The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Stamp Collection

Heading to your local post office and requesting some postage stamps can often be uneventful and blue. We say ‘blue’ as the most common stamp used in the UK is the blue 2nd class ‘snail mail’ sticker. However, you may find yourself receiving a package through the mail with a fun figure on the front. For example; Dennis the Menace. 

And, these are not something you’ll get simply by asking for a set of standard 2nd class stamps. Often, you’ll need to request to see specials and see what’s on the market at the time. However, as a popular pastime enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth II, herself, and while being an affordable hobby appreciated at all ages, it is certainly worth a shoutout. 

Here at The Hobby Kraze, we bring you the ultimate guides to each and every hobby you can think of. So, whether its Geocache collecting in our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching or LEGO® collecting in our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to LEGO® Collection, you know you’ll always have the right hobby to scavenge, collect and enjoy. 

In this ultimate beginner’s guide to stamp collection we’ll be covering all the grounds, so be sure to scroll right the way through:

  1. Why You Should Begin to Organise a Stamp Collection 
  2. The History of Stamp Collecting
  3. The World’s Most Famous Faces with a Stamp Collection Book
  4. A Glossary of Terms for Your Beginner’s Guide to Stamp Collection
  5. The Tools and Equipment You Need to Build a Beginner Stamp Collection Kit
  6. Choosing Which Stamps to Collect and Where From
  7. How to Handle and Organise a Stamp Collection

Before we set off into the world of stamp collecting, there’s one thing you should know. Stamp collecting is often called ‘Philately’ which means the study of stamps. So, if you see someone talk about being a ‘Philatelic’ collector or discussing the ‘philatelic’ grading of something, they’re referring to the wonderful world of postage stamps. 

This name is the English translation to a French term coined by Mr. George Herpin. The term, ‘philatélie’ was sought after for a rising stamp collecting hobby in the 1860s. So, the French word takes the former principle of the Greek word ‘philo’ to mean attraction and the word ‘ateleia’ to mean something is exempt from tax and duty charges.

Now you’re clued-up, the team here at The Hobby Kraze has so much more to tell you about this fascinating hobby:

Why You Should Begin to Organise a Stamp Collection

Why You Should Begin to Organise a Stamp Collection 

Much like any other collecting hobby, having a ‘goal’, ‘to do list’ or long term ‘objective’ can lead to a very fulfilling experience in your hobby. As long as you eventually find what you’re looking for. And, as a stamp collector – or, philatelic – you will find yourself spending considerable research over one or two rare stamps when you organise a stamp collection.

As a hobby adopted by many across the world, including some famous faces, there are clear benefits to be had with a beginner stamp collecting kit advancing onto the rare goods. Whether it’s being able to enjoy the hobby with friends and family or allowing yourself to pick and choose the specific collections you’d like to collect, having this hobby by your side allows for a special relaxing escapism. 

So, the team at The Hobby Kraze has gathered together a list of reasons and benefits to starting your own stamp collection book:

  • Both kids and adults enjoy stamp collecting
  • It is a very popular hobby with communities of like-minded individuals online
  • Stamps collecting can be very inexpensive
  • You have full creative freedom of how to organise a stamp collection
  • You can choose specific themes and types of stamps to collect
  • It can provide good investment opportunities
  • It is a very quiet hobby
  • Stamp collecting can be done at any time, any where
  • You can go for an international collection without needing to leave your home
  • There are very few supplies that are needed
  • The hobby is shared among famous faces such as Queen Elizabeth II
  • Each stamp has a rich historical background to be discovered
  • The story of a stamp can be a good educational source for young children
  • You can pass your hobby and stamp collection book onto each generation
  • It is a way to commemorate special events and public figures
  • It is a natural de-stressor and relaxer
  • When engaging in a hobby you love, your body releases the happy hormones
  • It teaches those with a beginner stamp collecting kit to be tidy, neat and clean
  • They are very easy to store and don’t take up very much space in the home
  • They are very small, and light so can be very simple to ship

The History of Stamp Collecting

The History of Stamp Collecting

The history of stamp collecting has to be one of the most interesting journeys due to the nature of collecting such stickers arrived before the invention of postage stamps. 

