Stamp Collecting


Stamp collecting is considered to be one of the most popular hobbies among the people of all ages. This activity involves collecting various philatelic items such as stamps, covers, postmarks etc.

It is essential to divide such notions as a stamp collector and a philatelist that differ in many aspects. A philatelist may, but does not have to, collect stamps. It is not uncommon for the term philatelist to be used to mean a stamp collector. Many casual stamp collectors accumulate philately items for one aim – enjoyment and relaxation. They do not worry about special philately knowledge considering philately to be the study for scientists or historians. In spite of this fact the creation of a large collection, generally requires some philatelic knowledge and will usually contain areas of philatelic studies.

Usually stamp collections are created according to the following principles: the historical value, geographical aspects or subjects to which they are devoted.

Stamp collectors are not only enthusiastic philately lovers they can be also an important source of revenue for some small countries. The Post Offices of such states create a special run of stamps designed for collecting. The stamps produced by these countries may far exceed their postal needs. The revenue from selling these philatelic items can be quiet large thus the country receives considerable amount of money from this branch.

History of Stamp Collecting

Stamp Collecting as a hobby began at the time when first postage stamp was issue (it was a real breakthrough and nonsense in the sphere of postal services). After the first item known as Penny Black appeared in 1840, the hobby of stamp collecting began to spread across Europe, the United States and other parts of the world.

Stamp collecting: Penny Black - First Stamp 

Postage stamp collecting began at the same time that stamps were first issued, and by 1860 thousands of collectors and stamp dealers were appearing around the world.

The peculiarity of the first stamp was its design – the philatelic item had no perforations as it was cut out of the sheet with the help of simple scissors. Unused examples of Penny Black are quite rare and cost a great deal of money while used ones can be purchased for $20 to $200, depending upon condition.

Stamp collecting: John Edward Gray - First Stamp Collector 

People started to collect stamps almost immediately after the first item was issued. One of the first collectors is considered to be John Edward Gray. He began to accumulate stamps shortly after the system was established and before it had become a rage. As this hobby became quite popular a great amount of philately literature began to be printed. One of the first well-known publishers was Stanley Gibbons.

It is particularly interesting that at the early years of stamp collecting this hobby was popular among the children and teenagers. The adults considered this hobby to be childish but soon afterwards they also got interested in this activity.

Although stamp collecting is a less popular hobby today than it was in the early 20th century, but nowadays the number of stamp enthusiasts is also amazing - around 200 million people. There are also thousands of stamp (philatelic) clubs and organizations that provide them with the history and other aspects of stamps.


Stamp collecting equipment

To collect stamps one should have some basic items of equipment. So let's list them:

Stamp collecting equipment: Stamp TongsStamp Tongs - help to handle stamps safely, they resemble tweezers, but they differ in one significant feature - the blades (tips) of the tongs are smooth.
Stamp collecting equipment: Magnifying GlassMagnifying Glass - helps in viewing fine details
Stamp collecting equipment: Stamp AlbumStamp Album - is a convenient way to store stamps
Stamp collecting equipment: Stock-bookStock-book - simple bound stamp albums of heavy cardboard pages with strips to hold the stamps. The advantage of this item is that it hasn't large gaps, as may happen with a stamp album that has fixed spaces for each particular stamp
Stamp collecting equipment: Stamp HingesStamp Hinges - small, folded, transparent, rectangular pieces of thin paper coated with a mild gum


Acquiring Stamps

There are many ways of acquiring stamps for your collection. A collector can inherit the philatelic items from the elderly relatives. Usually these are definitive stamps that have also some philatelic interest due to their variety of colours, watermarks, paper differences, perforations and printing errors. 

Stamp collecting: Acquiring Stamps

The other way is to purchase the stamps by a dealer or at an auction. Large numbers of relatively recent stamps, often still attached to fragments or envelopes, may be obtained cheaply and easily. Rare and old stamps can also be obtained, but these can be very expensive.

Sometimes the collectors can acquire a stamp that they already have. These items are called duplicate stamps. Duplicate stamps can be sold or traded, so they are an important medium of exchange among collectors.

The philatelic items can also be acquired through the Internet while some dealers jointly set up week-end stamp markets called "bourses" that move around a region from week to week. The stamps are often sold at regional exhibitions and stamp shows.


Collecting Specialties

A worldwide collection would be enormous, running to thousands of volumes, and would be incredibly expensive to acquire. Count Philipp von Ferrary's collection at the beginning of the 20th century is considered to be the most complete ever formed. The collectors build their collection according to different principles such as the issuing countries, the time of releasing or particular subjects (called "topicals") to which they are devoted.

Topical stamp collecting

Topical stamp collecting is the most popular way for accumulating stamps into a kind of a system. According to this principle the collectors organize their philatelic collection on the theme of the stamps, covers, or postmarks. The most popular topical themes are animal stamps, bird stampsflowers stamps, art, sports, Olympics stamps, maps, Disney, scouting, space stamps, ships stamps, Americana, stamps on stamps, famous people etc.


Stamp sheets

Today stamp enthusiasts collect not only stamps but also the sheets that have many varieties. The most popular ones are the following:

Stamp collecting: SheetletSheetlets – this is a format that is now issued regularly by postal administrations. Instead of issuing stamps in large sheets of 40, 100 or even 200 stamps, smaller sheetlets with 20 to 24 stamps are issued with a large selvedge area which may incorporate part of the stamp design or theme.
 Stamp collecting: Souvenir sheets (miniature sheet)
Souvenir sheets (miniature sheet) – many postal services sometimes release stamps in a format that look like a sheet with a big picture. A souvenir sheet is a sheet containing stamps devoted to a particular theme.
Stamp collecting: corner blocks or plate blocks Corner blocks or plate blocks – compose a block of stamps from one of the four corners of the stamp sheet. Collectors usually opt for a block of four stamps, complete with the selvage area which will sometimes have the printing details on it.


Stamp collecting organizations

Nowadays a great number of different philately organizations exist. These can be local stamp clubs, special-interest groups, and national organizations. Most nations have a national collectors' organization, such as the American Philatelic Society in the United States. Also there are many Internet organizations where collectors can communicate with each other or exchange the philatelic items. The American Topical Association (ATA) is now a part of the APS and promotes thematic collecting as well as encouraging sub-groups of numerous topics. Special philately magazines give the hints to collectors concerning еру the sites of special organizations and clubs for stamp lovers.

Stamp Collecting organizations 

Organizations such as the Cinderella Stamp Club (UK) retain hundreds of members interested in a specific aspect of collecting. Social organizations, such as the Lions Club and Rotary International, have also formed stamp collecting groups specific to those stamps that are issued from many countries worldwide that display the organization's logo.