Learn about stamp collecting, be first to know about new rare stamp collections on the market, and stay apprised of stamp specials and collections from the County Stamp Center. We buy stamp collections, see us first!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Postage Stamps – The Choices Are Endless Part II Of II

Continuing from Monday…

Unless you are an experienced collector, you should not buy postage stamps as an investment. Buy stamps that call your name and put a smile on your face. When deciding on what type of postage stamp you want to add to your collection; it is wise to do some research to see how much the stamp is worth before you buy it. There are many books you can read to help you learn more about postage stamp values. You can also contact a reputable Stamp Dealer to help you find what you are looking for. Always remember, a collection is what you want it to be and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You should still buy a postage stamp that is in the best condition that you can afford just in case you want to sell or trade it at a later date.

Be sure to find out how to properly care for your stamp collection. There are many stamp collecting products available to help with storage and treatment of the stamps. One thing that many stamp collectors don’t think about is buying insurance for their stamp collection. Many homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover stamp collections, so it is a good idea to find out what coverage, if any, you have for your collection. If you don’t have coverage, it is easy to obtain, and usually not very expensive. Don’t forget to keep a detailed inventory list of what stamps you have in your collection and how much they cost. This is important for insurance claims and selling or trading your stamps.

Stamp Center has postage stamps (new and older) available from all over the world. No matter what your preference is, you are sure to find a wonderful postage stamp to add to your collection when you visit Stamp Center.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Postage Stamps – The Choices Are Endless Part I Of II

People have been collecting things most likely since the beginning of time. A quick internet search and you will find that what some people view as strange to collect; others are passionate about their favorite items. As diverse as people are, so are their collections. You can find people who collect mugs, buttons, cookie jars, toys, traffic signs, air sick bags, candy wrappers, and of course postage stamps, to name a few. Postage stamps are by far the most collected item around the world. They can show a bit of history and often times tell a story of their origin.
They are fun, easy to obtain, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on this hobby.

Unlike some collectibles, there are many choices available when it comes to stamp collecting. If you are new to stamp collecting, you might be wondering where to begin your collection. Should you pick stamps with flowers, presidents, animals, foreign releases, domestic releases, or would you like to dabble in a little bit of everything? Should I only buy cancelled stamps or would un-cancelled stamps be a better value? One of the greatest things about collecting postage stamps is that the possibilities are endless. You can buy stamps from Stamp Dealers, online, from postal authorities, or from other collectors.

Stamp collectors love to show their wonderful stamp finds. There are many stamp collectors clubs that get together to share information, buy or trade stamps, and see what other great finds their fellow collectors have found.

Please check back on Wednesday for the conclusion to this post.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

What’s A Newbie To Do? Part II Of II

Continuing from Wednesday…

Paying for a stamp can be tricky endeavor when you are new to collecting. It is wise to check out the “Scott Catalogue” for the most up to date information about postage stamps and their values. The books are issued each year and depict interesting and valuable information about what each stamp is worth. In 2008, there were six large volumes of the book. You can also find it available in DVD and printable CD formats.

Old postage stamps can be found via internet websites, stamp shows, auction sites, other collectors and Stamp Dealers. When buying from someone you do not know, always remember to get information in writing as to what you are purchasing. Reputable Stamp Dealers are a great source to buy stamps from. They not only have a good supply of stamps to choose from, but they have a wealth of knowledge to share with you.

New postage stamps that originate in the United States can be found at USPS.com. If a stamp is in high demand, you usually can find them available at a Stamp Dealer.

If you are lucky enough to have inherited a stamp collection from a relative, it would be a good idea to find out how much the collection is worth before you decide what you are going to do with it. An experienced Stamp Dealer will be able to accurately appraise the collection. Depending on what is in the collection, a Stamp Dealer may even want to purchase the collection themselves. Knowledge is power so you definitely want to know what you are dealing with before you decide to keep or sell the collection.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Don't Make These Mistakes With Your Stamp Collection

Stamp collectors will attest that when you find a stamp that tickles your fancy, all is well with the world. But with such great enthusiasm for your new finds, mistakes can be made that can damage or destroy what would have been a fantastic yet fragile treasure.

Be sure to check your envelopes very carefully before you cut the envelope. Sometimes the envelope itself is collectible. To some collectors, the postmark itself is valuable if it came from someplace special. Sometimes people will buy stamps and not realize that they have a First Day Cover or Event Day Cover in their hands. If you have obtained an old stamp, you could find that it is from a special time in history like wartime mail with censorship markings. Always check your envelope first before doing any cutting, just in case.

If you find that the envelope has no foreseeable value, you will likely need to trim off the excess pieces of your envelope. You will need to do any trimming before you soak your stamp off of the envelope. Be very careful to not cut off any part of the perforation. With stamps coming in so many odd shapes and sizes, it is easy to become over zealous and cut off a portion of your new stamp. Many times, there is special writing around the stamp. Be sure to include these writings when you cut out your stamp.

Come visit Stamp Center for your entire stamp collecting needs.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Little Stamp Advice

Once you decide to enter the fun world of stamp collecting, it is important that you be careful to not damage your treasured stamps. Here are some simple things to think about when handling your stamps.

First, always make sure that you keep your hands clean and dry before handling any postage stamps. Better yet, don’t use your hands at all. Stamp tongs are a wonderful tool to use instead of your fingers when handling stamps. Using tongs will help keep the natural oil that human skin has off of your stamps altogether. It also helps to keep the dirt off of your stamps.

Collectors should consider purchasing glassine envelopes to store their stamps in. Many people make the mistake of storing their stamps in a shoebox or other type of box. You should be wary of this practice because damage can happen at any time in a box. Stamps can suffer the ill effects of this type of storage by becoming curled or bent. In areas prone to humidity, stamps often stick to each other. Sometimes the dye in the storage boxes will even transfer onto your stamps, leaving them worthless. Taking the time to use these special envelopes will ensure that
your stamps remain safe until you decide to mount them.

Come check us out for all of your stamp collecting needs.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Insuring Your Collectibles

So you think you have a valuable stamp collection and wonder if your insurance will provide coverage if you have a flood, fire or other sort of loss?

While some basic homeowner’s policies do cover collectibles of some varieties, it is wise to make sure what your insurance coverage is before a disaster occurs.

Everyone should take a complete inventory of all of their valuables, ie…art, jewelry, stamp collections, etc. Stamp collection appraisals as well as other appraisals for important items should be obtained. Once you have your appraisals in hand, it is time to check out what your insurance coverage actually entails.

If your collectibles are not covered, consider adding an umbrella policy or specialized policy (a.k.a…floater) to your policy that will cover your additional valuables. These additional policies cover valuable items at an agreed upon dollar amount that is specified in the policy. For example, you have a stamp collection that is worth $50,000 and your insurance will not provide coverage if a loss were to occur. You can purchase inexpensive insurance that will cover a specific item(s), up to the dollar amount you want insured.

At the end of the day, it is better to be safe than sorry. If you have a fire or flood, you may never be able to replace your expensive stamp collection, but at least you will collect some cash in exchange so you can buy more stamps.

Need your stamps appraised? We can help!


Monday, October 06, 2008

Fake Stamps Part III Of III

Continuing from the post on Friday…

Certain stamp cancels and overprints can raise the value of a stamp so you should check the validity before purchasing them. Fake cancels will often have inaccurate dates or will be hand painted in instead of printed.

