Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my family and those whom God loves:
Stamp collecting is one part of the wider subject of philately, which is the study of stamps. A philatelist may or may not collect stamps. On the other hand, there are many hobbyists who accumulate stamps for sheer enjoyment and relaxation without worrying about the tiny details and history and form. Even so, once a collection gets beyond a certain size, the collector generally requires some philatelic knowledge to organize stamps.
Postage stamps are collected for many reasons. Most common are those pertaining to country, history, date and subject (e.g. ships, horses, birds,kings, queens, presidents…).
In collecting stamps one might wise to consider the following:
1. What kind of stamps do you want to collect?
You can certainly collect a wide variety of stamps in the form of a “Worldwide” collection. There are about 10,000 stamps produced every year and therefore, a worldwide collection will have plenty to draw on. On the other hand, you could more narrowly focus your collection on one of the following categories of stamps:
◘ Commemorative (large and colorful, printed in small quantities only once, and often honor a person, event or subject)
◘ Definitive (smaller, printed in large quantities, more than once),
◘ Special (Christmas, Love, Holiday celebration, International rate, Priority mail and Express mail).
◘ Country – You may want to focus on one specific country like the one you live in or one that you’ve visited or have a special affiliation to.
◘ Topic/Theme – Choosing a topic, such as animals, birds, flowers, religion, space, or sports
◘ Mint vs. used – Typically, people will collect either mint or used stamps. Mint stamps are those that have never been used and may cost more than used stamps which may also be collected for the cancellations on them.
◘ Or get creative….Historical Period, shape, color…
2. Where will you get your stamps?
You can find stamps almost anywhere:
◘ Purchase them new at your local post office.
◘ Ask friends, relatives, and local businesses to save them for you (especially those who live in different locations around the country or the world).
◘ Find a stamp dealer – stamp packets or approvals
◘ Join a local stamp club to trade stamps with other members or ask for help getting started.
◘ Attend a stamp show to find rare stamps and meet other collectors.
◘ Swap stamps – Join a group that exchanges stamps, but beware of those who will take and not give.
◘ Check online at eBay or stamp dealer associations or auctions.
How much you want to invest in stamps is really up to the individual. Most importantly, spend what you have, not what you don’t have. On a limited budget one can purchase many “penny” stamps. Sometimes buying a mixed box of stamps for $25-100 can keep a collector going for years. If investing is your goal and you have the money then I would recommend talking to those who have made such invested and professional dealers.
3. How do you remove a stamp from an envelope?
If you’re collecting used stamps you’ll often find them attached to envelopes. Knowing how to remove these stamps without damaging them is very useful information. There are many approaches, depending on the type of stamps, the adhesive used and the paper it is attached to. I would recommend doing a little research before starting. Not every approach will work on every stamp. You may want to experiment with duplicates that you’re not concerned about damaging.
4. What special equipment do you need?
I suppose a person could collect stamps and put them in a box but most collectors have some basic equipment for identifying stamps and organizing them. This may include:
◘ Magnifying glass – to examine your stamps up close.
◘ Tongs – to pick up and move stamps.
◘ Perforation gauge – to measure perforations along the edges of your stamps.
◘ Watermark detector fluid – to enhance a watermark, design, or pattern pressed into the stamp during manufacturing.
◘ Albums/binders with pages on which to mount stamps using stamp hinges or glassine strips with gum on one side, or stamp mounts, which are clear plastic sleeves. Some people choose to simply use transparent glassine envelopes to protect their stamps from grease and air.
These stamp supplies can be obtained through local postage stamp stores or online. Perhaps my favorite is Arpin Philately and Collector’s Supply House. I also produce my own stamp pages using Stamp Albums Web.
5. Identifying stamps
Many stamps are quite easy to identify in terms of their country of origin, but sometimes it’s harder, especially if the country’s name is in its own language. For example, stamps from Sweden will say “Sverige.” Consulting stamp catalogs or even going online may be helpful.
6. How can you tell what a stamp is worth?
When I began collecting stamps I thought I’d have an investment, but most collections have little value except to the collector. If you’re really interested in stamp values you can get a stamp catalogue. Perhaps the most common one in North America is the Scott’s Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue. The prices listed there are for mint and used stamps in very fine condition. However, don’t expect to get that price unless you’ve a rarity or a rare collector who wants your stamp. Most collections auctioned go for 10-50% of their value.
7. Who else is collecting stamps?
Joining a local stamp club can also be a way to learn more about the hobby.
8. Do you need insurance?
Most insurance policies will require some kind of rider for collectibles. Unless you have a significant collection with a high appraised value I wouldn’t worry about insurance. However, if you do, contact your local insurance company, have your collection appraised and well documented.
I hope you enjoy the hobby!
Grace be with you,