Stamp Collecting: How To Find Rare And Valuable Stamps

Many stamp collectors new to the hobby do not know how to go about finding stamps to add to their collection. This article offers tips on where to best find rare and valuabe stamps.

Stamp collecting (known as philately by enthusiasts) is a hobby enjoyed by collectors worldwide. Most philatelists start their collections at a young age. They start by steaming stamps off envelopes and placing them in albums. Or, perhaps you got into stamp collecting by purchasing a package of stamps at a dealer or department store. As in other collecting hobbies, enjoyment is derived not only by the acquisition of new stamps, but in the search for rare and valuable stamps. The discussion in stamp clubs abounds with tales of the rare English "Penny Black" (officially recognized as the first stamp) or complete set of 1892 Columbus exhibition stamps that was had for pennies on the dollar at a garage sale. Philately has enjoyed popularity for many years because of the investment and resell value of stamps.

To the stamp collector, there is no greater thrill than scouring through old stamp albums and shoe boxes of loose stamps or getting the monthly approval package from the mail-order stamp catalog. Who knows what treasures can be found in the unlikeliest of places!

The beginner philatelist is encouraged to begin their journey by informing others of their desire to become a stamp collector. Grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends are all valuable resources to the stamp collector. Most everyone knows someone who at one time collected stamps. Many of these collections are gathering dust in attics and cellars. Many people would gladly give away these collections to someone who exhibits an interest in collecting. You never know what people may be willing to part with.

You can not underestimate the value of research. By making a trip to the local library and familiarizing yourself with current stamp prices, grading and condition standards, the beginning stamp collector can save himself from future disillusionment. Always know what you are looking for before setting out on a stamp quest. Keep a notebook with your wish lists and information about recognizing stamp values with you when you go stamp hunting. A perforation chart (a handy plastic sheet that lets you measure the perforations on the stamps) should also be carried in your notebook. The number of perforation holes on a stamp can mark the difference between a rare stamp and a common one. Learning how to identify and recognize rare and valuable stamps will aid you in deciding which stamps to purchase and which to pass by.

Other valuable resources for those on the hunt for rare and valuable stamps include flea markets, yard sales, garage sales and estate sales. If you don't find what you are looking for the first few times out, do not be discouraged. You never know what you might find at the next sale! These sales are excellent for picking up half-filled albums, boxes of unsorted stamps, and collections of First Day Covers (decorative envelopes with stamps canceled on their first day of issue). In such cases it is best to offer to buy the whole collection rather than to pick through and make offers for each individual stamp desired. Remember that stamp collecting is process-oriented. The search for rare stamps is where many stamp collectors derive pleasure from their hobby. The payoff is twofold - satisfaction and cash value.

Many people, especially those not involved in stamp dealing as a profession, tend to overvalue their collections. When they see a stamp collection, they see untapped riches. Many people make the false assumption that old stamps are by definition valuable. However, this is not always the case. Some older stamps are more common than newer stamps. Carrying a pocket stamp guide with you at all times can help you recognize valuable stamps quickly and easily. Never be afraid to bargain with the sellers as well. They might be willing to relinquish the stamp collections that have sitting unused in their attics for pennies on the dollar.

Traditional stamp dealers are another resource for the collector hunting for rare and valuable stamps. There are numerous catalogs, on-line websites and stores where the serious collector and investor can fill in the gaps in their collection. However, by going this route you are unlikely to find many bargains. Check at your library for a local stamp club. Many collectors are willing to trade stamps. Many communities and cities sponsor stamp exhibitions - always be on the lookout for them. The United States Post Office also offers many pamphlets and starter kits for the beginning collector.

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