Stamp collecting is a fascinating hobby offering educational opportunities for all ages. We’ve been collecting stamps haphazardly for years, never knowing what to do with our collection other than occasionally sending our duplicates to Tubfrim. Recently, however, we were given a collection of stamps from a life-long collector and as he explained the hobby in-depth to us, we each came away with a focus for our efforts.
He encouraged us to consider putting together a topical exhibit for the upcoming local stamp show and both kiddos were delighted to do so. We spent several weeks gathering our stamps together and doing the research. I was amazed not only in how much they both learned – but even more so, because the topic was of great interest to them – they spent many, many hours researching.
Sweetie’s topic was Birds of the World and she chose to organize her stamps by scientific bird order. She had to look up the genus species name of each bird illustrated on the stamps, sometimes in the language of the country that issued the stamp and thereafter identify the order to which it belonged. She impressed me with her level of understanding when we were on a recent nature walk outing and she identified several local species by latin name and indicated it’s proper order as well.
Buddy’s theme was Planes Trains & Automobiles. While he didn’t do as much research as his older sister, he spent many hours sorting and classifying his stamps. I had always known that stamp collecting could be educational … but as we got underway … the amount of learning that took place blew me away (writing, word processing, research, history, science, geography, technology, foreign language, public speaking, etc.).
Their first exhibit experience as exhibitors was a great success (Novapex’12). They both earned Silver Awards – pictured above. Sweetie’s was also selected Best Youth Exhibit, for which she was awarded a handsome wooden plaque. The Exhibit Chair for another stamp show (Sopex’12) also invited them to send their projects to be exhibited there as well. They thereby spent hours revising their original exhibits according to the suggestions for improvements provided by the judges.
I can not recommend stamp collecting enough. For those of you interested in getting started, I’ve outlined a starting guide for you here. Please post comments or questions – I’d love to help. Perhaps we may even be able to trade stamps. 🙂
What to Collect?
A stamp collection can be whatever you want it to be. Stamps can be mint (new stamps that have never been used) or used (stamps that have served their intended purpose of carrying the mail). There are two popular ways to collect stamps – topical or country.
- Topical Collecting – In this type of collecting you gather stamps, envelopes, postmarks, etc., related to one specific topic. Animals, birds, flowers, ships, space, scouts, Disney, and sports are just a few of the topics you can collect.
- Country Collecting – You may choose to collect stamps from the country where you or your ancestors were born. You may have a special interest in a country because you, a parent, or a friend visited that country.
Where Do I Find Stamps?
As a beginning collector, the first thing you must do is gather some stamps. There are many places where you can find stamps. Here are some great sources:
- Your Mailbox – save stamps from envelopes and packages that come to your house
- Local Post Office – where you can purchase new stamps
- Friends, Relatives & Local Businesses – ask them to save the stamps from their mail for you. My mother works at an eye clinic and the billing receptionist tears off the stamp from the received payments
- Pen Pals – find a pen pal (perhaps a friend or relative living overseas) so that you can send each other letters with cool stamps
- Stamp Dealers – a great source for older stamps. They often offer inexpensive packages containing stamps from all over the world. Look in your yellow pages or online for dealers in your area.
- Local Stamp Clubs – join a local stamp club where you can trade with members or ask for help to get you started. You may be able to find a club in your area by looking it up online. While we were fortunate to find a collector desiring to give much of his collection to a young philatelists just getting started, life-time collectors are often eager to help the young generation get started.
- Stamp Shows – At stamp shows, you will not only find stamps but also have the opportunity to meet other collectors.
Soaking a stamp removes the stamp from the cover or envelope. It is fast and easy.
- Trim the envelope around the stamp
- Sort them – soak brightly colored envelopes separately for the colors may run and spoil the other stamps.
- Place them face side up in a few inches of lukewarm water. If you are soaking a lot of stamps, you will likely need to change the water after a few batches.
- After a few minutes, the stamps will separate from the paper. Be patient and don’t pull the stamp free – you may tear it.
- Place the stamps between two paper towels to dry. Place a book on top to prevent curling and leave them to dry overnight.
Do Your Research
Find books at your local library or research online to learn more about the hobby, specifically the vocabulary. As you begin to put your topical projects together, you’ll want to include information about the stamp. Philatelic websites and the guides published by the US Postal Service are wonderful resources.
How Do I Display My Stamps
It is not necessary to purchase stamp collecting books. You can display your stamps easily by hinging them onto a piece of paper and slipping the paper into a page protector. The pages can then be safely displayed in a 3-ring binder. I strongly suggest not hinging them until you’re satisfied with the text and arraignment of your page. Thereby, simply store the stamps in glassine envelopes and tuck them into the page protector.
Few hobbies match the flexibility of stamp collecting. It is suitable for nearly all ages. You can collect stamps all 12 months of the year regardless of the climate where you are located. It does not require any special skills or great wealth. As stamps are miniature works of art, it’s nearly impossible to collect them without gaining a large amount of knowledge. Stamps also usually provide a much greater return on your investment than other hobbies.