6 Step Guide To Stamp Collecting is motivated by the fact to build a one-stop resource especially for the uninitiated “Going To Be Philatelists”. Continuing the tradition of serving the “King of Hobbies” further from the last post I will try my best to entertain and help my readers by serving meaningful and informative content.
When starting afresh it is a big question for the newbies as to what should they collect? I suggest that there is nothing to be perplexed about the situation. There are no right or wrong answers to the question. You can start building your collection with whatever you wish it to be. The collection can be built in one of the following ways:
World Wide Stamp Packets or Kiloware:
When I started my collection nearly one and a half years back I started by collecting various interesting stamp packets via Amazon.com. The other factor that needs to be taken care of is it all depends on your capabilities to spend, dedicate time, and resources to the activity. It is practically impossible to have every stamp on the planet. There are million-plus stamps in circulation and every year more than 10,000 new stamps are published.
Example Image Of A Stamp Packet
Illustrative Image of A Kiloware
Collecting By Country:
It is the major and traditional approach of collecting and building up your philatelic specialization. Some collectors spend a lifetime and a fortune to build their respective country collections which could be focussed onto a single country or multiple countries. There are countries whose stamps aren’t that costly to acquire but there are certain countries like France, Italy, Germany, British Commonwealth, China, Pre Independence India, Canada, The United States which have stamps that are beyond a common man’s reach. It is suggested to narrow your collection efforts to three to four countries. Please also refer to this article on which countries to collect
This is another method that is popular among philatelists where you can easily and inexpensively build up your collection. It also helps to add more variety to the collection. Some of the most followed topics/areas of interest are Flora and Fauna, Aerospace, Ships, etc. Some of the other SKUs that can be added are FDCs and Postal Stationery.
Collecting By Type Of Stamps:
Airmails, Coil Stamps, Commemoratives fall under this category.
Mint or Cancelled:
Mint Never Hinged stamps can be costly to collect in cases of the countries stated above. In other cases nicely canceled used stamps have more commercial value. The rule of the thumb however is that used stamps are inexpensive in comparison so Mint stamps. It is your discretion to buy either Mint or Cancelled ones or a mixture of both depending upon your preferences and areas of interest.
Step II – Where to Buy From
Some of the most reliable resources to start buying are
- There will be local dealers who run brick and mortar shops in your local area especially if you are in the United States or the EU. Do check locally.
- Do not buy high value/price products from eBay.
- Never do a transaction without PayPal. It is a bit costly but it offers “Buyer Protection”. So in case of a sour deal, you can claim your refund.
- Always check out the seller ratings on platforms like eBay, Hipstamp, DelCampe, and Amazon before making a purchase decision.
- Always ask for a registered and tracked shipping if ordering via overseas with a picture of the tracking barcode. There might be custom duties as applicable in the destination country.
Step III – Stamp Collecting Accessories
This section of Guide To Stamp Collecting will share practical experiences and inputs regarding which basic tools to include in your kit. We will divide this section into two parts – Essential and Optional
- Air Tight Storage Boxes – These come in various shapes and sizes. Easily available via Amazon. These help in storing your precious stamps while you are working on them safely. Especially countries where the weather is hot and humid these come in quite handy.
- Catalogs – These catalogs help in identifying stamps and their probable values. Some of the leading names in this category are Scott, Yvert&Teller, Michel, Stanley Gibbons. These catalogs are available in print and digital versions from their respective websites. It is no brainer that Digital Versions are the best to invest in.
- Glassine Envelopes – They come in different sizes. They help to maintain and preserve your collection. These are useful especially in the case of MNH stamps. These also come in handy when you are shipping the stamps and adds a layer of protection inside the final box or envelope.
- Stock Books – These help in storing and keeping the stamps safe and organized. These come in different sizes, quality, and having different numbers of pages. They can range from 16 pages to 64 pages and can store from 400 stamps to 4000 stamps. The best brand to buy is Lighthouse / Leuchtturm. One of the other important aspects is to always buy ones with black pages.
- Tweezers – These are very important and essential in handling your stamps and especially for those who collect Mints. Using hands can damage and deterioration to your beloved pieces of history. These are either with ‘Spade Ends’ or ‘Pointed’. Preferably buy the ones with Spade Ends. A good Tong/Tweezer comes for in the range of $5-$10.
