Philately Archives - Eva Varga

May 25, 2016

My son recently joined Scouts and we’ve thus been immersed in learning about the history and opportunities provided to members. Everyone is likely familiar with the merit badge system whereby Scouts can learn about sports, handcrafts, science, trades, business, and future careers. Did you realize there are more than 100 merit badges?

Stamp Collecting Merit Badge

The merit badge system, I discovered was a huge motivating factor for my son. It is not surprising that the first two merit badges he chose to earn were swimming and music. He breezed through the requirements for each and was soon ready to tackle another.

stampcollectingmeritbadgesThis time he chose stamp collecting – one of the rarest badges earned. I thereby volunteered to serve as the merit badge counselor and thereby guide the interested scouts through badge requirements. Not surprisingly, only two others joined us.

Delightfully, the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs has a Boy Scout stamp collecting merit badge PowerPoint presentation available on its website. It follows, in order, the requirements from the merit badge book and thus introduces new philatelists to the hobby with ease.

I had enough stamps from which each of the boys were able to sort through and find everything they needed to complete the merit badge requirements. They just need to put their projects together. 🙂

Stamp Collecting & Exhibiting

My children and I have been avid stamp collectors for years and we have learned so much along the way. We got started in earnest shortly after we had moved to Redding, California and learned of a collector who wanted to pass on his collection of world stamps to a young child interested in learning about stamp collecting.

We reached out to him and spent an afternoon learning the ins and outs of philately. We discovered that philatelists collect a wide variety of different material – while many collect stamps from a single country, others collect stamps on a variety of topics, and others focus solely on cancellation marks. It really is very diverse!

stamp collectingStamp Collecting Championships

We soon discovered that thematic collecting was our preferred approach. Over the past five years, the kids and I have put together numerous exhibits to showcase stamps and philatelic material expressing our individual interests.

They have entered their exhibits in local shows in both California (NOVAPEX) and Oregon (SOPEX) as well as regional and national shows around the country. In doing so, they have met many wonderful people (dealers, other exhibitors, and judges).

Jeffrey’s Exhibits

  • Aeronautics
  • How the Engine Changed the World
  • Bridges of the World
  • Maersk Group*

Geneva’s Exhibits

  • Birds of the World*
  • Lunar New Year*
  • Mythologies of the World
  • Folkloric Mysteries of Harry Potter*

My Exhibits

  • All About Me
  • Mythology of the Moon
  • Phylum Insecta
*Denotes exhibits that have won a youth grand award at a nationally accredited show and thereby qualified for the AAPE Youth Champion of Champions competition. Maersk Group and Folkloric Mysteries of Harry Potter will be competing head to head in August along with numerous other youth exhibitors.

The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas by iHomeschool NetworkInterested in learning how to integrate stamps into your curriculum? My article, How to Use Postage Stamps for Learning, was published in the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas.

55 homeschool moms contributed to The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. Providing you with inspiration and ideas that go beyond the basics of academics. Delve into delightful methods like active learning, learning with video games, using LEGO bricks for learning, teaching on the road, learning with movies, and gardening.

The eBook is available now for only $5.99.


August 27, 20132

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 and it does not require any special skills or great wealth. Stamp collecting has provided us with a wealth of educational opportunities, integrating all subject areas.

stamp collectingPhilately is the study of stamps and postal history and other related items. Philately involves more than just stamp collecting. Stamp collecting is the accumulation of material related to the payment of postage and the carriage of the mails. In addition to traditional postage stamps, many philatelists — the fancy word for stamp collectors — also collect covers, envelopes that carried mail. Some individuals also collect markings or labels applied to mail including postage meters.

Stamp collecting provides hours of educational opportunities as collectors research the images depicted on the stamps.  My daughter has learned how to identify birds by scientific order.  My son has learned how the engine has changed transportation and he is now learning about bridge construction and engineering.

If one chooses to exhibit, additional learning opportunities abound.  In the months we have been exhibiting, the kids have learned word processing, aesthetics of display, how to care for mint stamps, and oral  & written communication skills.  Stamp collecting has become so important to them that they each do extra chores to earn money to buy mint stamps themselves and make lists of stamps they hope Santa will leave in their stockings.

Collecting and exhibiting has also enabled us to travel; we attended the APS Stamp Show last year when it was in Sacramento where my daughter’s Birds of the World exhibit placed high enough to earn an invitation to the Youth Champion of Champions at the annual NAPEX show.  While we couldn’t attend that show (it was in Virginia), we were able to submit her exhibit by mail and her entry was selected for the WESTPEX Flora and Fauna Award.

 A couple of great links to help you get started:

  • American Philatelic Society – the largest, non-profit organization for stamp collectors in the world. Founded in 1886, the APS serves collectors, educators, postal historians, and the general public by providing a wide variety of programs and services.
  • American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors – a worldwide organization of stamp collectors who exhibit their collections competitively and work together for the betterment of philatelic exhibiting and judging standards and practices.

