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What is Philately? Discover Stamp Collecting!

Updated on September 5, 2016
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Peter started collecting stamps when he was a small child and has been at it ever since. He is an expert on Philately in the Digital Age.


Stamp Collecting: "The Hobby of Kings"

Did you know that postage stamp collecting-- even in our digital age-- remains one of the most popular collecting hobbies in the world? Stamp collectors-- sometimes known as philatelists-- still number in the tens of millions, and in rapidly developing nations like India and China, stamp collecting is actually enjoying tremendous growth.

It is estimated that-- at one time in the not too distant past-- as many as 1-in-10 people in the US saved and collected stamps. Stamp collecting has always been an inexpensive and easy hobby to get into-- after all, the "subject" of the hobby can potentially arrive FREE in the mail, almost every day. Add to this that stamps are colorful miniature works of art, offer a tiny "window" to the culture and history of different countries, take up very little room, require few "specialized tools" to collect and are available in every corner of the world-- and you've got a truly global collectible!

In this article you'll learn more about the history of stamps and stamp collecting, as well as tips on the many different ways to collect stamps, supplies and reference books, where and how to buy stamps (if you're not going to wait for them to come in the mail!) and much more.

Danish stamps from my childhood
Danish stamps from my childhood

How I Got Started with Stamp Collecting

I was born and grew up in Denmark-- a tiny country in Northern Europe. When I was little, my father worked as a manager at a manufacturing and international trade company. Naturally, the office would get lots and lots of mail from places all around the world, and in the mid-1960s, the only way to get things from "point A" to "point B" was to put a stamp (or several) on an envelope.

My father believed that a stamp collection would be a great hands-on way for me to learn about the culture, history and geography of many different places-- in a manner far more interesting and practical than learning about these things in school. On top of that, I would have a hobby, as well as a way to connect with other kids with a shared interest. When I was a kid, lots of my friends collected stamps, and I made lots of new friends as a result of being a stamp collector.

Little did my father know that he "gave" me a life-long hobby that has since allowed me to correspond with and get to know hundreds of fellow stamp collectors all around the world. That is one of the great benefits of stamp collecting-- even though it can be a solitary pursuit, there tends to be a great fellowship between collectors all around the world.

Stamp Collecting For Dummies
Stamp Collecting For Dummies

The good news is that I know Dick Sine (the author), and he's a good guy and he knows what he's talking about. He has also managed to keep this book written in a "light" sort of way, while offering lots of information.

The not-so-good news is that the book is heavily focused on US stamps, and even though lots of the general principles are valid ANYwhere, it might feel a bit dull, if you're from somewhere else, or just not interested in US stamps.


Yes, there IS a Stamp Collecting for Dummies!

There's a lot you can learn about stamp collecting. Life-long stamp collectors may spend 50 years in the hobby and still not feel like they "know everything."

At the same time, you really don't have to know much more than the basics to get started and have a fun time collecting.

This article falls somewhere in the middle. Even though it is quite long, it essentially covers the basics for a newcomer to the hobby.

Of course, you do have the option of just skipping everything I've written here and just ordering a book about stamp collecting instead. Unfortunately one of the best introductory books (shown at right) is out of print and has-- in a touch of irony-- become quite collectible, in its own right... and thus can be pretty spendy.

But it's a good book, so DO check it out, if you feel so inclined.

Of course, I'd prefer you stayed and read my article, though!

Time for a quick poll!

Are YOU a Stamp Collector?

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Great Britain Penny Black-- the World's First Stamp.
Great Britain Penny Black-- the World's First Stamp.

The Penny Black: The World's First Postage Stamp

The first postage stamp in the world was issued in England in 1840.

Stamps were "invented" as a result of an overhaul of public mails in England. Prior to 1840, sending a letter was a very complicated and unpredictable affair, and how much it would cost to send the letter depended on the letter carrier, the distance it was going, how many people had to handle the letter along the way and much more.

English postal reformer Sir Rowland Hill proposed and introduced what became known as "uniform penny postage," which meant that now a basic letter could be mailed anywhere in Britain for a penny. A small label-- the "stamp"-- affixed to the letter served as proof that the cost to transport the letter to its destination had been pre-paid by the sender.

The "penny postage" system was quickly embraced and resulted in an explosion in the volume of mail sent.

The world's first stamp was a simple design with a picture of Queen Victoria, ruling monarch at the time, inscribed with the rate of "one penny." The stamps were printed in sheets of 240, and the letters in the lower corners indicate where in the sheet the stamp comes from, column and row. Back then, stamps were cut from the sheet with scissors-- there were no "perforations" between stamps to help you separate them. Finding a stamp that was cut accurately on all four sides can be quite tricky.

