A beginner's guide to stamp collecting

Stamp kit example from Michael Lynn

Stamp expert Michael Lynn recently donated several fine examples of stamps to the Bay Village Historical Society. Many date as far back as the Civil War era. Mr. Lynn also explained some of the terms and best practices used in the hobby of stamp collecting. If you would like to begin the hobby of philately (stamp collecting), Mr. Lynn is happy to get you started by emailing him at usstamps@mac.com. He will supply a collection kit and mail it to you, all at no cost.

Collecting stamps is a wonderful hobby. I was introduced to it by my grandfather when I was very young and have continued collecting my whole life. Stamps can teach us a lot about history, geography, and many other things.

Stamps may be issued to commemorate historical events or showcase animals and plants. More than 700 countries have issued stamps and they go back as far as 1847. There are a lot of different stamps to collect!

We divide stamps into “Mint Stamps,” (never been used), and “Canceled Stamps” (canceled by the postal service). All stamps have some value associated with them, but for most stamps it is only a few cents. There are also stamps worth thousands of dollars but finding them is as difficult as winning the lottery. So, collecting stamps isn’t about the value, but the fun of collecting and learning.

After sorting the stamps by country, the next step is to put them in order of when they were issued. The best way to figure this out is using a stamp catalog such as stampworld.com.

First Day Covers: An envelope that was sent on the first day a stamp was issued, usually from the post office that is the originator of the stamp. The envelopes are often pre-printed with information about the stamp.

Plate Blocks: A block of four with the margins attached and showing the printing plate number.

Stamps on Paper: To remove most stamps from their envelopes, all you need to do is soak them in water. Wait 10 or 15 minutes and they should begin floating off. Some modern self-adhesive stamps do not come off so easily and it is best to just leave those stamps as they are. To dry the stamps, put them between some paper towels with weight on top of them so they dry flat.

Stamp Albums: Especially if you decide on a particular country to collect, it is great to buy a stamp album for your country. The album will generally provide spaces for all the stamps issued by that country. You can also search online for some stamp pages you can print yourself. Never use glue or tape with your stamps.

Tools: One tool which is useful when identifying some stamps is a perforation gauge. Stamps are produced with different spacings of the perforations around the stamp. Especially with older stamps, a couple of stamps my look the same, but one could be worth 5 cents and another $5, the only difference being their perforations. Another thing necessary to handle stamps is a pair of stamp tweezers.

I hope you enjoy your stamp collecting!

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Volume 15, Issue 14, Posted 8:51 AM, 08.01.2023