Postage Stamp Collecting

Philately, or postage stamp collecting, is an entertaining hobby that is especially perfect for children. A variety of stamp collecting books are available that provide historical information, resources, and helpful hints for both the novice and the accomplished philatelist. Before embarking on a philatelic journey, it's helpful to know some basics about the hobby, the history of the postal service, and something about the most notable and valuable stamps prized by collectors.

As a brief overview, stamps are classified by type, format, purpose, and condition. Type refers to the kind of stamp whether it is a definitive, a special, or a commemorative. A definitive item is the mass-printed, commonly used postage. Special refers to certain items, such as the popular "Love" and "Christmas" stamps which may be larger than the definitive. These may have more than one print run, depending on their popularity. The commemoratives are almost always larger in size than the definitive, have a limited print run, and honor a specific person or historic event. The first commemorative, the Columbian Series issued in 1893, honored the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. In 1940, Booker T. Washington was the first African-American honored on a commemorative. The formats describe how the stamps are sold, whether by sheets or panes, coils, or booklets. Various purposes include regular delivery, special delivery, postage due, airmail, and parcel post registration.

The three conditions in postage stamp collecting are mint, unused, and used. Any item in mint condition has never been used or damaged in anyway. If there is damage, for example if the adhesive on the back has been disturbed, the condition is rated as unused. A used item was sent through the mail and is probably defaced, at least partially, by the post office's cancellation mark. In addition, philatelists consider the vibrancy of the item's color, the centering of the image, the perforation, and its general appearance. However, the item's condition is only one factor when determining value. The scarcity of the stamp and its demand are two additional factors. Don't make the mistake of assuming that just because a stamp is old that it is also scarce or in great demand. Experienced philatelists know that the 1893 Columbian Series two-center had a printing run of approximately one and a half billion. Though over a hundred years old, it isn't all that scarce. However, only about 27,000 of the 1893 five-dollar stamp in the same series was printed. Their scarcity greatly increases their value.

Many stamp collecting books tell the story of how British Postmaster General Sir Rowland Hill designed the first stamp in 1840 as part of a larger system of postal reforms established in 1837. Until that time, recipients paid to receive letters and could refuse delivery. Sir Hill created the "Penny Black," a black bit of paper bearing the profile of Queen Victoria that could be affixed to the outside of a letter. For a penny, the sender could send mail weighing no more than half-an-ounce anywhere in the British Isles. Not to be outdone, the United States issued a George Washington ten-center and a Benjamin Franklin five-center in 1847. The perforated varieties were introduced ten years later in 1857. Self-adhesives were first issued in 1974.

Fans of postage stamp collecting may also be interested in other historical landmarks. For example, April 1860 and October 1861 were the months of the Pony Express. These wiry riders on their mustangs and pintos delivered mail on the two-thousand mile trail between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California. A more modern innovation designed to speed up the sorting of mail is the ZIP code which was instituted on July 1, 1963. ZIP is actually an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan.

By reading stamp collecting books or doing online research, the philatelist can learn about the valuable and rare stamps sought by collectors. Naturally, a prized collectible is the first one, the Penny Black. After a year, the design changed from black to red to make it easier to see the cancellation marks. In the year 2000, this collectible was valued at approximately $200 for used and approximately $2000 for unused. Even people who are not involved in postage stamp collecting are familiar with the Inverted Jenny, the upside down airplane. At a time when it cost three cents to mail a letter, the airmail Jenny Stamp cost twenty-four cents. At that time, in 1918, each sheet of 100 was fed through the printing machine two times. Somehow, one sheet went through the machine backwards so that the jenny plane was printed upside down. Three years ago, a block of four Inverted Jennies sold for approximately three million dollars. This block was later traded for the rarest United States stamp, the Benjamin Franklin Z-Grill. The only other copy of this valuable collectible, first issued in 1868, is owned by the New York Public Library.

