Stamp Collecting

The exciting world of stamp collection

Despite what some people might think, stamp collecting is not just your Grandpa's hobby. Imagine being able to see the culture and heritage of another country from the comfort of your own home, or learning new and interesting facts about your own country's history simply by opening an envelope. For millions of people, that is the thrill of stamp collection!

Early stamp circulation

Stamps have been used since the days of Queen Victoria as a way to prepay and show proof of payment for postage. Before the stamp was introduced, mail recipients had the choice to accept a letter and pay a fee upon delivery or refuse it. After a while, such a large portion of the mail was refused that another system had to be created. The very first stamp was issued in Great
Britain in 1840, and America followed suit in 1847. Surprisingly enough, they are not worth much today, because so many were issued on cheap, flimsy material.

Since those early days, the hobby of collecting stamps has changed quite a bit. However, it is still one of the few hobbies that a person can start with very little monetary investment. The value of a collection is mostly in the eye of the beholder as it is, and many people collect for the sheer pleasure of doing it rather than in the hopes of making any real money from it. Some stamps, such as the famous "upside down Jenny" issue do go up exponentially in value, but the world of stamps has very few of these kinds of mistakes.

Types of stamp collections

Stamp Collecting GuideStamp Collecting Guide

There are so many varieties of stamps out there that it's easy to find a few different ones to start out with. Many people enjoy topical collecting of stamps, in other words, collecting only one particular design or type of stamp. It takes a little longer to make a good collection this way, because no matter how much you love stamps that feature trains, there are only a limited number available. Once you have all of them in your collection, it may be hard to wait for a new one to be released.

The most common type of collection is one that incorporates different stamps from around the world, with the majority of the stamps coming from their home country, because they are easily accessible and can be obtained just by going to the mailbox.

Beginner stamp collectors often start their new collection with the cancelled stamps they get on letters and bills, replacing a worn-out or poor quality stamp with one in better condition, as they continue to acquire new stamps. Later, when their 'base' collection is set up, they move on to finding rare stamps and ones in excellent or perfect condition.

Storing and caring for your collection

The biggest decision when starting a new collection is how to store your stamps. In the past there were very few choices for the novice collector, but that has changed. Now a stamp collector has the option of storing stamps in a binder with stamp hinges or a stock book with thin plastic strips that serve as pockets. No matter what kind of budget you're on, albums are usually fairly affordable. However, they can range anywhere from $20 to over $1000 for a set of binders dating back to the first issued stamp!

Binder-type stamp folios usually come with the packet for a particular year, and each page has a description of the stamp along with a short paragraph about its meaning. Some even have tiny black and white reproductions of the stamp to act as placeholders, until you are able to find the original.

Stamp Collecting SecretsStamp Collecting Secrets

Stock books, on the other hand, have the advantage of allowing stamp collectors to move around their stamps according to how they feel at that moment. Stamps are not permanently attached to the page as they are in binders and although the gummed hinges used to place collections in binders are able to be torn or removed there is a greater risk of harming your collection by doing so.

Stamp Collector essentials

Stamp Collecting KitStamp Collecting Kit

Once you have chosen how you're going to store them, all you need to start your collection is a dish of lukewarm water, a heavy book and a pair of clean tweezers. Just soak the stamps in the dish and wait until they slide off the paper, which they should do all on their own. Once they are off the paper, take them out with the tweezers, rinse and wait for them to dry, then put them between the pages of the heavy book overnight to get them nice and flat. It's that easy!

For those who don't want to bother with sticky fingers and the eternal search for the "better quality" stamp for their collection, pages of unused stamps are available from the local Post Office or from countless stamp collector sites on the Internet. You can even find stamps on auction sites, but use caution to make sure that you're really getting what you pay for.

Pre-cancelled and First Day Cover Stamps

First Day Cover StampFirst Day Cover Stamp

Some other popular trends in collecting stamps include pages or "panes" of pre-cancelled stamps purchased directly from the post office, and special commemorative stamps that were placed on envelopes and cancelled the very first day they were issued to ensure they were never put into circulation.

Some collections feature nothing but these stamped envelopes, also known as "first day covers", and there are even special albums made just for these covers. The list goes on and on, making collecting stamps one of the most varied and expandable hobbies in the world.

Finally, the most important thing to remember when starting or keeping a stamp collection is to have fun! Few people realize the amount of time and effort it takes to create the design on a stamp and reproduce it in 1/10 or even 1/100 its original size, but those who do can boast that they have what some can only dream about... a miniature art museum in their study or on their coffee table!

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