1. Begin With The MailboxMake your interest known to friends and neighbors. Tell them you are starting to collect and ask them to save any envelopes with stamps on them (no meter mail, thanks!) for you. If you know anyone in a job where a lot of mail is received on a daily basis -- a bank or a newspaper office -- ask them to save those envelopes.
2. The Right ToolsObtain basic tools of the hobby. The minimum to start should include: stamp tongs; a stock book for storage of duplicates; an album for display; watermark detection fluid and a magnifier.
3. Buy the BookThere are a number of choices but if you are collecting U.S. the most authoritative source for information about U.S. stamps issued from 1847 to today is Scott's Standard Specialized Catalog Of U.S. Stamps and Covers. Read this catalog. It is packed with information that you, as a collector of U.S. stamps will need to know to be an informed collector. If you stick with the hobby and become a serious collector you will wear out several of these indispensible volumes.
4. Give Your Stamps a Good HomeDecide how you want to organize your material. You must do this early in your collecting. If you don't you'll be shocked at how quickly things become a disorganized mess. So, ask yourself: Do you want to make your own pages, or buy commercially printed albums and pages from publishers like Minkus and Scott? There are two schools of thought on this. First, the commercial albums leave no guesswork: there are spaces for the stamps you will acquire, so, voila -- instant organization! On the other hand many collectors decide that they prefer a more personalized collection and design and print their own pages.
5. Hot Off The Stamp PressesBuy new issues as they come out at your post office. You will be paying the cheapest price these stamps will ever see -- face value. After the PO they will only be for sale from dealers, who must mark them up to make a profit. To obtain some of the older U.S. stamps in used condition, packets are a good place to get quantity at reasonable prices. Play with your stamps! Get to know them, put them in your album, or in the case of duplicates in your stockbook.
6. Knowledge Is PowerSubscribe to one of the philatelic newspapers. Though not as numerous as they once were, there are still good ones like McKeel’s and Linn's. Linn's is the one with the most extensive new issue news as well as basic news and information of use to the collector. It publishes weekly and is available online.
7. A Penny Saved Is a Stamp EarnedAt this point, as you graduate from packet material and start considering paying several dollars and upward for a single stamp, you should be setting a budget for yourself. You will see a lot you will want that you won't be able to buy without spending the grocery money. Resist that urge! Remember, stamp collecting is a hobby for a lifetime. So take your time.
8. Stick TogetherMeet others who share your interest. It is easy to find clubs online or listed in papers like Linn's. The biggest organization of collectors in the U.S. is The American Philatelic Society. Their many chapters are located throughout the country and one may be the local group you want to join.
9. Know Your Dealer
Ask existing collectors who their favorite dealers are. Not all dealers are created equal and it is important that you buy your stamps from dealers you trust and have faith in. Although The American Stamp Dealer's Association will give you a list of their members, not all dealers are members of that group. Many a good stamp has been acquired from a "kitchen table dealer" who is too small to be a member of the ASDA.