Get your collection started
Some stamp collecting theme ideas
Setting up and looking after your collection
Follow our tips below to keep your stamps in tip-top condition:
Handle with care!
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.
Getting a tool-kit together
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 or pull-out magnifier.
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.
Within your album, you’ll need plastic protectors with individual pockets to put your stamps in, also known as stock sheets. View all of our stock sheets. You can also get cover protectors to fit your first-day covers.
Buy stamp collecting accessories
How to get stamps off an envelope
Work slowly when you remove a stamp from an envelope. Trying to pull or force the stamp and envelope apart might ruin your stamp.
Self-adhesive stamps have two layers of adhesive. One is the tack that bonds the stamps to the envelope; the other is a water-soluble adhesive that lies between the self-adhesive tack and the stamp paper. The water-soluble layer is there so that collectors can obtain good used copies.
We don’t recommend using anything other than clean water to soak your stamps. Self-adhesive tack is practically impervious to water on one side of the stamp, and the varnish creates a waterproof seal on the other. To give the water a chance to activate the soluble layer, it needs to be almost at boiling point and the stamps need to be immersed for up to half an hour. The stamps should then be gently eased off the paper and, when dry, any remaining tack removed carefully with an ArtGum eraser (you can by these erasers at craft supply stores).
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!
Becoming part of the philatelic community
Every hobby has an associated community, and stamps are no different. You may like to venture out and explore some stamp exhibitions or stamp fairs to acquire more stamps, or to learn more about collecting in general. Find stamp events near you.
Getting your stamps valued
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. Find stamp dealers around Australia through the Australian Philatelic Traders website.