Those of us who don't have millions of dollars to spend on priceless treasures can find comfort in knowing that God looks upon each person as unique and invaluable in His kingdom. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). Our treasure is within ourselves as we seek God's glory through the interests and talents He has given us. Anyone who enjoys philately can glorify God through the collection. An interesting theme may be to collect the stamps of a country where a certain mission is located. This can especially be a fun way for children to learn more about that country and the mission work being accomplished there. By browsing through stamp collecting books, the collector, whether child or adult, novice or pro, can gain additional knowledge on postal history and the stories behind the most interesting stamps.

Stamp Collecting Books

Stamp collecting books are the best place for a collector to keep their stamps so that they do not get damaged. Albums made specifically for stamps usually have hinges or mounts that help to protect the items against damage. Stamp collecting books often contain transparent envelopes for the items to go in to keep them safe from things such as grease and air. Accessories that collectors use often include tongs, a magnifying glass, a perforation gauge, and watermark fluid. The worth of a stamp will depend upon the condition, how rare it is, and the catalog price. Joining a stamp group can be a lot of fun and can provide the person with more knowledge about different types of items or can be a place for collector's to trade with one another.

Collection events are a great place to learn more about items of value. Resources can be found online about events and shows that a person can attend to show his or her collection or learn about other types of items. Stamp collecting books are often considered priceless to the person who has taken the time to display his or her items with pride. Other items that people often show along with stamps include stationary, postcards, and any type of paper or envelope that has been stamped with something that has historical value or someone who is famous. Collection events often include first day issue ceremonies, one-frame exhibits, show cards, and may include games, raffles, and free gifts for those who participate.

Children who are interested in having a hobby might want to consider stamp collecting books. An adult will need to help a child research and learn about the history of their hobby so that they can learn to appreciate it more. Children usually like to do this for fun and a hobby should be fun but at the same time an adult needs to supervise this type of endeavor so they can learn all about the ins and outs of being a stamp collector. They need to learn about pricing their collection and how to handle the items carefully as well as what needs to be done to preserve and store stamps to help prevent damage.

Becoming a member of a dealer association can help a person who wants to promote their items. Dealer associations are often there to keep the hobby alive and to make other people aware of stamp collecting books and similar items. They usually promote collecting by publishing material about it and having events to get everyone together who is a collector or who may want to become one. Some people attend shows and events just to learn more about the industry. Becoming a member of a dealer association provides a person with a reputation of professionalism and dependability. This can be very important to people who want to profit from their hobby. God word helps Christians to keep a proper perspective on collecting. "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me" (Matthew 19:21).

Some sources claim that the popularity of stamp collecting includes around 20 million people in the United States. People who are interested in this type of hobby may not participate to be a collector but may be more interested in studying these types of items. Being interested in stamp collecting books is often associated with someone who is known as a philatelist. This is someone who is genuinely interested in the creation of the item and not in just trying to get as many as possible. He or she wants to find out the origin and the history of the item. Those who consider the art as an investment understand the value of a rare item and what items or stamps are worth the investment and which ones are not. Some investors or philatelist like to collect or invest in these items because they are so easy to carry and store.

Collections that are of stamps and similar items date back to the 1800's. This has given the hobby or study a long time to produce many items of great value. In addition, a great deal of information has been published through the years about stamp collecting books and their value. People have become interested in the investment of these items because they are popular and become worth more as time goes by. The interest of others makes it a sure deal that there will be someone who is interested in buying them at some future date.

To become a stamp collector is not an expensive hobby to begin. A person does not have to come up with a sizeable amount of money to start. The essentials are few and are inexpensive. A person will need a place to display their items and a way to preserve and inspect them. Stamp collecting books are a great way to display them and preserve them. To inspect them a magnifying glass is needed. To get going all a person has to do is get stamps off of their incoming mail. This can be done by soaking each one in warm sudsy water and then carefully placing the items inside a book to dry and press them. Other ways to acquire stamps is to purchase them from dealers online. There are many different types of stamps and similar items that can be part of a collection. These may include postage, definitive, commemorative, and revenue stamps. In addition, a collector may want to consider post cards, postal stationary, and souvenir cards.

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