Although this IS the world's first stamp-- and highly collectible-- it is by no means the world's rarest because millions and millions were printed to meet postal needs.

Own the World's First Postage Stamp!

There are a number of reasons why the "Penny Black" is highly sought after. It is not only collected by stamp collectors, but also by collectors of ephemera based on having "the world's first" of anything.

Prices vary considerably, depending on the condition of the stamp. Stamps in excellent "premium" condition (don't forget this is a piece of PAPER, 175 years old!) can sell for $100's.

eBay is generally one of the most reliable places to get your hands on one of these very old pieces of our history. There are also other major online marketplaces like Delcampe and BidStart that offer thousands of stamps for sale.

US Stamps from 1970
US Stamps from 1970

So How Do You Start a Stamp Collection?

As I mentioned in the introduction, starting a stamp collection is very easy because-- in principle-- the "subject matter" arrives in the mail, for free. The stamps pictured at right are from 1970, and arrived on everyday mail at our house, back then. With subjects like elephants and dinosaurs, these were pretty interesting, when I was ten. Of course, if you don't get very many letters-- true for many of us, in this day and age-- that might take a while.

As a kid, I got hundreds of stamps by walking across the street from my junior school to the post office and looking in the trash bins by the P.O.Boxes where people often opened-- and discarded-- envelopes when picking up their mail.

If you want to stick to the "free" method, you can always join a penpal club or postcard exchange, which will get you lots of mail, but you'll also be expected to send mail to others. However, it can be a fun way to get stamps from all over the world. For example, the Postcrossing project has resulted in more than 21 million postcards being exchanged between members. If postcards are not your bag, you can also join a penpal club like Interpals, which has been on the web since 1998 and has many thousands of members.

Of course, the option many people opt for is simply to buy some stamps to get started-- there are lots of options for doing so, and I'll get back to those, a little further down.

The next obvious question is what to DO with the stamps, once you have some. Most people opt for some form of stamp album-- although I've come across collections that were kept in photo albums, in scrapbooks, in envelopes, coin holders, trading card sleeves and even in desk drawers. I recommend some kind of stamp album, though... along with some basic "supplies" that will make your collecting efforts easier and more enjoyable.

The best way to store your stamps

Stamp Album Stockbook by Lighthouse 32-Black Page Stamp Stock book LS2/16 Blue (Size: 6 1/2" x 9")
Stamp Album Stockbook by Lighthouse 32-Black Page Stamp Stock book LS2/16 Blue (Size: 6 1/2" x 9")

This is going to be your first stamp album. A LOT of places sell these for $24.00-35.00, so this is a really good deal.

Lighthouse is a "premium" brand, and sure, you can find a "cheaper" book. But I've been "field testing" these for 30+ years and I still have some that are that old. The "cheap" albums I've owned have all been thrown away. Why? Either they just fall apart, or the pages start to yellow, which will damage your stamps. 'Nuff said.


Some Basic Stamp Collecting Supplies: Your First Album

Here's a "short list" of some of the very basics I suggest for a new stamp collector... it'll get you "off on the right foot," so to speak. Sure, you can "make do" without any of these things, but if you "get into" collecting you might end up regretting not having the right supplies from the start.

Here's a funny thing for you: After 45+ years as a stamp collector, I've discovered that you do NOT always get the best deals on stamp collecting supplies from hobby shops that specialize in this stuff.

I buy a LOT of stamp collecting supplies, and these listings from Amazon actually offer the best prices on collecting supplies. I will keep this list as current as possible, to make sure the best deals are always featured here.

The first thing you need is a place to safely store your stamps without damaging them.

How to "Handle" Your Stamps

Small pieces of paper are pretty fragile-- especially when they get to be 100+ years old.

Stamp tongs are sort of like tweezers, only different.

Why use tongs? Well, they allow you to pick up stamps without damaging them, and it keeps the oils on your fingers from damaging the paper, especially with really OLD stamps. This is important because damaged stamps have a much lower value than stamps in pristine condition.

Do NOT use regular tweezers from your bathroom! Why? Because they have little "ridges" on the gripping surface... great when you want to pull a splinter from your finger, but they can damage the paper of stamps.

Lighthouse Stamp Perforation Gauge Model ZS
Lighthouse Stamp Perforation Gauge Model ZS

A basic stamp perforation gauge... "fancier" ones abound, but there's no reason to spend a lot of money on them.


50 Dollars or 50 Cents?

Those little saw-tooth shaped things at the edges of stamps are known as "perforations," or "perfs," for short. You probably knew that, through!

