How to Start a Stamp Collection
Stamp collecting is a fun and educational hobby. While collecting stamps you can also learn about the geography and the history of the US or any other country. Post offices over the years have issued stamps to commemorate special dates, anniversaries and people of their country.
Types of stamps
Commemorative stamps are the very pretty and unique subject stamps. Countries issue all kinds of different commemorative stamps, for example one year the United States or another country might issue a series of bird stamps, depicting birds of their country on them. Or it could be a stamp of presidents, famous authors, famous musicians, famous dates, artists, flags, sports, animals, trees, flowers and many other subjects.
Special stamps are the holiday type of stamp, Christmas, love, UNICEF and the special delivery and airmail stamps. And each year a country will issue a new stamp for that year.
Definitive stamps are the normal everyday type of stamp you will usually see. Though they can be very colorful and depict something of their country on them.
Starting a Stamp Collection
You might decide you want to collect only a certain country or a certain type of stamp. You might want to only collect bird series from every country. Or you might want to start collecting only stamps from the United States. Or maybe you want to collect stamps from both the United States and other countries.
In your house there might be all kinds of old envelopes or someone you know who has a lot of old letters around, you might be able to get those stamps to start your collection. I once knew of someone who had a box full of letters they didn’t want anymore. All of them were from the 1940s. If you know of anyone who has been or is still a stamp collector, usually they have many duplicates they would be glad to give you to start your own collection. Another way to start your collection is to buy just a mixed bag of stamps and go through those to start filling up your albums. Most of these will be canceled stamps and probably more than a few duplicates, but it is a good way to start. You can buy sets from stamp dealers or you can also go to eBay. You will find sets of commemoratives from different decades. There also are mixed bags of foreign stamps where you will find many different countries to fill in. Once you get the hang of what you are interested in collecting, you can start to look for a specific type of stamp or specific country.
Packets are a good way to start your stamp collection. Packets are a collection of stamps that are all different in some way. If you wanted to buy a packet of 1000 different East Germany stamps, you would buy a packet of them. Or you could buy a packet of 1000 different United States stamps to get your collection going. You can buy all kinds of stamps this way and from all different countries, including countries that do not exist anymore such as East Germany or have changed their name.
Mixtures are also called kiloware. Kiloware means that the stamps are sold by the weight and are usually still on the paper or the envelope. This is a good way to build up your collection cheaply at first. There are approximately 150 stamps still on paper for one ounce. There can be many duplicates in these but they make for great trading stamps later on.
First day covers
First day covers are envelopes with new stamps postmarked on the first day of sale, the envelope and the stamp are collectables and can be bought at any post office. You can also get an album to store the first day covers.
Soaking stamps off of envelopes
When you have stamps still on the envelope, you will have to soak them off of the envelopes. If there is still a lot of paper around the stamp, cut the paper leaving a ¼ inch margin around the stamp. If there are airmail marks or writing on the envelope, try and cut as much of that off without cutting into the stamp, otherwise this ink might leak into the water. Place this into the water with the stamp down. After about 10 minutes the stamp should start to come off of the envelope. Then carefully take it out of the water and lay it on some paper towel to dry. Put another paper towel over the wet stamps and lay a heavy book or other object on top so the stamp doesn’t curl when drying. Leave them overnight to dry. Practice with some stamps to get the hang of it first.
Tools of stamp collecting
- You will need a stamp album to store your stamps in. You will also need stamp hinges to put each stamp into. Clear plastic sleeves give better protection for the unused stamps.
- Stamp tongs, they look like tweezers and are very useful when handling stamps. They help you pick up your stamps without bending or damaging them.
- Magnifying glass
- Stamp catalogs can help you know the value of your stamps.
- A clear table and a good light to sort through all of your new stamps.
Sam Montana © 27 January 2009