Philately or Stamp Collection as a hobby

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Stamp collection, also called philately, is a hobby enjoyed by many. Stamp collectors relish their hobby, and they actively seek out new and unusual stamps to add to their stamp collecting albums. If your are already feeling interested and before you get going and before you decide what to collect, it may be helpful to understand what kinds of stamps there are and how they are classified.
The Classification of stamps include:
·Stamp Types -- commemorative, definitive, and special about philately
·Purpose -- regular, special delivery, postage due and airmail
·Formats -- sheet, coil and booklet
·Condition -- used, unused, or mint
stamp collection
 

Stamp Types

The terms "definitive" and "commemorative" are commonly used to define specific types of stamps, and for many years these terms seemed very clear. But lately some definitives and commemoratives have become harder to distinguish. While the general guidelines for distinguishing definitives and commemoratives are still useful, exceptions to these guidelines have become more common.

Definitive: The world of stamps began with a definitive issue, Great Britain's "Penny Black" on May 6, 1840. The first U.S. stamps issued in 1847 were also definitives depicting George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Initially all stamps were definitives picturing people -- royalty for most stamps from British Commonwealth countries and dead presidents and other famous people for the United States. In fact, it was 22 years before a U.S. postage stamp showed anything other than a portrait of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, or Andrew Jackson. Today, many definitives still depict people although recently the U.S. flag and the White House have also been used. Definitives are generally described as small in size, plain in design and can be issued at the first-class rate or in different denominations to pay for different rates or to be used as makeup postage for when the rates go up. They are printed in large quantities and remain on sale for an indefinite period of time, usually until the first-class rate changes. Typically, when the supply of one of these stamps run out, more are printed, and if the printing plates wear out, new plates are created.

Commemorative: - It was only in the late 1800’s that the citizens began to question the post office to honor historical events. The first U.S. stamps issued to specifically commemorate history were issued in 1893 -- the Columbian Exposition issues -- to celebrate Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World. Since then many stamps have been issued to commemorate statehood anniversaries, organizations, and promote causes. Commemoratives are usually printed in much smaller quantities, compared to billions of definitives. Once the initial printing of these commemorative stamps is all sold, they are not usually reprinted. Commemoratives are usually about twice the size of most definitives, and almost always pay the standard first class rate. They may show a person but when they do they are normally issued on the anniversary of their birth.

Special - In recent years some collectors have defined a third type of stamp, which have in them characteristics of both definitives and commemoratives. These are known as Special. For the U.S. almost all of these are Love or Christmas stamps. Most often these stamps are larger in size like commemoratives. They also are issued for the common rates. Whenever the supply runs low they may be reprinted and they may remain on sale for longer periods of time.


Purpose

The purpose for which the stamp was issued offers yet another way of classification. Most stamps are called "regulars" because they are intended for use on regular mail. However, very shortly after the first issuance of postage stamps, postage due stamps were printed to show the collection of money when insufficient postage was applied to a letter. U.S. postage stamps for Special Delivery service also were issued in the 1800's. Beginning in 1918 the United States issued stamps for airmail service. Stamps also have been issued for a number of other special services, including Registration and Parcel Post.

Formats

Another aspect on the basis of which stamps can be classified is the format in which they are issued. Originally almost all stamps were issued in sheets (or panes) of stamps. However, in the 1900's two other formats have become popular: coils and booklets. Coil stamps are issued in rolls for use in dispensers, as well as affixing and vending machines. Each coil stamp has two straight edges and two edges with either slit like cuts or little holes, called perforations. Booklets are convenient for customers as the stamps can be more easily kept in a wallet or purse.

Condition

A stamp that has not been used and is still in the same condition as when issued by the Postal Service is called mint. If a stamp has not been used but has been affixed to an album with a hinge, the gum has been disturbed so it is no longer in mint condition and is called unused. A stamp that has served its purpose of paying for the delivery of a letter, normally as evidenced by a postmark or cancellation is called used.

Stamps can also be divided based upon whether they have perforations. The type of printing or whether they have a watermark also can classify stamps. Now that you have been enlightened on the characteristics of stamps, its time to decide the type of the collection you want to begin with.


How to start collecting stamps


Stamp collection is pretty easy. You can save stamps from packages, letters and postcards. You can also ask your friends and family to save stamps from their mail for you. Start swapping stamps when you have doubles. You may also collect stamped envelopes from neighborhood businesses that get a lot of mail like stores, banks and travel agencies - might save their envelopes for you, too. Or, you can start your collection by choosing one or two favorite subjects and then, collect only stamps that fit your theme, which can range from art, history and sports to transportation or science. This is called topical collecting.


Things that you may need


There are certain equipment that you may find helpful if you are really serious about taking up stamp collection as your hobby.

  1. Glassine envelopes are made of a special thin, see-through paper that protects stamps from grease and air. You can use them to keep stamps until you put them in your album.
  2. A stamp catalog can prove really helpful as a reference book with illustrations to help you identify stamps. You will also come to know about the values of used and unused stamps from it. You can buy the Scot's Standard Postage Stamp catalog, which lists every stamp in the world. This is a three-volume encyclopedia and is the complete reference. You can also consult it at your local library if you don't want to go into the expense for the time being.
  3. A magnifying glass helps you examine stamps by making them appear larger.
  4. A perforation gauge measures perforations along the edges of stamps. Sometimes the size and number of perforations (o are helpful in identifying stamps.
  5. A watermark tray and watermark fluid help make watermarks on stamps more visible. A watermark is a design or pattern that is pressed into some stamp paper during manufacturing.

