One of the best things about stamp collecting is that starting out is easy. You can build up a great philatelic collection on a limited budget - all you need are used stamps from mail. New stamps are also inexpensive to buy online or at our Post Offices. And you have the option to pre-order new stamps so you know exactly what you are spending in advance.
Decide if you want to collect new or used stamps, or both. If you like to see the full stamp design, collect your stamps in mint condition. If you prefer stamps to have served their postal use, collect them used.
Stamp collecting may seem daunting at first, so a good way to find focus is to choose a subject or theme - something you’re passionate about - then collect stamps which depict only that theme. This will help you define boundaries for your collection, and you’ll have a lot of fun seeing it take shape. Check out some theme ideas below to get your imagination going.
When touching your stamps, do it gently, handling them in the proper manner. They may be worth money in the future, so you should always be careful not to damage them. The best way to hold a stamp is to use tweezers, instead of your fingers. Holding a stamp in your hand makes the stamp dirty, and the grease and sweat on your hand can damage or mark the stamp. Never fold stamps either; the crease will make your stamp less valuable.
When you first start stamp collecting you’ll probably get most of your stamps from envelopes. Firstly, when cutting the piece off the envelope, take care not to cut the stamp, as this will make it worthless. The easiest part to damage (and the most important part not to damage) is the perforations around the edge of the stamp. If your stamp is very old or rare, you’re best to leave it on the envelope, as it may be worth more left that way.
To handle your stamps, use tweezers with wide pinchers. Thin pinchers are more likely to squash and damage the stamp.
The wiggly-like edges of stamps are called perforations. You can use a tool called a perforation gauge to measure the number of holes around your stamps that each wiggle makes. A stamp release might be identical in design, but some of the individual stamps might have a different amount of perforations, and this makes them rarer, and possibly more valuable. You can buy a basic gauge from eBay for only a few dollars.
Stamps are tiny (most of ours are either 37.5mm x 26mm, or 26mm x 37.5mm). To study yours more closely, you’ll need a good magnifying glass.
A stamp album will keep your collection neat and organised, and in one place, free from dust and possible damage. Store your album upright, away from direct sunlight. Humidity can ruin stamps if they are kept in a metal or plastic container. If you have any loose stamps or stationery, store them in an archival-quality box instead.
Work slowly when you remove a stamp from an envelope. Trying to pull or force the stamp and envelope apart might ruin your stamp.
Gummed stamps are your old-fashioned “lick and stick” stamps. To get a gummed stamp off and envelope, you’ll need to soak it in warm water. Get yourself a clean bowl, fill it with the warm water, and gently push your envelope pieces into the water, with the stamps facing up. Leave for a few minutes to separate, then gently peel the stamp off the envelope.
Dry your stamps by placing them face up on blotting paper. When dry, place them into your stamp album carefully with your tweezers. Then, flip through your album and admire your handiwork!
Self-adhesive stamps feature micro cuts, which are small security cuts that improve the adhesion of the stamp to the article surface and also prevent self-adhesive stamps from being removed easily for possible re-use. Micro cuts are in use on the Australia Post Priority Paid label.
A stamp dealer or trader is someone who sells stamps to collectors. They generally have a lot of knowledge about stamps, and can help you discover if your stamps are valuable, track down certain stamps for you, or provide guidance on your collection.
Some traders have their own retail shops, and others deal purely through mail order, online, or at stamp fairs.
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