Stamp Collecting for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know

Stamp Collecting is a relaxing and fun hobby for everyone. There’s no right or wrong way to collect stamps.
Your stamp collection is personal. You might want to collect stamps based on themes, stamps from a specific country, or even by color. The possibilities are endless.
The great thing about collecting stamps is you don’t need any special skills or considerable experience. It’s as simple as reading this article to start stamp collecting for beginners.

How to Start Stamp Collecting for Beginners?

Learning the basics will help you greatly in your stamp collecting journey. For instance, stamp collecting is also known as philately. It’s one of the world’s most popular hobbies that has been around since the 19th century with the issuance of the first postal stamp.
You’ll need a stamp guide to help you identify the stamps you buy and take your collection to the next level. It takes collectors years and hundreds of stamps to be able to curate a valuable collection, so don’t be discouraged.

What Stamps Should You Collect?

Picking a theme for your stamp collection is hard for many enthusiasts; there are just too many! You can start a collection of animal stamps, stamps from a specific century, or based on the stamp artist.
It’s also important to consider the type of stamps you’ll be collecting. Of course, you can collect different types of stamps, but identifying the stamp type will help you assess your collection’s worth. For instance:
  • Definitive Stamps: These stamps are for everyday use and are available in unlimited quantities.
  • Commemorative Stamps: Unlike Definitive stamps, these are exclusive stamps that have a limited production run but can be found in stamp auctions.
  • Special Stamps: These stamps aren’t as limited as commemorative stamps. They’re intended to be used on special holidays and often have seasonal designs (i.e., Christmas stamps, Love stamps, Greeting stamps)
Stamps can also be used or in mint condition. Used stamps generally have a part of the postmark on them, while mint stamps are in perfect condition.

Essential Equipment for Every Stamp Collector

Stamps are highly delicate and can’t just be thrown in a box. Thankfully, many essential tools assist you in your stamp collecting journey.
These tools include:
  • Stamp Tongs: Specific tweezers to pick up and move stamps with.
  • Magnifying Glass: To examine stamps up-close.
  • Albums: Different types of albums and stock books are available to store your collection. You can also get a binder, which you can add pages to if you are still growing your collection.
  • Stamp Mounts: Depending on the type of album, mounts are placed on the page to attach your stamps temporarily. They’re necessary as directly gluing your stamps to the pages is extremely damaging.
  • Stamp Catalogs: These contain all the information needed about stamps. They’re of great help when it comes to identifying and establishing your collection. (ex: Stanley Gibbons, Scott, Yvert & Tellier)
Once you mature as a stamp collector, you can purchase more advanced tools such as perforation gauges and watermark detectors.

Finding Stamps for Your Collection

You can buy stamps almost anywhere. Aside from the obvious postal service providers, stamps are available in office supply stores, gas stations, online, and even pharmacies!
These options are okay for the average buyer. But for the stamp collectors out there, a variety of stores, physical and online, are available where you can find any specific stamps.
There are also special stamp auctions where other collectors gather in search of mint and rare stamps. A lot of people make a living out of dealing stamps. You should keep an eye out in your local community for them.
A simpler way would be to ask your relatives and friends to save their stamps for you. You may find vintage stamps or even rare stamps that they don’t know the value of.

How to Value Your Stamp Collection?

An important aspect of stamp collection is their value. Sure, you can collect stamps for their sentimental meaning or because you like how they look. However, since this is a popular hobby, you should always know if you own a stamp coveted by others.

Stamp Encyclopedias

Catalogs, as mentioned earlier, are a great reference to learn about the value and the history of your stamps. These catalogs are updated periodically as thousands of new stamps and price changes are added.

Assess the Stamps Yourself

More experienced eyes can value stamps with great accuracy by checking their issuance date, age, material, perforations, and gum. You may find this intimidating as a beginner, but with practice, you too can become an expert.

Stamp Shows

Stamp shows are a significant part of any collector’s life. Other than buying rare stamps and learning more about philately, you can also get your collection priced by professionals.

Taking Care of Your Stamp Collection

So, you have chosen your collection theme, purchased your stamps, and got the proper tools. The only thing left to do is to assemble your collection.
Whether your stamps are used or in mint condition, they should be handled with care. Only use stamp tongs when handling your stamps to avoid creasing or ruffling their perforations.
While it may be tempting to pull your stamp out of its packaging, this should be avoided as it permanently damages the stamp. Instead, soak your stamps in warm water for 10-15 minutes (avoid submerging the design), then gently peel the stamp away from the paper.
After soaking them, leave them to dry on a paper towel with the design facing upwards. Make sure the ink isn’t leaking, then place another paper towel on top and weigh them down with books so your stamps dry flat.
Next, you want to display the stamps in your album. You can use hinges if your stamps are used or mounts if they’re unused. There are specific albums and stock books that allow you to store stamps without the use of mounts or hinges.

Stamp Communities

Now that you’re all done with your first stamp collection, there are various communities you can join to share your interest and improve your collection.
These groups of like-minded people will truly enhance your stamp collecting experience. Don’t worry if you’re unable to find any local stamp clubs. There are many online forums you can join.

Conclusion

Stamp collecting is an entertaining and therapeutic hobby. There’s plenty of information available on stamp collecting for beginners. While it may take some time to start your collection, it’s rewarding once you do.
If you want to buy rare stamps, or you’re only looking for someone to chat with about your shared passion, plenty of marketplaces and forums are available for all stamp enthusiasts.
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