While this may be a strange prospect, this is actually due to other stamps for tax and duty being in circulation prior to postage stamps being released. In fact, it is said that the first ever individual to create a stamp collection book was a Mr. John Bourke. Bourke was the Irish Receiver General of Stamp Dues; small adhesive labels akin to postage stamps that were placed on items where extra fees were needed. For example; alcohol, documents, tobacco, medicine, playing cards, hunting licenses, and so on. In 1774, Bourke collected a range of these embossed revenue stamps and placed them into a book which – to this day – is preserved in the Royal Irish Academy.

Moving onto the era of postage stamps, it was not until May 1st, 1840 when the ‘Penny Black’ postage stamps would begin to enter circulation in the UK. And, while hand-written or manually stamped agreements were still added to letters for their postage, the separate stamp was the beginning of a period telling of stamps to collect for pre-paid postage. 

Although the inventor of the postage stamps is not known, there have been many claimants such as the likes of; James Chalmers, William Dockwra, Robert Murray and Rowland Hill. However, what is known for certain, is the country of origin; our perfect British island.  

Shortly after postage stamps were introduced in the UK, other countries began to adopt similar postage methods beginning with Switzerland, Brazil, the United States of America, India and more. The most interesting factor of this growth is the nature of the stamp face. As the stamp was invented in the UK, there was never a need to distinguish the country of origin. But, as the industry grew, each country needed to specify their origin and to this day, the UK is the only manufacturer of the postage stamp that does not reference its location or origin.

So, a top tip in this ultimate beginner’s guide to stamp collection from the crew at The Hobby Kraze is to know that any unspecific locations on a stamp indicates it is British-made.

The World’s Most Famous Faces with a Stamp Collection Book

The World’s Most Famous Faces with a Stamp Collection Book

The first postage stamps were hand-drawn and repeated using a printing press. And, due to the intricate designs, they were often very appealing to the eye. For example; the 1912 rare release of the PUNCH cartoon design of John Redmond for the Irish Penny Postage Stamp.

To the extent where popular influencers and famous faces throughout history have all dabbled in the stamp collection book hobby. Here’s a few names of famous philatelists popping to the mind of The Hobby Kraze:

  • King George V
  • Queen Victoria
  • Queen Elizabeth II
  • Prince Rainer III
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Nicolas Sarkozy
  • Freddie Mercury
  • Patrick Dempsey
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Winston Churchill
  • James Earl Jones
  • Ronnie Wood
  • John Lennon
  • Anatoly Karpov
  • Warren Buffet
  • Maria Sharapova
  • William Gross
  • Amelia Earhart

A Glossary of Terms for Your Beginner’s Guide to Stamp Collection

A Glossary of Terms for Your Beginner’s Guide to Stamp Collection

As this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to stamp collection, we wouldn’t go any further without keying you into the A to Z of Philatelic terms for your beginner’s stamp collecting kit. 

    • Albino

This is a name given to a stamp with an ink error. The look of the stamp is to have a pattern but no colour and can often happen if two stamps are accidentally fed through the machine at the same time. This is far less likely to be seen on a modern-day stamp.

    • Album Weed

Also often called fraudulent stamps, album weed refers to stamps that have been collected but turn out to be fakes. They can be counterfeits or ephemera that mimic a stamp.

    • Bisect

This is the act of carefully dissecting a stamp on the vertical into two equal halves while keeping the full value. This means that each half can be allocated half the worth of the original full stamp. This was a common practice during stamp shortages.

    • Burelage

Burelage is a way of creating a pattern, cut or design to help deter counterfeiters and prevent the cleaning or reuse of stamps. These often appear as long thin lines and are printed on the security paper, too.

    • Cancel

A cancel is a handwritten or manually stamped notification of use. So, if you were to get a stamp that had been used, it will have markings on it to prevent it from being used again. They’ll often show the date and location of the post office it was used is as well as any images or slogans.

    • Centring

This refers to the perfection of the stamp pictorial in terms of the outer margins and perforated edges. If a stamp is perfectly centred rather than closer to one or more of the edges or on a slant, it will fetch a far higher resale value at auction.

    • Cinderella

Not referring to the Disney Princess, a Cinderella stamp is a stamp that is not valid for postage. This will be because they are due to be used for other transactions such as; advertising labels, poster stamps, seals and local-only postage stamps.

