Collecting Stamps

 Collecting Stamps is easy to start, and doesn't have to be expensive, and offers limitless scope 

Collecting Stamps

 Thousands of new stamps are issued each year, their designs reflecting the diversity of the world's history, geography, flora and fauna. Often created with great skill and artistry, they mirror the ever-changing concerns and enthusiasms of their countries of origin - celebrating   anniversaries and national events, honoring heroes or simply reflecting popular images.

But the very diversity of stamps can make it difficult for the novice collector to know just where to start. beginners should confine themselves to one particular subject area: "First and foremost, it's a hobby. It's got to be something you enjoy, whether a kid or a 70-year-old. And you've got to collect something that interests you, be that a single- country collection or one that takes a theme such as footballers, flowers or animals. The majority of those starting the hobby these days begin with a theme and then graduate from there."  

 Although it's sensible to limit the choices, the collector's approach to learning about stamps should be as voracious as time allows: "Knowledge is everything

Collecting Stamps
There's no substitute for it." The deeper your understanding, the more you'll enjoy the hobby but it may also help you spot a bargain: "The stories of someone going to a boot fair and spending $1 for something worth $10,000- that comes with knowledge and is where you can benefit .

 However, making a profit should not be uppermost in the mind of the beginner: "Unless you're very lucky, in order to make money, you probably have to invest a fair amount and buy good things which are going to be valuable in five, 10 or 50 years time. The new collector tends to buy things that they enjoy rather than items which will be valuable in the future."

Acquiring knowledge is all part of the fun and there are numerous readily accessible information sources. Several specialist collecting magazines on the subject are available from good newsagents and there is also a  wide range of books and catalogues, many of which are published by Stanley Gibbons. Additionally nowadays, there are lots of internet sites where you can view what's on offer, download current prices and even buy on-line once you feel confident.
Collecting Stamps

Aside from browsing online or attending room auctions, you may also find that you have a shop nearby with assistants happy to share their expertise or a stamp exhibition being held in your area. Shows take place regularly across the country and offer the chance to meet other collectors and see many thousands of stamps 'in the flesh'.

When it comes to making a purchase, because stamps are so lightweight, they're perfect for buying by mail order. Dealers will send out (often on approval) anything from select packets of mint sets or high-value single stamps to tea chests full of examples from around the world

Collecting Stamps

 stamps when they write to you. It's also possible to broaden your scope a great deal by persuading neighbours, friends, relatives or business contacts to save envelopes for you.

The least expensive way to start collecting stamps is to soak interesting examples off the post that comes through your door, perhaps asking friends to choose interesting commemorative

It's best to ask them for the whole envelope because retaining the stamp on its 'cover' may be of more interest than just keeping the stamp alone; for instance, there might be unusual markings.
If the envelope is not of special interest, trim the paper away, cutting close to the stamp but taking care not to damage the perforations.

 Fill a shallow bowl or saucer with cool water (changing it frequently to keep it gum-free) and float the stamps picture side up. Although more than one can be soaked at a time, make sure that they don't overlap. Be particularly careful when soaking stamps on coloured-paper backings or with coloured-ink franking in case the pigments are water soluble. Once the glue dissolves, slide the stamp off the paper and carefully rinse the back with clean water. Dry the stamp by placing it face down on white paper towels; it may curl but can be flattened by placing under a heavy book when completely dry.

Collecting Stamps

To handle your stamps, it's important to use philatelic tongs rather than pointed tweezers or your fingers. For the beginner, the best type of tongs are probably the rounded, all-purpose ones and you may find  those which are angled easier to use. The tongs, along with other basic tools, are easy to find and  inexpensive and it's worthwhile getting the right materials from the start because stamps are fragile and easily damaged.

To keep stamps in good condition, store them 'in boxes, folders or albums made of acid-free material. Traditionally, stamps have been attached to paper album pages with hinges (small rectangle of gummed paper). Although plastic alternatives are now available, many an enthusiast still uses paper albums as they are inexpensive and fine for 'with adhesive' and 'used' stamps. However, avoid albums which are either flimsy or designed to have stamps mounted on both the (faint and back of each page (the stamps may get entangled).

Rearranging your collection can be difficult in fully-bound paper albums. Additions can be made more easily to albums consisting of a cover and  individual pages or even blank acid-free album pages punched for binders. This less structured approach is easy to assemble and allows you to really personalise your collection. At the other extreme are albums with pre-printed squares for particular stamps, usually with an illustration or a description and which may also contain maps and information about the country featured.    

Collecting Stamps

Among the plastic albums on offer are those with self-adhesive mounts or pages which allow you to slip the stamps into a plastic strip. Although albums with plastic pockets are more expensive and take up more space than paper ones, they have the advantage of allowing the collector to rearrange the stamps very easily. This type of album is also preferable for unused stamps as they should not be glued to hinges. If you opt for plastic, check that it's of archival quality. If not, it may have oil-based softeners which can leach out and damage your collection.

If you find you're really bitten by the stamp bug, you might consider adding other items to your tool kit such as a magnifying glass, a gauge for measuring stamp perforations and watermark detector fluid which makes temporarily visible the marks on some stamp papers. You could also join a stamp club which can be a great source of swaps as well as information.

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