Re-perforated stamps are the most common fakes out on the market. They are fairly easy to spot especially with a magnifying glass. When a stamp is originally perforated it has holes that are shaped like an oval. Original perforations have little paper tufts that extend slightly in the holes. When a stamp is re-perforated, perforations are added to a straight edge stamp. Look for fakes by checking the holes. The holes on the fakes will likely be poorly spaced and not line up properly.

With stamp collecting being the most popular hobby in the world, it only stands to reason that stamp fakes and forgeries are also the most popular fraud in the world. The old adage still holds true, even when purchasing new stamps ….”If it is too good to be true, than it usually is.”

If you would like to add some wonderful stamps (that are not fakes) to your collection, check this site out.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Fake Stamps Part II Of III

Continuing from the post on Wednesday….

When you are looking for fakes, you should carefully check the gumming on the stamp. Re-gumming a stamp basically means that the stamp no longer contains 100 percent of the gum that it originated with. Re-gumming a stamp is a common source of fraud. When looking at the back of your stamp, look to see if the color of the gum is different. If it is, there is a good chance that it has been re-gummed. Comparing stamps in your collection will help determine if it is a fake. Also look for excessive gum texture, excessive glossy or dull texture, stamp curling and
sharp perforation tips, as these can also be a clue that a stamp has been re-gummed and is not worth the same as it would be if it were not re-gummed.

You should also keep a watchful eye out for any repairs that have been done to the stamp. There might be pieces that have been torn and then replaced, holes or tears that have been repaired, cleaning stains and areas where the stamp may appear to be thinner than other areas on the stamp. Many experts use a professional scanning machine to reveal damaged areas that cannot be seen with the human eye.

Check back on Monday for the conclusion to this post.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fake Stamps Part I Of III

Even the most experienced collector can be duped into buying a fantastically made fake stamp. Some collectors may even buy them on purpose to add to their collection. Fake stamps are sometimes knowingly purchased so that experienced collectors can study the stamps and learn valuable information about the fakes.

In understanding the underworld of stamp making and altering, it is important to understand the differences in fake stamps.

A fake stamp is different than a forgery. A fake stamp is a genuine stamp that has been altered in some way to change its appearance. Counterfeit stamps are labels that have been created to specifically defraud stamp dealers. Forged stamps are labels that have been created explicitly to defraud collectors.

Collectors should be become familiar and look for the techniques that are used to defraud the Philatelic community.

Repairing damage to stamps, false cancels, overprints, re-gumming and re-perforation are all techniques that the criminals use to fool you. Identifying a fake stamp can be tricky at times, as there are several things that you should be looking for in the process. People who go to the effort of faking stamps are definitely in it to make a good buck.

Please check back on Friday for more information on how to avoid a fake stamp.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Important Stamp Collecting Terminology Part III Of III

In continuation to the post on Wednesday.

Topicals: Stamps that contain certain topics or themes are called topicals. They come in many variations. There are stamps with cartoon characters, scientists, musicians, movies, cars, trains etc. There are endless types of topicals available from many counties around the world. Collecting topicals is a great way to narrow your interests down, but don’t be surprised if your interest spreads like wild fire!

Classics: Like old cars, early stamp issues are called Classics. They are often hard to find and often come with a high price tag as well. Classics have been known to sell for thousands of dollars depending on the issue of the stamp.

Sheets: Stamps that are printed in the form of large sheets with ten or more stamps on them are called sheets. They can feature one type of stamp or different stamp designs with a common theme. They are nice to look at and can be very costly to purchase. You should take special care not to separate these stamps so that they retain their value, especially if you ever plan on selling them.

Philately embraces the study, love and knowledge of all materials and issues related to the postal service from the earliest known times in history. Click here to purchase stamps from around the world, supplies and other philatelic items for your collection. The possibilities are endless and there is something for everyone!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Important Stamp Collecting Terminology Part II Of III

In continuation to the post on Monday.

In the previous post, I was explaining some of the different stamp terminology that is used. There are many great items available to collect and enjoy from postal services around the globe.

Postal Stationary: Postal stationary includes letter sheets, postal cards and envelopes that have a preprinted stamp image on them. Collectors have the choice of cutting out the preprinted stamp and just keeping that, or they can keep leave it intact. Keep in mind that when buying used postal stationary; rare postmarks, famous addressees and ornate handwriting can make items more valuable and should be kept in its entirety.

Stamp Multiples: Stamps are usually printed in sheets or long strips. These blocks, sheets and strips are called stamp multiples. When buying stamps in multiples they are more valuable. You will often pay a higher price in addition to the stamp cost though.

Plate Blocks: Stamps that are printed in sheets can be broken down. When they are broken down into section of four or more un-separated stamps that form a rectangle they are called blocks. When the blocks contain the index number from the printing plate from when they were printed, they are called plate blocks. Plate blocks are quite desirable, especially to the advanced collector, and can be more costly then just purchasing blocks of stamps.

Pease check back on Friday for the conclusion to this post.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Important Stamp Collecting Terminology Part I Of III

For those of you new to stamp colleting, I thought you might appreciate some information about the terminology that is used when collecting stamps. Some people enjoy collecting actual stamps, while others enjoy collecting other philatelic items. It is important to educate yourself on the different items that are available to purchase so that you know exactly what you are buying.

First Day Covers: These are special envelopes that contain the postage stamp and a unique one day only cancellation. They often have designs printed on them that directly relate to the particular stamp you are purchasing (also known as cachets). They are usually printed in limited quantity, with deadlines on the cancellation dates. The can sometimes be costly, especially if this is what you prefer to collect.

Covers: If you like the idea of collecting stamps, but want to consider another option, you might prefer to just collect the postal cards or the entire envelopes. These are called covers. Covers come in many different varieties that commemorate events or people relating to the stamp illustrations. These are great for young collectors as they are relative inexpensive are very easy to handle.

Please check back on Wednesday for part two of this post.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Is Re-gumming A Problem For Me? Part II Of II

In continuation to the post from last Friday.

Some re-gummed stamps have a surface that is glossy. Stamps that have been re-gummed can also have a dull and textured appearance. There can be inconsistencies with the thickness of the gum, especially when it is placed where the light can provide reflection to the stamp. It is wise to compare stamps that you currently have. Re-gummed stamps do look a bit different and can also be spotted by simply comparing stamps with others that you have in your collection.

Often times stamps that have been re-gummed can be detected simply by placing it face down in the palm of your hand. The stamp will curl when placed in your hand if it is re-gummed, but a stamp with its original gum will not. You can also tell if a stamp has been re-gummed if the tips of the stamp perforation feel sharp to the touch. Originally gummed stamps are soft to the touch.

The only way to be absolutely sure that your stamp has not been re-gummed is to look at your stamps with a strong magnifying glass or contact a professional who knows the ins and outs of stamp collecting. It is always wise to contact a professional stamp dealer to get the much needed answers to your questions. When in doubt, check it out! To contact a professional and honest stamp dealer, click here.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Is Re-gumming A Problem For Me? Part I Of II

Stamps are one of the most collected items around the world. With so many stamps available to collect these days; it is sometimes hard to tell when stamps have been re-gummed and when they are in their original condition.

