Getting Started 1

Building up a Stamp Collection

Getting Started in Stamp Collecting


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Of greatest importance to the stamp collector is finding a source of collectible postage stamps at little or no cost. Saving used stamps us a good idea for the beginner. Used stamps are easily available and can provide an inexpensive way to begin your collection. They can also provide a learning experience in the “how to” of proper care and handling of stamps.

Obtaining stamps for your own collection can be as close as your own mailbox. Begin by saving whatever stamps come on your own or your family’s mail. Other people you know, such as friends, relatives, and even your own teachers may be willing to save stamps for you. If you know an adult stamp collector, tell him or her of your new interest in stamps. Most stamp collectors enjoy sharing their hobby with others, and many adult collectors will probably give you stamps for your collection.

Business mail may be another good source for stamps — particularly if the company does a lot of correspondence with foreign countries. Almost everyone knows someone who works for a company receiving large volumes of mail. You can usually obtain the used stamps by just asking that they be saved for you.

To get your collection started, you might also wish to investigate purchasing packets of stamps from a variety, hobby, or stamp store. Unless you have a a use for duplicate stamps, you may want to look for the words “all different” on the stamp packet. Mixtures, although less expensive, contain many duplicates. But duplicate stamps can be used for trading with your friends. Many stamp stores have large assortments of stamps at a penny or two which can be fun to look through and add to your collection.

Stamps may also be purchased through the mail. Many newspapers and magazines carry advertisements offering free or inexpensive stamps. Careful reading of the ad will usually show that the company will also send out stamps on approval, which they hope you will purchase. Approval services are often more expensive than some other ways of obtaining stamps, but they allow you the opportunity to select stamps you want without leaving home. Care must be taken to read and follow the approval company’s sales conditions, paying for those you keep and returning the others promptly. (Don’t send cash through the mail- use a check or money order.)

After you have collected for a while, you may want to begin a collection of mint (unused) stamps. Current issues of stamps for your own country can be purchased at your local post office. Older issues and other countries’ stamps can usually be obtained from stamp stores or by mail order.


Many beginners collect any and all stamps they can get their hands on. This is good way to start. Through the collecting of a wide variety of stamps come the basic knowledge necessary for the enjoyment of philately (stamp collecting).Some collectors start as worldwide collectors and remain that way. They attempt to find as many stamps from as many different countries as they can. The general worldwide collector is always on the lookout for new stamps and enjoys the thrill of the hunt.

Many collectors are country collectors — that is, they collect stamps of certain countries or just one country. For example, many stamp collectors find stamps of the country they were born and/or lived in the easiest to obtain. Another very popular way to collect stamps is by topic or theme, such as space, animals, sports, etc. Collecting by stamp subject can be very challenging and rewarding. You must watch very carefully! Stamps related to your subject may come from every corner of the earth and the subject may be only a small part of the stamp design.

Collecting first day covers (FDC’s) is gaining in popularity. A “cover” is stamp collecting term for an envelope with stamps and a cancellation. Collectors try to obtain a special cancellation for a new stamp design on the day that it is first issued. Covers with a cachet (ka-shay) are the most desirable. A cachet is an illustration and/or explanation usually printed, drawn, or painted on the left side of the envelope that in some way (either through design or words) has special significance tot he stamp being issued.

Collecting postmarks is a never-ending search. Postmark collecting has many fans. You might want to begin by trying to collect postmarks from each state or from foreign countries. Others try to find as many different postmarks as they can from their own city, country, or state. For fun, try to find one postmark for each day of the year. For a challenge, try to find a postmark from the day you were born.

Postmark collecting is just one aspect of a larger collecting field known as postal history. Whether you collect modern meter stamps or early stamp less covers from the 18th and 19th century, you are learning about postal history.

There are many other interesting and specialized areas in stamp collecting — too numerous to mention here. Be assured that there is no right or wrong thing to collect. Collect what brings you enjoyment and pleasure. Chances are that someday you will probably find someone else who is collecting the same thing you do!

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