Of all the hobbies one could choose to entertain and be entertained by, few have the rich history that a stamp collecting hobby can claim. Stamp collecting encompasses the representation of an endless variety of diverse, inspirational themes. It also brings the beauty and history of every culture and creature on Earth directly into your grasp. And it can reap financial rewards down the road.
If you’re interested in getting started with a stamp collecting hobby, one of the most important first steps is to decide upon the types of stamps you want to collect. Having a basic collecting plan in place can help you make sure you get the biggest bang for your hobby dollar buck.
The following article provides more information about how to get started and getting the most out of your stamp collecting hobby.
A History Of Stamp Collecting
The first postage stamp was issued in 1840 in Great Britain. The stamp had an image of Queen Victoria and was known as the “Penny Black“. Unlike most stamps today, it was an “imperforate“, meaning it wasn’t perforated. It had to be cut with scissors to use for mailing. Today, used “Penny Blacks” are still available to the astute collector from anywhere between $20.00 and $200.00, depending upon the condition. Unused “Penny Blacks”, however, are very rare and quite valuable to the lucky collector who happens to find one.
Originally referred to as “timbromania” (stamp madness), the stamp collecting hobby almost immediately took hold and swept through Europe and beyond. As stamp collecting expanded, a variety of businesses started to cater to collectors. These businesses manufactured and sold collector supplies – the first stamp albums were printed and sold in the early 1880’s.
By the year 1860, twenty years after the first issued stamp, thousands of collectors already had a burgeoning stamp collecting hobby. Stamp collecting hobbyists are as passionate as ever, and today there are an estimated 25 million American collectors and 200 million worldwide.
Stamp Collecting Fun Facts
- Selling postage stamps and related supplies, Stanley Gibbons, Ltd. opened its doors in 1856. Located in London, Stanley Gibbons is the oldest continuously operating stamp and stamp supply business.
- The first postage stamps did not have adhesive on the back. People had to use their own glue or other methods to affix the stamp to an envelope.
- The United States Post Office issued the first U.S. postage stamp in 1847.
- During the Apollo 11 lunar flight in 1969, astronauts brought along with them a postage stamp die. Once they landed, they created a stamp with the die they brought along and created the moon’s first postage stamp.
Getting Started With The Stamp Collecting Hobby
Getting started on the road to a fun, rewarding stamp collection is as easy as going to your mailbox. Postage stamps, even the metered kind that are imprinted on the envelope, are all valid as collectibles. The post office is constantly adding new stamp designs that could be part of your collection.
Countries that you may have never heard of issue incredibly beautiful stamps. These stamps usually represent the vast varieties of indigenous animal and plant life, often in magnificent color and interesting shapes. Stamps can truly be a functional work of art!
There are also many companies that sell stamps from all over the world. Commonly, they will offer a collection of hundreds of stamps for only a few dollars. While the stamps may not be rarities in the stamp world, they will provide a substantial start to a beginner’s stamp collecting hobby. One of the more prominent companies will send you an 80-page catalog, a sampler of stamps, and a $5.00 certificate all for free.
Books to keep stamp collections in are available in most hobby and craft stores. Some books have clear plastic pockets to keep the stamps in. The more traditional books have plain pages. For the latter type of book, you will need to purchase some hinged backings that adhere to the stamp and then affix to the book’s page.
You will also want to have a decent magnifying glass to better view your stamps. Additionally, you will need a pair of tweezer-like tongs for handling the stamps. You should handle the stamps as little as possible. Even if your hands are clean, the oils from your skin can damage the stamp.
For shipping and/or swapping you should have some small plastic “glassine” envelopes. These envelopes keep the stamps clean and help prevent damage. They range in size and are relatively inexpensive.
The cost to get started with your stamp collecting hobby can vary depending on the stamp collection you want to start. But you should be able to get all of the necessary supplies for around $30.00.
Stamp Collecting Steps
The first step in the stamp collecting hobby is to determine what types of stamps you want to collect. While you can easily get started by just going down to your local post office, it helps to narrow down what types of stamps you want to collect. Some ideas to consider:
- Concentrate on new or only used stamps
- Stamps of certain countries or regions
- Stamps of certain time periods
- Collector-only stamps
- Personality stamp collections (such as Presidents or movie stars)
- Special issue stamps
To make sure you properly store the stamps you collect, purchase the necessary stamp collecting hobby supplies before you get too far down the road. Stamps are small and delicate so having your organization and storage supplies ready will help you as you start building your collection.
With your stamp collecting theme defined and supplies in-hand, it’s time to start collecting! Depending on the types of stamps you want to collect, there will likely be several places where you can buy them. It also helps to ask your friends and relatives if they may have any stamps they can give you.
As you acquire your stamps, make sure to store them properly. Use your plastic stamp sleeves and/or archival quality stamp albums. Albums are a great way to not only store, but also display your stamp collection. Stamps are sensitive to heat and humidity. Store your collection in an area of your home that has a reasonably consistent temperature and humidity range year-round.
Stamp Collecting Tips And Tricks
The following tips can help you get the most out of your stamp collecting hobby…
- Go through your contact list. Anybody live overseas? They’d likely be more than happy to send you a collection of stamps from their country.
- To avoid damaging an affixed stamp, never peel a stamp off an envelope. By very carefully soaking the stamp in water you can often remove the stamp. Look online for more details of how to do this properly.
- The Internet makes it easy to get pen pals that also collect stamps. With careful selection and a few friendly emails, it’s easy enough to establish worldwide pen pal relationships and swap stamps from different countries.
- Try going for quality over quantity. If you just collect a bunch of stamps for the sake of collecting, you’ll not only dilute the value of your collection but you’ll also likely lose interest in the hobby. Most of the fun in the stamp collecting hobby is in the quest, not in the sheer number of stamps you have.
Expanding Your Stamp Collecting Hobby
As you establish your starter collection, you may want to think about ways to expand on your stamp collecting hobby. Here are a few ideas to consider…
- Join one of many Philatelic (stamp collecting) clubs that exist. These clubs are a great way to socialize with and learn from other stamp aficionados. You can also join one of many online stamp collecting forums to chat, learn and contribute about the stamp collecting hobby.
- Carefully expand on your collection theme. For example, if you’ve focused on regional European stamps, you could add a related theme such as stamps from either World War. Or you could add a related non-stamp collection to your hobby repertoire. For example, if you’re collecting historical stamps, you might also try collecting coins from the same era.
- Sell your stamps. While many stamp hobbyists are only interested in collecting stamps, you may find it fun to try and sell some of your collection.
Related Stamp Collecting Resources
Check out the following online resources for more information about the stamp collecting hobby…
American Philatelic Society (APS) – An online portal for stamp collectors from all over the world. Join the APS and enjoy a number of stamp collecting services and educational offerings.
The Philatelic Foundation – Recognized as the central source for expertise in stamp certification, reference collections and educational publications.
Lindner – Well known, worldwide supplier of stamps and stamp collecting supplies.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.