You've chosen your stamp collecting area and you want to get into the hobby. You've lots of hours to fill this summer and stamp collecting can fill them. You've gotten the tools of the hobby to start your first stamp collection. But you'll also want to take advantage of the philatelic events and attractions available to the active collector. At summer's end you will have something to show for your efforts: the beginning of an awesome new stamp collection. But just as important, you'll also have gained experience in the stamp world.
Time Required: One Summer
Local stamp clubsThis is a good first stop on your summer stamp adventure. Most clubs have a "my favorite stamp" night or "show and tell" just like your early years in school. These will help you get to know what people like to collect and how a stamp's meaning can be unique to its owner. There are also trading sessions at club meetings, as well as mini-auctions, so you can trade your duplicates or bid to win a new stamp for your collection.
The InternetThere are as many topics in stamp collecting as IRL and back in the dark ages before chatboards and forums stamp collecting was a good way to find people who shared your interests. While it's good to get out and meet other collectors, it's also beneficial to frequent stamp sites online for connection to the stamp world.
Stamp showsThere are many shows held year round. If you are lucky enough to live in a metropolitan area you can attend one of the Megashows, or an American Philatelic Society world class show, full of exhibits and national stamp clubs' activities. But also be sure to check your local paper and online to see if there is a smaller local show near you.
Stamp shopsYes, there are a few good stamp shops left. At the good ones you get the personal attention you need when investing in stamps for your collection. And that you are able to pick up and examine those stamps close-up can’t be beat.
Special cancel stationsIf you live in a metropolitan area there could be a number of these offered over the summer. Special cancels add spice to a stamp collection, and real interest to a topical collection when they tie in nicely to your topic.
USPS philatelic windowsFor those who collect U.S. stamps these are a must. Make yourself known to the clerk by becoming a regular, even if your purchases are modest. These windows are not staffed by regular post office staff, but philatelists who will understand your needs. Remember, it is better to go to a USPS philatelic window than to try getting current stamps from the regular USPS clerk. The philatelic window has a greater selection of current stamps as well as those that go back over recent years. Call your local post office to see if they have a window. If not, they should be able to direct you to one.
The National Postal MuseumIt’s really worth the trip to Washington DC. You'll be amazed at the knowledge you can gain at the NPM about the United States’ postal progress through the years. You'll gain a different vantage point to view United States history. Think of it as a sort of a mail's-eye-view.
- After a period of learning at your stamp club, you’ll be able to show a rare stamp or cover and tell the story behind it to other club members who you will find are a captive and rapt audience. After a little experience in the stamp club you've chosen to join, you too can be a "stamp showoff.”
- While the variety of philatelic material at a large Megashow can’t be beat, dealers at smaller shows can often offer material more inexpensively as their cost of doing business is much less.
- Since the advent of the Internet, stamp shop numbers have been declining drastically. But in-person buying is still the way to go, if possible. Local stamp shops can be listed online, or in your phonebook's merchant pages.
- If you can’t get to a special pictorial cancelation station, the cancel can be obtained by writing to the postmaster of the town or city where it is available. There is usually a one month grace period to obtain it through the mail.
- Combined with a visit to the Smithsonian Institution a trip to the National Postal Museum packs a real one-two punch of American history. And although the NPM has a wonderful online presence, including an active twitter account, there's nothing like viewing their exhibits in person, or taking part in their events.
What You Need
- The desire to start a stamp collection
- Basic stamp collecting tools: album, tongs, catalog
- A $100 beginners stamp budget
- At least five hours a week you can devote to stamp collecting
- A firm decision about what you want to collect
- Subscription to a stamp publication listing philatelic shows, events, new issues
- Transportation to stamp club meetings and stamp shows