Anyway, lots of different sizes of perforations are-- and have been-- used on the edges of stamps, around the world.

And on older stamps, differences in the size of perforations can be the difference between a 50 cent stamp and a 50 dollar stamp.

Stamp collectors use a "perforation gauge" to measure the size of a stamp's perforations. You don't need anything "fancy;" the suggested model at right is pretty much what I have been using since childhood.

Stamp collecting supplies
Stamp collecting supplies

Any other supplies I might need?

The above covers the very fundamentals. There are other things you might want, as you get along.

Many older stamps were printed on watermarked paper... and many different watermarks were used. Now, in many cases, you can see a watermark by holding the stamp up to a light source... but not always. And sometimes the postmark and stamp design can interfere with what you think you're seeing. There are special watermark detection fluids that are safe for stamps, and you might also want a "watermark tray" which is a small black receptacle you pour the fluid into... black, because as a background, it helps the watermark stand out.

Glassine envelopes are handy for stamps you want to sort, or stamps you want to store somewhere other than your album. Yes, you can use ordinary envelopes... but the thing with glassines is that you can see through them, which you can with regular envelopes.

A pocket sized UV lamp can be handy, too. Some stamps have UV reactive "tagging" added to the surface of the paper. The original purpose is the aid automated letter sorting equipment locate the stamp on an envelope and turn all the envelopes so they face the same way. For stamp collectors, however, a "tagged" stamp is often considered different from an "untagged" stamp, for the purposes of collecting. So you need to be able to tell them apart.

An assortment of modern stamp catalogues
An assortment of modern stamp catalogues

A Few Words about Stamp Catalogues and the Values of Stamps

Another fairly important part of a stamp collector's supplies is a stamp catalogue. Or, in the case of more advanced collectors, several stamp catalogues and reference books.

Stamp catalogues list and picture every stamp from a particular country-- or sometimes the whole world-- and allow collectors to determine when and where a stamp was issued. As such, they are important in helping you organize your collection, and in helping you discover more about which stamps you have, and which stamps you might still want to add to your collection.

In addition to identification, stamp catalogues attempt to determine an approximate value of stamps. I say "approximate," because ascertaining the actual value of a stamp is more of an art than a science. In stamp collecting, a stamp catalogue will give you a value for a given stamp in a very specific condition... but what your stamp is really worth is determined by its condition, compared to the catalogue "standard," as well as demand and supply in the collector market.

Condition, Condition, Condition...

"Second rate" copies of an old stamp might be worth a small fraction of "catalogue value," while flawless copies may be worth considerably more than stated catalogue value.

In addition, most lower value stamps have very little effective market value. For example, a stamp might be in the catalogue as "worth" 25 cents, but its actual worth is probably less than one cent. How does that work? You can generally consider most of this "value" a sort of "handling charge" for a stamp dealer to even bother having the stamp available. If you think a bit about the cost of living in our world, nobody can make any semblance of a living from selling items for once cent each, right?

It's all a bit confusing and daunting for newcomers to the hobby.

So, do you really need a stamp catalogue, when you're just starting out? Perhaps not. There are a number of good reference sites online that can help you with basic identification of stamps. And if you do want to use a real paper catalogue, most public libraries have them available, in their reference section.

Why am I so cautious in recommending catalogues? Well, they are expensive. And if you're still in the "I'm not really sure what I want to collect" stage, spending over US $300 (for example) on a set of Scott world stamp catalogues seems like a bit of overkill.

There are many major issuers of stamp catalogues around the world. Scott is based in the US and has a worldwide catalogue. Stanley Gibbons is based in the UK, and their catalogues are best known for British Commonwealth stamps. Other publishers include Michel (Germany), Yvert & Tellier (France), Zumstein (Switzerland), Facit (Scandinavia) and there are many others, but they are a bit beyond the scope of this article.

Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue - It's what most US collectors use for reference...

Most collectors in the US use the "Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue" (referred to by most stamp collectors simply as "Scott") for reference. This catalogue covers every stamp ever issued, anywhere. A full current set of 7 volumes, at the going rate, will set you back about US $500.00+

Unless you really, really feel compelled to buy the latest version, I suggest you invest in a set of catalogues that are a couple of years old. The absolute latest stamps won't be included, but pretty close. And you'll be able to get them for 1/3 to 1/2 of the new price.

The listings at right are for a 2013 set. While still a considerable investment, it's more within most people's reach, price wise.

A mint and a used stamp from Denmark
A mint and a used stamp from Denmark

Choices: Should I Collect Mint or Used stamps?

