Starting a Stamp Collection
Starting a stamp collection requires only two things:
- Stamps: Cut stamps from envelopes received via U.S. Mail, but do not cut too close. Ask relatives to save stamps as well, both those received at home and at work. Keep the stamp in good condition by avoiding tape, glue, or lamination. Keep historical envelopes and their contents in-tact.
- Storage: Historically, many collections have started in a shoe box. A three-ring binder with stock pages provides for organization and visibility, available from retailers such as Golden Valley Stamps & Coins, Hobby Lobby, and Amos.
Since the first postage stamp in 1840, various countries have printed thousands of stamps. Most collectors do not attempt to possess all of the world's stamps. Instead, each collector chooses a specialty of his or her interest, whether it be a specific country's stamps or specific topics, such stamps depicting flags or wildlife.
A longstanding tradition of stamp collecting is to separate the stamps from the envelope by soaking them in water. However, this process is no longer compatible with modern stamps. Thus, the hobby-old tradition of soaking is no longer considered essential, thereby allowing the practice of saving stamps on paper acceptable.
In order to help organize collections and provide a standard of identification, stamp catalogues are published. These catalogues assign an identification number to each stamp. The SCOTT numbering system is the standard of the United States, a propriety system owned by Amos Media. Libraries such as Great River Regional Library possess the worldwide multi-volume SCOTT standard catalogues as well as the SCOTT United States Specialized catalogue.
As a stamp collector becomes more advanced, he or she will learn that each stamp design might have various subtypes or variants. For example, a common flag stamp might have two subtypes based upon how the edges (perforations, serpentine die cuts, and straight die cuts) are shaped. Sometimes there are subtle differences within the artwork. Sometimes stamps have tiny digits called "plate numbers."
Eventually most collectors move beyond their shoebox or stock pages, instead choosing to buy or create a stamp album. Stamp albums are available from vendors such as Golden Valley Stamps & Coins, Whitman, or Amos. Free album pages are available for download from the American Philatelic Society and likely other sources. Stamp mounts, utilized to safely attach the stamps to the album pages, are available from manufacturers such as Showgard and Amos.
Clubs provide an opportunity to discuss stamps and ask questions. The Saint Cloud Stamp Club welcomes new members. Online groups are also available, such as StampCommunity.org. APS coordinates a virtual stamp club for young people between the ages of 6 and 17, plus a fellowship for persons age 16 to 24.