The Ultimate Guide to Stamp Collecting


Back to Stamps

Postage stamp collecting is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. With over 20 million stamp collectors in the United States alone, the global figure reaches well beyond 200 million stamp collectors.
Stamp collecting is different from philately. The word 'philately' is used for the study of stamps and related items. A philatelist need not own any stamps in order to qualify as one. Stamp collection, on the other hand, may well be done for just the sheer fun of it. There are no fixed rules about collecting stamps. Each stamp collector makes his own rules for his own convenience.
Stamps are valuable for their historical, cultural, and geographic value. They are often interesting depictions of their time's politics, culture, people, and the society in general. Stamps bring in valuable revenue for many countries that specialize in creating attractive designs in limited numbers. Such stamps often become collectors' items and are sold or traded for small fortunes.
Let us now dive into the history of stamp collecting and find out how it all started.

About.com: An excellent guide various aspects of stamp collecting
USPS: Insightful information about stamp collecting right from the source.

The Humble Beginnings of Stamp Collecting
According to various records, the hobby of stamp collecting began almost as soon as the first stamps were released. The first adhesive postage stamp was printed in the United Kingdom in 1840, and is known as the Penny Black. The stamp can only rarely be found unused today but used examples can still be found with relative ease. These can be sold for up to $200 depending on the condition. By the 1860s, the hobby of stamp collecting had proliferated to many parts of the world including many European countries and their colonies, the United States, etc.
It is said that the corruption in the UK's postal system lead to the invention of postage stamps as a counter measure. Information about the actual inventor of postage stamps is still ambiguous and there are varying accounts of how the idea of using printed stamps was first brought to life.
Even though stamp collecting is not a rage today like it used to be, it remains one of the most popular indoor hobbies of the world.
American Philatelic Society: An account of how stamp collecting started by the American Philatelic Society
A History of the World (BBC): History of stamp collecting by BBC
Stamp Link: A useful site with lots of links to other stamp collecting related sites.
National Postal Museum: One of the best and most extensive resources about stamp collecting.

Looking to Start Collecting Stamps? Here's What You Need
Album - A stamp album or a stock book is a safe way of keeping all your stamps in an organized fashion in one place.
Hinges - Except for when you have albums with pockets, you will need hinges to stick your stamps safely into your album. Be careful though, you may end up damaging your stamps if you don't use the hinges properly. Practicing with pieces of blank paper might be a good idea before you actually start sticking in your real stamps.
Magnifying Glass - To appreciate the true beauty of your stamps, you might want to have a magnifying glass that emphasizes the real beauty and intricate patterns found on many stamps without stressing your eyes out.
Tongs - Stamps are often made of light, sensitive paper. It is best not to directly touch them with your hands and use tongs with rounded tips so that any possible damage from skin oils or improper handling can be avoided.
USA Stamps: Some tips for beginners at USA Stamps
Stamp Collecting Guide: A guide to collecting Canadian stamps

How do you Actually Collect Stamps?
A new stamp collector might be short of ideas on how to go about building a collection. Obviously, simply buying stamps from the post office is no fun. One of the best ways to collect stamps is to ask your friends and loved ones to save them for you from whatever mail they get. If you know someone working in big multinationals, it might be a good idea to ask them for useless envelopes too since big corporations often receive mail from all over the world.
Along your stamp collecting journey, you may find many stamps over and over again. These duplicates can help you obtain the stamps you really want through selling or trading with others. Many people sell their stamps online. Others set up weekly stamp markets often known as 'bourses' that move around a fixed geographical region from week to week. Meeting stamp collectors at regional exhibitions and stamp shows also increases your chances of obtaining some of those rare stamps you've always wanted.