Stamps typically come in two primary "flavors:" Mint (or unused)-- and used (or cancelled or postmarked). At left, you can see the same Danish stamp in both mint and used condition.

Although a few collectors collect both kinds, most collections are made up of one... or the other.

Personally, I collect used stamps. I like the idea that the stamps have "been somewhere" and have served the purpose they were designed for. I also like seeing the postmarks on them, from different parts of the world.

A lot of collectors favor mint stamps. One important reason is that the stamp's design is readily visible, and not partly covered by cancel ink.

There is no "right" or "wrong" way to go about choosing-- it's purely a matter of personal preference. One thing to keep in mind is that if you do end up getting serious about stamp collecting, really old mint stamps can be quite expensive... because very few people "back then" thought to save stamps, as opposed to just using them on letters.

For example, I collect Danish stamps. I could buy a nice used copy of Denmark's first stamp (from 1851) for about $25-30, while a mint copy of the same stamp might set me back 15-20 times that!

Mint stamps also have to be handled with more care, because it's quite easy to damage the adhesive (known to stamp collectors as "gum") on the back of the stamp, which means the stamp's value is reduced.

Stamps from different corners of the world
Stamps from different corners of the world

Collecting Worldwide Stamps: How most people begin a stamp collection

Most stamp collections start out as "general worldwide" in scope. People simply save whatever interesting stamps arrive in the mail with little attention paid to having any kind of focus. That's how I got started, as well... there were so many different unusual and colorful stamps in my dad's office mail that I declared I would "collect the whole world!" I just wanted to get one each of all the stamps, ever!

The stamps pictured here were issued by West Germany (before the Berlin Wall fell); Sweden; Kenya, Uganda & Tanzania (as a single postal entity under British dominion) and Malaysia.

On a more realistic level, collecting all the stamps of the world would be a monumental and extremely expensive endeavor, as hundreds of thousands of unique stamps have been issued by hundreds of different sovereign nations between 1840 and the present day. Certainly, there are "general worldwide" stamp collectors out there, but their numbers are fairly small.

That said, a worldwide collection is a great way to start because it allows you to see "what's out there," and that might help you develop more specialized interests, perhaps as a result of discovering that certain stamps always get your attention.

Stamps from the Nordic countries
Stamps from the Nordic countries

Collecting the Stamps of a Country or Region

The most common way to narrow down the scope of what to collect is to limit your collecting emphasis to a particular country or region. The stamps pictured here are all from the Nordic countries.

Once I had gotten past my initial childhood enthusiasm for collecting "the whole world," I eventually settled on collecting the stamps of Denmark (because we lived there), Sweden (because it was "next door" and we knew people there who sent us letters) and France (because we went there on vacation on a regular basis).

In my case, the determining factor was that the stamps were "relatively easy to get." In our modern times-- largely thanks to the Internet-- there are fewer geographic limitations on "what you can get."

As I said earlier, there is really no "right" or "wrong" way to go about choosing. It's fairly common to choose your "home country" to collect... but some people choose things like "countries I have traveled to" or a region like "Scandinavia" or "East Africa."

British Commonwealth stamps from the reign of George VI
British Commonwealth stamps from the reign of George VI

Collecting the Stamps of a Specific Time Period

Another way to narrow down the scope of a stamp collection is to collect only the stamps issued during a particular time period.

Many stamp collectors form "The first 100 years of stamps" collections-- these are of finite size, and appeal to many for their historical value. However, it can also become a pretty costly affair, because some of the "classic period" stamps are also among the most expensive to buy. And they are definitely NOT going to "arrive in the mail."

There are many different approaches, though. You could collect "stamps issued during World War II" for example. Maybe you grew up in the 1960s and you might enjoy having a collection from that time period... which might show some of the history and pop culture of that decade.

Another popular thing is to combine an area and a time period: For example "Stamps from British Commonwealth countries during the reign of King George V."

You can pretty much make your choice as narrow or as wide as you wish-- there are lots of possibilities! The stamps pictured here were "issued by British Commonwealth nations during the reign of King George VI."

Thematic or Topical Stamp Collecting

Rare hand painted First Day Cover with the 1988 "cats" stamps from the US
Rare hand painted First Day Cover with the 1988 "cats" stamps from the US

With the advent of "modern" stamps-- the result of new design and printing technologies-- featuring a wide range of subject matters, a new form of stamp collecting has gained widespread popularity.

Known as "Topical" or "Thematic" collecting, this type of philately focuses on a particular theme on stamps. It might be something straightforward like "Butterflies on stamps" or "Horses on stamps," or something quite esoteric like "medical innovations." There's almost no limit to the creativity of thematic collectors, who will sometimes also include thematic postmarks and other "related items" in their collections.