Stamps that no longer contain all of the gum from when it was originally manufactured can often times be found to be re-gummed. Of course their value would then be less than those that have their original gum on them. Gum is original when it is produced from an official postal authority. Once an individual person has applied his own gum blend to a stamp’s backside, it is then considered to be re-gummed.

People choose to re-gum stamps to make them appear to be a nicer more enhanced product and thereby seemingly increase the value of the stamp.

There are several ways to detect if a stamp has been re-gummed. Stamps that contain a watermark can be easily seen on a stamp that has been re-gummed. Stamps with a watermark that have their original gum can be seen when the stamp is dipped in watermark using fluid. The watermark in the original gum can also be seen when the stamp is put up to a very strong light. If you notice that the watermark seems to have been impressed into the gum, then you should be suspicious that there is a problem with your stamp.

Please check back on Monday for the conclusion to this post.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"Kids Need Stamps"

Mark Antony Rossi wants to help parents and children form a stronger bond through the adventures of stamp collecting. His new endeavor “Kids Need Stamps” is a great new resource for kids who are beginning their stamp collection.

On his blog site, parents are informed on the basic how to’s of stamp collecting. He has put together a free starter kit that will assist parents so that they can help their children become more interested in stamp collecting.

Mr. Rossi writes, "The beauty of stamp collecting is a lack of pressure. You don't have to be an expert. You don't need a large budget. You don't have to scream about it from the rooftops or shield it from the world. You can start small. You start big. Start with America. Go to Europe and check out Africa. There's no deadline, no contest....no pressure. Another charming facet of stamp collecting is the clever flexibility it allows by being both an individual hobby and a joint project with parents."

He is willing to mail you, free of charge, a small starter stamp kit to anyone who is interested. He has recently supplied a teacher with enough starter stamp kits so that his entire classroom can learn about and enjoy stamp collecting.

He also has word.doc attachments that he can send you upon request. This information has been compiled to cover topics like Basic Dictionary of Stamp Terms, Postage Art Emblems, Basic Country Name Translation List, and a Cross Country Index to name a few.

If you are interested in receiving your free starter kit, contact Mr. Rossi at kidsneedstamps@yahoo.com or click here for his blog site.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Stamp Mounting Tips Part II Of II

In continuation to the post on Friday.

When using your stamp tongs, be sure to use special care. Stamps are delicate and mint stamp can be very valuable. You need to avoid creasing, tearing or doing any other harm to your stamps.

When mounting used stamps, most people use stamp hinges. Hinges are small gummed pieces of glassine that are lightly moistened and adhered to both the album page and the back of the stamp. Don’t apply to much moisture to the mount as it can become soggy or soiled, which could make the stamp useless.

It would be wise to use hinge-less stamp mounts for mint stamps. These mounts have pockets of adhesive on the back. When using hinge-less mounts, the stamp is placed inside the mount and the back of the mount is moistened. The stamp is not moistened. This will keep the gum of your mint stamp in mint condition. Be careful to never seal the mount completely shut. Stamps need to breathe because they are made of paper. If you make them air-tight; they could become brittle or decompose.

Humidity and moisture are sure to damage your stamp collection. Avoid storing them in attics and basements. A cool and dry place is the best storage option for stamps. Collectors have found that once the stamp gum has become tacky in an album, it is nearly impossible to remove the stamp without destroying it.

The most important thing to remember about stamp collecting is to enjoy your collection. Stamps come from around the world and provide a wonderful learning experience for both young and old.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Stamp Mounting Tips Part I Of II

Once you have some stamps in your collection, you will want to begin to store them in a stamp album. Some questions you might have are….Should I lick them? Do I glue them down and if so, can they be removed at a later date? Illustrations on stamps might also be a point of confusion. How do you tell which stamp is which? What exactly do I have in my collection?

First, you want to make sure that you have a good stamp album and stamp mounts or hinges. Click here for stamp album products. Make sure that you have the needed supplies and tools before you begin. You will need stamps (of course), stamp tongs to handle your stamps, a magnifying glass to read those small markings on the stamps, and perforation gauge to measure stamp perforations. Some people use watermark detection fluid to test for watermarks, but this is not always necessary.

Many stamp albums have illustrations that allow you to locate and identify the stamps that you are attempting to place. Take notice of the fact that there may be more than one illustration of the same stamp listed. Be sure to read the text under the illustration to make sure you are placing your stamps in the correct position.

Once you have your needed supplies and tools, it is time to begin mounting your collection.

Please check back Monday for the conclusion to this post.


Friday, July 25, 2008

A Guide To US Design Numbers, 1847 - 1947

New stamp collectors may find that deciphering the differences between nearly identical and complicated United States stamps is a difficult challenge. The Professional Stamp Experts (PSE) has risen to the challenge to help teach novice collectors about stamp collecting. They have created a simplified system for building a basic collection of US postage stamps by major design type. Free copies of the catalogue are available to stamp clubs, dealers and collectors. Even advanced stamp collectors will find this an interesting tool to use.

According to PSE’s President, Michael Sherman, “It is hoped this fresh approach to U.S. philately will open the door for thousands of new collectors to enjoy this fascinating and time-honored hobby.”

The new book entitled “A Guide to US Design Numbers (USD) was released in June of 2008. The book focuses on 435 regular issue US postage stamps that were issued between 1847 and 1947. All stamps were intended for use on letters or parcels.

The 56 page booklet is printed in full color with photos of the stamps. It has a cross listing of USD numbers, and with permission granted from Scott Publishing Company, it has the corresponding numbers from the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue. The catalogue shows major designs, denominations and the most commonly encountered colors of the US stamps that were issued in that time frame.

For more information on obtaining your free copy of this interesting catalogue, contact the Professional Stamp Experts at (949) 567-1346 for more information.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Free Stamps For Beginners - Part II Of II

In continuation to the post on Wednesday.

For children under the age of 17, the International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors will provide a free stamp packet. They also provide free stamps to schools, clubs and other groups of children who might be interested in stamp collecting. Groups will need to send some information about the children involved. Individual children can send a self addressed stamped envelope to receive their free stamps. Email poly76ce@gmail.com for more information.

Blank stamp album pages can be downloaded for free. The International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collector’s offers a selection of blank album pages that are easily customized for your every need. Email: ExecutiveDirector@iswsc.org for more information. Kids can download themed album pages that feature planes, trains, space ships and animals from the American Stamp Dealers Association. Call (516) 759-7000 for more information.

Be sure to never glue, paste or tape your stamps onto your album pages. New stamp collectors are able to obtain a new package of stamp mounts for free. Just fill out an online form from Washington Press and you are all set. Call (877) 966-0001 for more information.

The Mystic Stamp Company will send you a free printed copy of their United States Stamp Catalog. There are 128 pages of useful information, tips and pictures in the catalog for you to compare your stamps with. The catalogs are sent free to your home address, but you will need to fill out an online form. Call (866) 660-7147 for more information.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Free Stamps For Beginners - Part I Of II

Are you just starting out your stamp collection? Don’t let the cost of collecting stamps scare you away from the fun of collecting stamps. Beginners are lucky to have several avenues of receiving new stamps for free!

