Getting Started 2

Building up a Stamp Collection

Getting Started in Stamp Collecting


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Assuming you have either found or been given stamps on an envelope, your next job will be to remove the stamps from the paper. Do NOT try to peel the stamp from the envelope. You will tear it or damage the paper.

However, before deciding whether to remove the stamp, you should examine the covers (envelopes) carefully. Very old stamps may be worth more if left on the cover. Covers with interesting cancels, handstamps, postal markings, or unusual stamp combinations should be left as covers — their stamps should not be removed as they help to tell an interesting postal history story. If in doubt as to whether to save the entire cover, ask a knowledgeable collector. Also, stamps from first day covers should not be removed.

To take stamps off an envelope, start by cutting neatly around the stamp. Do not cut so close as to trim off any perforations- the little “teeth” around the edge of the stamp.

It is best to sort your stamps before soaking them. Separate stamps that are on coloured envelopes or have coloured cancels. These stamps should be soaked on at a time in cold water so that if the colour should run, it will not spoil any other stamps.

The most common way to remove stamps from paper is to soak them in a dish of warm, not hot, water. Allow the stamp to float free from the paper. After the stamp has separated from the paper, very gently rub over the back of the stamps with your fingertip to remove any remaining gum.

To dry the stamps, spread them face down on black and white newspaper or white absorbent paper. After the stamps have dried, they can be picked up and pressed flat between the pages or beneath a heavy book.

Care should be given in selecting the stamps for your collection. Torn, dirty, heavily cancelled, and damaged stamps should be replaced when possible with better examples.


The cheapest way to store your stamps until you have decided what to do with them is to put them in clean envelopes sorted by country. Although white paper envelopes can be used, stamp collectors prefer the glassine envelope so that the stamps can be seen. They are available in many sizes at stamp stores or by mail order.

Other stamp collectors prefer to use stock pages or stock books for stamp storage. Stock pages are made up of a series of pockets in which to keep the stamps. There are many kinds of stock pages and stock books. A trip to your local stamp store should help you determine which type would best meet your needs. If there is no local stamp store, there are many dealers who sell supplies by mail. They advertise in many of the stamp magazines and newspapers.

At some point, the collector will probably wish to organize his or her collection on album pages. Stamp albums may have either printed or blank pages.

Album pages can be made by the beginning collector. It allows flexibility. In its simplest form, it can just be a piece of loose-leaf paper with a hand printed title. Stamps may be affixed to these pages.

Printed album pages contain illustrations of the stamps from one or more countries. Beginners often find it helpful to have a printed album to help in organizing the stamps they have. An inexpensive paperback album with printed pages may be fine for the beginner. If the enthusiasm for stamp collecting continues to grow, a better album can always be purchased. As albums vary greatly in size, quality, and price, a trip to your favourite stamp dealer should aid you in making a decision.

Better albums, although more expensive, have several advantages. They are made more complete. Since they are loose-leaf, this allows you to add yearly supplements to keep the album unto date. Blank pages may be added to the album to include materials such as covers, special cancels, etc. which may not be illustrated within the album.

Collectors of topical stamps usually make up their own album pages as printed pages are generally not available. Stamp albums are available for purchase at some variety and hobby stores, from stamp stores, at stamp shows, or by mail order.

Once an album has been acquired, the proper way of affixing the stamps to the album or loose-leaf page must be learned. NEVER tape or glue a stamp into the album space. For used or inexpensive stamps, the best method is to “hinge” the stamp. Stamp hinges, made with special peel able gum that will not harm stamps, are the most inexpensive and economical way to attach stamps to a page. Follow the directions that come with the package and always be sure that not too much moisture is used so only the hinge, not the back of the stamp, stick to the album page.

The preferred method for putting mint stamps and higher priced used stamps into an album is by using a stamp mount. Stamp mounts cost only a few cents each, come in many sizes, and afford more protection for the stamp as well as preserving the gum on the stamp’s back. Your local stamp dealer or an experienced collector can guide you in making a wise decision in choosing the right sizes and the proper mounts for your collection.

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