Topical collectors get quite creative, sometimes. They might do considerable historical research, as part of their collecting. For example, I met one collector whose interest in "scouting on stamps" extended beyond merely the stamps featuring scouting related motifs, to also include "famous people" on stamps whom he'd determined to have had some kind of affiliation with the scouting movement. Basically, it became an adult "treasure hunt," of sorts.

Personally, I have a small collection formed around the theme "Cats on stamps" because I have had cats for most of my life, and I found it interesting how often they were part of stamp designs. Pictured above is a special hand painted first day cover with the cat stamps issued by the US in 1988.

Specialized Stamp Collecting

Swedish "ringtyp" stamps with town cancels, issued in the 1870's to 1890's
Swedish "ringtyp" stamps with town cancels, issued in the 1870's to 1890's

There's really no fixed definition for what a "specialist" stamp collector is. My personal "definition" is that it's someone who collects stamps in some more involved or detailed fashion than just "one of each."

Usually, specialization happens after someone has been collecting for a number of years and discovers that they are particularly and frequently drawn to some fairly specific area of stamp collecting.

Some people might start collecting stamps and old letters sent from or to the town or county where they were born, or where their family originally came from. Or maybe they get interested in a particular group or series of stamps from a specific country. Because so many stamps have been issued around the world, the possibilities are almost endless.

There are common misconceptions that specialized collecting is only for "very advanced" stamp collectors, that you "have to be rich" to afford specialized collecting, and that it's all about sitting a looking at tiny variations in design with a magnifying glass.

All three of these assumptions are largely myths. Yes, you need to have a pretty good understanding of the basics of stamp collecting to understand what makes something "collectible," but that's about it. As for the cost, you can make an extensive specialized collection out of a country's most common stamp, if you get a bit creative with it. I've seen it done!

I have a number of specialized stamp collections, running the range from "cheap" to "pretty expensive." Pictured above are some stamps from my collection of 19th century Swedish town cancellations.

Page from a duplicate accumulation of British Commonwealth stamps
Page from a duplicate accumulation of British Commonwealth stamps

Let's Get Started: I Want to Buy Some Stamps to Start a Collection!

So, you may have gotten to the point where you've decided that waiting for stamps in the mail is going to take too long, so you want to buy some stamps to start your stamp collection. There are a number of different places you can do this.

If you live in a bigger city, there may still be a street level stamp store in your town. With the Internet, there are not as many as there used to be, but they are still around. You might find them under "stamps for collectors" in the yellow pages.

You can also look through the newspaper and perhaps see ads for a local stamp show, where dealers also set up tables and sell from their stock. Again, that is a possibility, but somewhat limited.

Your best bet is to go online and do some research. Online, you'll find "marketplaces" that sell stamps (like eBay), and you'll find numerous stamp dealers who sell from their web sites, and you'll find stamp auction firms that allow you to place bids for lots of stamps from their web sites, or from paper catalogs they send you in the mail.

You can either buys stamps individually, one at a time, or you can buy them in "lots" or "accumulations" or "collections." It's a good idea to have some sense of what you want to do, before you "go shopping." If you're just starting out, you might want to start of with a smaller "world wide" collection, or a starter collection from a particular country or area. These are widely available, and often not so expensive.

Buying a Starter Collection of Worldwide Stamps

A good way to start-- and usually get a LOT of stamps for a reasonable price-- is to buy a "packet" or starter collection. Once again eBay-- which originally started as a "collectibles" market-- is a great place to start. Starter collections can be worldwide, or cover a particular area or country.

Places to Buy Stamps for Your Collection

Here's a short list of some of the best places to buy stamps online. This list is by no means exhaustive-- there are literally thousands of web sites that sell stamps.

Connecting With Other Stamp Collectors

Iceland is known for beautiful stamps, and is a very popular collecting area
Iceland is known for beautiful stamps, and is a very popular collecting area

Although stamp collecting is mostly a somewhat solitary pastime, there are lots of ways to connect with other stamp collectors... and for most people, part of the enjoyment of having a collection comes in the form of sharing and trading with others.

There are many different kinds of organizations for stamp collectors, ranging from your local stamp club that might meet monthly at a library or other public place, to national associations. These can be found in almost all countries, and there are also specialty societies for people who collect something specific, whether it's thematics or particular types of stamps.

If stamp collecting really starts getting your attention, it's highly recommended that you join some form of stamp club to get more out of the hobby!