Of course you can always begin your stamp collection by collecting those that come in the mail. Removing stamps from the envelope is simple. Just cut around the stamp on the envelope and soak them in a bowl of warm water. The stamps will then fall off of the paper backing. Dip in cool water and dry them on layers of paper towels or put them in a stamp drying book. Many local schools or businesses are willing to provide stamps to you if you just ask.

Arpin Philately offers beginner collectors a choice of four different free stamp packets. Choices are either, 20 US stamps, 50 Canadian stamps, 50 Aviation stamps or 100 stamps from around the world. After the initial “free stamps”, you can also decide on receiving more stamps at a low cost. The program sends you stamps and you decide to keep or return them….much like a DVD or CD club. You pay for only the stamps you keep and mail the rest back to them. You can cancel your membership at anytime. Going this route will give you a choice of stamps on a monthly basis. Click here for more information.

Check back on Friday for the conclusion to this post.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Stamp Paper Thins Part I Of II

A stamp paper thin is an area of paper that is missing from the back of a postage stamp. When held up to a light, it often has a see through type of appearance. This can easily occur when a hinge is improperly removed from the stamp gum.

Stamp buyers should know how to detect stamp paper thins so that they do not inadvertently add these stamps to their collection.

It should be noted that many older stamps do indeed have repaired thins. Often, these thins have been repaired for appearance sake. A pulp like mixture is filled onto the thin, allowed to dry; and sanded until the filled area becomes level with the rest of the surface. While these repairs will not appear when held to a light source, they often are revealed as light areas in watermark fluid. In addition, the use of an ultraviolet light may reveal repairs like these.

The best way to detect large obvious thins is to hold the stamp up to the light. Smaller thins may not be easily visible in the light. Smaller thin areas can best be detected when you place your stamp in watermark fluid. The thinned area of paper will reveal a dark patch on the stamp paper. If the thin is deep, the patch will appear darker.

Please check back on Friday for the conclusion to this post.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Beginning stamp collectors often find themselves overwhelmed by the choices of stamps available on the market. The sizes, shapes, categories and the sheer volume of stamps to take into consideration can be mind boggling.

There is no right way or wrong way to collect stamps. The collection can be whatever you find interesting. Some people decide to only collect certain types of stamps. They may choose to only collect stamps from certain countries or only ones with celebrities on them for example.

Trying to collect stamps from around the world can be great fun. You will find that it would be quite expensive and very time consuming to collect all stamps though. There are over 10,000 postage stamps released each year. Trying to collect everything is unrealistic. Research what types of stamp you are interested in and go after those ones.

Many people choose to collect stamps from a certain country. If you focus on one country in particular, you might even be able to collect all of its current releases and even some older ones. Some people collect stamps looking for a specific topic. Picking stamps by topic gives you the opportunity to explore all types of stamps from around the world.

Stamps that are in mint condition are often ones that people are most interested in buying. Used stamps are sometimes easier to come by and you don’t have to worry about preserving the gum. Some used stamps cost more than mint stamps. Supply and demand drives the market. Some collectors are even interested in the cancellations on used stamps.

Most philatelists collect stamps of all types. You should always collect was sparks your interest. The possibilities are surely endless!


Monday, April 14, 2008

Stamp Collecting Around The Globe

Stamp collecting is an interesting and exciting hobby to participate in. Foreign stamps are unique and certainly dominate the philatelic world in many areas. The topics on these stamps are endless. Whether you are looking for celebrities, fish, world leaders, sports, flowers or geography; there will not be any trouble locating stamps that will be of interest you. Some smaller countries even sell their stamps as their main source of revenue.

Some people concentrate their efforts on collecting only foreign stamps. You would need to have fairly good knowledge of most of the topics dealing with stamps and postal histories of various countries when collecting foreign stamps, especially if you are a beginner. Foreign stamps generally give you insight into the geography,
history and culture of a particular country. The diversity of topics that can be investigated will increase a person’s general overall knowledge base.

A good way to begin collecting stamps from around the world would be to buy stamp packets from a stamp dealer. This is usually the least expensive and the easiest way to start your collection.

There is an endless ocean of stamps that are available to stamp collectors. There is an average of ten thousand new stamps released worldwide each year. Visit www.stampcenter.com for a wide variety of international stamps that you
might find interesting.


Monday, February 18, 2008

An Easy Way For Beginners To Store Their Stamp Collection

Storing and sorting stamps can be very time consuming, especially when you are just starting your collection and learning important details about your new stamps. Here is an idea for beginners that might make the task at hand a bit easier. It is probably the easiest and most cost effective method to use.

You will need to have two shoe boxes or other types of boxes that will hold legal size envelopes. Purchase a box or two of legal size envelopes for sorting purposes.

In box number one, label the envelopes for each country or grouping type for the stamps that you obtain. When you receive new stamps from trading or purchasing, place them into the appropriate envelope that coincides with the categories that you have already set up. Keep them in the envelopes until such time as you decide to mount them. At mounting time, bring out one envelope at a time. Compare the contents of the new stamps to those that you have
mounted already. Mount the new ones and make a pile of any duplicates that you might have.

Use the second shoe box as a way of sorting the duplicates that you have. Label each envelope by country or other sorting method that you prefer. At a later date, you might want to compare those stamps that you have already mounted to the duplicates you have in stock. By having the duplicates already sorted, you will save yourself time.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Removing Stamps From Paper And Drying Stamps...Part III of III

Now that you have soaked your stamp, try to peel the stamp off from one corner only. If it does not come free easily, place it back in the water for further soaking. If you soak the stamp to long, it could cause the paper to become soggy and weak and you will easily damage the stamp. The key is, don’t leave the stamps alone. Keep a close eye on the stamps to ensure their safety.

Once the stamps are off paper, you can gently rub any remaining adhesive off of the stamp and then give it a final washing in clean water. Experience will teach you how long a particular stamp will need to be soaked so that you will not damage it.

Once the stamps are out of the water, place them on a dry white paper towel in a single layer. You can dry them on newspaper, but do not use any colored newspaper as the ink will transfer onto the stamps and stain them. Use another dry paper towel to blot out the excess water from the tops of the stamps. It is recommended that you buy a stamp drying book so that the stamps will dry flat. These can be purchased very inexpensively. They have plastic like pages that stamps cannot stick to. Load the stamps from the back of the book forward with all stamps facing up. After you are done loading the stamps into the drying book; place heavy books on top so that the stamps will dry flat.

Have patience. With practice this task will become easier and before you know it, you will have a great collection in the works!


Friday, December 07, 2007

Removing Stamps From Paper and Drying Stamps...Part II of III

Once you have sorted your stamps, soak them in small batches of about 10 stamps, but take careful notice and watch for ink color running. You will find that the paper backing that is red, such as can be found in greeting cards, will run the fastest. It is rare that the actual stamp ink will run, but sometimes the cancellation ink will run if it is from a rubber stamp.

It is wise to soak these particular types of stamps individually so that you can insure that no color bleeding occurs and that no other stamps are affected. If the colored paper color is running, remove the stamp immediately and change the water so that the color does not transfer onto your stamp. If a stamp has a rubber stamp cancellation mark, it should not be submerged in water. Instead, it should float on the water, face up.

