A Guide To Collecting Stamps: Preservation, Finding And Other Tips

It's equally important to find and then properly preserve your stamp collection, so as not to lose your valuable investment.

Maybe you discovered some old letters in your grandmother's attic and suddenly became enthralled by the idea of becoming a collector. Well, just because you've uncovered some old stamps, doesn't mean they have any value. There are several factors to consider when saving stamps. There's the stamp itself, the postmark, and of course, how well the stamp has fared through the years.

Firstly, you will need a catalog to suggest fair prices to pay for certain stamps and what each stamp might be worth. Next, consider what types of stamps you will collect. You might be only interested in ones that are attached to old writings or only stamps issued from the U.S.

Then, you have to become well-schooled about various stamps, their issues, their postmarks and preservation techniques. You can go online to discover which catalogs are respected by most collectors, and locate future stamp fairs where you can purchase stamps and collection books. Online auctions are another great source for purchasing stamps, but have a general idea of its value before bidding. Local flea markets provide another source for locating vintage stamps.

Some experts say that you should never tear old stamps from the letters that they accompany, still others suggest that stamps be in a collector's book along with other similar stamps. These can be arranged by years (the 1940's) or by issue (Canada, 1962). Or, you might collect a particular theme, such as birds or bridges. For preservation purposes, use only stamp albums which are designed specifically for storing stamps. Photo albums are not suitable for stamp collecting, since the stamps can become stuck to the backing or the transparency which covers the photos. Books for storing stamps can be found at stamp collection stores, through catalogs or online.

Although some stamps can be extremely valuable, don't expect to just stumble upon a rare stamp worth thousands. More likely, you'll acquire old stamps a few at a time and after working diligently towards collecting them for many years, an entire set of stamps could bring you a nice little sum. Even more probable is that the collection won't really be worthwhile until you've passed it down a couple of generations. Still, if you have some investment money, you can amass quite an impressive assortment.

Stamps are fragile, so proper care for your stamp collection is critical. Never allow food, drinks or tobacco near your collection. Other conditions to avoid are high-humidity areas or damp storage spaces. And, keep stamps out of direct sunlight at all times to keep them from fading. One rule of thumb for preserving stamps is to keep them in a room which feels comfortable to yourself. If it's too cold or too humid for you, it probably is likewise for the collection. Improper handling of your stamps can result in extreme loss of value. Use special stamp collector's tongs when handling the stamps; regular tweezers can damage your collection. Some collectors instead use thin, disposable gloves. Never wet the stamps and place them directly onto the pages. Removable hinges are available for affixing and should be expressly designed for this purpose. You can also purchase corner hinges which hold the stamp in place and preserve the glue on back.

There are many printed albums which feature an illustrated spot for each stamp of virtually any country or theme. Printed albums are used mostly by beginners or those even slightly more advanced. These albums usually offer a place for most of that country's stamps, but not all of them. For this reason, advanced collectors will select a collection book which offers blank pages rather than printed ones. The collector then has the means to design any type of arrangement for the stamps. Collector books must receive the same respect as the stamps themselves. Never handle the books with dirty or oily hands, obviously. Don't fold or crease the pages of the books in any way. Keep the books in airtight containers. Always shelve the books upright to prevent the pressure of the pages from causing the glue to permanently attach the stamp to the book. In addition, for collections that are rarely seen, open the books on occasion and separate each page of the book. This prevents the pages from becoming stuck together.

The most important aspect of collecting is the collection itself. Although not every stamp collector can afford a perfect specimen of each issue, your collection will be valued much lower if it is littered here and there with torn, dirty or creased stamps. And, it's wiser from a collector's standpoint to pay a little more for a rarer issue than it is to get a lot of stamps at a great price. Eventually you might want to insure your collection against theft or water and fire damage. Keep a list of each stamp, the issue year and its approximate value. Learn as much as you possibly can about philately so that you are not duped out of your money and so your collection will increase in value over time. To help you learn more, utilize online message boards, your local library or subscribe to national stamp collecting magazines.

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