Stamp Albums or Stockpages

When my eight year-old daughter began to show an interest in collecting stamps, I considered getting her a beginner type worldwide stamp album.  There was a moment when I considered opting for stockpages instead just as I was passing over the money.  But I thought she may as well start out right with a full-blown album.  While she was on fire for the hobby on day one, by day 5 that fire was just a few sorry embers.  Some time later she asked for one of the stockpages I had laying around to put in a few newly acquired stamps.  Later still, on a day when I was ill, I had found that she had spent a goodly portion of the day arranging and rearranging her stamps in a few stockpages.

building her collection her way…

What I found was that the stockpages appealed to her more for several reasons.  One, they made viewing and placing her stamps more fun and kid friendly without the worry.  Two, they allowed for changing (or more accurately developing) her preferences.  Every once and a while now I see her pull out her stamps and stockpages.  She tries to tell me what her latest plans are but I admittedly don’t really understand much of what she’s talking about.  But one thing is for certain, my daughter is building her collection her way and enjoying it more than I could have hoped for…developing a love for collecting stamps in a way I never could have taught her to.

Anyone have similar (or differing) experiences?

— James the Web guy (originally posted in 2006)

What are Approvals?

In his 1957 book, Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting, Richard Cabeen describes the purchasing of stamps on approval as “one of the most important methods used in buying and selling stamps”.  In fact, Cabeen discusses stamps on approval first over all other methods of acquiring collectible stamps.  So, what is the “on approval” thing and why is it so important?

Most collectors do not live close to a stamp dealer.  Nor do they have access to huge numbers of U.S. and Worldwide stamps.  Even if they do live close to a stamp dealer, who can find time with today’s hectic pace of life?  Enter Approvals.  Stamp approvals bring the stamp dealer stock directly to your door.  The dealer mails you a quantity of stamps for you to view and hopefully approve.  You keep and purchase those stamps you like, or of which you approve, and mail the rest back to the dealer.

You can see why approvals are so important for seasoned stamp collectors.  But they are also great for those just beginning  the stamp collecting hobby since they can very quickly and easily view a number of collectible stamps they’d never otherwise see.

– James the Web guy

See Also:  77 Years of of Stamp Collectors’ Approval

Kids and Collecting Pt 2

My friends tell me I’m stuck in the 80’s. Who decided parachute pants were “out” anyway? I can’t force myself to like something just because it’s popular. I also can’t stop liking what I like (or digging what I dig, if you will). As much as I have a hard time understanding it, it’s the same for the current generation.

I’ve tried to impress my daughter with topicals that seemed like young girl topics to me. When she wasn’t interested in flowers on stamps or horses on stamps, I thought perhaps the critics were right. Luckily though, I found that given a wide variety of stamps, my child was very much capable of developing her own taste in topics. In fact, much to my surprise, she was interested in country specific worldwide stamps since she was learning about certain countries in school. If you find yourself up against the same, give our Mixtures or Packets a try. Not only can you snag a large quantity of affordable stamps but you can do so online so you can keep on the parachute pants without worry of laughter.

— James the Web guy

Stamp Soaking

So, you’ve saved a few hundred envelopes with stamps or purchased a stamp mixture. Now how do you get them off that paper? It may sound odd to first timers but you simply let them soak in cool to room temperature water for 5-10 minutes. But first, be certain that the envelope itself isn’t a First Day Cover or have some other historical or personal significance. If it does, it’s better to archive the whole envelope. While so much is made of safe handling, it seems plain wrong to dump your stamps in water. While very few stamps have ink that runs after being doused, current US stamps do not.

Once you’re sure you wish to remove the stamps from their paper select a container large enough to give your stamps plenty of room to soak. Selecting too small a container or using too little water will make the gum (or glue) concentration in the water damage your stamps. So, use plenty of cool to room temperature water. Once the stamps have soaked for 5 to 10 minutes, carefully remove them, one by one, from the water and peel the paper from the stamp. Then place the stamp face down on a blotter or newspaper. When using newspaper, use only news print with low-rub ink. If your hands are black after reading the paper, it’s not low rub.

Once all your stamps have shed their paper and face down on the blotter, give them time to dry. When they have dried, they’re ready to be placed in an album, stock card, or other enclosure.

— James the Web guy

Kids and Collecting Part 3

Anyone half interested in collecting stamps has heard the talk of today’s kids not being interested in stamps. Perhaps there’s a shred of truth to that. But that same truth can be applied to most items that kids collect. Are rocks exciting? They can be, I suppose. But the point is that rocks don’t have to have images of the latest cartoon characters or the latest boy band for a child to pick it up and put it in his pocket. Nor do they have to be rare and valuable. The fact that they are common and easily found makes looking for a different one all that much more meaningful. These same factors still apply to stamps. So, why aren’t more kids collecting stamps these days?

One contributing factor is certainly the fact that much of any given day’s mail is metered mail (printed rather than stamped). Another is that busy parents are less likely to ask post office clerk to view the varieties available. Instead, we use a machine, the Web, or just ask for a book of stamps. It looks like both of those reasons are related more to adults than factors controllable by children. And on a rainy day, which requires less effort on the part of the parent: dragging out the stamp collection and answering questions; or, handing them the remote?

