Thematic philately

“Topical collecting is so entertaining, artistically satisfying and versatile … it can be the panacea for most stamp ills such as sheer boredom, disgust, disinterest and disillusionment. It can be taken very seriously as a major collecting interest with extensive research and planning, or it may be used as an entertaining and decorative sideline or supplement to a major specialty.” James H. McMeen.

When philately became a popular hobby the stamp lovers collected items from each country that issued philately items. But towards the end of the 19th century, countries began to produce more stamps and it was almost impossible to collect all postage stamps from each nation.

At this time a new branch of stamp collecting appeared – topical philately. The aim of stamp collectors changed. They began to collect the postage stamps on the particular theme. In fact, so many stamps have been issued that some popular themes, such as "ships" or "birds", have become nearly impossible to complete, and topical collectors may specialize further, such as by looking for only square-rigged sailing ships, or only flightless birds.

You can start to create your topical stamp collection on two conditions:

-  If you are a newbie philatelist and pursuit for stamps with a special subject 
-  If you possess some stamps that can be grouped according to a particular theme.

So how to collect topical stamps?

If you want to create your own thematic stamp collection you should remember that the best part of it lies on how you acquired the items. The most important condition is that you choose the topic you are fascinated with. It should be something that interests you and fuels your passion for thematic philately. This theme can be almost anything, but the most popular topics are animals, art, birds, Europa, flowers, ships, space, sports and stamps on stamps.

Many stamp collectors who are into collecting stamp themes know that the field of collecting topical stamp themes is described having 2 main areas:

 •  Collecting stamps by subject (subject collection) 
 usually arranged by country that issued it, in a chronological order, by its 
 issued date 

•  Collecting stamps by theme (thematic collection; topical collection) 
 usually arranged to tell people a story. Not arranged by the country that issued it; 
 instead, the arrangement forms a theme. 

Selecting a topic for thematic collection…

It is advisable to start with a broad topic and then break it down to smaller subtopics. In such a way you will easily group the postage stamps and will be able to assess how immense or how limited your topic will be.

You can follow the following example represented in the scheme below:

In choosing topical stamps…

Even if your thematic stamps revolve around a single idea, there are ways how to organize your thematic stamp collection.

1) by selecting similar stamps with a principal design

2) by picking collectible stamps which have the same parts of the stamp(for example with similar perforations)

3) by opting for postage stamps that feature your topic as a symbol or stamps than can be considered as supplementary for your collection.

In choosing topical stamps…

After you have grouped your stamp collection into categories and subcategories, you will be able to see the bigger picture of your topical stamp collection.

Acquiring postage stamps

The philatelists can acquire postage stamps by several ways. Special topical stamp packets that consist of 50-100 items can be bought in stamp dealers.

In choosing topical stamps…

If you already have some extra stamps that do not fall under your thematic collection, you can always trade these items with topical philatelists online or at special stamp auctions or shows.

Topical stamps can be found in special philatelic catalogues that will help you to make a special checklist of items which you want to aсquire. Scan several stamp catalogs like the Scott's Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, and jot down each postage stamp's catalogue number.

But the easiest and the most convenient way is to gather the necessary items by searching for topical postage stamps in the internet. Online philately gives thematic philatelists a chance to search for their stamps of choice in their wide topical stamp inventories.

Organizing your topical stamp collection or thematic display

Just because your thematic stamp collections are growing in size do not mean you should not be systematic when you present them. The important thing in displaying your topical stamp collection is creativeness. Each stamp tells a story and is a small piece of history that is why it is essential to arrange them in a way that they tell a narrative. For instance you might want to chronicle your trip to Paris.

While creating a thematic display you can use not only postage stamps but also a wide variety of philately items such as covers, postcards etc. For a well-organized topical collection, you need a stamp collecting album. It is more than convenient when items in the album are arranged according to their age or the date of issuing. This way it will be easier to keep track your thematic stamps.

Although the stamps vary in sizes, try to group in such a way that your thematic display will look balanced and symmetrical. For this purpose use quadrille sheets to aid you in making a uniform spacing from one postage stamp to another. One more useful technique is sketch the approximate place of the stamps on the album before mounting them.

To avoid serious damages while handling your collection use good tweezers. Also it is more advisable to use stamp mounts rather than stamp hinges that will keep your collection in safety.

The creative descriptions for the items of your stamp collection will make it more interesting for other philatelists. However, these ads shouldn`t be too long. The best way is to make it short and not overly ornate.

What are the popular topics on thematic philately?

Think of any topic and someone probably collects it. Animals, birds, flowers, ships, space, scouts, Disney, and sports are some of the most popular topics. However, exhibits have been put together on much less common topics such as rainbows and even outhouses on stamps.

Wildlife on stamps is considered to be one of the most favorite and enduring themes in topical stamp collecting. There are birds on stamps, fish-themed stamps, insects on topical stamps, postage stamps with tigers on them etc. Stamps on postage stamps became a popular topic in the modern philately. Most collectors fancy postage stamps with medical themes and stamps with magicians on them.