One usually begins with a packet and a starter album -- it is enough at the beginning to find the space to put the stamps and say you are a stamp collector. But if one keeps on in this way for a time, the album runs out of spaces and you'll wind up with a bunch of homeless stamps that have no space in that starter album. What then? Well, a larger album obviously, that will accommodate a greater number of stamps. But is that all there is to it?
Think of stamp collecting as a pool -- you can have plenty of fun splashing around in the shallow end, but then you see others in the deep end enjoying themselves and cutting through the water with graceful strokes and seemingly greater purpose than you have found.
The beginner stamp collector might stay where he is -- enjoying the simple pleasures where he is. But many collectors find that curiosity gets the better of them and decide to make a move into advanced collecting, or more, the world of philately, where stamps are not just collected but actually studied. It is a move not to be taken lightly.
One needn't fear moving up. There is a fine support system in the upper reaches of stamp collecting, starting with other collectors who will be happy to show you the ropes and continuing on to local stamp clubs and large national organizations like the American Philatelic Society, where those craving real knowledge of their stamps will find the information they desire.
But stamp collecting being a solitary pursuit, there are those who prefer to get their knowledge in the trenches -- going to shows, perusing ads and auction catalogs to get a feel for the stamp market, picking stamp dealers' brains, and generally getting their information on the street. Those who go it alone can get a good education at the school of hard knocks, and knocked around they will be, as stamp collecting is full of pitfalls for the unwary.
Hopping on the Philatelic Bus
You may do something as simple as attend a first day cover ceremony. This is a good way to see how the wheels of stamp collecting actually turn, as collectors, postal officials, stamp artists, higher ups in the bigger stamp clubs mingle together to take part in what, for the stamp collector, is an important and exciting event: the release of a new stamp. The new collector can even wait for a stamp that falls into his sphere of interests, as the variety of stamps, from presidents to movie stars to fruit to abstract art are all things that can be found on stamps. You're sure to find collectors that share your interest, making bonding over a mutual love of philately an easy accomplishment.
Though there are many who will be helpful, there are also those that will meet your basic questions with a blank look, as they find the interests of the neophyte beneath them. This is why reading stamp periodicals is important: there are frequently articles aimed at the beginner in the mainstream philatelic press, while specialists go to specific publications in their area. They have learned that one can't take in the whole of stamp collecting, so have settled on their favorite area, whether airmail, a topical like flowers on stamps, 19th century postal history, or any of countless popular areas. After all, stamps reflect every aspect of real life, making it easy for a collector to find an area that appeals to him.
As more and more philatelic information becomes available over the Internet, the basic stamp collector can be stunned by the amount of study and information available. Luckily there are those who are trying to put it all into an organized state. It is a job that must be done as many articles and publications of the past, often released in limited numbers, have been lost to the ravages of time.