Stamp collecting is a hobby that has been enjoyed by many people, from presidents and kings to children all around the world. Also known as philately, stamp collecting is a popular pastime that provides many educational benefits.
Stamp collecting has been around for over 160 years. It’s a great way to learn about history and past events. Collectors naturally learn about other countries as they save stamps from old letters from all over the world.
To start collecting, you need a few basic tools and supplies:
There are a wide range of albums available. Depending on your specialty, you can find albums that cover an entire country or a particular topic. There are also albums that contain the most popular stamps from all countries and complete albums that have pages for every issue. Most albums have pages with pictures of the stamp to make it easy to identify and group sets.
Of course, you don’t absolutely need to have an album. Many collectors use blank pages or stock pages so they can arrange their collection to suit their needs.
Do whatever you like best but just make sure that you keep your stamps safe.
Hinges or Mounts
To mount your stamps into your album you’ll need either hinges or mounts. Hinges are little scraps of paper with glue. You moisten the glue and stick the hinges to the back of the stamp. The hinge is folded over and the other side sticks to the album page.
The only bad thing about a hinge is that it disturbs the gum on the back of a stamp. They’re OK for used stamps or stamps without gum, but you may want to use mounts for mint stamps to preserve the gum.
Mounts come in different sizes and are designed to completely wrap around the stamp. Since the mount wraps around the stamp, the gum is not disturbed at all.
The oil in fingers can damage the gum on stamps. You don’t want to be handling your stamps with bare hands. Instead, use a pair of stamp tongs. They look like tweezers, but usually have a flat head that make it easy to pick up stamps. There are many styles of tongs, but make sure you don’t use a pair of household tweezers, because they can damage the stamp.
You’ll probably want a magnifying glass in order to see the detail on your stamps. The difference between a common stamp and a valuable variety can come down to just a small detail only viewable under a magnifying glass.
As you get more involved in collecting, you will start to pick up more specialized tools, but these are the basic items you’ll want to start out with.
The nice thing about stamp collecting is that you can get started with very little investment of cash. In fact, you can start with the mail you receive every day at home.
To save the stamps from letters you get in the mail, you’ll need to soak them off the envelope. Here’s the simple process:
1. Tear the corner of the envelope into a small square around the stamp. Be careful not to tear the stamp itself. You might want to save up a few of these envelope corners before starting the next step because it’s easier to soak a lot of stamps at once.
2. Fill a bowl with warm water. Place the torn envelope corner with the stamp in the warm water. Let the pieces soak for a few minutes. The gum will dissolve and eventually the stamp will separate from the envelope.
3. Place the stamp on a piece of absorbent paper to dry. Cover with another piece of absorbent paper and put a heavy book on top to keep the stamps flat. Let stand for a few hours until dry.
4. Once dry, you can mount the stamp into your album or store in a glassine envelope for sorting later.
Stamp supply dealers have books of absorbent paper you can use to dry your stamps as well as stock books and glassine envelopes to store your stamps safely.
Find Your Specialty
Many collectors collect commemorative stamps – stamps that are offered at the post office for a limited time and feature a particular theme.
One of the great things about stamp collecting is that you can specialize in a collecting area. If you are interested in dogs, for example, you might concentrate your specialty only on those stamps that feature dogs. No matter what your interests are, you’ll probably find that subject depicted on stamps.
Or you can specialize in a certain country or part of the world. Some collectors, for example, collect stamps from all British commonwealth countries.
What makes stamp collecting unique is that you can choose your specialty. You get to decide what and how to collect. Your collection is a unique expression of your own interests and personality.
Stamp collecting is a great hobby. Stamp collections can become very valuable over time. Even if your collection is not worth a lot of money, it will be very valuable to you. If you are looking for a new hobby or past time, stamp collecting might be for you!