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6 Quick Steps to Stamp Collecting

Aug 17, 2007
You get your mail, riffle through, then suddenly you spot that colorful postage stamp and you think, "I should be collecting them."

Or, you're probably awed over that huge collection of stamps featured at the nearby museum. You look at it and say, "That looks like an interesting hobby."

Well then, welcome to the world of postage stamp collecting.

First things first. To start any activity, you have to have your materials and tools. In stamp collecting you'll need:

- Your stamps
- Stamp album or stock book
- A magnifying glass
- A glass vessel, usually 8" by 10" or 10" by 12" in size, to soak your stamps in
- Lots of plain, white, paper towels
- A stamp drying book
- A thermometer
- Heavy books

These can be found at your local post office, DIY store and the internet. You might also want to buy a watermark detector, but if you're just starting out, it isn't really necessary yet.

Now on to the steps:

1. Get

If you're starting from zero, the best way to go is to buy local postage stamps first. A packet of 500 or 1000 assorted worldwide stamps are usually available at your nearest post office. This goes for at least $3 to $6.

Still isn't too varied for you, you could try to buy from dealers who sell "kiloware". Kiloware are stamps on-paper sold by weight (by the pound) for a specific amount. You could also try going to stamp shows where they sell stamps, by the bucket! See http://www.stamps.org for a calendar of the shows.

Now, you can get try getting stamps for free! Here are some quick tips on how to. This will definitely make your stamp hunting more interesting and worthwhile:

- Inform everybody you know that you're collecting stamps. Chances are they'd pull out all that old letters they kept and start giving them to you. Don't forget to say thank you.
- Have relatives in foreign countries? Ask them to send you some (or a lot) of postage stamps available in that country. If that doesn't work, try asking them to send you letters instead.
- Know of anyone who's going on a business trip abroad? A vacation in Asia? Going up north? Ask them to send you post cards form wherever they are. Not only do you get the stamps, you also get to keep track of how they are.
- Get to know your neighbors. Chances are one of them is working in a big company or institution wherein loads of letters pour in everyday. And if you're really lucky, said neighbor might actually be the one in charge of opening all those letters. You get the drift?
- The next time you visit the post office, keep an open eye for stray envelopes that recent visitors have carelessly tossed aside. Many people read and discard their letters at the post office.
- Make friends with fellow collectors. Trading and swapping not only increases your collection, it also allows you to get acquaintances and friends.
- Get your grandma or grandpa to let you see their old letters. There is a high chance that you'll get rare and old stamps that you won't see anywhere ever again.

2. Sort

Have you stamps in one huge box? Now's the time to sort them all out. Sorting is necessary to facilitate the storing process. Most of the stamps you have are on paper because they are cut out from mailing envelopes. You need to sort them out into:

- stamps with white background paper
- stamps with colored background paper
- stamps with rubber stamp ink (especially those in red and purple)
- stamps without rubber stamp ink

3. Trim

Leave about 1-2 cm safety margin when you trim your stamps. Also, try not to cut the perforations, as it will decrease the value of your stamp.

4. Soak

Never try peeling a stamp off the paper, even if it's loose. Peeling like this is a surefire way to ruin your stamp. The way to do it is to soak it in water.

First, fill up your vessel to about half. The water temperature should be around 30-35C. Water that's too warm or hot will increase the chances of color running. Soak your stamps by batches, around 8 or 10, for around 15 minutes.

Remember: NEVER soak a stamp with white background paper and a stamp with a colored one at the same time. Stamps with a colored background paper and those with rubber stamp inks usually stain the water and might damage your white stamps. This is why you need to sort them all out before starting.

They way to go with these problematic stamps is to soak them individually. Yes, it could be time consuming and tiring but in the end, you'll get great stamps.

After 15 minutes, pick up a stamp with your fingers and try to peel it off the backing. If there is even the slightest of resistance, drop it back into the water and wait for another 10 minutes or so.

5. Dry

After peeling, lay your stamps face up into a waiting paper towel. Put another sheet on top and gently blot the excess moisture. Be extra careful since wet stamps are very fragile.

Afterwards, line them up in the plastic page of your stamp album. Place the blotter sheet atop them, close the book and press. It'd help if you put heavy books on top of the drying book to ensure nice, flat stamps. They should be sufficiently dry after 4-5 hours.

6. Store

If you want to be able to move them around and shuffle them, you' be better off with a stock album. A stock album has plastics sleeves wherein you can keep the stamps and their duplicates.

But if you want to store them for good, you can mount them in a stamp album. It'd be a permanent home for your beloved collection.
About the Author
Lee Dobbins has been an antique and collectibles enthusiast as well as dealer for 20 years. Visit http://collecting.leisure-webzone.com/ where you can learn more about collecting for fun and profit .
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