If you want to start out with something a little less "formal," the Internet has given rise to 100's of online forums and "communities" for stamp collectors. These can be extremely helpful for beginners who have questions-- whether you need help with identifying stamps, or suggestions on albums or catalogues, or even what and how to collect. They are far too numerous to list, but a few of the more significant and active ones appear below.

Major Stamp Collecting Associations

As is true with most things, there are clubs, associations and other organizations for stamp collectors. Of course, there are hundreds of these... ranging from the most general national organizations to very small "study circles" for highly specialized collectors.

Listed here at right are just a few major ones in the US and the UK... but pretty much every country in the world has a stamp collectors' association of some kind. A few minutes with Google should help you find yours.

Online Stamp Collecting Forums and Communities

Becoming part of an online stamp collecting forum can be helpful and informative for new collectors. Usually, these work as a sort of bulletin/message board where you can post comments and ask questions and others reply, sometimes sites are more elaborate, like small specialized "social networks" with lots of additional features.

Most communities are quite welcoming towards new stamp collectors, but DO take a moment to familiarize yourself with the workings and terms of use of a community before posting questions!

Learning More About Stamps

Stamps celebrate the nature, culture and history of the place where they were issued
Stamps celebrate the nature, culture and history of the place where they were issued

Aside from simply "getting your hands on some stamps," the best way to learn is through reading more about what other stamp collectors do, and what's going on-- in general-- in the world of stamp collecting.

A little time with Google will lead to you to hundreds of web sites and blogs about stamp collecting, the majority of them created by stamp collectors... for no other reason than they enjoy the hobby and want to share what they are doing.

Another good way to learn is to subscribe to a stamp collecting magazine or news service, where you can also read about what others are doing, and get ideas for your own collection. I have personally been a subscriber to "Linn's Stamp News" since the 1980s, and have gotten lots of good ideas... not to mention lots of stamps ordered from the advertisements in the magazine!

It's well worth learning about stamps, and building a stamp collection. Stamps teach us about other cultures, and they are miniature works of art that show us the culture, history and nature of many different places on the planet!

News and Magazines for Stamp Collectors

Because stamp collecting is a truly global hobby, there are also lots of different hobby magazines and periodicals for stamp collectors. Here's a list of the more significant ones

© 2012 Peter Messerschmidt

What do YOU think about Stamp Collecting? Are you a collector? Have you ever been one? Know someone who is? Please leave a comment!

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    • profile image

      dellgirl 3 years ago

      Congratulations on getting purple star Purple Star and Lens of the Day for this great lens. That's awesome! I started collecting stamps as a kid, think I collected about 8 or 10 or so, thanks for the memories.

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      Peter Messerschmidt 3 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @VioletteRose LM: It's interesting not only how many people have collections... but how many people start them, then give up for many years, and then pick up their collections again, later in life.

    • VioletteRose LM profile image

      VioletteRose LM 3 years ago

      I used to collect stamps when I was a kid, it was so much of fun then :)

    • fibonacci1123 profile image

      fibonacci1123 3 years ago

      Wow so thorough! Thank you for all these details.

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      Peter Messerschmidt 3 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @JimHofman: Thank you! I find that a LOT of people had a collection "at some point" and many take up the hobby again, sometimes after a 20+ year "break."

    • JimHofman profile image

      JimHofman 3 years ago

      Reading this well done lens makes me want to get back into stamp collecting! We do have a collection of first day covers around here...somewhere.

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      shahbaba 3 years ago

      Very nice Amazing

    • topclimb lm profile image

      topclimb lm 3 years ago

      Very nice lens. Brings back a lot of memories of when I was a kid... Thanks!

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      liny-tan 3 years ago

      i love collecting stamps too. such a hobby is not very famous where i live but it doesn't matter for all i know is that i'm really into it. it gives me the opportunity to have a glimpse what are the best assets of a certain country.

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      joykin 4 years ago

      Thank you for this article. Was a stamp collector during my childhood days. My father worked at a local bank as a bank messenger and that helped a lot to get my collection started. It went on for years until I left to travel and left my collection at home. I returned home after many years to find my collection have been given away to strangers. Only one album remained and it ended my stamp collection days. I walked into a stamp exhibition last year and now I am a small kid again. I am 62 this year and find there's so much to stamps than just collecting. i am enjoying every minute of it.

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      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @primarolia: Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I do like echarta, and actually have some of my stamps listed for sale there-- for the purposes of this article, I was mostly listing the "major players" in the stamp selling field. I plan to write a future article specifically about buying and selling stamps online, and I will be including echarta in that one.

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      warm1948 4 years ago

      This article will be helpful to many new [and old] collectors. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • primarolia profile image

      primarolia 4 years ago

      You forgot ;) A new website for buying paper collectables including stamps. Great article.

