Guide to Stamp Collecting

20 million Americans collect postage stamps as one of their hobbies. Some have a few small boxes where they squirrel away any old, pretty stamps they find, while others have fancy albums with rare, expensive stamps filling each page. Either way, collecting stamps is a fun hobby and a creative way to document different time periods of US and world history.

There are many things to consider when setting up your first collection. Do you want to only collect stamps that have been used and postmarked or you want to collect mint stamps, too? Many people keep the whole envelope the postmark is a sign of the stamp's age or the distance it has travelled. Maybe you want to collect old stamps, or start a collection from the year you were born, or with people on them. Do you want to collect American stamps only? Or maybe you are more interested in starting an international collection? Whatever it is you choose to focus on, the decision should be based on what interests you most. If you are beginning a collection then it means you have an interest in philately. Find out exactly what facet of philately and which stamps intrigue you the most and let that guide you as you begin collecting.

Once you have decided which stamps you want to collect, you need to start thinking about how you are going to store, catalog and display them. There are many different styles of albums for sale. Some have rows of clear plastic pockets for stamps to fit inside of. Others have blank pages, often with a decorative border, for stamps to be attached to in whatever manner the collector desires. Still others include details on specific stamps and leaves space open for the collector to append that particular stamp once they've acquired it.

Philately is partly popular because it is so easy to do: all you really need is a steady stream of correspondence and someplace to store your stamps. Most collectors do use a few tools to help them, but most of these tools are found around the home. For instance, it's useful to have a pair of tweezers on hand for removing stamps from envelopes and handling them in general. You might also want to buy a magnifying glass so you can take a closer look at your collections.

Once you've got yourself all set up, all you need to do is get the stamps! Depending on what you are aiming to acquire, your techniques for may vary. If you are looking for rare stamps, stamp catalogs and online sites dedicated to selling and trading will be useful to you. If you are looking for international stamps and you know someone who lives overseas, write to them and ask them to write back with a pretty stamp on their envelope. Or, you could find pen pals in other countries and get international stamps that way. However you end up finding your stamps, make sure you take good care of them so they stay in good condition.