Collecting stamps can be a rewarding passion, whatever your experience and the means that you devote to it. A beginner or a child can be filled with a simple album containing some beautiful pieces. The seasoned philatelist, for his part, will be enthusiastic by the detailed study of a beautiful stamp or by the meticulous search for the ultimate piece to complete his collection. The best way to do it is simply the one that makes you happy.
Part 1 of 4: Collecting stamps
Step 1. Start your collection with ready-made packages
Stamp dealers and some specialty shops sell packages containing hundreds of stamps at affordable prices. It's a great way to get started in stamp collecting. Make sure that the package you buy does not contain the same stamp twice, so that you have a wide variety rather than the same multiple times.
Step 2. Buy new stamps in the mail
You can buy rarer models there, created especially for collectors. Some prefer to collect new, freshly printed stamps, while others find more charm in old stamps featuring the postmark mark. You can specialize in one of two areas, but you'd better have a little of each.
Step 3. Ask people you know to keep their stamps for you
People who work in commerce receive a lot of mail, sometimes from far away. Ask all of these people to put their stamps aside for you.
Step 4. Find a correspondent
If you like to write and receive mail. Find a correspondent. This may send you stamps that you cannot find at home, for example. Search the internet to find someone.
Step 5. Exchange stamps
When you have a respectable collection, start trading stamps with other enthusiasts. Give away the ones you have duplicate or are not of interest to you against the coins you are missing. If you can't find someone to trade your stamps, go to the store where you bought your first copies and offer to trade the seller.
In the beginning, it is better to exchange a stamp for a stamp without worrying about the real value of the model you are donating. Only make an exception when a stamp is badly damaged, in which case it might be worth a little less than a good stamp
Step 6. Join a stamp club
The enthusiasts sometimes meet to share advice and exchange their copies. You can try to find a club near you by visiting this site: the American Philatelic Society website
If you want to meet real professionals, check out this site: find a stamp show. People who go to this site participate in contests
Part 2 of 4: separate a stamp from an envelope
Step 1. Hold the stamp with a stamp clamp
You will find it in your specialized store. It is better to use pliers instead of your fingers, as this preserves the stamp from grease and moisture stains. They are sometimes called "tweezers" because they look like them, but they are actually much more delicate and do not damage the patch. Favor models with a fine and rounded end, where a model with a pointed end could cripple the new stamp.
Step 2. Separate the stamp as much as possible from the envelope
Used stamps are usually removed from the envelope before being stored. If you like models featuring the postmark, cut the envelope all around the stamp and do not follow the recommendations that are presented below. Otherwise, cut a small rectangle around the stamp itself. You don't have to be precise, since you will learn in the following steps how to remove the stamp from this rectangle of paper.
Since stamps accompanied by the postmark take up more space, most collectors keep only the most important ones
Step 3. Soak the patch in lukewarm water
This traditional method works for pre-2004 US stamps and most foreign stamps. Place the paper in the water, face up, making sure that each stamp has enough room to float on the surface. After 15-20 minutes, when the patch begins to separate from the envelope, use your forceps to transfer the patch to a dry cloth. Handle the stamp carefully when removing it from the paper. If it sticks, do not force it and wait a little longer. Do not try to tear off the patch.
Stamps pasted on colored paper or containing red ink must be treated separately from others, as they may bleed
Step 4. Rinse and dry the patch
When the paper is removed, rinse the stamp in cool water to remove any glue residue. Finally, let it dry overnight on a towel. If its edges tend to corner, you can put it between two towels and under a few pounds.
Step 5. Remove any stamps stuck to the adhesive with a spray bottle
The traditional method does not work for US stamps produced after 2004. Instead, find a natural lemon scent spray, such as Pure Citrus or ZEP. Spray a small amount of it on the paper so that it soaks up and becomes transparent. Then put the stamp face up, gently fold the corner of the paper and peel off the stamp. To remove stubborn parts, dip your finger in talcum powder and spray it on the back of the patch.
Part 3 of 4: store and organize your collection
Step 1. Sort your collection
After a while, most people start to sort their collection into certain categories. Likewise, if you decide to collect more and more stamps, find a way to organize them. Here are a few ways to do it:
- by country: this is probably the most common way to proceed. Some try to have at least one stamp per country,
- by theme: find a stamp that has a particular design or that inspires you with a special theme, be it sports, butterflies, famous people, airplanes, etc,
- by color or shape: sorting by color gives a pretty nice collection. You can also try to collect stamps with a particular shape, such as triangular stamps.
Step 2. Obtain a stamp album
These protect your stamps while keeping them visible and sorted by row and column. Some come with preprinted stamp images, so you can place your original copy on top of the printed image as you go through your collection.
Some albums are limited in pages, while other models can be completed with new blank sheets. A black background will make your copies stand out better
Step 3. Put your stamps away
In some albums, you can slip them into plastic sleeves. In others, you will have to use a special adhesive to stick them together. Choose between these two options.
- The "hinges" are pieces of plastic or paper. To use them, wet the shorter part, glue the latter to the back of the stamp, then do the same with the longer part and attach it to the album. This method is not recommended for value stamps.
- The other option is to buy small plastic sleeves, which are more expensive, but better protect the stamps. Enter the stamp, then wet the back of the sleeve and stick it to your book.
Step 4. Separate the pages with a plastic sheet
If your scrapbook allows you to display stamps on each side, insert a sheet of plastic between each page to prevent the stamps from sticking together. These sheets can be made of mylar, polyethylene or polypropylene, for example.
Avoid vinyl sheets, as they don't provide long-term protection
Step 5. Keep your album safe from light, humidity and temperature fluctuations
Do not store it near an exterior wall or a concrete wall, as these attract moisture. If you keep your album close to the ground, put it in a box.
Part 4 of 4: Recognize rare stamps
Step 1. Refer to specialized books
Stamp catalogs and price guides are good references. They present a list of stamps, sorted by year, giving a value to each. The most famous catalogs are the Scott Postage Stamp Catalog, the Stanley Gibbons for Great Britain, the Yvert and Tellier for France, the Unitrade for Canada and the Minkus and Harris US / BNA for the USA.
You can find these books in large libraries if you don't want to buy them
Step 2. Examine your stamps with a magnifying glass
As the difference between two stamps is sometimes found in the presence of a line or a point, the magnifying glass is an essential tool for the philatelist. A conventional magnifying glass is usually sufficient, although the use of a microscope is sometimes necessary in the case of very rare stamps.
Step 3. Use a punch gauge
This device measures the size of the holes at the edge of the stamps, it is only needed for certain collections. The device tells how many holes there are in a length of 2 cm, which has a big impact on the value of the stamp.
If a guide tells you two numbers, such as "Perf 11x12", the first number refers to the horizontal perforation and the second to the vertical perforation
Step 4. Locate the watermark
The paper used to print the stamps sometimes contains a watermark, which may be too inconspicuous to be seen in daylight. If one of your stamps cannot be distinguished from another except by the presence of the watermark, you will need a special developer liquid. Place your stamp on a black backing and drop the fluid on it to reveal the watermark.
- It is also a good way to show creases and hidden repairs on a stamp.
- If you don't want to wet your stamp, try to find a more special tool for this purpose.