The Basics of Stamp Collecting
The Basics of Stamp Collecting
Stamp collecting is a major hobby among many people worldwide. It can be started easily enough, and can grow to a wonderful collection over time. One of the aspects of stamps that collectors find most fascinating is their ability to reveal much about the history and culture of other places. Stamp collecting is a hobby that is simple enough to get started by children or adults alike, and can be continued for decades. If you are new to stamp collecting, follow this guide to get started and discover some useful tips and resources.
The Beginnings of Stamp Collecting
The very first postage stamp, The Penny Black, was created in 1840 in Britain. Even in those early days, people quickly began collecting postage stamps! It became a large enough hobby that companies were creating stamp collection albums, books about stamp collecting and other related items. By the mid-1800s, it was mostly children and teens who collected stamps. However, as they grew up, they became experts on stamps and the hobby grew even further. Today, around five million Americans still enjoy stamp collecting. A common misconception is that “philately” is a term used to describe the hobby of stamp collecting. However, “philately” is actually defined as the study of stamps, though it is common for people to both study and collect stamps.
Starting a Stamp Collection
As with any hobby, there are some supplies you'll need to get started with a stamp collection. While it may go without saying, a stamp album is essential. Since it is imperative to preserve the stamps as much as possible, a pair of tweezers will be needed for handling, and will prevent fingerprints, sweat or grease from getting on the stamp. Remember, the condition of the stamp has a large impact on its value. A magnifying glass is also very useful for inspecting fine details. Make sure to keep the stamps and stamp albums away from moisture, warm areas, and light. Depending on your preference, the collection can be arranged according to a theme, such as country, time period, or subject. Older collectors might even pass on their collection to children or grandchildren. As the collection grows larger, it becomes more and more important to properly catalog the stamps so that you know exactly what you have.
Finding and Collecting Stamps
An easy way to start collecting stamps is to simply ask people you know to pass on stamps from mail that they have received. If a friend is going on vacation, ask them to send you a postcard or purchase a few stamps for you. Elderly people may also have old pieces of mail with out of print stamps. These stamps can make an especially interesting addition to a collection. As the collection grows, you may become more interested in purchasing stamps to complete a theme. Try hunting at garage sales, at stamp collector events, at online specialty stores or through stamp dealers. Serious stamp collectors end up investing enormously in rare, vintage and unused stamps over time. There are plenty of online forums and communities for stamp collectors to compare and discuss their findings. These types of message boards are also extremely useful sources for new stamp collectors to find answers about stamps that they currently have or are seeking.
- Care Tips for Stamp Collectors – Find out how to properly store and care for stamps.
- Space Stamps – In earlier decades, NASA’s space-themed stamps became hugely popular among collectors.
- Starting a Stamp Collection (PDF) – Download a free guidebook on how to begin a stamp collection and build it up.
- Identifying Strange Stamps – If you have a stamp that is difficult to identify, this resource helps to determine its origins.
- All About Stamp Collecting – Learn more about stamp collecting and how to go about it.
- Stamp Shows – There are several exhibitions and fairs for stamp collectors across the U.S. as well as international.
- Philatelic Glossary – Look up and learn common terms used in philately and stamp collecting circles.
- Inheriting a Stamp Collection – Read about how to proceed if someone has passed on their stamp collection to you.
- Valuating a Stamp – See how to find the true value of a stamp from various sources.
- Collecting Postal Stationery – Stamp collections can include other items besides stamps, such as official postal stationery.