Stamp collecting is a popular hobby that has been around for generations. The collection of stamps ranges from the passive hobby to very serious, where collectors often pay a fortune for rare pieces. Philatelists, who study stamps from around the world, are often the most knowledgeable stamp collectors although one who studies stamps does not necessarily have to be a collector.
Stamp collecting is fun. It is a hobby that both young and old can do and enjoy. The stamp hobby can be enjoyed on any budget – or no budget at all. Collecting stamps keeps your mind active and inquisitive, increases your knowledge of places and events, relieves the stress of the day, and offers social opportunities.
- Acquire stamp tongs. These are often called tweezers because they so resemble them. They differ from tweezers, however, in several significant ways: They are not strong, so you cannot use them to apply serious pressure on anything. The grasping area is smooth, not ridged; this helps to avoid damaging stamps when you squeeze too hard. The tips are thin; this makes it easier to slide the tip under a stamp when you want to take it from a flat surface. The weight and length of tongs vary, so this is a matter of what is comfortable in your hand. Some have bent tips; for some collectors that makes it easier to pick up the stamps. The shape of the point varies. Avoid the ones with tips that are too pointed; when you are working with stamps, especially wet ones, there is a greater risk that you will accidentally poke the point through the stamp.
- In addition to protecting the stamps from physical damage when picking them up, tongs also protect the stamps from damage by any acidic moisture that normally comes from your fingers.
- Start sorting. It doesn't matter how you do this. The best way is the way that means something to you. Sorting by country is one of the most common ways of doing this. Knowing the country that produced a stamp will be helpful later when you are looking for further information about the stamp. Another popular way of collecting is by the subject represented on the stamp. This is known as "topical collecting" in the United States, or "thematic collecting" in the United Kingdom. There is a great variety of subjects that can be considered here: butterflies, sports, famous people, or airplanes. Many countries take this into account when developing their stamp issuing programmes. Others may choose to sort by colour or shape. You can also just let your imagination run wild and do unique categorizations.
- Store your stamps. Once you have spread your stamps in neat little piles across the dining room table, your family will object if they can't use the table for other purposes, notably dining. So you need someplace to put your stamps without undoing your sorting work. A quick solution would be to put the stamps into a series of envelopes, each marked with a note about what's inside. The problem with this is that you can't see your stamps without emptying the envelope and spreading them out. It's time to invest in a stock book.
- The pages of stock books are made of light cardboard with strips of transparent plastic across the page. The strips are fastened to the cardboard at the two ends, and glued at the bottom edge to create a wide pocket for inserting stamps. The cardboard backing for the pages can be white or black; the black pages tend to be of better quality, but they are more expensive. The stamps, which are mostly printed on white paper, stand out much better on a black background.
- Another kind of stock book is made of manila cardboard similar to that found in file folders. For these a layer of slotted cardboard is glued to a layer of whole cardboard to form the horizontal slots. The effect is that you can't see the bottom of the stamps. These are, however, sturdy and less expensive. They are convenient for storing duplicate stamps.
- When adding or removing stamps from a stock book it is always easier when you use your tongs.
- Swap stamps. When you have sorted through a few packets of stamps you will find that you have a number of stamps that are duplicates, or are from countries or about topics that don't interest you. You can do better than just putting them in the trash. Start asking people from school, work mates, and even your family members to discover other stamp collectors who have the same problem. Their duplicates are likely to differ from your duplicates; this gives ample opportunity for both of you to be rewarded by trading your unwanted stamps. At this stage of the hobby it is best to trade on a one stamp for one stamp basis. You do not yet have the knowledge to bargain based on the relative market values of individual stamps. One possible exception to the one-for-one rule would be the condition of the stamp in fine condition is always worth more than the same stamp in poor condition or with a heavy cancel.
- Borrow books from the library. The best way to learn as much as possible about stamp collecting is to digest the wisdom of those who have written a lot about it. Most libraries will have quite a large collection of such books.
- Early United States
stamps are notoriously difficult to distinguish between since many have
the same design for two or more issues.
- Perforation gauge:
- Watermark fluid and tray:
- Drying book:
- Glassine envelopes:
- Stamp hinges:
- Stamp mount:
- Stamp album: