Stamp collecting is one of America’s most popular hobbies, with an estimated 20 million stamp collectors around the nation. The hobby is also popular among collectors from many other countries throughout the world. Old and young alike enjoy collecting, reminiscing, and exploring foreign countries through the hobby of stamp collecting!
Stamp collectors usually focus on one stamp collection category because there are numerous stamps and philatelic items issued. The most popular stamp collections categories include postage stamps, Federal Duck stamp, souvenir sheets, first day covers (FDCs), First Day, and counterfeit or forged postage stamps. Additionally, stamps may be categorized as definitive or commemorative stamps. Definitive stamps are easy to find because they are common. Commemorative stamps are specialty stamps celebrating events and occasions; only available for a limited time, but most can be found through various dealers.
To begin collecting stamps as a hobby, ask friends and family to save any stamps, especially foreign or unusual ones, to add to your collection. With the global community the Internet provides, ask online friends, as well as fellow stamp collectors to send or swap stamps from foreign countries. Grandparents and older relatives may also be a wealth of valuable resources when it comes to finding rare stamps. Antique and philatelic shops are other places to begin building a solid foundation for a great stamp collection. Subscription to magazines and related publications are also a great roadmap for stamp collecting.
Avid and beginner stamp collectors alike take special precautions when handling and preserving their stamp collections. Stamps pasted on envelopes should be removed carefully by soaking the envelope face down in warm water. When the stamp has separated from the envelope, remove the stamp with stamp tongs, tweezer-like metal instruments used for handling stamps. Once stamps have been gathered, dry them in a stamp drying book. Complete collections or individual stamp specimens should be kept in a clean album or stock sheets, both making excellent display cases.
While the majority of U.S. issued postage stamps are easily accessible and not worth much in value, there does exist highly valuable stamps every collector seeks. Some of these include: the 1865 British Guiana “Black on Magenta” , the Sweden “Three Skilling Banco”, and “Hawaiian Missionaries.” Other various items of value valuable include souvenir sheets from foreign countries, rare plate number coils and unique misprints. Popular, and more affordable, items among collectors are Confederate U.S. Stamps, United Nations Stamps, 19th Century Stamps, Asia Stamps, and UK Stamps.
Stamp collectors comprise thousands of local and national organizations where buyers and sellers congregate to buy, sell, share, and swap stamps. There also are national collectors’ organizations, such as the American Philatelic Society in the United States. Also, the ease and convenience of the Internet makes stamp collecting as a hobby much more enjoyable by allowing collectors to buy and sell stamps from the comfort of one’s own home. Stamp catalogues such as Stanley Gibbons, Scott catalogue, Michel, and Yvert are essential publications for earnest collectors around the world. These catalogues serve handy guides for organizing, classifying, and appraising entire stamp collections, as well as individual items. The American Stamp Dealer Association, Inc. (ASDA) is another excellent resource for both beginner and expert collectors. ASDA hosts popular stamp shows across the nation drawing large crowds of beginners and experts alike.
While some individuals view the future of stamp collecting as pessimistic due to the advances in technology such as e-mail, avid collectors remain optimistic. Stamp collectors will always be searching for rare valuable finds, even in the midst of all the new stamps being issued every year. The proof is in the fact stamp collecting as a hobby remains one of the most popular pastimes in the United States