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      Tanya Jones 4 years ago from Texas USA

      i enjoyed this lens. congrats on lotd. i didn't realize just how complex this hobby could be. it amazes me, though, that it still remains relatively simple. i should have suspected that this was more than just a passion for eccentrics when i've come across many characters (flavia de luce's father, hercule poirot, to name a couple) have pursued this form of distraction. great lens.

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      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @Heidi Vincent: Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 4 years ago from GRENADA

      Interesting and unusual hobby. I enjoyed learning about this hobby from your lens!

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      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @cendana1: Yes, eBay and all the new marketplaces on the Internet have definitely made it much easier for collectors to find new stamps for their collections. In many ways-- even though fewer stamps are used on mail-- the Internet has HELPED stamp collecting. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • cendana1 profile image

      Samsuryani 4 years ago from Malaysia

      I collecting stamps since 1982 at aged 12th but stopped after going to collage. Maybe due to too busy with the study and also very hard to get the collections especially the international stamps. But I started back my collection after I found ebay, there is my source for my stamps collection.

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      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @GrimRascal: As a "functional" thing. stamps are definitely not what they used to be. As a "collectible?" They are enjoying quite an upsurge in popularity as they move from having be something part of current culture to becoming part of the "nostalgia/retro" arena, which is very popular.

    • GrimRascal profile image

      GrimRascal 4 years ago from Overlord's Castle

      Stamps are a thing of the past. But, I've heard that collecting them now would definitely pay off since these stamps will have antique treasure-value in the future. :D

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      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @Essy K: Thanks for your comment! Seems a LOT of people had stamp collections "at some point" and then let it slide away... and I've had quite a few friends who have resumed after a 10 or 20 year hiatus. Hope you decide to take it up again!

    • Essy K profile image

      Essy K 4 years ago from South Dakota

      I used to collect stamps, but then I stopped. Prehaps I'll pick up the hobby again...I'll be sure to use this lens as a reference point. :)

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      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @Vantis: Thanks for reading it, and for leaving a comment! We all have different interests, and that's part of what makes life interesting.

    • DreyaB profile image

      DreyaB 4 years ago from France

      I've had a stamp collection since I was a kid and have inherited some collections along the way. I still have them but have to admit that I've not kept it all up to date - you've got me wondering about it again - what it's worth, getting it in order and perhaps starting again. Did you know that the UK is the only country not to have the name of the country on their stamps? Why? Because they invented them and therefore there wasn't the need to have the name on there - they were the first! Great page, congrats on LoTD and the inspiration. :0)

    • profile image

      Vantis 4 years ago

      This is truly a great lens, but sorry I'm still not interested in stamp collection :) I don't see the point in it. It was good to read about it anyway.

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      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @DreyaB: Thanks for reading, and for your comment! Yes, the UK stands alone as required only to have the silhouette of the current monarch as the identifier of origin. Good piece of trivia, that! Hope you decide to take up your collection again.

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @anonymous: Thank you!

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @Michey LM: Thanks for reading, and for your comment! Nice that you were able to pass along your collection to a future generation.

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @jmchaconne: Thanks for reading, and for your kind comment! It was an exciting surprise to wake up to LOTD this morning.

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @lewisgirl: Thanks for reading, and for the comment! Yes, it's cool when you get interesting and unusual stamps from places far away.

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @writerkath: Thanks for coming by and commenting! Yes, people do tend to become "very involved" in this hobby.

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      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @RinchenChodron: The starting point is to determine-- in the roughest sense-- "what you have." The vast majority of stamp collections are started and maintained "just for fun" and typically have limited monetary value. However, if the collection has a lot of old stamps-- pre-1900-- the possibility of some value exists. Many people have success selling on eBay, but AFTER doing a little research. An appraiser or dealer will usually offer a pretty low estimate, based on the (logical enough) fact that they have to make a profit when they resell the stamps. This article offers some basics, as well:

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very interesting article. Congratulations on getting LotD!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 4 years ago

      At different ages I collected different things. I collected stamps as a teenager and I learned a lot of geography from them... and then I gave up my little treasure to my grandson. Very informative lens, Thanks!

    • jmchaconne profile image

      jmchaconne 4 years ago

      I especially enjoyed your interesting story about the "Penny Black." Thanks for an informative lens, and congratulations!

    • lewisgirl profile image

      lewisgirl 4 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I collected stamps when I was a kid. My dad had several Basque who worked for him & they saved stamps for me.

