What is Stamp Collecting

It’s surprising just how often the question, “What is Stamp Collecting?” is asked.  This seems to request a more thorough answer than the obvious.  Of course, stamp collecting is the act of collecting stamps.  (Remember the last time you got away with giving a definition like that…2nd grade, maybe?)  Often, it seems, that the real question is related to the difference between stamp collecting and philately.  More often, however, I believe the question is really about how a collector goes about their hobby.  The fact that the question is asked at all implies that this hobby differs greatly from others.  I’ve never heard, “What is Kite Flying?”, for example.

What makes stamp collecting so unique from other hobbies?

The terms Stamp Collecting and Philately are often used interchangeably in modern use.  Mary H. Lawson of the National Postal Museum defined philately as “the study and collection of stamps”.  Others have differentiated among the two terms further by describing philately as more of a science.  That science is studying stamp collectors and the hobby itself while not necessarily participating in it.  Hmmm.  That sounds like it could be summarized as the hobby of studying the hobby.  Nevertheless, Stamp Collecting must be a pretty unique hobby to have a separate word to define its study!  What makes it so unique?

…a hobby with an astronomical variety of collectibles

For one, it would be realistically impossible to collect one of every single stamp ever to exist.  Even it it were possible, what about all the different postmarks of used stamps, the differences in centering, or conditions?  Ok, so stamp collecting is a hobby with an astronomical variety of collectibles.  But that’s not what makes it really unique.  After all, a person could collect grains of sand I suppose.  The real reason why it is such a unique hobby is the number ways a person can categorize stamps and the order in which they do so.

Many a beginning stamp collector will start with a set of stamps from a particular country or those of a specific theme.  But their journey and their eventual collection will be uniquely patterned by those stamps which pique their continually evolving interests.   A Stamps on Approval customer may ask to examine and consider the purchase of stamps from Canada and those depicting mushrooms.  Their interest in Canada may lead to hockey stamps.  That leads to Olympics stamps, which leads to Great Britain, WWII…royalty, and eventually first day covers from Great Britain.  The possibilities are endless.

Stamp Collecting is the journey one takes between his or her very first stamp and their last!

The otherwise obvious definition of stamp collecting doesn’t work.  So, just what is stamp collecting?  Stamp Collecting is the journey one takes between his or her very first stamp and their last!  In this way, every stamp collection is 100% unique.  And that is why the hobby can only be truly defined by the collector themselves.

What is a Stamp Packet

Don’t all purchased collectible stamps come in a packet, glassine envelope, or package of some kind?  Sure.  But the term stamp packet refers more to the diversity of different packets available.  For instance, there are country specific packets.  There are United States stamp packets, British stamp packets, stamp packets from Macau, etc..  There are also Topical Stamp packets categorized by topic like Disney Stamps, Aviation, Mushrooms, and many more.  You’ll find that there are so many ways to categorize and collect stamps.  And there are packets for almost every category imaginable.  There are even packets categorized, or grouped, by stamp type like commemoratives or triangle stamps.

what’s the big deal about stamp packets?

So, stamp packet in stamp collecting terminology doesn’t necessarily refer to the enclosure but rather the grouping and quantity.  Ok, so what’s the big deal about packets?  And why are they beneficial to add to a stamp collection?  Like we previously wrote, as you begin collecting stamps you will develop your own preferences.  Hopefully you will have many favorites.  But you will likely start with a few.  So, say you find that you really like Maps & Globes and you have approximately 2 hours per week to enjoy your hobby.  You may wish to start with a packet of 100 maps and globes topical stamps.

So, 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