Want to Start Collecting?
Collecting stamp is a fabulous hobby, an activity that provides great satisfaction. If you would like to start your own collection of stamps, here is the list of procedures to get up and running:
- Usually, new collectors acquire any stamps they can find, be it United States or foreign. With declining first class mail volume these days, it’s not easy to find a decent variety of stamps on items that appear in your mail box. Thus, the most likely sources for stamps will be the friends, relatives, stamp dealers, stamp shows or a local group like the Dallas-Park Cities Philatelic Society. With so many stamps printed since the first ones appeared in 1840 in Great Britain, most collectors eventually narrow what they want to collect, like stamps from certain countries or stamps featuring certain topics, such as art, American presidents, Disney, cats, space or even stamps picturing stamps.
- There are a number of tools collectors use in their pursuit of the hobby. If you were gifted or inherited a collection,
you may already have some of the items that follow:
- An album in which to mount your stamps. These are almost always loose leaf, which allows you to add pages for stamps that are not illustrated in the album.
- Tongs designed to handle stamps. Do not use tweezers.
- Magnifier to examine stamps more closely.
- Perforation gauge to help identify stamps that look the same at first glance, but many not be.
- For placing stamps in an album, hinges for used stamps or mounts for either used or unused stamps.
- Watermark detector and fluid for determining varieties of stamps, usually older ones.
- Stamp soaking and drying tools. Older stamps can be usually be soaked off envelopes, newer self-adhesive ones require special treatment.
- Stockbook to store duplicate stamps or ones that have not yet been mounted in an album.
- There are certain precautions you should take with your stamps:
- Use tongs to keep from damaging stamps.
- Never mount stamps in albums with glue or any sort of sticky tape.
- Don’t store your collection in locations with temperature or humidity extremes.
- Avoid excessive exposure to light.
- Keep your collection at least six inches off the floor and store albums upright, never flat.
- Don’t store your collection in cardboard boxes or other material that attract pests.
- Never peel stamps from envelopes. You can then soak off older ones with water (see below). Be aware that many modern self-adhesive ones, especially from the United States, will be destroyed if you soak them.
- Be sure to let your friends and relatives know you are collecting stamps. Often they will be able to give you stamps they receive off the mail at their home or office. If you don’t have many free sources of stamps like that, it’s easiest and cheapest to first to buy packets of stamps. Packets come in all sorts of varieties such as worldwide, single countries and topics. The larger a packet you can afford, the fewer stamps you will need to acquire one at a time at a much greater expense. Some dealers sell collections that other collectors started, usually at stamp shows or an internet websites such as eBay, Delcampe and Hipstamp.
- Learn how to place used stamps into your album. First, cut around the stamp on the envelope, being careful not to damage it by clipping any parts. If the stamp is self-adhesive, and all new U.S. stamps are, it’s easiest to just go ahead and place the cutout in your album. If it is an older U.S. stamp or one from a foreign country that is not self-adhesive, then place the cutout face down in a bowl with warm water. When it becomes completely wet, you can peel off the stamp and place it in the album after drying it properly. Note that items like postal cards with imprinted stamp image should be collected in their entirety. For envelopes with imprinted stamp images, cut a large square around the imprint. If you acquire old envelopes, sometimes it's best to seek the advice of more advanced collectors before attempting any removal of stamps; such envelopes may be more valuable with the stamps left on them!
- As mentioned previously, as you progress in your collecting capabilities, at some time you may decide to narrow the type of stamps you want to collect. Many people prefer to collect older stamps as doing so eliminates keeping up with all the new ones that come out. On the other hand, new unused stamps from the U.S. are easier to find and manage. Once you have decided the type of stamps to keep in your collection, get to know other collectors, such as through the Dallas-Park Cities Philatelic Society. This is a great source for stamps as well as a place to sell or exchange the duplicate stamps you will inevitably end up with.
- There are many resources where you can get information about stamps and stamp collecting. Collectors at the Dallas-Park Cities Philatelic Society are always available to help you out. There are also catalogues you can buy or borrow from a local library that will help you identify stamps that do not appear in your album. Stamp shows and the internet are a great way to search for stamps, compare prices and find ones that are scarce.