The hobby is changing before our eyes and this means that some of the traditional ways that one collects are changing. While experienced collectors may go grudgingly into the brave new world of philately through computers and technology, they at least have the benefit of knowing where they've been. To the new collector it is all new.
What the New Stamp Collector Faces
You can't get stamps from mail -- One of the old standbys for new collectors, get your relatives and friends to get stamps for you. Most of our mail is being sent with meters and preprinted postage.
Get a good magnifying glass to examine the stamps you want to purchase.
Well, yes and no. Smart phone and mobile devices now have cameras of such resolution that they are becoming the go-to way to examine stamps close up: take a picture and enlarge it on the spot to get a microscopic view. But you should have a magnifier on general principals.
Don’t buy that stamp -- it may be a fake
It was once true that expertizing stamps cold be pricey and could take weeks for turnaround. If one doubted a stamp's authenticity, the hassle of getting it checked out made some collectors simply decide not to buy. This has changed to the point where in some cases your stamp can be examined by an expert online and given a thumbs up or down within hours.
The goal is completion of your collecting area
Many in earlier generations of collectors felt duty bound to attempt a complete worldwide collection. It was actually impossible then; it is even more impossible now and no one is pretending that anyone can come close anymore. This isn't really new information, but it is worth repeating -- specialization is the way to go.
A used stamp collection is a better and more inexpensive way to collect
This was a fact for generations, but no more. As less and less mail arrives bearing stamps, the harder it becomes to find used examples for your collection. This has the interesting collateral effect of making the new collector go to dealers to buy mint examples of their stamps. But the good news is that the Internet has made it less expensive for countries issuing stamps to set up their own sales divisions. Mostly it is now unnecessary to go to new issue dealers to get the stamps you need...and pay a premium to get them. Though you will pay more than for used examples.
It is helpful for collectors and dealers to know each other
Most collecting is done long distance today -- the collector and dealer may never meet face to face. The old joy of going to a stamp shop or stamp show and having a dealer pull out philatelic material he's save just for your collection may not occur. That is why it is important to be specific with your dealer. Be sure to email him your want list and be specific about your priorities.
Get new catalogs, literature and a subscription to a stamp publication
This was once a major expense for the new collector who wanted to learn about the hobby. Buying catalogs and specialty literature could take a big chunk out of one's stamp budget. Now, with all the experts in chat rooms and message boards, you can ask the questions you have and get them answered without the need for a reference library. And you can get the basic knowledge you need without spending a cent.
Note however that such convenience is not a substitute for philatelic reference works, if you feel that book learning is the way to go. Be aware that many specialty publications are expensive and digitization of them, if a thought at all, is probably not happening anytime soon. And as for entertaining news and up to the minute information, a stamp publication can still be a very useful -- and for some, essential -- addition to your stamp collecting aids.
Joining a stamp club is easier than ever
Those who have been on the Internet for a while know that it is valuable for meeting people online who actually become friends and acquaintances in the real world. This is especially true of stamp collecting, where a stamp friend online is like a super-penpal of an earlier day. Distance melts away as you Instant Message about things philatelic with a collector friend a half a world away. The better clubs keep their distant members updated with websites and emails, great advantages that earlier collectors could only dream of.
It is a slender line though, as many join the world of stamp collecting to slow down and savor relaxed hours with their stamps and postal history items. In that light, one can understand that some collectors may prefer to cling to traditions, even as a new world would seem to make them obsolete.
But as the new collector soon learns there are no hard and fast rules to dictate how one must collect. Once the new basics are learned the stamp collector can go in any number of directions, limited only by his desires.