Getting Started with Stamp Collecting

Collecting postage stamps requires very little equipment. You don't need shoulder pads, skates, a piano or even a tuba! ... Unless, of course, you want to hold a parade to celebrate your new stamp collection !!

You can start out with a friend, a parent or anyone else who is interested, or who already collects stamps. That is fine, but it is not necessary. You can collect stamps on your own.

When I started collecting, my father had a huge collection and he was kind enough to want to share any of it with me. Bless his heart. However, the challenge of finding new stamps was not that great, because they were all in the house! Soooo, I lost interest .... :((

Years later, I resumed collecting and I had the start of a collection ready to go. That might happen to you, and if it does, don't feel like you failed, or something. Stamp collecting will always be there, if you have the interest to start again.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, "equipment".

First, you should have some stamps ..... duhhh ... that was pretty obvious, wasn't it?

There are lots of ways to get stamps for your collection. Maybe Aunt Bertha gave you her collection, or part of it, to get you started. Maybe you just went to a stamp store and bought some. Maybe you went through your parents' mail and soaked off the stamps from the envelopes. Maybe you just printed some of your own ..... oh, those don't count, forget them!

Maybe you went to the Post Office and bought some new stamps. OK, new stamps with gum (sticky stuff) on the back are called "mint" stamps. Stamps that have been already used on envelopes are called "used" stamps. Pretty easy, eh?

Which of these two stamps is "used" and which one is "mint"?

Mint stamp Used stamp

The stamp on the left is "mint", although it has a few dirty marks on it. It has glue stuff on the back that you can't see. The other stamp has been "cancelled" at the Post Office after the letter it was "used" on was posted. So, we call it "used". The Post Office does that to make sure the stamp won't be used again on another letter. Some people collect only mint stamps, some collect only used stamps, some collect both. It's your choice!

Look again at the last two stamps. If you collect "mint" stamps, you might not like this example, because it just doesn't look clean. Also, the stamp "picture" is not in the center of the stamp - you can see it is closer to the bottom than to the top. If you collect "used" stamps, you might really like the used example because it is bright, well-centered and you can read the postmark. Later, we will talk about the "condition" of stamps.

OK, now here is a strip of 3 stamps on an envelope that arrived yesterday. The stamps add up to 73 cents - wow - that must have been a heavy envelope!

If you want to remove stamps from envelopes, and have permission to do so, cut out the stamp, leaving lots of envelope attached, because you don't want to risk cutting into the stamp. Place what you cut out into a dish of water and wait maybe 10 to 15 minutes, until the stamp has floated free from the paper. Now, you have a soggy stamp.

If you just let it dry, it will curl up and look funny. If you are into collecting funny curled up stamps, there you go!! But if you want nice flat stamps, you have to dry them and press them. I put them on a clean unwrinkled dish towel or piece of blotting paper, put more blotting paper or towel on top, and stack books on them. Don't use your schoolbooks, because you will probably want to do homework while the stamps are pressing.

Anyway, now you have stamps. What next?

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