Each collector has to decide how much he wants to get into the hobby. Sometimes it is a conscious choice, based on budget and time constraints. But there are also the collectors who are seemingly gripped by philatelic phever, as obsessed with stamps and philately as the Las Vegas gambler who keeps pulling the handle or throwing the dice, seemingly oblivious to the real world around him.
Of course stamp collecting is a much more beneficial and in moderation can even be a therapeutic pastime. And usually, unlike the gambler, at the end of the game the collector may actually get something back for his efforts, as stamps of good quality always have a resale value.
So step one is deciding how much time and money you can invest in your hobby. While there will be times you will exceed the limits of both (that item you just have to have!; the extra hour you spend at the big stamp show), you'll basically hew to your collecting plan. Beyond the beginner's tools and actions there is the next step. What you need to get there:
Expose yourself to Philatelic Journalism
The American Philatelist is somewhat specialized, as it is the house organ for the American Philatelic Society. But it is quite accessible in most instances and is largely written by your fellow collectors. (Requires membership in the APS.)
Canadian Stamp News covers worldwide topics with a focus on Canada.
Gibbons Stamp Monthly is the one the collector of U.K. area material must have. Although it covers stamps worldwide it is in the area of Great Britain and British Commonwealth philately where Gibbons truly shines. A bit specialist for some, but quite accessible to the somewhat advanced collector. A good entry point for the collector about to go from beginner to advanced.
Stamp Magazine is a fairly new entry in the British stamp journalism market, it is not as specialized as the Gibbons Monthly. But it does have interesting and informative articles. Published by the same group that gives collectors the British Stamp Market Values yearly catalog and checklist.
Linn's Stamp News is a worldwide stamp collecting newspaper that is the healthiest of the small lot of publications available on this side of the pond. It has suffered like all print media, but is adapting and includes an impressive website.
Mekeel's is a real oldtimer that was around to give stamp collecting advice and news to your great great grandpa. U.S. material given primary focus. Mekeel's is now a spiffy new website (among other things) at Stamp News Now.
Steps to Your Next Level of Stamp Collecting
Catalog Knowledge -- Really get to know how to us the catalog covering your area of interest. You may have a catalog that covers your area, whether it is a country or a topic. But if all you are doing is using it to find values, or to use as a checklist, you are missing out. Any good catalog like those from Stanley Gibbons or Scott will have important information for the collector including stamp paper, watermarks, printing techniques, etc.
Specialize -- You can't collect it all. You will be frustrated. Specialize in one area, create a great collection while casually enjoying a side area, related or not to your main collecting area.
Find a mentor -- This is important. Today it might be a little harder when many collectors are buying from a faceless dealer online. A little insider info and helpful philatelic guidance can go a long way in enabling you to enjoy your hobby to the fullest.
Join a stamp club -- Stamp clubs include all sorts of benefits: sharing of information; access to stamps that you can trade for; a newsletter. Not to mention the camaraderie.
Keep Records -- Get a notebook to archive the information, clippings and notes about your topic. You many also want to keep notice of new issues in the notebook, which you can use as an ongoing checklist to keep track of the stamps you've acquired, as well as the ones you still need. Or create a separate want list. If you are more tech oriented you will want a digital want list in one of your devices. But whether you are doing it via the old print method, or digitally, keep track of things or you will be sure to lose your way.