Saturday, August 08, 2015

Guide To Collecting Stamps

It is not as easy to collect stamps as it once was, in these days of email and envelopes that arrive with a pre-printed meter mark, rather than a stamp. However, stamp collecting is still one of the world's most widespread and potentially inexpensive collecting hobbies.
The easiest (and free) way to get stamps is to simply get them from the mail. Domestic stamps you can get simply from your own mail, and by asking friends and family members to save the stamps from their mail. If you want a larger number of stamps, you might be able to get the discarded envelopes from incoming mail at your office. Getting stamps from different countries can be a little tricker, although import/export businesses can be a rich source for stamp collectors. That is how I started my own collection, getting stamps from my dad's office, where the company did business all over the world.
There is no "right" or "wrong" way to collect stamps. Because collecting "The Whole World" is an overwhelming task (there are 100s of stamp issuing postal administrations), most people choose an area or specialty to focus on. This could be anything from a particular country, to a region, to a "topic" like "cats on stamps." I even met one collector who only collected stamps that we're postmarked on their birthday. Likewise, some people only collect mint (unused) stamps, while others prefer used stamps that have been through the mail.

If you don't want to wait for stamps to show up in the mail, your other option is to buy them. Alternately, there are lots of places on the Internet that sell stamps: Like Ebay, Delcampe and dealers that opened stores in the internet. If you have an idea of what you want to collect, "packets" are a good way to start. These are "mini collections" that might be sold in a format such as "500 different from Canada" or "200 different dog stamps." Whereas you'll mostly get very common stamps, they'll offer you a nice start.
If you have stamps on paper from envelopes, you would normally want to take them off the paper. Just place the clippings with stamps in a bowl of lukewarm water (or the sink) and wait about 5-10 minutes, or until you notice the stamps separate from the paper. NOTE: Before soaking, remove any clippings on brightly colored paper, as these often have "fugitive" inks that can dye all the stamps an odd color. Dry the stamps face down on paper towels or blotting paper. When they are *almost* dry (like a *slightly* damp piece of paper), place another sheet of paper towel over the back of the stamps, and lay a heavy book  on top of that and leave for a couple of days. This will ensure that the stamps dry completely flat.
There are a couple of ways to organize and protect your collection, as well as a few basic tools you might want to pick up.
A stamp album is designed to permanently mount your stamps on pages, using either small folded gummed piece of paper known as "stamp hinges" or using "mounts," which are a bit like a tiny flat picture frame with a clear cellophane front. There's a tradeoff here- hinges are cheaper, mounts look nicer and offer better protection- but cost a lot more. Alternately, you can put your collection in a "stock book," which is a book of blank pages with little cellophane or glassine strips to hold the stamps in place. Stock books make it easier to move individual stamps around, as they are not stuck to a given page.
In any case, here's a list of basic supplies to get started:
Stamp album or stock book Stamp hinges or mounts Stamp tongs- much like a pair of tweezers, keeps you from damaging the delicate edge perforations when you pick up a stamp. Magnifying glass
Further down the road, as your collection grows, you may want to buy a stamp catalogue so you can identify and look up the values of different stamps. Worldwide stamp catalogues are pretty expensive,like Scott Standard Stamp Catalogue, which will be in the reference section. If you live outside North America, your catalogue might be different- Stanley Gibbons (UK), Michel (Germany) and Yvert & Tellier (France) are some other major publishers of stamp catalogues. Today you can find online catalogue such as:

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