Getting stuck on stamp collecting


NEW YORK – It seems like another year, another postage hike. Just think – the first United States stamps, issued July 1, 1847, were 5 cents (Benjamin Franklin) and 10 cents (George Washington).

Now at 37 cents, times have changed. But one thing hasn’t – people still collect stamps.

Shortly after adhesive postage stamps were introduced in Great Britain in 1840, people began collecting them and the tradition has stuck.

The challenge. Some like to learn about the designs, others view them as works of art. The beauty of stamp collecting is that you can collect whatever you want at whatever price.

Even better, no collection is ever complete, giving a philatelist (a person who practices stamp collecting) an ongoing challenge.

Start off by getting stamp supplies, catalogs and stamps from stamp dealers. If you can’t find a local dealer, ask a member of a local stamp club. He or she can tell you where to get what you need.

Stamp clubs. Sometimes clubs order supplies, so you can submit your order with the clubs’. Consider joining a club to learn some tricks of the trade from fellow collectors. The collectible value of a stamp is determined by the quantity available, the demand and its condition.

Some stamps are 100 years old, but a billion or more were printed, making it impossible for them to become rare. When demand surpasses supply, the stamp’s value hikes.

Stamps in the best condition sell at the highest value; serious collectors search for stamps in the best condition.

Definitions. Read on for a lesson on stamp terminology.

Mint means the stamp has remained in its original state of issue, unused and with full gum. Original gum means the gum on the back of the stamp is the same gum applied during manufacturing.

Super centering means the design of the stamp is perfectly centered and the margins around all sides of the stamp are equal.

No flaws means no creases, tears or missing perforations on the stamp.

Two denominations. Overprint means any printing added to the face of a stamp after its manufacture. Semipostal means the stamp carries two denominations on its face, to both pay for postage and make a charitable contribution.

A regular issue stamp is usually one color, small and printed in mass quantities to stay on sale for several years. Regular issue U.S. stamps often depict historically famous U.S. citizens, the U.S. flag or historical artifacts.

Made to honor. Commemorative stamps are issued in honor of an important event, person or special subject. Generally larger and more colorful than regular stamps, commemorative stamps are sold for limited periods of time.

Finally, coil stamps are stamps sold in vending machines in rolls, perforated on the horizontal or vertical side, with the other sides cut straight.


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