetic appeal and can look patched together. If collecting used stamps, consider purchasing or searching for fine used stamps that show light postmarks. Fine used stamps often make for an attractive collection when neatly arranged. Postmarks that are intact are valuable, and in some cases, they may be of greater value than the stamps themselves. Stamps with black cancellations, however, are undesirable. Cost is a consideration for novice collectors who choose to collect unused stamps. With the exception of used stamps from distant locations, unused stamps are generally more expensive. This cost typically includes the dealer's commission and the stamp's face value. Stamps with their original, post office-issued mint-condition gum are ideal, although stamps with traces of gummed hinges are also an acceptable choice.
Existing stamp collections are another option that can be used to collect stamps, as they may serve as a foundation for a new collection. People who start with existing collections can use all of the stamps, or they may choose to sell off or discard some of them and keep only a specific selection. The latter is an option when collections are in poor condition, as damaged stamps have no value.
Commemorative and ordinary postage stamps are issued by more than 200 countries. As a result, the number of existing stamps is extremely high. People who are interested in building a whole-world collection will find it nearly impossible to do so because of this. This doesn't, however, mean that people shouldn't continue collecting stamps from all over the world until they're ready to focus on collecting stamps from only one or two countries.
Commemorations and Other Stamp Types
There are several different types of stamps that collectors should be aware of. For instance, revenue stamps are used for fiscal purposes associated with licenses, receipts, documents, registrations, and even medicines. Stamps inscribed as revenue only can be collected along with postage stamps. When used for charity purposes, stamps are called semi-postal or charity stamps. These are typically commemorative stamps that come at an additional charge, with the money going to the charitable organization that it's associated with.
Other types of stamps include official stamps, which are used by governments, and special delivery or express stamps, which cover the handling and delivery fees associated with accelerated services. Provisional stamps are temporary, often overprinted, and issued when there is a change in government or name or there is some emergency need. Stamps that have no postal value but are for the collection of philanthropic or national funds are called obligatory tax stamps, and they are often used alongside regular postage.
Stamp Collector's Bibles
Stamp catalogs are a crucial tool for the stamp collector. These are reference books that act as a type of bible for individuals who collect stamps. They contain price lists, issue dates, and other information about stamps, including the values of stamps according to whether they are used or unused. Several different stamp catalogs are available. One of the most common and useful of these catalogs Stamps of the World. It's suitable for collectors of all experience levels, including beginners, and includes information from nearly all countries. Collectors from countries such as the United States and Great Britain also have specific catalogs that they can use.
Inside the Collector's Toolbox
A collector's toolbox should contain all of the equipment that one needs to start and maintain a stamp collection. Key items that all collectors should have include stamp tweezers, a magnifying glass, a perforation gauge, and, if needed, a stamp color key. Stamp tweezers have flattened tips that allow collectors to easily handle their stamps. A magnifying glass is one of the more obvious tools and is used by collectors to study the finest details, including errors, of each stamp. Measuring perforations can help determine the value of a stamp: Perforation gauges are used to measure how many perforations are within a 2 cm or 20 mm space. Because there are so many colors, color combinations, and shades, a color key can prove to be invaluable when it comes to identifying colors on a stamp.
Choosing an Album
An album is a book that's used to hold and display one's collection. There are several things that one must consider before buying a stamp album, such as the anticipated scope or size of the collection. This is crucial, as an album that's too large will have empty pages and seem incomplete. One that's too small, however, will need to be upgraded to a larger album, which means additional work relocating and rearranging one's stamps. A loose-leaf system is an album option that bypasses this problem, as people can add or remove pages as needed. Another type of album is called the one-country album, which has spaces for each of the stamps and illustrations of a single nation. Hingeless stamp albums have slots for the stamps and pages with plastic mounts, while hinged albums have hinges that stick to the stamp album. Additional types of stamp collecting albums include ring-fitting, peg-fitting, and springback stamp albums. These are good options for do-it-yourself stamp collectors. Starter packs are available as an inexpensive way to start collecting. These packs typically include an album plus basic equipment such as tweezers, hinges, a magnifier, and even stamps.
Placing and Arranging Stamps
Stamp collections should be neat and organized, with stamps placed in the spaces that are provided for them or properly arranged on a blank leaf in rows. When arranging the stamps, people should avoid any fancy or unusual layouts. Headings should be kept uniform in size and evenly spaced out, with room left for captions. When hinges are required to arrange the collection, gummed stamp hinges are the most convenient choice. Another option is to use transparent mounts, which are gummed pockets for slipping in the stamp. A benefit of using transparent mounts is that they help keep stamps in mint condition.
There are a number of ways that people can develop and expand their stamp-collecting hobby. One way to do that is to become a stamp-collecting specialist or philatelist. People can qualify to become a philatelist if they have an excellent understanding of the methods used to print stamps, which include typography, recess or line-engraving, photogravure, and lithography.