Soaking time for stamps will vary greatly. Some stamps can take as little as one minute to dislodge, while others can take as long as 2 hours before they are ready to separate. It all depends on the type of adhesive that is used. Beginners should not use tongs initially as it is easy to damage the delicate stamps. Instead you should use your fingers to dislodge the stamps from their paper.

Check back on Monday for the conclusion to this series.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Removing Stamps From Paper and Drying Stamps Part I of III

Removing Stamps From Paper and Drying Stamps… Part I of III

For those who are new to collecting stamps, you might wonder how you can remove the stamps from the paper envelope. It is often a tricky endeavor, but with patience and practice, you will be able to accomplish this task.

Firstly, always resist the urge to try to take a stamp off paper by pulling at it, even if it looks like it will come off easily. Stamps should be trimmed first. Be careful not to cut the perforation off of the stamps as this will reduce its value.

Once you have trimmed the stamps, you can begin the process of removing them from their paper backing. You should soak the stamps in clean water that is about the temperature of your body. Many people have made the mistake of soaking the stamps in warm or hot water. Even though it is faster, doing so could easily damage the cancellation ink or the delicate stamp itself. This may also cause the ink in the paper backing to run. Be sure to use a good amount of water. Your goal in soaking the stamps is not only to dislodge them from the paper; but also to remove any residual adhesive from the stamp. You may need to change the water often so that there is not as much glue floating around.

Just as you sort your personal laundry, do the same with stamp sorting. Put like colors together. You should group colored paper backing stamps together as well as stamps that have the rubber stamp ink together.

Check back on Friday for Part II of this series.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Stamp Collecting For Beginners

Stamp collecting is currently one of the most popular hobbies. It is estimated that in the United States there are over 20 million people collecting stamps. Originally stamp collecting began as a child’s hobby dating back as far as 1860. It is now common for adults and children to collect stamps. The expense of this hobby will vary, depending on what your personal preferences are. There are several ways for you to begin your collection. Ask friends and family members to save stamps for you. Many beginners decide on one particular type of stamp that they want to collect. It is wise to not limit yourself in the beginning. You might find unknown types that will spark your interest once you begin collecting. Beginners should start off being a general collector.

For those of you who are just starting your collection, you can find stamps in bulk sold at stamp shows. At shows, you will also be able to find stamps, sold on paper, that are usually sold by the pound. On paper stamps are stamps that have been cut off from envelopes in the mail. These are called Kiloware. At times, stamp collectors can also find economical worldwide stamps located on Ebay. These are often sold on paper. Beginners should check out their local hobby shops where you will find stamps that are sold in bulk quantities for consumers.

No equipment is needed in order to be a stamp collector. Many collectors decide to have a few essential items for their use. A magnifying glass would be helpful for viewing the details of the stamp, a stock book for storing the stamps; and stamp tongs with rounded tips to help prevent damage to the stamps.

Check out our supplies first before you shop anywhere else. Visit (http://www.stampcenter.com/).


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stamp Collecting Software Comes of Age

Stamp collectors lament of days gone by when you handled every stamp with care and catalogued each entry by hand. Now there is powerful, user-friendly software to do the work for you. It also builds in much functionality to assist you with cataloging, buying, and selling. This is a compilation of various software titles. This review is not an implied endorsement of any of the products listed. We leave it to you to do your own comparisons, and perhaps share comments about what you liked or didn't like about software packages you've used.

Hobbysoft publish four programs for stamp collectors: Stamp Keeper Deluxe, Stamp Keeper, Stamp Keeper for Plate Number Coils, and Stamp World. They allow you to easily each issue, evaluate your collection, create standard and custom reports, and automatically create a want list.

SOFT PRO has a family of software products for stamp collectors. Their EZ STAMP http://www.ezstamp.com/ uses licensed Scott numbers and includes images from stamp issues from 148 countries. On the same weblink, you can check out companion products for increased functionality for stamp collecting and cataloging: AlbumGen, EZ Image, and The Washington / Franklin Identifier ( WFID). They help you evaluate your collectibles, grade and catalog them. They also have software for easy FTP and dragging and dropping images. Here is a great resource for stamp collecting topics and resources: http://www.stamplink.com/


Friday, November 09, 2007

Taking Care of Your Collection: Stamp Soaking

It’s very important to soak stamps before putting them into your collection. Soaking stamps will get rid of all of the adhesive that could, over time, cause damage to the stamp.

First, just like you’re doing laundry, sort your stamps by color. By the same principle as sorting laundry, you wouldn’t want to wash the darks and the lights together, and you won’t want to soak your dark stamps and light stamps together. Separate those that are printed on colored paper from those that are printed on white. Also, check each stamp to make sure that there is no excess ink (be it writing or postal lettering). This ink could run through the water and ruin all of your stamps. You will also want to make sure that you separate those stamps with self-adhesive backings from those with regular backings, as the self-adhesive stamps take longer to soak.

Start by putting about ten to twenty stamps (it’s usually wise to begin with the whites) in a small bowl of lukewarm water. Occasionally, GENTLY run your fingers along the stamps to help the separation. At the end of about ten minutes, the stamps should have completely detached from their adhesive backings. Touch each one against the side of the bowl, to drain them, and then set them out to dry on a paper towel. As the stamps dry, if the edges curl, don’t worry. After they’ve dried, completely, press them in a heavy book, such as a phone book, and they should flatten out, nicely. The darker-papered stamps will take longer to soak because you’ll need to soak them in cool water (which slows down the process of dissolving gums and dyes), and you’ll also be soaking less stamps, at a time, in more water.

Don’t peel off the adhesive backings of the stamps, unless it is absolutely necessary. Just take your time. Remember, patience is a virtue; your stamps are precious, and they need to be treated gingerly!


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Taking Care of Your Collection: Keep it Cool

Proper climate, in terms of moisture in the air, is an extremely important factor in the matter of preserving the priceless gems of your stamp collection. It’s best to keep your collection in an air conditioned room. Moisture in the air can ruin your stamps. Make certain that the room is not humid; humidity in the air will cause the ink in the stamps to fade away. Humidity can also encourage molds and fungi to grow among your stamps, causing them to deteriorate very rapidly.

One thing you can do in order to keep the moisture in the air from harming your stamps is to place a sheet of dye-free paper on top of your stamps. This will soak up any excess humidity from the air before it can get to the stamps.

Make sure you keep your stamps in a cool, dry place. This is one of the main things that you can do to keep your stamps looking and feeling like new.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Taking Care of Your Collection: Watch the Sun!

Do you love your stamps? Do you take them out and look at them everyday? You can’t see them in the dark, though, so what do you do? You probably bring them towards the light of the day because nothing lets the ink shine quite like all natural sunlight, and you’re just enjoying your priceless collection. Nothing harmful in that, right? Wrong! You are causing your stamp collection to, quite literally, fade away. It’s not your fault because you didn’t know any better, but you really need to heed the following advice.

Light can be so harmful to your paper based stamp collection, especially UV light, which, without your knowledge, is damaging it little by little, each time you have it out. Even just the casual sunlight through your room’s window is slowly, but surely, fading the ink on your stamp collection. UV concentrated light bulbs are especially harmful to the stamps due to its intense focus of UV light. These light bulbs are used to test authenticity of stamps when being priced, so a little now and then, wouldn’t do damage. Just avoid displaying your collection without proper protective covering.

