As a new collector where do you begin? There are no simple answers to these questions. As a beginner you should start a general stamp collection in order to learn something about the many types of stamps that are available. This general knowledge will make you the new collector aware of the many phases of this hobby.
What to Collect:
Some people collect stamps by origin of country, some by the design of the stamp, some people collect many copies of just one stamp issue or just one type of stamps, such as air mail stamps, and some people collect every stamp that comes their way. The best advice for the beginning collector is to be a general collector at first and buy only what you can afford. As you gain knowledge you may decide to specialize more.
Look at as many stamps as you can and read as much as you can, and you will discover areas and facets of stamp collecting you never knew existed. The most important thing in the beginning is to become knowledgeable about stamp collecting. This can be done by going to your local library for books on stamp collecting, join a stamp club, searching the Internet, and subscribing to stamp collecting magazines such as Linnís Stamp News. The important thing is to just start with what you have. Save the stamps you get in your mail, let your friends know you are collecting stamps, this can be a great source of stamps in itself. The next thing you need to learn is how to take care of your stamps.
Caring for Your Stamps:
The most important rule you must learn about caring for stamps is never handle stamps with your bare hands. Always use stamp tongs and not tweezers. Most tweezers have sharp edges and will harm your stamps. While stamp tongs look like household tweezers, they do not have sharp edges. Stamp tongs come in several different types and shapes. In another article I will describe the different types of stamp tongs available. As a beginning collector you can make due with a general type of stamp tong. This can be obtained at any stamp dealer.
When looking at your stamps, you can pour them out of their envelope onto a clean piece of paper or something similar. You can also use a pad of paper on a clipboard. The clipboard allows you to pick up the stamps and move them out of the way if you need to. Avoid laying them out on a bare table or handling them with your fingers. The natural oils on your fingers or even the dust on the table will dirty your stamps over time.
Supplies for Your Collection:
When your are first starting out you donít need a lot of supplies. You will need stamp tongs, envelopes, and a storage box. You can use clean, plain white envelopes, write the name of the type of stamps on the envelope to help you organize your collection. In the beginning itís best to keep it simple and just sort your stamps, and label your envelopes by country, unless you have already decided to focus on certain types of stamps, such as air mail stamps. Itís a good practice to put your stamps into a clean and sturdy box or container. You can use just about any type of container available to you.
Eventually you should obtain a package of glassine envelopes for your stamps. These are semi-transparent envelopes made especially for stamp collecting. They are made out of glassine, which is a material that has no harmful chemicals in it that could harm the stamps within it.
Most types of paper have high levels of acidity or other properties that over time can harm stamps stored within them. It is perfectly all right to use ordinary envelopes when you are first starting a collection.
You donít need to think about getting an album for your stamps until you have decided what type of stamps you really want to collect. You will need to start using a catalog to start identifying your stamps.
Good stamp catalogs are expensive, but the good news is that most public libraries have copies of stamp catalogs on their shelves that you can look at. It is also possible to pick up a second hand stamp catalog at a used bookstore or online auction.
Stamp albums are designed for displaying your stamp collections. There are many kinds available, from starter sets to comprehensive sets running into several volumes . The pages can be printed on both sides of the page, but it is recommended you start with an album with pages printed on one side. This way, your stamps do not rub against one another when the album is closed. The perforations of stamps can catch onto the stamp on the facing page and damage it in a multitude of ways.
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