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Starting a Stamp Collection

Updated on December 22, 2012

In the Beginning . . .

I saw these beautiful stamps on some mail I got and want to know how to start collecting them.


I received a gift of a package of stamps from my Uncle Monty and now want to know what to do with them.


Dad has a little collection of stamps he accumulated as a kid, and I want to know how to put them in an album.

It happens in a host of ways; almost everyone is confronted with wanting to collect something at some time in his/her life. Since you have reached this site, I assume you want to collect stamps, the hobby of kings and the king of hobbies. Actually, I don't know any kings who collect stamps, but there have been some other heads of state who did. And, you will learn to know several kings, and queens too, by seeing their images on these little works of art.

What stamps should I collect?

This is an open ended question that will mean different things at different time in your collecting career. When most of us began collecting, we collected any stamps that came our way. In my case, I was given a small paperback worldwide album that had about 30 - 40 stamps in it. I loved that little album and still do today; over fifty years later looking at it still brings back wonderful memories of a kid who found solace in "traveling" to France, Brazil, Siam, Borneo, Japan, Turks & Caicos Islands, and to the uttermost parts of the world. It was a good way to start with stamps. Today, there are other ways that may be more pertinent to you. With the advent of the Internet and dozens of marvelous stamp sites and with stamps prices continuing to remain low, a new collector can start right out collecting stamps from the United States or from Russia or from Argentina or Newfoundland (one of my favorites) or any other country in the world.

Another area of collecting that is popular is topical collecting. This is when you collect stamps that have one theme on them--Disney characters or flowers or music or Christmas or sports characters or Hollywood stars or hundreds of other themes.

Link List for Stamps to Collect

Here are sites that might help you in starting your collection.

Where do I get stamps?

There are many ways to find stamps. Here are ten of them:

1. Ask everyone you know to save envelopes with stamps for you. If you know someone in a large business, sometimes they will put their envelopes that they generally throw away in a box for you. Be sure to give them a nice-sized box to place the stamped envelopes in and collect your booty often.

2. Go to a stamp auction site, eBay or many others, and bid on a collection, an accumulation or a worldwide lot. Sometimes they will be called a mystery lot or missionary accumulation. You can find these lots for a few dollars to hundreds of dollars.

3. Go to a local stamp store. Years ago, this was the major way that collectors bought stamps. Sadly, there are few stamp stores left. However, if you are fortunate to have one in your area, it is a great place to hang out and learn about stamps.

4. Buy a stamp magazine/newspaper at your bookstore or magazine shop and order a collection, accumulation, or large lot.

5. If you can get a Linns Stamp News newspaper, they have a great classified section. Look at the first section, Posthorn, and find a dealer who wants to trade stamps. You will have to have some stamps before you can trade, but this is a great way to get new stamps. I have also listed in the links section places on the web where you can find a trading partner.

6. Get dealers to send you approvals. This is a system that dealers have set up where they send you stamps, you look them over, and then you decide which ones you want to keep and send the rest back. There are dozens of them who have sites on the Internet.

7. You can go to various Internet sites and buy stamps outright.

8. Join a stamp club. Most large cities have at least one. Make sure you let them know you are a novice and need help. It is not unusual for the club to have stamps available for novices at very nominal prices.

9. Go to a stamp show. You can talk to many dealers there, some of whom will have stamps for novices.

10. We have a great postal service which issues several dozen beautiful stamps every year. You will probably want to add at least some of these to your collection

Links to Sites for Where to Get Stamps

Below are links for beginning collectors who want to learn about stamp collecting.

What equipment do I need?

Almost every stamp collector places his/her stamps in albums. There are stock books and plastic pages with pockets and glassine envelopes that work too, but at some time you will want to have an album. They are available from inexpensive ($25 - $30) to extremely expensive (several hundred dollars). Start with an inexpensive one with pages from the collecting universe you have selected.

You will absolutely need stamp tongs. This is a tweezer-like device that is used to pick up stamps. I like the spade-ended ones, but get the one that feels best for you. I would be careful of the pointed ones as they can damage your stamps; however, some collectors say they are easier to use. Prices for tongs run from a couple of dollars to $15 - $25 for gold plated babies. (The gold plated ones don't work any better!)

In order to put your stamps in the album, you will need stamp hinges. These are little pieces of paper with adhesive on them. One half attaches to the stamp and the other one attaches to the album page. If you place them at the very top of the stamp, it can be lifted to show the picture or design of the space underneath, thus they are called hinges. As a word of warning, modern collectors do not use hinges for mint stamps, only for used stamps. The hinge damages the gum on the back of the stamp and the value of the stamp is greatly reduced. Of course, if you are collecting for fun and the stamp is not valuable, new or used, feel free to use a hinge; it is your collection. If you want to place mint stamps in your collection and not use a hinge, there are plastic mounts that can be used that do not damage the gum, but they are more expensive.

Before you go very far in collecting, you will need some additional accessories--perforation guide, watermark fluid, stock books, and a catalog; however, this is enough for you to start on a most enjoyable journey of your life.

Link List for Supplies You Will Need

There are several supplies that you will need and it is frustrating if you can't find them. Here are some sites that specialize in stamps collecting supplies.

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American Philatelic Society

The American Philatelic Society is a group of serious collecters, the backbone of the stamp collecting community. I have been a member (APS Member: #185428) for many years and will be for the rest of my life. If you want to be a part of the base membership of over 43,000 collectors, you should join the American Philatelic Society. (Click on picture above.) For your membership fee you will receive the following:

StampStore - Purchase stamps online. No bidding, watching or waiting - you see it, you like it, you buy it!

Mail Sales Circuits - Buy and sell stamps from the comfort of your home.

Expertizing - Obtain guaranteed opinions on the genuineness of stamps and covers.

Quick I.D. - Get help identifying that troubling stamp.

The American Philatelist - Full-color, 100-page monthly magazine.

Insurance - Protect your collection with the most comprehensive stamp coverage available.

Online Members Only Area - Log-in and update your membership profile and view your account status. Also take advantage of online specials - articles, discounts, online exhibits, and more.

Library - Review the online catalogue of the nation's largest philatelic library, borrow books and catalogues, or obtain article photocopies through the mail.

Exhibitions - Buy and sell stamps, attend seminars, view exhibits, and expose young people to collections at our two annual shows.

Learning Opportunities - Learn more about collecting at APS seminars, through online courses, or receive one-on-one help through the Mentor Program.

Publications - Take advantage of the 20% member discount. Our book list offers titles covering a wide range of topics for all levels of collectors.

Translations - Request a translation of philatelic-related material.

Member Disputes - Deal confidently with fellow members. The dispute process provides a means of enforcing the APS Code of Ethics.

Books on Amazon

Here are some books for you to consider.

Stamps on eBay

This is a random selection of items from eBay. Much of it might not apply, but you can click on one of them and then search for what you really want to buy.


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