It would be quite boring to own a stamp collection, if you couldn’t even look at it. It’s fine to do so, but realize that ink fades over time, if you are not careful. So, treat your stamps like the delicate flowers they are, and don’t give them too much sun.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Stamp Hinges vs. Stamp Mounts

If you’re new to stamp collecting, you already know that stamp collectors use different methods to affix their stamps, but you may not be away of some of the finer details. Here are highlights on the differences between a stamp hinge and a stamp mount.

Stamp Hinge
A stamp hinge is a small, gummed piece of glassine

Stamp Mount
A clear, plastic sleeve with an adhesive back

How do you use them?
A stamp hinge is used to mount stamps in an album. The hinge adheres to the back of the stamp.

A stamp mount is used for the same purpose, but the stamp is placed inside the mount and the mount is what is attached to the album.

When should I use one?
You should use a stamp hinge for stamps that are used or of low value because the hinge can stick to the backside of a stamp.

A stamp mount is a good choice for stamps of high value because the adhesive is used on the mount and not on the stamp itself. This protects the stamp from possibly being damaged by moisture.

Your lower value stamps do not require the same protection as stamps that you know are worth more, so although you may want to protect all of your stamps, don’t fret about using stamp hinges for stamps that do not carry a high value.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The ABC’s of Displaying Your Stamps: Paper, Plastic, or Glassine

Until the 1960’s glassine was one of the mainstays of stamp collection display materials. It, however, is not acid-free and has very small amounts of sulfuric acid in it that can damage your stamps. These days there are specialty acid-free papers that can be bought that will not hurt them. Japanese rice paper can also be used, but this can be expensive.

Collectors, for the most part only put stamps on one side of a page. This is because it provides the best protection, though it does mean you need more pages and binders to keep your stamp collection in. The reason for putting stamps on one page only is because you get more tearing and scratching of the surface of a stamp when you have stamps facing each other, as opposed to just touching a blank sheet of paper.

To display individual stamps, because of cost, people will sometimes use plastic sleeves as an alternative to glassine, but with time and humidity, these can stick together and sometimes will stick to your stamp, so plastic is not a very good choice. Other materials like Mylar are good, but they are expensive and so not many people use them.

The best of all mediums for preserving your stamps is glass or some special types of plastic, but as we note above, this is too expensive and takes up too much room for people with more than just a few really precious stamps that they want to preserve.

Like any work of art, you must keep your stamps out of direct sunlight where UV will fade them. The same can be said of some types of strong house lighting.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Stamp Grade: The Importance to Value

If you are getting serious about stamp collecting in terms of making this a serious investment then you have to know that the most important thing to other collectors is a stamp’s grade and condition.

The grade of a stamp is all about the actual stamp. How it is centered between the perforations or between margins of the sheet for items that don’t have perforations. This not only means horizontal centering, but vertical centering as well. It also refers to the condition of the gum on the back of the stamp for mint stamps, or the effect of the cancellation on the stamp for ones that have been used.

Evaluating a stamp's grade is something that takes a little experience and a lot of looking at stamps. With enough looking at the same stamp, but of various grades, it starts to become apparent when a stamp is of a high grade and another of the same type of stamp is not.

Stamp grades are fairly standardized across the industry and range from superb to poor and if you are going to become a serious collector it is important when buying a stamp to know what grade of a stamp you are getting. The better the grade, the better your collection. To see this, all you have to do is go to any stamp catalog and look at the difference between the price of a superb-grade stamp and the price of a lesser grade one.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The ABC’s of Displaying Your Stamps: Hinges and Mounts

If you are a serious or novice stamp collector, looking at the details of a stamp, both front and back, is a lot of fun. Handling stamps repeatedly, however, can damage them, so you have to be careful how you store and display your stamps to you can look at them over and over without harming them.

Although people have been collecting stamps ever since the first ones were minted, there is still a debate on the best way to secure your stamps so you can look at them. Traditionally something called a “hinge” has been used. These are small folded pieces of gummed paper. One of the flanges of the hinge is generally wetted and then stuck to a piece of paper and the other is stuck to the stamp. This holds the stamp in place, but still allows you to look at both sides of the stamp by flipping the stamp over on the hinge.

Hinge marks on stamps are not necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes they can add to the value of a stamp, but other times they can detract from its value. Most old stamps that have come from old collections have hinge marks on them. In the last few decades, collectors have moved away from hinges and now many are using mounts instead.

Mounts were initially used in the 1930’s. These are pockets that have a gummed back that you stick on a piece of paper and have a clear or semi-clear sleeve into which you can slip your stamp. Like hinges, mounts also need to be used with care because depending on the materials and how they are used, they can also produce marks or other damage.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Finding the Value of a Stamp Without Using a Catalog – Part II

From our previous blog we gave you tips on how to start figuring out how to describe your stamp so you can search online stamp auctions to see how much people might be willing to pay for what you have. Once you have determined the relative age of the stamp, next, you need to know if it is a definitive stamp, which is your generally run-of-the-mill, day-to-day, workhorse stamp. These are printed in big repetitive sheets that repeat the stamp over and over again. Is it a commemorative stamp? Commemorative stamps are generally more than twice the size of ordinary stamps and usually printed to commemorate special events.

Now you need to decide if it is used or unused (also sometimes called "mint". For the most part these will have different values. Used stamps generally have a cancellation on them or were at one time stuck on a letter, card, or package. Mint stamps will still have some of the original gum on the back.

Even with all this information, you still need other information to narrow down your search. The denomination of the stamp is important as is what is depicted on the stamp. Many stamps from the 19th Century have either George Washington or Benjamin Franklin on them.
OK, with this information you are ready to search and see what some people are willing to pay for your stamp. You might want to search for "19th Century, unused, George Washington" or maybe "Elvis, 29 cent, commemorative stamp". In the matter of minutes, you can then easily see what some people are willing to pay for your stamp!


Monday, September 10, 2007

Finding the Value of a Stamp Without Using a Catalog – Part I

Regardless of how important catalogs are in getting an idea of what the value of some stamp is in your collection, let's face it. Finding the stamp in a catalog can be a challenge, especially if you haven't used them a lot or are just a casual stamp collector who can't be bothered with pawing through pages and pages of seemingly similar looking stamps. Catalogs, also only present the potential value, not what its actual value might be in the market place.

One easy way to find a stamp's potential value is to look at some online auctions and see what real people are buying your stamp for. To do this, you should know a few things about your stamp and then use that information to find it on an auction website like eBay under its recently completed stamp auctions.

There are thousands of stamps for sale every day on these online auction sites, so you have to know a few things about your stamp before you begin. First, is it engraved? If so, this means it is probably from the 19th century. Engraved stamps generally have a series of lines and dots of solid color like you see on a dollar bill. Is it non-engraved? If so, that means it looks more like a picture in a magazine and is often is in full color. This means it is a 20th century stamp.

In our next blog, we will give you more tips on how to set up a good search to see what your stamp is worth.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Stamp Catalogs: Which Ones to Use for Which Stamps

Ever want to know where to find certain stamps and how much they cost in case you want to buy some new ones to complete your collection of Elvis, airplane, French, Japanese, or early American stamps? Well, there is probably a catalog just for you. Unless you are a major stamp buff, you may not know that not all stamp catalogs are created equal. Depending on the type of stamps you are collecting one particular catalog might be better than any of the others.