    • Dead Country

A dead country is a country that was once its own land but has since changed into something else. For example; Persia. It also refers to occupational forces, nations, kingdoms, colonies or revolutionary entities who are no longer in existence. However, with memorabilia still in circulation, stamps from dead countries can be a rare and popular collector’s item in your stamp collection book.

    • Die

After a stamp has finalised design, it is then engraved into steel. This steel is used to repeatedly print the design with ink. This is the traditional sense of a printing press. The steel stamp is called a ‘die’ as will be kept until circulation ceases. Modern stamp creation, however, requires more steps to help prevent counterfeiting.

    • Dummy Stamp

The printing and publishing companies who create stamps are ordered to produce a batch of authentic ‘fake’ postage stamps to be used for the sole purpose of training and testing.

    • Ephemera

While not a direct stamp collection book term, it relates to printed materials intended to have a short life but offer a sense of historical importance to historians and archival collections. Examples include; tickets, train passes, posters, invoices, pamphlets, busines cards, catalogues and more.

    • Error

An error in a postage stamp can be anything from a major colour printing issue to an incorrect centring. Large and famous accounts of postage stamp errors can often be popular among collectors meaning to organise a stamp collection with a famous error will be expensive at auction. A well-known case is the 1918 run of the ‘Inverted Jenny’ on a US postage stamp. It featured an upside-down airplane and is now extremely valuable as fewer than 100 remain.

    • Fiscal

A fiscal stamp is a stamp that is collected and used for financial purposes, only. In fact, a fiscal stamp is a type of Cinderella stamp but with it being used for tax and revenue purposes, it has authority to be used in the place of a postage stamp.

    • Foxing

Foxing is the name given to a ‘rusting’ like process that occurs to an aging postage stamp and can even be seen throughout a stamp collection book. It is believed to be a type of weathering and mould. But, to combat a stamp experiencing a foxing effect, the team here at The Hobby Kraze have a couple of tips to store and organise a stamp collection at less than 18°C, within 55% to 60% humidity and out of direct sunlight.

    • Gravure

Short for photogravure, this is a type of printing that, instead of using engravings and stamping processes, utilizes chemical and photographic processes on a printing plate. It was a mid-way process before beginning to print in the modern lithographic manner.

    • Locals

Instead of meaning the local people in a village, it actually means the location and locality of a stamp. Individual post offices have the opportunity to design and produce their own local stamps by town or region. These were most popular during the wartime as small islands and towns would need to use private organisations to help with national services. 

    • Marcophily

Marcophily is the name of a study or research-based activity of hand marks and cancellations of a stamp. Whether by machine or by hand, these types of note and cancel can provide regional and historical value.

    • Mulready

A ‘Mulready’ is the name of the first ever stationary letter sheets that were designed and produced in 1840 at the same time as the release of the first stamps. Named after the designer, William Mulready, the letter sheets contained small pictorial designs that also served the purpose of being a pre-paid postage stamp.

    • Overprint

Overprinting is another aspect studied within marcophily as it refers to a stamp being marked. These marks can be handwritten, machine stamped or double overprinted. And, they usually record or update the stamp for an event, date or value. For example, validating the stamp when circulating in a different country or region.

    • Paquebot

A paquebot cancellation is a record of overseas travel with the postal stamp. Not only can it show the routes taken by the postage stamp, but it also contains a record of vessel and date, making paquebot cancellations key to recording maritime postal history.

    • Philately

This is your brand-new hobby as per the ultimate guide to stamp collection by The Hobby Kraze. As mentioned, it is the historical name given to the hobby for stamps to collect and demonstrates a study and keen interest.

    • Propaganda stamp

Much like most propaganda prints during the wartime; these stamps were a legal authorisation made by governing bodies such as the Germans to represent particular beliefs. These can be very valuable today as wartime memorabilia from certain countries were hidden and destroyed after the war.

    • Rocket Mail

A very rare type of postage stamp that was designed only to be used with rocket mail. This type of mail was coined by a German inventor named Gerhard Zucker who tried to send mail by rocket to an island off the shore of Scotland. As you can tell by our lack of rocket mail today, it didn’t truly take off.

    • Se-Tenant and Composite Stamps

Meaning ‘joined together’ in French Se-Tenant stamps are stamps joined together but differ in terms of colour and design. An example of this could be a specific set of stamps to collect like the Legends of the West 1993 US Postal Stamp Collection. Another type of Se-Tenant would be the composite stamps where, as they join, they create on larger image such as the Malta 1967 Christmas Set.