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 4 years ago

      Oy... there is SO much to know about stamp collecting! I can see where this could be quite addictive. Great intro to philately, and congratulations on your LotD! :)

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      Congrats on your LOTD! I inherited a stamp collection from my aunt and have no idea what to do with it or how to appraise the value. Would you sell on eBay individually or trust an appraiser or what? Any advice?

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @GrammieOlivia: Thanks for stopping by, and commenting! Selling your stamps and getting a "fair price" for them will depend somewhat on what stamps you have, and how much time you have on your hands. A lot of folks are quite successful selling collections on eBay-- IF you have a basic sense of what's in the collection. You can also send the stamps to a professional stamp dealer, but you'll get less money for them because (as it goes) the dealer has to make a profit on them, when the stamps are re-sold.

      You're welcome to message me; if you're up for sending me a few photos, I can give you at least a very rough idea of where you might want to begin.

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @SusanDeppner: The cool thing about stamps-- even for non-collectors-- is that they offer us miniature glimpses into history and culture... and especially if you get mail from overseas, where you can get a little snapshot into what is deemed "important enough" to put on a stamp, in that culture.

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @Diana Wenzel: Thanks for reading, and for your comment! Yes, I think my dad definitely knew what he was doing... and I come from a family with several generations of stamp collectors.

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @PAINTDRIPS: Glad to hear you're "passing on" the hobby! Yes, it's a nice thing to use commemorative stamps on your mail... the stamps ARE miniature works of art, and I think that's part of what inspired my day to get me involved in collecting. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @Faye Rutledge: Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @Merrci: Thanks! I did put quite a lot of effort into this one... I am actually part of the American Philatelic Society's (the main collecting organization in the US) outreach committee, and was trying to create a general web page we could use as a "permanent reference" for people who ask about stamp collecting... it IS very cool that it was picked as LOTD on a NON-hobby site! Thanks!

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @esmonaco: It really IS a hobby a LOT of people have been involved with at one time or another-- even if not personally, a lot of folks have close relatives with collections. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      I think your father was very insightful to start you on such a valuable lifelong learning journey. My uncle was a stamp collector. It was always fascinating to see his collections. Congrats on Lens of the Day!

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @delia-delia: A large number of people actually use stamps in art, these days-- my ex was an artist who created personalized "art journals" and she used lots of my cast off stamps as part of colorful collages.

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @Dressage Husband: Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Seems like a lot of people start collections, let them fall by the wayside... and then resume later in life when they have more time. Living abroad for a while definitely does help (or at least it used to) due to correspondence with people back "home."

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @LeopoldBlatt: Thanks for the kind words!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 4 years ago from Fresno CA

      I collected mostly used stamps for several decades but recently passed them on to my grandson. I love stamp collecting. It's like little works of art. I still buy commemoratives rather than the regular flag forever stamps at the post office. Why not add some color to someone's life if you must mail snail mail?

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 4 years ago from Concord VA

      I've never been a stamp collector, but I think it would be a fascinating hobby. Congratulations on LotD! :)

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      I was so pleased to see this as Lens of the Day! Congratulations! It's so full of information, and it is inspiring me to pull out the books! Very happy for you!

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 4 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Loads of information here, thanks. My dad collected stamps and I believe that I do have his collection tucked away somewhere. I never knew about the first penny stamp, thanks for teaching me something new :) congratulations on LOTD!!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 4 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! Great lens ! Philately? So that's the name for stamp collecting. I've collected stamps all my life because I liked the art, not as a collector of stamps. When I was young I gave away a 100 year old velvet 6" thick book with old stamps collected...why? I didn't have my head examined.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I don't collect stamps, but I do like to remember to look at the stamps on the rare pieces of personal mail we get these days. It's a wonderful hobby and what a great resource you've provided here. Congratulations on the well-deserved Lens of the Day!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I have a fair collection from when I was much younger, but have never really got that involved and no longer do it. In a way I wish I had as I have lived and worked in several different countries.

      Well done on a really informative LOTD and a fascinating hobby!

    • LeopoldBlatt profile image

      LeopoldBlatt 4 years ago

      One of the best stamp articles I've seen......nice one!

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 4 years ago

      I inherited tons of stamps from my brother, I would like to know how to sell them! I have no idea of their worth but would like to get a fair price as the money I get will go to charity!

    • HSP Connections profile image

      Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

      @Merrci: Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment! My own interest has waxed and waned somewhat over the years, but I've always had fun with my collection, so it seldom sits untouched for very long. I hope you decide to get active with yours, again!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Great lens with so much information! I'm bookmarking it to come back to when I have a little more time. I have a collection that my mom helped me with for years, but it's been in boxes for the last couple. I hope to get back to it soon. Thanks for putting this together!


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