If you have enjoyed this post, you may be interested in my earlier posts about stamp collecting, the fascinating hobby of philately.

Do you collect stamps or related ephemera?  Tell us a little about what you collect and how you got started.

March 6, 20131

This weekend marked our one year anniversary in stamp collecting and both kiddos expanded their original exhibits to two-frames (32 pages). I am so proud of how hard they have worked to research the stamps and write their story (though admittedly, I did the typing for Buddy).

We spent the entire day at the show on Saturday and much of Sunday. We enjoyed visiting with the other exhibitors (they were still the only youth), hearing the judges’ critique, brainstorming other exhibit ideas, and browsing the dealer tables.

We continue to learn so much about stamp collecting and the tricks of philatelic exhibiting. As of now, we are content to focus on topical or thematic exhibits. As we continue, I’m sure we will begin to explore more in depth topics like cancellation marks and plate errors.

Sweetie plans to revise her “Birds of the World” exhibit once more in preparation for the “Champion of Champions” show in Washington this May. In the mean time, she plans to begin developing a few more exhibits as material (stamps, covers, etc) become available. She may exhibit “Lunar New Year” and “Fungi” by the years end. She is also collecting materials for “Owls”, “Minerals”, “Fantasy Fiction”.

Buddy has an exhibit in mind that is actually quite advanced for young collectors. It may likely take years to collect enough material to tell his story. His focus is on the Danish company, Mærsk. Until then, I hope I can continue to encourage him to exhibit other more kid-friendly topics.

August 22, 2012

We have only been actively collecting stamps and other postal ephemera since the beginning of the calendar year. In that time, the kids have entered their exhibits into four philatelic shows.  Two were small, local shows (NOVAPEX in March and SOPEX in April).  One was a relatively large, regional show (PIPEX in May) and most recently, a very large national show (APS).  At each of the shows, the kids have done very well … earning multiple honors.

Sweetie talking with a judge about her exhibit at the APS show

Each time they have exhibited, they have made revisions to their original project using the suggestions that have been provided by the judges.  They have thereby made gradual improvements in most cases.  We have also learned a tremendous amount of philatelic knowledge and made immeasurable growth in terms of our presentation skills (writing, formatting, organizing, etc.) and research (historical and scientific knowledge as applicable to their chosen topic of interest).

Buddy talking with a judge about his exhibit at the APS show

We have not been able to attend all the shows we have entered personally.  However, we learn so much more from this experience than I can attest to here.  We were fortunate to attend the national American Philatelic Society (APS) Stamp Show this past weekend in Sacramento.  It was an amazing experience … attended by dealers and exhibitors from all over the world.

One of the greatest things about attending a show of this caliber, is the opportunity to talk with dealers and philatelists with similar interests. We were able to connect with dealers who specialize in Scandinavian stamps, learn of associations and study groups, and discover fellowship opportunities for young adults.

Attending the APS show also provided us the opportunity to attend our first United States Postal Service First Day of Sale Ceremony where they unveiled The War of 1812: USS Constitution.  Buddy was very excited to attend this ceremony for he as been pining for this stamp for some time.


April 1, 2012
Locals and tourists alike flock to the tidal basin in the nation’s capitol each spring enthralled by the beautiful blossoms that celebrate our friendship with Japan. A century ago, the city of Tokyo gave 3,020 cherry trees to the city of Washington, DC. First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees.
the light filling the air
is so mild this spring day
only the cherry blossoms
keep falling in haste —
why is that so?

~ Ki no Tomonori

In 1927, local citizens held the first cherry blossom festival. Today, the celebration draws more than a million visitors. Because these trees are in bloom so briefly, the Japanese often see them as symbols of transience – making every blossom an invitation to celebrate life.

On March 24th of this year, the U. S. Postal Service commemorated the centennial of the gift of more than 3,000 cherry blossom trees from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C with the Cherry Blossom Centennial stamp design. The two stamps, which are near mirror images, form the left and right halves of a panoramic view of blooming cherry trees surrounding the tidal basin. The stamp on the left depicts blossoming trees arching over two girls dressed in bright kimonos, and a family on a stroll with the Washington Monument in the background. On the second stamp, the Jefferson Memorial forms the backdrop for tourists taking in the sights under a canopy of pink blooms. Artist Paul Rogers worked with art director Phil Jordan to create the two stamp designs.

Sadly, we were not able to attend the unveiling ceremony.  We all loved the artistry of this setenet pair, however, and thus we created cherry blossoms of our own.

March 16, 20122

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 Stamps

Soaking a stamp removes the stamp from the cover or envelope.  It is fast and easy.

  1. Trim the envelope around the stamp
  2. Sort them – soak brightly colored envelopes separately for the colors may run and spoil the other stamps.
  3. 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.
  4. After a few minutes, the stamps will separate from the paper.  Be patient and don’t pull the stamp free – you may tear it.
  5. 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.