So, where’s our defense as parents? I’m a parent too. All of the above are also related to time…a commodity that continues to dwindle with each new generation. For our kids to learn to take time to collect stamps, we have to do the same. It’s actually a refreshing thought. Take an hour or so the next time you have a chance. Upon your child’s first glance at a pile of stamps, the likely first question will be, “which one is your favorite”? From that moment forward, collecting stamps may be one of those few loves you and your child share for years to come.

— James the Web guy

What is a Stamp Packet

Don’t all purchased collectible postage stamps come in a packet, glassine, or package of some kind? Sure. But the term packet refers more to the diversity of different packets available. For instance, there are country specific packets. There are United States stamp packets, Russia stamp packets, etc.. There are also packets categorized by topic like butterflies on stamps, trains on stamps, and scouts on stamps. There are even packets categorized, or grouped, by stamp type like commemoratives or triangle stamps.

So, the term packet doesn’t necessarily refer to the enclosure but rather the grouping and quantity. Ok, what’s the big deal about packets and why are they beneficial to add to a stamp collection. As previously mentioned, as you begin to collect you will develop your tastes. Hopefully you will have many favorites but you will likely start with a few. So, if you find that you really like ships on stamps and you have approximately 2 hours per week to enjoy your hobby. With that, you may wish to start with a packet of 500 ships topical stamps.

So, you see now, the term packet is more like a unit by which a measure (quantity of stamps) and type (category, style, or stamp topic) helps a collector quickly add to their collection.

— James the Web guy

Finding Rare Postage Stamps

Is it even possible to find rare postage stamps these days? One of the things that I feel makes this hobby so exciting is the possibility of finding a true treasure. Think about it. Unlike most other collectibles, postage stamps–while on a letter–were often tucked safely away. While many collectibles are stored away safely, letters of significance were and are often protected for later review whether the owner collected stamps or not. Non collectors generally disregard the stamp entirely. This means that while the entire letter or postcard may be preserved, the owner would have no idea what stamp was on it.

Ever hear of the story of the woman who placed an ad to accumulate used stamps for wallpaper? This was soon after the first stamps were issued in England. Most of the big headline type stamps were preserved as known collectibles. Imagine what’s still out there, perhaps in a relative’s attic, that remains unaccounted for.

I remember when metal detectors were all the rage. Unless something was discovered relatively quickly, most metal detectors collected dust for the rest of their lives. But when searching for stamps on old mail, even when the search produces few real treasures, you still enjoy the trip back through history.

— James the Web guy

The Value of a Stamp

Just a few days ago I talked about the value of a stamp or coin going beyond monetary terms. I stand by that. But having stamps in your collection that have a high dollar value is exciting. In fact, seeing just one or two stamps having a higher catalog value than what you paid for the packet is exciting. So, how do you find this value figure?

First, while checking retail prices may be a indicator of some level of value, you cannot really go by that dollar amount to determine the value of your stamp. The reason is simple and the same reason for why you can’t really judge the value of your car by looking in a car lot or even dog food by checking the average price at the grocery store. The reason is that these retail outlets incur costs obtaining and delivering these items.

Now, as to where you find the value. The Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue is the first reference you should check. Most public libraries have at least the volume containing US stamp issues. If you do find that you may have something of value that you wish to sell or that isn’t listed, you might want to contact out buying department from our Sell Your Stamps page.

As a last note, I hear talk of value most often in discussions where people tell me they wish they had not sold their collection. While checking value can be exciting, just remember that dollar signs aren’t as rewarding as the hobby itself.

— James the Web guy

Stamp Cancel Marks

We were soaking off some stamps the other day and noticed that some of the stamps had large, almost defacing cancel marks on them. Obviously, their purpose is to mark the stamp as having been used. But one would think that postal service would do their best not to destroy any aesthetic value of the stamp(s).

We’re not talking about just one or two stamps either. It seems that most of the stamps from Christmas letters had this problem. I don’t mean to harp on the postal workers. Certainly, they have plenty to do without worrying about lightly canceling stamps. But with all the technology available today, it would seem that less destructive ways of canceling stamps would exist. Do we really need large black marks to prevent the possibility of someone reusing postage stamps? I’ve heard that some offices are using spray on cancels but have yet to see any in my little town.

— James the Web guy

Sports and Stamps

No, I’m not talking about Sports on Stamps topicals. I’m talking about teamwork. It’s basketball season so let’s talk basketball. The NBA is gearing up for the playoffs and we’re knee deep in March Madness. Contrary to what commercials and media hype would have us believe, championship teams are built from a group…not just a single marquis player. Sure, marquis players get all the hype. But alone, they do not win championships.

The same goes for your stamp collection. Unless the goal is to simply keep up with the Jonses, build your collection as a whole and for yourself. Some scoff at postage stamps from certain countries or certain topics. But this is not a hobby restricted to those who believe their tastes are elite.

Don’t get me wrong. Championship teams have stars and so should your collection. But if you have only a handful of prize stamp issues, this won’t be much of a hobby. Feel free to explore countries you’ve never heard of and cannot pronounce. Also, building a championship pro team requires being budget minded. Don’t be afraid to buy a few bargain packets.

— James the Web guy