Here are some stamp catalogs and what they are best used for.
For French stamps, the best source is “Yvert et Tellier”. This is a century old French concern which lists stamps that French philatelists collect the most. It is an excellent source of stamps for France, Andorra, Monaco, and any of the former French colonies.
The Sakura Catalog is the best source for Japanese stamps.
The Hibernian Catalog specializes in stamps from Ireland.
The OCB Catalog specializes in Belgian stamps.
For German stamps go to the Michel Catalog. It also covers the rest of the world, but is best for Germany.
The Stanley Gibbons Catalog also covers the world, but is particularly good for stamps from Great Britain.
And similarly, the Scott Catalog has stamps from around the world, but specializes in US stamps.
One of the best sources of information, however, can be found on the Glassine Surfer website: http://www.glassinesurfer.com/webdirectory.shtml. This site connects you to a myriad of collecting sites where you can research your collection and connect with people with the same stamp collecting interests as you.


Monday, September 03, 2007

How Much Are My Stamps Worth?: Where to Start

People who collect stamps for fun eventually want to know how much their collection is worth. Most people just assume that stamp catalogs will tell them what their collection’s value is, but in reality what you see there is probably not the real answer. Sure, catalogs are a good place to start, but just like anything else, the real value of a collection is what someone is willing to pay for it at the end of the day.

Two popular stamp catalogs are the Scott Standardized Catalog of Stamps and the Stanley Gibbons Stamp catalog. Both can be purchased as books. But for hobby collectors who don't want to invest any money in this, sometimes their local libraries will have them or can get them through interlibrary loans. That way, you can check them out for free and see what the current value is, at least at the printing time of the catalog.

If you are a little more ambitious or your curiosity gets the best of you and you are willing to spend a small amount of money, the Stanley Gibbons Catalog can also be accessed on line at www.allworldstamps.com. To look here, you need to be a subscriber and although it is not as complete as the print volumes for some reason, it is a lot easier to find your stamps and see what they are worth. If you are a real collector or just want to oogle cool stamps but don’t want to invest too much, many good stamp catalogs can be bought on eBay for a nominal price as well.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stamp Collecting Tools To Have On Hand

Even novice stamp collectors should use good stamp handling practices. Here are a few that you may want to consider incorporating into your routine when you work with your stamps.

Stamp Tongs. These special stamp tools look similar to tweezers but don't have any sharp edges and are created to be able to handle stamps without damaging them. The reason we recommend stamp tongs is that you will not transfer body oil or chemicals from your hands to your stamps. Using tongs keeps your stamps clean, keeps them from being creased or additionally damaged by rough handling. Stamp tongs should be thin enough to pick up a stamp from a flat surface yet large enough for your hand to operate properly. Stamp tongs come in many sizes. Please don't use tweezers to fulfil this function as stamp tongs will have a rounded edge and will keep stamps from becoming scratched by a tweeser's possibly sharp edge.

Stamp Catalogs. Consider purchasing one to be able to easily identify your stamps. There are several great catalogs in the market. We like the Scott catalogue for its in-depth review. Many stamp stores and dealers will list stamps by their Scott catalogue number.

Magnifying Glass. To really be able to see the detail of any stamp you need a quality magnifying glass. Many types of magnifying glasses are available. You can sometimes even find them at eyeglass stores. Pocket folding varieties are easy to store with your collection.

Perforataion Gauge. This is a large plastic piece that allows you the ability to line up your stamp and measure the perforations. Often the only way to tell the difference between two seemingly identical issues is with a perforation gauge in hand.

Watermark Detection Fluid. You may want to consider purchasing a bottle of this special chemical to reveal hidden watermarks to identify a stamp's real value. A watermarked stamp should become visible once it has come into contact with watermark fluid. If you are still unable to see the watermark, try holding the stamp up to the light using your tongs of course.

A Drying Book. This is an excellent item to have. It allows you to layout your stamps flat after you have soaked them to remove them from an envelope or other item.

Stamp Stock Book. Consider investing a few dollars in a stock book that provides a temporary storage place for your stamps until you move them into a catalog or collection. This is great if you are not exactly sure what you want to collect yet or have a very wide variety of interests.

Glassine Envelopes. Use these special somewhat clear envelopes for stamp storage. These evelopes are made of a special paper that keeps stamps from sticking to them. It feels almost like waxed paper, but is not the same thing. You will usually want a separate envelope for each stamp as humidity can cause stamps to stick together.

Stamp Hinges. You may want to use stamp hinges, small adhesive corners to use to apply your stamps into catalogs or albums.

Stamp Mounts. Are the preferred way to install stamps into albums and preferred over hinges. Mounts are adhesive free and a great way to protect valuable stamps.


Friday, August 24, 2007

How to Dry Stamps Correctly

Stamps received in mixtures or collected from mail will be attached to envelopes. Before displaying, stamps must be soaked off the backing paper and dried. Last time we talked about safely removing stamps from envelopes by soaking (see our August 22, 2007 post). We left you with a soggy bowl of rinsed stamps. Time to dry them out!

Basically, stamps are dried by layering the wet stamps between sheets of paper and adding weight on top to press them flat. Here's how to do it:

  • To cut drying time, first lay the wet stamps on a layer of paper towels. The towels will absorb excess moisture before the stamps are laid on the drying medium. You can, of course, lay your stamps directly onto the drying medium; drying will simply take a bit longer.
  • Always lay your stamps face down. Wet stamps tend to curl toward their face. Laying them face down will help prevent curling while you're arranging your stamps on the drying medium.
  • Collectors use everything from old newspapers to last year's phone book to dry stamps. However, white blotters (the kind photographers use) work best because they don't cause smudging or offset from printing inks. You can also purchase stamp-drying books which are simply bound blotter sheets.
    Caution: Do not use patterned desk blotters as the pattern will be pressed into the stamp during drying, damaging the stamp's value.
  • Carefully arrange the stamps on the drying medium (remember, face down) so that they do not touch and are 1/2 inch or so apart.
  • If drying on loose blotter sheets, leave each layer separated and open to the air to promote additional drying before stacking and pressing. If using a book, start at the back of the book and work forward to keep stamps from sliding on the page as you add additional layers. (If using phone books or newspapers, you will need several pages between layers to absorb moisture.)
  • Carefully and neatly stack layers on top of each other. Don't worry about stamps that are fairly dry. Even stamps that look a bit wrinkled will dry flat. Do make sure stamps are not curled, creased or bent. If they are, a second or two back in the water bowl will allow you to lay them flat.
  • Don't stack too many layers together or they may warp or buckle even when weighted. Better to have several piles than risk damaging your stamps.
  • Place a heavy weight on top of the layers to press the stamps flat. Large, heavy books work well. A smooth, flat object will ensure that stamps dry evenly and flat. Some collectors use bricks, glass blocks or cinder blocks.

Drying time will depend on temperature and humidity. Stamps may dry in a couple of hours on a sunny Santa Fe patio but take as long as a week in rainy Seattle.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How to Soak Off Stamps Safely

To remove stamps from envelopes, you have to soak them off. Improper removal can damage and even destroy a stamp. Soaking dissolves the adhesive on the back of the stamp so it can be safely removed from the envelope. Soaking is a skill best practiced on the ordinary stamps that arrive with your household mail. Practice your soaking skills on a few stamps at a time until you perfect your technique. Soon you'll be able to soak off a whole sinkful of stamps without worry.

