On collecting stamps

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Stamp Collecting

Stamps are miniature gateways to the world. Stamp collecting has very few rules. You don't have to buy expensive sneakers or rackets to enjoy it. However, there are a few simple things to remember when collecting stamps. First of all, one of the essential rules to remember is that the condition of a stamp is a highly important consideration. Badly torn and mis-handled stamps are not only unpleasant to the eye, but they are worth next to nothing when compared to their undamaged counterparts. Try to acquire the finest possible specimens. Stamps are rated in condition from poor to superb.

A stamp which can be called "superb" is one of the finest quality. That means it has perfect centering, brilliant color and perfect gum. A used stamp can also be called superb, if it is perfectly centered, fresh looking, is lightly cancelled and undamaged. A designation of fine means a stamp without flaws, average centering, gum with light hinge marks.

Used stamps designated "fine" are not quite as fresh, cancels are heavier and centering is good. There may be minor defects such as disturbed gum, thin areas, heavy hinge marks. Stamps which fall below these standards should be ignored and are not worth acquiring by the serious collector; however beginners sometimes collect them as starters.

These are known as "space fillers".

KOAM Features

Because their condition is so important -- and stamps are only bits of paper after all -- when handling them it is essential to remember to use caution. The best way to safely handle stamps is with tongs. Because stamps are small, it is often difficult to see all of their minute detail with the naked eye. Magnifying glasses, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes, will help you not only see the design better, but also, in some instances discover small details which can help distinguish one stamp from another. You'll soon learn that there are times when stamps appear to be the same, but are not.

Look-alike stamps frequently turn stamp collectors into Sherlock Holmes!

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Sleuthing is fun and a test of your knowledge and skill. You can always find stamps in your own mail box, or you can ask a local business to let you have stamps from their mail. But when you want to remove a stamp from an envelope, you will need to soak the stamp off.

When you soak stamps off of the remnants of envelopes, all you really need is a container to hold the cool water while the stamps soak. It's best to let the stamps soak for perhaps 15 to 20 minutes, sometimes more depending on the quality of the paper and gum which is used. You can tell when the stamps are ready to be handled, they will float free from the envelopes.

Which Stamps to Collect?

Not all stamps soak well. If you have stamps with purple ink or cancellations on them, you may want to soak them separately, because these colors may run, discoloring other items in the container. Others may require separate attention because of colors which may run from the envelopes on which the stamps were affixed.

If you have trouble in telling the difference between two seemingly similar stamps you may want to measure the perforations. The average age of a collector is now plus. You could argue that once they die off then that is going to be the end of stamp collecting. But what is interesting is that every year we see a new crop of somethings starting to collect.

They get to their senior years, want a sedentary type of leisure project, and stamp collecting is just perfect.

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Stanley Gibbons says the subscriber base for its collectors magazine has held steady at about 16,,, while the Royal Philatelic Society London says its membership has actually been gradually increasing. There remain a surprisingly high number of active local stamp collecting clubs across Britain, with the ABPS listing hundreds in locations from Inverness to Plymouth. Even though it's a cold and wet Tuesday evening, there are more than 25 collectors at Croydon Philatelic Society 's fortnightly get together. Frank Simpson is a past president of the society and a member for 38 years.

As he scans the hall he says: "There is no question it's diminishing. There are no youngsters, just look at the people here. Too many are dying off. Usually they are retired and the wife has pushed them out. It is a social club for many people and there's always a buzz. Graham Harker, a recently retired headmaster, is one of the fresher faces in the room.

About stamps & collecting

Like most serious collectors he specialises in one area — in his case anything related to Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Now I'm in retirement I have got into it a lot more. I come along to meetings and events such as Stampex. Like most keen philatelists, he's as interested in social and political history as much as collecting flimsy pieces of paper. Stamps were first issued in , but many collectors focus on pre envelope covers, researching their subject to an extraordinary degree and giving public talks. Simpson focuses on the Kingdom of Hannover, "and if you have three or four hours to spare I'll tell you about it," he says.

But not everyone has to be so dedicated.

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It's anything with cats on. I love cats. And I love this club, it's a lovely social.

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