I have put these pages together for newcomers to the world of stamp collecting. I have included basic information together with pictures of the common sets that a new collector may look for. I hope the books section will be useful to those wanting more detailed information. Ideas for inclusion to the site are always welcome. You can contact me at
Stamp Collecting for Beginners Stamp collecting as a hobby can entice you even when you have never thought of it before. Some day you may get to see the stamp collection or album of a friend and find the bright colours and fine printing in the stamps too hard to resist appreciating. As you browse through an album, the stamps will relate the social history of the country concerned.To take up a new hobby can be hard, for at the beginning you might know nothing about it. You may need a guide to tell you how to start and how to proceed. In setting up this website I have tried to draw together some of the information that you may find useful.
Stamp collecting equipment A few basic items of equipment are needed to collect stamps. Stamp tongs help to handle stamps safely, a magnifying glass helps in viewing fine details and an album is a convenient way to store stamps. The stamps need to be attached to the pages of the album in some way and stamp hinges are a cheap and simple way to do this, although some collectors prefer more expensive hingeless mounts if the stamps are valuable. Another alternative is a stockbook where the stamps drop into clear pockets without the need for a mount. Stamps should be stored away from light, heat and moisture or they will be damaged. If you are interested in watermarks, then you will need watermark fluid in order to highlight them. Stamps can be displayed according to the collector's wishes, by country, topic, or even by size, which can create a display pleasing to the eye. There are no rules and it is entirely a matter for the individual collector to decide.
Many collectors begin by asking family and friends to save stamps for them from their mail. Although the stamps received by major businesses and those kept by elderly relatives may be of international and historical interest, the stamps received from family members are often of the definitive sort. Definitives seem mundane but, considering their variety of colours, watermarks,paper differences, perforations and printing errors, they can fill many pages in a collection. Introducing either variety or specific focus to a collection can require the purchasing of stamps, either from a dealer or online. Large numbers of relatively recent stamps, often still attached to fragments or envelopes, may be obtained cheaply and easily. Rare and old stamps can also be obtained, but these can be very expensive. Duplicate stamps are those a collector already has and are not required, therefore, to fill a gap in a collection. Duplicate stamps can be sold or traded, so they are an important medium of exchange among collectors. Many dealers sell stamps through the Internet while others have local shops which are one of the best resources for beginner and intermediate collectors.
Collecting specialties A worldwide collection would be enormous, running to thousands of volumes, and incredibly expensive to acquire. Many collectors limit their collecting to particular countries, certain time periods or particular subjects (called "topicals") like birds or aircraft on stamps. My interest is British and Commonwealth stamps, which is why it is the theme of this website.
There are thousands of organizations for collectors: local stamp clubs, special-interest groups, and national organizations. The Internet has greatly expanded the availability of information and made it easier to obtain stamps and other philatelic material. Stamp clubs and philatelic societies can add a social aspect to stamp collecting and provide a forum where novices can meet experienced collectors. Despite such organizations often being advertised in stamp magazines and online, the relatively small number of collectors - especially outside urban areas - means that a club may be difficult to set up and sustain. The Internet partially solves this problem, as the association of collectors online is not limited by geographical distance. For this reason, many highly-specific stamp clubs have been established on the Web, with international membership.
Catalogues Stamp catalogues are the primary tool used by serious collectors to organize their collections, and for the identification and valuation of stamps. Most stamp shops have stamp catalogues available for purchase. A few catalogues are offered on-line, either for free or for a fee. There are hundreds of different catalogues, most specializing in particular countries or periods.
Famous stamp collectors
The stamp collection assembled by French/Austrian aristocrat Philipp von Ferrary (1850–1917) is widely considered the most complete stamp collection ever formed (or likely to be formed). It included, for example, all of the rare stamps described above (that were already issued by 1917). However, as Ferrary was an Austrian citizen, the collection was broken up and sold by the French government after the First World War, as war reparations. In the decades after World War I, several European monarchs became keen stamp collectors, including King George V of the United Kingdom and King Carol II of Rumania. King George V reportedly possessed one of the largest stamp collections in the world. His collection was passed on to Queen Elizabeth II who, while not a serious philatelist, has a collection of British and Commonwealth first day covers which she started in 1952. Franklin Roosevelt, who designed several American commemorative stamps while U.S. President, was also reputed to be an avid stamp collector. Several entertainment and sport personalities have been known to be collectors: Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the band Queen, collected stamps as a child. His childhood stamp album is in the collection of the Royal British Postal Museum and Archive
John Lennon of The Beatles was a childhood stamp collector. His stamp album is held by the national postal museum