Types of Stamps
There is no single collection of stamps on the planet that can be considered complete. Maintaining such a collection would be virtually impossible with hundreds of millions of stamps on record and hundreds of new ones being printed every day. Therefore, collectors often limit their focus to specific types of stamps. These types can broadly be classified into the following groups:

  • Postage stamps - specific countries and/or time periods
  • Airmail stamps - stamps used for airmail, which are typically more expensive and have special postage rates.
  • Commemorative stamps - stamps to celebrate events, anniversaries etc. Or stamps that are on sale for a limited time
  • Definitive stamps - the most common type of stamps
  • Postage due stamps are special stamps applied by a post office to mail with insufficient postage.
  • Revenue stamps - stamps issued to pay taxes.
  • Topical stamp collecting - many collectors choose to organize their philatelic collection on the theme of the stamps, covers, or postmarks. Popular topical themes are animals
  • Dogs,
  • Cats,
  • Butterflies,
  • Birds,
  • Flowers,
  • Art,
  • Sports,
  • Olympics,
  • Maps,
  • Disney,
  • Scouting,
  • Space,
  • Ships,
  • Americana (topics relating to the US),
  • Stamps on stamps,
  • Famous people,
  • Chess,
  • Chinese new year
  • Birds on stamps
  • Ships on stamps
  • Insects on stamps
  • People on stamps
  • Stamps on stamps
  • Postal stationery - includes government-issued postal cards, aerograms, letter card, wrappers, envelopes, etc. that have an imprinted stamp.
  • Cinderella stamps - stamp-like labels that are not valid for postage
  • Postmarks or postal markings in general

Stamps.org: Defining different types of stamps for free
Stamps on Stamps: 'Stamps on Stamps' A closer look

Stamp Collecting Societies
There are thousands of enthusiastic groups of stamp collectors all over the world. These groups make it easier for collectors of similar interests to gather and share information in one place. The internet has further facilitated the formation of such clubs and societies that are no longer bound by geographic constraints.

The International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors: The Premier stamp collecting body promoting the hobby globally.
Philately Of Palestine: A list of collectors' societies, study groups, journals, and websites, covering broadly the field of collecting stamps and studying postal history of the Holy Land and Palestine

The Most Precious Stamps of the World
If you're a casual stamp collector, it is very likely that you might never get your hands on one of these stamps. These are only for the truly hardcore collectors that possess both the will and the financial means to purchase the most precious stamps in the world. Some of the well renowned stamps are:

  • The United States "Inverted Jenny" (which is actually a printing error)
  • The United States "1-cent Z grill" stamp.
  • The Treskilling Yellow.
  • The Mauritius "Post Office" stamps.
  • The British Guiana 1c magenta, and many others

Rare stamps from Russia: A nice collection of rare stamps from Russian and Eastern Europe
Well Known Stamp Collectors

  • Philipp von Ferrary (1850-1917)
  • King George V
  • Carol II of Romania
  • Queen Elizabeth II
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • Ayn Rand
  • Freddie Mercury
  • John Lennon

21 Great Resources for Stamp Collectors
National Postal Museum: Interesting information about famous stamp collectors
How to Collect Stamps: The complete guide to stamp collecting 
Top Stamp Collecting Websites: The best website for stamp collecting
World Stamps News - A blog dedicated to stamp news from around the world
Find your stamp's value: Identify your U.S. stamps and find their value!
Vernon Morris's Stamps - An award winning stamp collection
World Stamps: An incredible selection of Worldwide (mostly mint) Stamps and Philatelic material
World Stamps Pictures: Everything you ever wanted to know about stamp collecting
US Special Delivery: A web site for collectors of special service stamps
Vatican Philatelic Society: Web site of the Vatican Philatelic Society
West India Stamp: British Caribbean stamps, postal history, postcards
Stamp Collecting Roundup: Resources and links about stamps, stamp collecting and postal operations
Stamp Stock: Full range of stamps and philatelic items from around the world
Soccer Philately: The complete resource for soccer stamp collectors
Stampuoso: Valuable rare stamps
Stuart Katz: NY Stamps, buy & sell 5 days a week, collection auction
GB Stamps: Dedicated to the collecting and study of the stamps of Great Britain
Famous stamps: Famous stamps, valuable stamps, postage stamp collection
Dead Country Stamps: Discussing stamps and currency from countries that no longer exist
Bobby's US and Worldwide Stamp Packets: Source for older U.S. and worldwide stamp packets
Bruce McDonald's Stamps: Complete stock of US from classic to modern in all grades

Stamp and Other Collectable Links on StartLocal

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