When looking for a hobby that doesn’t involve expensive travel and potentially inedible food along the way, or death-defying stunts, look no further.
Collecting stamps may seem to have the stigma that it is an older person’s game, but that is a far cry from the truth.
Philatelic is the term used for stamp collectors worldwide who collect and study stamps. Collecting these unique and often rare morsels has become somewhat of a challenge and a joy.
Through this hobby, you can open your eyes to a world you never knew existed.
Not only will you learn about many different countries and their rich history, but you will also be privy to their beautiful culture and dynamic artwork.
Stamps pay tribute to people and events, each year bringing in a new set of collectible stamps for Philatelic enthusiasts.
Let’s have a look at a beginner’s guide that will give you great tips on where to start, what to buy for this hobby, and guide you in your choices.
How to start stamp collecting
First, there is some equipment that you will need to put your collection together.
- Stamp tongs or tweezers
The natural oils in your skin can cause damage or deterioration to the stamps if handled directly.
Tongs or tweezers will eliminate this problem and allow you to handle your stamps without causing unforeseen damage.
- Magnifying Glass
Most collectors like to study their stamps up close. This means bringing the need for a magnifying glass into the fold.
Nothing more than an x10 magnification is needed, or else you will not be able to see the context of your stamps.
- Stamp Albums
A simple ring binder or loose-leaf book will suffice in the beginning. Later, you may want to invest in albums to store your collection.
The USPS also brings out new collector books for new stamps they produced each year.
- Perforation Guide
The Gibbons Instanta is the most common perforation measurement gauge used by collectors.
The perforation measurements of a stamp can very well differentiate one from another.
- Color Guide
The overall worth of a stamp can come from the shade it displays. A color guide will assist you in differentiating between the two.
- Watermark detector fluid
Watermark fluid will allow you to see the unique impression made in the stamp, confirming its authenticity.
It is not unheard of for two identical stamps to have two different watermarks. These will then be classified as two individual stamps by the collector.
Watermark fluid allows you to pace a few drops of the liquid onto the back of the stamp to reveal the watermark. Often the watermark on a stamp is the letters USPS.
Sticking a stamp to an album page is done with small, gummed strips called hinges.
- Stamp identification book
This may be one of the most informative parts of your collection. Specialist reference books give you an in-depth history of the stamps, their value, and the print date.
- A map or Atlas
Maps aid us in pinpointing the exact location of the stamp’s origin.
Acquiring your stamps for the collection
Used items on postcards and envelopes are the most common way to start a stamp collection. You gently remove the item from the corner and collect it.
Kiloware stamps are bought through sellers and are a great way for beginners to start. Kiloware stamps are sold according to their weight and not the number inside the bag.
Once you have bought a bag of stamps this way, you can sit and start the learning and collecting process.
Patience and diligence are required here because you need to look at each stamp bought and sort it according to the country of origin.
While this may take up some time, it is relaxing and enjoyable to learn all about the traditions and cultures of your surrounding countries represented on their stamps.
You can also buy items for your collection from
- Fairs, auction houses, jumble sales, online shops, and dealers. Other alternatives are:
- Stamp packets
- Used stamps
- Stamps purchased at the post office
- Swapping stamps with fellow collectors
- Join a collectors club
Stamps get collected in many different categories, some of which are:
- The country of origin
- The Historical Period they pertain to
- A specific theme they are part of
- The shade or color palette that they represent
Soaking your stamps
Sorting your stamps is vital to prepare you for soaking them. Since this procedure makes the stamp delicate, the less handling there is from this stage on, the better.
How to soak a stamp:
- Cut the stamp out of the envelope, leaving a 2cm border around it
- Pour warm water into a bowl
- Place the item facing upwards into the bowl
- You can float as many as there is space for at one time
- Allow it to soak for up to 15 minutes so that the water can react to the gum sticking the stamp down
- Using your fingers, gently peel the stamp away from the paper. If you encounter any resistance, do not pull. Allow the item to soak for a few minutes more, and try again.
Tips to remember when soaking a stamp
- Ink tends to run when in contact with water, be careful with your stamps when soaking, especially when doing different colors. If the colors were to mix or run over other pieces, their authenticity gets compromised.
- Should you notice that ink has run into the soaking water, remove all the stamps, and replace the water to start again. You do not want to stain any other pieces.
- Stamps are susceptible to damage when wet. Do not use your tongs or tweezers at this stage or, you run the risk of tearing or damaging your collection.
- Once the adhesive glue meets the warm water, it dissolves. Gum in the water can potentially change the quality of your stamps or change their appearance. It is a good idea to use freshwater with every new batch that you soak.
Time to dry off
Once the soaking process is complete, you can place the stamps on a kitchen towel or paper face up and allow them to dry off.
Place an additional piece of paper on top and gently dab away excess water. Once dry, cover your stamps with two pieces of paper and place a book over them to straighten them out.
Placing stamps in the sun or under a light of any kind will cause them to curl up at the edges. It’s not advisable to try to speed up the drying process this way.
Collecting stamps is a versatile hobby that will teach you much more than you thought. From history to commemorative occasions and famous people, they have a wealth of information to give.
Once you get started with all the basics, you will soon find yourself submerged in a world of entertainment and fact.
Stamp collecting will also bring you closer to fellow philatelic lovers. Why not make a few new connections and learn something as you go?
Apart from all these, there are few other factors affecting in value of your stamp collection; so yeah, you should check it too.
1. When did stamp collecting begin?
Stamp collecting began in the year 1840 when the very first postage stamp was issued called the Penny Black.
2. Can you buy stamps online?
Both collector’s stamps and traditional postage stamps are available online for purchase.
3. What is the most valuable stamp in the world?
The British Guiana once cent Black on Magenta is valued at 9 million Euros, making it the most expensive stamp ever printed.
4. What are commemorative stamps?
A stamp that made in honor of a person or event that has taken place. They are issued in small quantities for a specific time and are not valuable.