    • Wilding

A Wilding refers to the first portraits of Queen Elizabeth II to be used on the UK standard postage stamps after King George VI died. The name is taken after the photographer Dorothy Wilding and stand as collector’s items as they have since changed to the ‘Machin’ head we see today. 

    • TPO (Travelling Post Office)

The travelling post office is the name given to a specific train that would travel the country. This train had carts dedicated to the postal service, where pigeonholes would be used to sort-out mail. And, when a location was due next, mail would be put into a bag for someone to hang out the train while travelling. Nets would then catch bags of mail hung from poles along the way. Here’s an interesting fact from a team member at The Hobby Kraze: One of the first ever moving images was of a documentary about the TPO.

The Tools and Equipment You Need to Build a Beginner Stamp Collection Kit

The Tools and Equipment You Need to Build a Beginner Stamp Collection Kit

As your hobby with a stamp collection book grows, so will your beginner stamp collecting kit. With stamps to collect being historical ephemera and memorabilia, they can often need some TLC upon arrival. This is especially true when you’re not spending the big bucks to get mint condition postage stamps. So, the team at The Hobby Kraze want to make sure that your beginner stamp collecting kit requires all the necessary tools for safety as well as to organise a stamp collection.

With that, here’s a list of all the tools you might need on your hobby adventure into stamp collection. Don’t forget to make sure any sharp objects or harmful chemicals are kept tall and mighty so they are not free to any little fingers and mouths you might be sharing your hobby with.

  • Tweezers
  • Magnifying Glass
  • Watermark Detector
  • Archival Paper
  • Archival Glue
  • Archival Ink
  • Research Tool
  • Album
  • Perforation Gauge
  • Gummed Stamp Hinges
  • Stamp Mounts
  • Stamp Catalogue 
  • Solvent
  • Face Mask
  • Mildew Stain Remover
  • Glassine Envelopes
  • Stamp Cutters
  • X-Acto Blade
  • Cutting Board
  • Shoebox Tool Storage

Choosing Which Stamps to Collect and Where From

Choosing Which Stamps to Collect and Where From

Now, onto the most fun part of this ultimate beginner’s guide to stamp collection: exploring the marketplace to decide which stamp collections and themes you’ll be searching for first.

Whether you’re staying tuned to the latest Warwick and Warwick Online Auctions, attending the Stanley Gibbons Auction House, updating eBay, checking-in with your local post office, finding new websites or getting in contact with sellers around the world, there’s always an option to find your newest additions of stamps to collect.

One of the many benefits, as we’ve mentioned, to finding stamps to collect is that it’s all about personal preference and accessibility. Meaning it can be open for anyone to enjoy. And, it allows you to find a good place to start. For example, if you have a specific interest that has been part of the stamp circulation, head for those ones, first. Here are ten other factors and themes you could use to organise a stamp collection:

Theme

The British Royal Mail and postal system have incorporated many different themes over the years in artwork, sketches and wording. These are often to commemorate or celebrate something such as the Royal Mail Mint Stamps: Butterflies collection. This collection was released in 2013 and contains ten British butterflies on white 1st class stamp backgrounds in a square format.

Character

The Royal Mail has always made room to pay tribute to some of the most recognised characters and faces throughout childhood and popular media. And, with such a range, it’s hard to not be tempted to reach for stamps to collect with your favourite characters on them. Here at The Hobby Kraze, a top tip from the team is to always make room in your album for the stamps that bring you joy, even if they are easy to collect and hold low value. 

Examples of the characters you could use in your stamp collection book include:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Dennis the Menace
  • Garfield
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter
  • Coronation Street
  • Mr Men and Little Miss
  • Pinocchio 
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Retro Children’s TV Characters
  • Roald Dahl

Face

Aside from characters, stamps from all across the world will always feature sets with the face of their leadership, whether it’s in a monarchy, democracy or dictatorship. So, if there’s a particular face you’d like to include when you organise a stamp collection, go for it. It could be finding every stamp made with the same face or simply starting your beginner stamp collecting kit with a specific release. For example; 1997 set Royal Mail Mint Stamps: The Great Tudor Henry VIII and The Six Wives. 

