Any intermediate or advanced collectors can leave the room for this one. This is for the beginners who have investigated the hobby and come to the conclusion that it is too expensive to get into. But that's not true, although looking around at the first things you'll probably see (as in the real world the most visible are always the most advertised and the most expensive) you'd never know without a bit of investigation that stamps are available that will not break the bank.
Starting Out on a Budget
It is always a joy when one gets a new album, full of all those empty spaces, just waiting for you to fill with stamps. Non-collectors may not get the appeal, but really, that's their loss.
Many people decide to collect on a whim. Or perhaps something has occurred in their life that has brought added stress, necessitating a hobby. It's hard to imagine a more relaxed hobby than stamp collecting. Men of power and position like Roosevelt, King George V, and Nicolas Sarkozy made it their stress-reliever of choice. If men with the weight of the world on their shoulders get something out of it, imagine what it can do for you.
It seemed as though President Franklin Roosevelt had just about everyone in his administration looking for items to add to his collection. Envelopes with foreign stamps that came into the various governmental departments were accumulated and brought to FDR to examine to see if they were worth adding to his collection. Former French President Sarkozy is an ardent philatelist and received gifts of stamps from the likes of former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But I'll make a leap in logic here and assume you're not a president or king (yes, George V was quite the collector in his day) and you don't get philatelic gifts from world leaders, statesmen and dignitaries.
Those new to stamps will find that it's not all mint stamps and mint post office sets, pricey subscription first day cover services, or investment programs that offer remarkable stamps advertised to be the best available and priced accordingly. These sparkly, elite items may be something you'd want later, but at the beginning it's best to keep expenditure low and experimentation at a minimum.
Affordable Stamps for the New Collector
There is plenty available for the new collector to make him believe he is making a wise purchase that will somehow pay off down the line. There are many in the hobby who know how to make the collector become a believer. One really can't call these dealers frauds, but aside from selling stamps it seems many of them have a side career in gilding lilies.
Your earliest days of stamp collecting aren't filled with glamour. Those days are the time to roll up your sleeves and become a stamp collector from the bottom up. Please forget the old advice that it is good to start out by getting your stamps from mailboxes - yours and others. There are not enough stamps used on mail anymore to make this practice worthwhile. Buy large packets, mixtures, even killoware if you are truly seized by the passion. But don't spend too much, as the fires of passion have been known to sputter out quickly in some cases.
You are armed with your album, a catalog for values and identification, hinges (for the used stamps) and mounts (for the mint). Here's a tip on mounts: be aware of what your mint stamps are worth before going ahead and putting them all in mounts. The time, effort and money to do this aren't justified in the case of many stamps. As you sort, keep a stock book handy. Put your duplicates - i.e., the ones that don't fit into the album - in the stock book for later trading with other collectors or sale on eBay or another online venue.
Where Your Stamps' Value Lies
The great thing about being a true stamp collector is that it is not necessarily the high priced items in your collection that you prize most. As time passes and you become a seasoned collector and decide to add stamps of greater value to your collection you will not neglect the stamps that held your fascination when the philatelic excitement first stirred in you. It's all very well to spend hundreds of dollars on a rare stamp. But there is an old cliché that works very well when it comes to stamp collecting: money can't buy happiness.