  • Start with a medium-size bowl and fill it about 3/4 full with cool or lukewarm water. Cold water will dissolve stamp adhesive, but progress will be painfully slow. Hot water will turn the stamps pulpy, making them overly fragile and easy to damage. Hot water may also cause cancellations, particularly reds and magentas, to bleed.
  • Caution: Don't soak stamps on colored paper such as red or green Christmas envelopes. The paper can bleed, discoloring all the stamps in the soak batch.
  • Be patient. In 10 to 15 minutes, the stamps will start to float free. Avoid trying to hurry things along by tugging at stamps that have partially separated from the paper. Wet stamps are fragile and easily damaged. Tugging at them can cause the image to crack or tear.
  • As the stamps start to float free, pick the bits of backing out of the bowl. Feel the backs of the stamps. If they feel slick, some adhesive remains. While it is still in the water, you can gently rub the stamp between your fingers to hasten dissolution of the adhesive. Be careful not to rub too hard or you may damage the stamp. Some adhesives take longer to dissolve than others.
  • Drain the water from the bowl and refill with lukewarm water to rinse the stamps.

Tomorrow: How to dry stamps.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Where to Find Stamps

If you're just getting started in stamp collecting, the first place to look for stamps is on your mail. Your mail carrier will deliver new stamps daily. Ask family, friends and neighbors to save their envelopes for you. (It's best to ask for the entire envelope so the stamp can be removed without damaging it.) You'll find a wealth of U.S. stamps in your local mail.

If you'd like to collect foreign stamps, ask a local travel agent to save their envelopes for you. If you're more interested in old stamps, check your attic and basement for old correspondence. Ask your grandparents to give you stamps from correspondence they've saved over the years. Flea markets and estate sales are also fertile hunting grounds.

The post office is a great place to buy new stamps in mint condition. Check the USPS website for new issues and interesting facts about new stamps. Local dealers sell inexpensive mixed packets of stamps for beginners and usually have a box of miscellaneous stamps at the counter you can look through. These used to be called penny stamps because they cost a penny; now you'll pay 2 to 5 cents which is still a bargain.

Stamp clubs are a great place to learn more about stamps and stamp collecting. Experienced members are eager to share their knowledge with new hobbyists. Most clubs allow members to bring in stamps to trade and sell. Local stamp dealers or your public library will usually have information about when and where clubs meet. More experienced collectors may choose to join a national philatelic society which often offer stamps to members.

Stamp shows attract hobbyists of all kinds and are a marvelous place for beginners to learn more about stamps and experience the hobby's incredible range. You can view exhibits of extraordinary and rare stamps. You can talk to fellow collectors and dealers. You can comparison shop. Going to a stamp show is like being a kid in a candy store -- everywhere you turn there's something new and delectable to catch your eye.

Dealers also abound on the internet. Some specialize in certain stamp types or time periods but most offer a broad range of general categories. For instance, County Stamp Center offers stamps of all kinds, on all subject matters, from all over the world and at considerable savings. But we are also one of a limited number of international dealers who handle new issue foreign postage stamps. Click the post title to visit our website. Sign up for our free newsletter to receive email notifications of special offers and monthly new issues like the Tintin cartoon stamps shown below.

The cartoon adventures of Tintin are captured in this delightful cartoon sheet just issued by Belgium. Drawn by the Belgium artist Herge, the pen name of Georges Remi (1907-1983), the comic book Adventures of Tintin chronicled the exploits of a young reporter and his faithful dog Snowy in which they always managed to extricate themselves from peril and save the day. The vintage cover art and a photograph of the artist with his work are featured on the 25 stamps. Priced at only $26.82 at County Stamp Center with free shipping, click here to order.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Getting Started in Stamp Collecting

More than 22 million Americans collect stamps. It's a fascinating hobby populated by people with inquiring minds. Stamp collectors enjoy finding out everything they can about the stamps they possess: where it came from, when it was made, what distinguishes it from other stamps, what is its place in history, what makes its subject significant enough to put on a stamp?

You don't need much in the way of supplies or specialized equipment to become a stamp collector. It's an easily accessible hobby no matter what your age, interest level or income. These are the basic supplies you need to get started:
  • Stamp tongs. A pair of stamp tongs is the collector's most basic tool. They allow you to handle your stamps with more dexterity than fingers can provide. Tongs also prevent damage to stamps from handling, preventing moisture, oils or dirt on your fingers from adhering to the stamps. You can purchase stamp tongs online or at your local stamp dealer for a few dollars. They look like long, blunt-end tweezers, but they have a specially designed smooth, rounded tip that won't harm stamps. Don't use your bathroom tweezers; the tips have sharp edges and gripping grooves that can easily damage stamps. In stamp collecting, condition is a key element in maintaining a stamp's value.

  • Magnifying glass. Stamps are tiny and some of their more interesting features can only be seen when magnified. Choose a magnifying glass with a power of at least 10.

  • Album. You need something to keep your stamps in. Albums protect your stamps, help you organize them, and allow you to view them easily. Many albums show printed illustrations of the stamps as an aid to organization and focus on a particular type, country or time period. Loose-leaf albums allow the easy insertion of supplement pages. Generally stamps are attached to pages with special mounts, called hinges (see below). Advanced collectors may use hingeless albums that have pre-installed plastic mounts you just slip the stamp into. Albums printed on acid-free or archival paper will better preserve your collection. Albums printed on one side of the page are more desirable than two-sided pages. If you decide on two-sided pages, purchase inexpensive glassine sheets to put between the pages to keep stamps from catching on each other.
    Warning: Don't ever house your collection in self-adhesive (even low-tack) or wax-back albums. The adhesives will eventually permeate your stamps and ruin them.

  • Mounts. Stamp hinges are used to attach (mount) stamps to the pages of your album. Hinges are pieces of glassine with a light gum on one side. One side of the hinge is attached to the stamp, the other to the book. Minimum moisture is used to allow easy removal of the stamp. Hinges are perfect for low cost and used stamps, but mint condition stamps should only be mounted with plastic mounts which do not damage the adhesive. Plastic mounts are small sleeves into which stamps are placed. They come in a wide variety of sizes to accommodate any stamp.
    Warning: Never lick or paste the stamps directly on the page or use double-sized or scotch tape to attach stamps. You will permanently damage your stamps and will not be able to remove them from the page. Remember, condition = value in stamp collecting.
  • Glassine envelopes. Glassine is a special type of non-stick paper used to store stamps. (If you've bought loose stamps at the post office, they may have given them to you in a glassine envelope.) Glassine envelopes are inexpensive, come in a variety of sizes and prevent damage to your stamps until you have time to add them to your stamp album.
    Warning: Wax paper from your kitchen should not be used as a substitute for glassine. The wax will eventually permeate the stamps and ruin them.

As you become more involved in stamp collecting, you may want to acquire additional tools such as a perforation gauge and a watermark detector, but they are not essential for the beginner. Stamp supplies can be found at your local stamp shop, online and in some book and hobby stores which often carry beginner supplies. County Stamp Center offers a variety of supplies for beginning and experienced collectors.