Country

As we mentioned in the history of stamp collecting, after the British Royal Mail system began to use these adhesive stamps, other countries adopted their usage. So, there’s stamps from countries all over the world, including dead countries such as Yugoslavia.

Rarity

As this is the beginner’s guide to stamp collecting, we suggest not going for the rarest of stamp sets and collections for the time being. For the most part, they can be very expensive to acquire, they will also be the stamp collections that take the longest to finish. So, unless you are fiscally fit and are sure this will be your hobby for life, try to organise a stamp collection with medium to low rarity.

As of 2020, the most valuable and rare stamps to collect begin with the 1856 British Guiana 1-Cent Magenta, the 1855 Treskilling Yellow Stamp and the 1859 Sicilian Error of Colour.

Event

In terms of the UK Royal Mail Mint Stamp collection, Royal Mail researchers work tirelessly to study events of national importance with a unique British aspect that will occur and should be commemorated. Then, design departments will create 10 suitable subjects and renditions that are chosen before printing and circulation.  A good example is the 2014 set Royal Mail Mint Stamps: The Great War.

Vintage/date

Another good way to begin a collection is to think about a specific vintage or date that you like. For example, your birth year or a year of significance such as 1066. Then, you could build a stamp collection book or album based solely on every stamp released in that year around the world. While this specific ‘collection’ is not common, it will help your collection become rare, increasing its value and likelihood to become a relic on a museum pedestal.

Grade

Now you need to consider whether or not you’d like your beginner stamp collecting kit to contain certain levels of use or grade. The more used or imperfect, the lower the value.  There are some stamp collectors who shoot only for sound and superb grade stamps, yet there is no need for your personal collection to be the same. 

In terms of use, there are; ‘used/defective’, ‘fine-used/faulty’ and ‘unused/sound’ conditions. Then, in terms of the centring, there’s; ‘average’, ‘fine’, ‘fine very fine’, ‘very fine’, ‘extra fine’ and ‘superb’. Both of these scales are in the order of least valuable to most valuable. 

Mint Condition

Much like opting for rare postal stamps, you’re more likely to run into extra expenses when hunting for stamps to collect that are in mint condition. This is especially true for vintage stamps. But, mint condition stamps do increase your re-sale value if this is something you might look towards later down the line.

Cinderella

A final consideration in terms of themes and where to initiate your beginner stamp collecting kit would be to create an album dedicated solely to stamps that have entered circulation without being eligible to be used in the post.

How to Handle and Organise a Stamp Collection

How to Handle and Organise a Stamp Collection

It may come as no surprise to hear that there is an ideal way to care-for and handle your stamp collection book. This is because exposure to specific elements can damage both the stamp and the value. With this in mind, we’ve covered all the steps to consider when you begin to organise a stamp collection:

  • Don’t touch the stamps as your skin’s natural oils can damage the pictorial.
  • Use Tweezers to handle and place your stamps to avoid damage and bubbles
  • Keep the humidity between 55% and 60% to prevent mould growth
  • Make sure the temperature remains under 18°C
  • Keep the stamp collection book out of direct sunlight which causes fading, cracks and yellowing
  • Always keep your stamps to collect at least 6 inches off the ground to prevent flood damage
  • Limit rip and tear damage by reducing your handling force
  • Make sure to keep the collection away from chemicals such as cleaning sprays
  • Store away in metal or glass to ensure pests are not attracted to your beginner stamp collecting kit
  • Use warm water and a salt bath to remove old adhesive
  • Make sure you’re using archival-grade acid-free paper and sleeves
  • Store your album upright to reduce weight pressure on the stamps

A final note from the hobby-crazed team here at The Hobby Kraze is to keep an eye out for the yearly “Summer of Stamps Festival” hosted by All About Stamps. With new ways to find your collections, watching the official launch of new stamps around the world, meeting like-minded individuals and viewing exclusive exhibits, there’s no reason not to attend.  

Conclusion 

And, there you have it. A stamp of approval for the end of this ultimate beginner’s guide to stamp collection. Here at The Hobby Kraze, it’s our aim to make sure you have all the information you need in order to begin your newest hobby whether it’s a modern-day sport or historical collection enjoyed by previous monarchs. So, let us know what you think of this beginner’s guide to stamp collection and if there’s anything else you’d like to know!

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