Stamps and stamp collecting for beginners

Stamp collecting is a fun, easy, and relatively cheap hobby for young and old alike! Discover the worlds of adventure through stamp collecting.

Stamp collecting, also known as philately, is a popular hobby that is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. Philately comes from the Greek word "╦ťateles' which means tax-free. Stamp collecting is a cheap and relatively easy hobby that introduces a world of fun and adventure to experienced and novice hobbyists alike.

Stamps are miniature works of art with a colorful history. These brightly printed pieces of paper with the gummy back first originated in England in 1840. Before paper stamps came into existence, the price that was paid to deliver a letter to a far away place was the same as the postage used to pay for a letter delivered a few blocks. There was no distinction between letters of varying weights, and the recipient was stuck paying the charge. Stamps were created to standardize the postage system so that a fair price was paid depending on the weight and distance. The first stamp was Rowland Hill's Penny Black commemorative of Queen Victoria. Americans created the first adhesive postage stamp in 1847, featuring the portraits of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. The first stamp collectors arrived on the scene in 1841. The first stamp album was printed in 1862, followed a year later by the postage price guide.

Stamps are many and varied. Postage stamps come in different shapes and sizes. Postage stamps come pre-printed on stationary items and in different quantity packages. Stamps also vary by condition

The condition of a stamp is defined as either mint or used. Mint stamps are those that have never been used, are clean with intact gummy surfaces. Used stamps are those without the gummy back and that have a postmark, which tells a collector how the stamp was used. The condition of a stamp is also affected by the color, centering of the design, and its perforations (edges of the stamp with the tiny holes).

Definitive stamps are the most common type of postage stamp. These stamps portray images of former statesmen and famous people. They are sold in large quantities for an unlimited time.

Commemorative stamps are limited circulation stamps (usually for 60 days) which depict historical events, famous people, and special occasions. Commemoratives are larger in size and are printed in smaller quantities than definitive stamps.

Booklets and coils are sold in vending machines and stamp dispensers. These types of stamps usually come in packages ranging from 3 to 20 stamps apiece. They consist of packets of definitive stamps.

There are more specialized postal items. Airmail stamps are those used in overseas mail. Special stamps are those issued in additional to the year's stamps (like the Christmas issues and Love issues). Special purpose stamps are issued for specific purposes, as in the express or international mail stamps. Finally, stamps come pre-printed on stationary as in the case of postcards, aerogrammes, and envelopes.

A collector can find a huge number of sources from which to start and maintain their collection. A good bit of advice for collectors is to start with what they have. Novice collectors can begin with the mail delivered daily to their doorstep, while also asking family and friends to save their mail. This is a cheap and readily available source of stamps. Stamp dealers do business through the mail, at fairs, and are present in local neighborhoods. The merchants are knowledgeable and can advise a collector as to the value and history of the stamp. The post office is a wonderful place to get mint-issue stamps. Collectors can meet like-minded enthusiasts and get valuable advice by joining a stamp club. Exhibitions are good for collectors needing to find the rare vintage stamp, as well as being a shopper's paradise of multiple dealers and therefore potential bargains. Auctions are a pricier venue to obtain particular stamps. Exhibitions and auctions can be pricier than other stamp sources.

As with any other hobby, a stamp collector has a basic complement of tools. The first of these tools is the album. Albums come as blank, loose-leaf books, printed books, or specialized for postal stationary. There are peg fitting, ring binders, and springback albums. A loose-leaf, ringed binder is a good first album to purchase.

Mounts and hinges are used to affix the stamps to an album. Protective mounts are used to store mint condition stamps. Hinges are applied to the backs of used stamps. Each type has a gummy back that attaches to an album page.

Another important tool of the trade is tweezers. Tweezers are used to handle stamps. Stamps are fragile, and tweezers help keep oils from skin off the stamp. Any dirt or extra material that gets on a stamp can depreciate a stamp's value.

A magnifying glass is used by collectors to examine the finer details of a stamp. A magnifying glass can detect errors in the printing of the stamp. A magnifying glass with a clear and undistorted view should be selected.

A stamp catalog is essential to any stamp collector. Stamp catalogs provide the pricing of a stamp based on its condition. Catalogs also provide historical context about the stamp, as well as relay details and mistakes that may have gone into the printing of the stamp. Collectors can consult catalogs at libraries. A good, used catalog can be found at second-hand bookstores. The most popular catalog used is Stanley Gibbon's "Stamps of the World".

Other tools of the trade include perforation gauges, watermark detectors, pen and stencils, color guides, and ultraviolet lamps. Perforation gauges are used to measure the tiny holes on the edges of stamps. Watermark detectors examine the design that is printed, and can detect counterfeit and fake stamps. Pen and stencils are used in labeling a collection for display. Color guides can measure the color quality of the stamp. Ultraviolet lamps are also used to measure the finer details of a stamp.

Collectors should understand how to handle and care for stamps they acquire in their collection. Stamps should be handled using tweezers. Stamps that come from the mail require special handling to remove them from the paper envelope. First, cut around the stamp, making sure not to damage the perforation of the stamp in the process. Soak the stamps in a bowl of warm water with the postage side facing down. Stamps that have been affixed to colored paper should be separated in another bowl to avoid any mixing of colors. The postage stamps will separate from the paper backing and float to the bottom of the bowl. Remove the stamps with the tweezers, and set them down between two paper towels. Let them dry and press them between two books to flatten the stamps. Once the stamp is completely dry, place a hinge on the stamp and affix it to the album page.

Once a collector has accumulated a good supply a stamps, organization and specialization should be considered. Collectors can collect by country, topic, or theme. Collectors can be devoted to collecting unusual stamps, early stamps, stamps with mistakes and errors in printing, or stamps that have been forged and faked. Postal stationary also has a huge following. Some collectors specialize in collecting first day covers, which bears the postmark from the city in which first issues a stamp.

Each stamp tells a story, be it historical, commemorative, cultural, artistic, or autobiographical. Take the plunge, and join the hobby that can teach you the world!

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