Stamp collecting can be a lifetime hobby. It's fun and educational for all ages and it's easy to start without a big investment. The study of stamps and postal materials is called philately and collectors are sometimes called philatelists.
How do I start collecting stamps?
You can start by saving stamps from letters, packages, and postcards. Many beginning collectors choose a favorite subject like art, history, sports, transportation, or animals as the theme of their collection. You can have a great time on a limited budget with just a few inexpensive accessories such as an album and stamp hinges.
What kinds of stamps are there?
There are many types of stamps–for example, commemorative, definitive, and special–and formats such as sheets, booklets, or coils. Stamps may be conventional adhesive ("lick-and-stick") or self–adhesive ("no-lick, peel-and-stick").
Definitive stamps are the most common. Generally less than an inch square, they are printed in large quantities, and often more than once. Commemorative stamps, larger and more colorful than definitives, are printed in smaller quantities and typically only once. They honor people, events, or subjects of importance to American life and culture. Special stamps–Christmas and Love, Holiday Celebration, international rate, Priority Mail, and Express Mail–usually are on sale for a limited time.
How do I remove stamps from an envelope?
Soaking is the best way to remove stamps from envelopes. Tear the envelope around the stamp, leaving a small margin. With the stamp facing down, place into a pan of warm, but not hot, water. After a few minutes (self-adhesive gum may take longer), the stamp should sink to the bottom. When all adhesive is dislodged, remove the stamp preferably using stamp tongs. Place the stamp between two paper towels and put a heavy object, such as a book, on top to keep the stamp from curling as it dries. Leave overnight.
Is there anything else I need?
Collectors use a variety of other materials and accessories. Transparent glassine envelopesprotect stamps from grease and air. A stamp catalog is a reference book with illustrations and stamp values. A magnifying glass is useful when examining stamps; tongs are used to pick up and move stamps. A perforation gauge measures perforations along the edges of stamps.Watermark fluid will enhance a watermark, a design or pattern that is pressed into some stamp paper during manufacturing.