- Magnifiers – These are needed to examine the stamp in detail for its design and other attributes. We can observe the lines or cuts of a portrait or scenery on an engraved stamp. Also, it helps in studying the quality and peculiarities of printing processes such as the Photogravure or Lithographed. Errors and oddities are visible only through a magnifier. Do not invest in more than an x10 looking glass.
- Hinges – I do not prefer to use them but many philatelists use them. I have bought quite a few collections where they were very lightly hinged. It depletes the value of MNH stamps.
- Mounts – These are used to store and Again I do not favor them as they consume a lot of time and according to my personal opinion they are a waste of money if you are using good quality stock books such as Leuchtturm.
- Perforation Gauge – The perforation gauge measures the number of perforations within the measure of 2 centimeters. Perforations are a stamp’s ‘teeth’ and their measurements vary according to the type of perforating machine used. Often the stamp’s top and bottom ‘perfs’ differ from those at the sides (called a ‘compound perforation’), and measurements range from 7 (large holes) to about 18 (small holes)
- Watermark Detector – These are required at a much later stage when you get into a detailed analysis of stamps with high value. It’s a tool where the stamp is held against it with light passing through it highlighting the watermark embossed on the back of the particular stamp.
Step IV – Separating Your Stamps From Paper
In this section of Guide To Stamp Collecting, we will uncover how to take care of stamps collected from different sources which are on paper or are a part of an envelope.
- When separating the stamps from an envelope using scissors leave a margin of 1 or 2 cm as a buffer. Ensure that the perforations are not damaged in any manner. Perforations are an important factor in getting your stamps appraised.
- In case of If the stamps are not on the envelope then put the stamps in lukewarm water for twenty minutes or so. Please keep in mind not to use too hot water or boiling water as it will completely damage the stamps. Another important aspect to be kept into consideration is that stamps with colored paper and those with white paper have to be soaked separately.
- Once the process is over then start removing the stamps using tongs. Please remember to use Spade Ends tweezers to do so.
- Once all the stamps have been separated, allow the stamps to drip the water and dry overnight by arranging the stamps on a dry newspaper.
- Once they are laid out properly then cover them with another sheet of paper and put a heavy book so that they do not coil out and they retain their straight shape in the morning.
- Please be cautious not to use objects like Hair Dryer to expedite the process of drying.
Step V – Organizing Your Collection
This is the most interesting and fun part of “The King of Hobbies”. Some of the best practices of organizing your collections are as follows
- Sort and organize them according to Scott Catalog #s.
- Sort them according to their historical year of publishing.
- Sort them according to a topic or theme.
- Sort and organize them according to their face value. I follow this method of organizing my collections and it’s the easiest way out. Some times you can make mistakes but it helps in learning and infuriating at the same time.
With this, we now come to the last part of Guide To Stamp Collecting.
Step VI – Managing Duplicates
Over a period of time duplicates are bound to happen when you start compiling and sorting your collections. One way could be that you swap the extras with a fellow collector if there is interest. That is a good ploy to get stamps which you might be missing or longing to collect.
The best solution is selling your duplicate stamps, depending on what kinds of stamps they are. Selling helps you make extra money or you can reinvest the same in building up your new collection. The best way that I have found is to sell via Facebook or vis WhatsApp groups specific to Philately. If you decide to sell, do not go out to sell to another dealer, instead sell it to a direct collector.
Finally, a great way to deal with your duplicate extra stamps is to use them for gifting purposes. The extras could be used to stimulate or motivate them to develop an interest in stamp collecting. You can share your experiences of stamp collecting with the new practitioners who decide to act on your recommendations.
We now conclude this Guide To Stamp Collecting and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy reading it. Wishing all of you happiness, health, and peace in the current times of turmoil and watch the space for more interesting stuff next week.
Self Taught Techie, Father to a budding philatelist son and a Global Business Professional Having Traveled across four continents. I have helped European and Indian Businesses to turn around and realize business objectives in 180 to 270 days. Reading & Writing is my second nature. I rekindled my childhood passion for stamps after forty years and love to collect European Pre 1960s MNH OG stamps majorly from France, Germany, and Italy.