How to tell which stamp is worth
 

The worth of a particular stamp depends upon two aspects-it’s rarity and the condition it is in. The price listed in a stamp catalog gives you some idea of how rare it is. However, the stamp may sell at more or less than the catalog price, depending on its condition. Always go for the stamps, which are in the best possible condition. You can begin to judge the condition of a stamp by examining it’s front. Is the stamp clean, dirty or stained? Are the colors bright or faded? Is the stamp torn? Torn stamps are not considered "collectible." Is the stamp design centered on the paper, crooked or off to one side? Are all the perforations intact? Has the stamp been canceled? A stamp with a light cancellation is in better condition than one with heavy marks across it. Now look at the back of the stamp and see whether there is a thin spot in the paper? If so, it may have been caused by careless removal from an envelope or hinge.

TIPS FOR STAMP COLLECTORS

1>Soaking the stamps- Cut out the stamp very carefully from the envelope so that you don’t end up cutting the perforated edges .You may damage the stamp otherwise. All types of problem stamps, e.g. stamps on poor quality paper, or with strange –looking inks that might easily get dissolved in water and stain the other stamps that are soaked, should be handled carefully. Take a shallow bowl and fill it with several inches of cold to lukewarm water. Float the stamps in the bowl with the picture side up. Ensure that the stamps have sufficient room to float so that they don’t stick to each other. Let the stamp float until the glue does not dissolve fully and the paper comes off easily. Use fresh water to rinse the back of the stamp gently to make sure all the glue is off. Spread out the wet stamps on a paper towel or old newspapers to dry. As the stamps dry, they might get wrinkled but there is a way out. After they are completely dry, lift them carefully (use tongs if necessary) and place them inside a heavy book to flatten or straighten them. After a few days your stamps will be ready to be included in your collection.

2>Choosing your stamp album-Once you have stacked up a wide variety of stamps, you are in dire need to store them. Just a common storage space would not do, you also need to show it off to whoever you come across. Since the first known commercial stamp album was published in 1862, the stamp hobby has grown tremendously, and many types of albums have become available. So before you get a home for your collection, you need to keep in mind a few things. If you plan to buy an album in person then, it is advisable that you let an elder accompany you. An expensive album may not necessarily be the best one. Appearance, format and price are the factors that you should take into consideration. For the beginners, illustrated albums are the best, complete with information, maps and facts about the countries. Don’t go for an album with flimsy pages, as it may not be durable enough. Blank, acid-free album pages punched for three-hole binders are easily available and can be a safe and stable home for your personalized collection. Glue, tape and other commercial adhesives damage stamps, so it is advisable to use only stamp hinges and stamp mounts that are specially designed for postage stamp display. One side of the hinge is lightly moistened and attached to the back of the stamp. The other side is then moistened so the stamp can be positioned on the album page. A stamp hinge is a tiny bit of gummed glassine paper that many collectors use to affix postally used stamps to album pages.

For mint or unused stamps, many collectors prefer to use stamp mounts when they arrange their stamps on the album page. A stamp mount is a transparent sleeve made of a special plastic that is safe for stamp storage. A gummed flap on the back of the mount can be lightly moistened to affix it to the album page. The stamp then slides inside the mount and is displayed through the transparent front.


3>Sorting Stamps: Before you mount the stamps in your album you need to put them in some kind of order. You can sort the stamps in the following ways:-

(a) Depending on the type of collection you are putting together you have to first sort your stamps by country or by topic. Or, you can even sort them by the service, which the stamp was meant to provide such as airmail stamps, special delivery stamps, postage due, parcel post or revenue stamps.

(b) Now you can resort the piles according to the stamp types meaning definitives, commemoratives, or special stamps like Christmas or Love stamps.

(c) You can then sort each pile further by their denomination. But be very careful so as not to mix stamps of different categories while grouping them according to denominations.

(d) During your sorting process remove any badly damaged stamps, unless it is very valuable and irreplaceable.

(e) If you have more than one copy of a particular stamp, select the best one for your collection. The duplicates can be saved for trading.

(f) Sorting is actually a never-ending job as you will always be adding to your collection. And remember, there is no right or wrong way to collect. Your collection is just that -- it's yours. That's what makes stamp collecting so much fun!
 


4>Using tongs-For all stamp collectors philatelic tongs are an absolute must. It is better for you to get into the habit of using tongs whenever you handle stamps instead of your fingers. It will save your philatelic paper from being soiled. It’s very important to handle tongs pretty carefully. You should practice holding the stamps firmly yet gently with your tongs. Working with extra-long tongs with a pointed tip requires a lot of dexterity on your part. You may run the risk of poking holes through the stamps. The rounded spatula type tongs are the most convenient ones. Tongs are among the least expensive and most essential stamp-hobby needs. Tongs cost anywhere from a couple of dollars to quite a few.


 

The Joy of Stamp Collecting


Stamp collecting is a joyous pastime that offers the philatelist a chance to learn a little bit about art, history, and foreign places. Commemorative stamps are interesting in that they depict a moment, event, or significant person in history that is worthy of having a stamp made in their honor.

There are also collectible stamps that you can purchase and hang on to, hoping that over time they will continue to rise in value. Most people who collect stamps do so for the sheer fun of it, without putting too much thought into making a profit. Hobbyists who collect stamps love to learn about the stories behind their stamps, as well as explore the world behind the production of stamps. Every time you collect an old stamp, you will likely be curious enough about its origins and would definitely be interested in reading up the history of that stamp. Collecting stamps introduces history into your world, as you cannot help but wonder who was the first person to use the stamps in your collection.

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