Stamp collecting is one of the few hobbies that you can enjoy for free by saving the stamps on your daily mail. Some collectors multiply their free stamp sources by arranging with nearby businesses to pick up envelopes from incoming mail that would otherwise be discarded.
Still, many collectors are looking for stamps that they aren't likely to find through these methods. When it comes time to buy the stamps you need, there are ways to save that you can watch for.
Narrowing your collecting choices can help you reduce the amount of money you spend on stamps.
Settle on a well-defined and limited collecting area and stick to your choice.
That means you don’t have to get every stamp from whatever country interests you. Completing a collection is not really the point. Creating the collection is what matters.
You may be a collector of United States stamps, but does that mean you plan to collect them all? Probably not. Some U.S. stamps are only known with one or two available examples, and those can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you have a basic interest in U.S. stamps, focus that interest onto an era or subject that you want to collect and limit your stamp purchases to that area.
If you limit your U.S. collection, say, to the stamps issued from the 1922 definitive series up to the 1965 Prominent Americans definitive series (that's Scott 551 through 1276), you'll be building a reasonable collection of more than 700 different postage stamps with line-engraved designs covering more than 40 years.
Collecting stamps by topic is another way to enjoy the hobby without the constant pressure to fill all the empty spaces on a stamp album page. For most topics there are no preprinted albums, so the collector gets to decide exactly what he wants to collect and how he wants to collect it.
A collector interested in the theme of love on stamps, for example, will find that the items he needs generally cost less than classic U.S. rarities, and he's likely to be pleasantly surprised from time to time by finding reasonably priced stamps fitting his topic that he didn't know existed.
Figure 1 shows stamps sharing a theme of love from the United States and Ireland, as well as a first-day cover from Sweden for its nondenominated Love booklet stamps issued in 2000.
Many stamp dealers carry partial collections that have been sold to them by former collectors. If a dealer has a surplus of such collections, they may be available at bargain prices.
The example shown in Figure 2 contains several pages from a collection of good quality Danish stamps, priced far below the total catalog value of the stamps in the lot.
Each of these album pages bears a number of different stamps, providing a solid (and inexpensive) starting point for the collection, with plenty of collecting fun to build upon.
Stamp mixtures and packets also can help you develop your collection inexpensively. You may wind up with a number of duplicate stamps, but you can trade those with other collectors for additional stamps that you need.
If you don't know other collectors, you can meet them at your local stamp club. Joining a stamp club has several advantages besides opening opportunities for stamp trades.
Collectors talking with one another about the hobby share helpful information, such as which stamp dealer provides the best deals, how to order stamps cheaply through the mail or from overseas, where nearby stamp shows are taking place and much more.
Stamp shows provide the collector with an opportunity to do some real comparison shopping, comparing not only stamp quality and prices for individual items but also the inventories and expertise of the dealers present.
Information about stamp shows taking place in your area appears each week in the Stamp Events Calendar in Linn's Stamp News.
You can also click here to check the Stamp Events Calendar online.
— Michael Baadke, editor, Linn's Stamp News
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