Removing and buying stamps
Learning how to start a stamp collection
Starting a stamp collection is simple. Discarded envelopes will furnish the first stamps. Or new stamps can be bought at a post office. Stamp dealers sell both used and unused stamps.In most cities dealers have stores where they sell stamps.
Since 1921 the United States Post Office has maintained a Philatelic Agency in Washington for selling current stamps for collectors only. Stamps are sld in sheets, blocks of four, and occasionally in small souvenir sheets. Stamps may be bought on the first day of issue and afterwards. Some other countries and the Pan American Union also have philatelic agencies.
Collectors prize both the rarity and fine condition of their stamps. Only good luck or much money allows the collector to get a real rarity. But good condition, the second goal of a real collector, can be reached by a beginner. Anyone can look for stamps in the best possible condition. And with care and knowledge, he can keep them that way.
The best condition of a new stamp is described as mint. Such a stamp has all its original gum. New stamps that are well centered with even margins on each side and with all the perforations intact are more desirable. Used stamps should have no tears or creases, should have all the gum washed off the back, should have no thin spots or holes unless made by canceling. The lighter the cancellation on the stamp, the better.
Some stamps should never be removed from their convers. Generally, all stamps before 1900, stamps canceled in an unusual manner, and stamps canceled on the first day of issue should be kept on their covers. Any cover that shows it was sent by or to a famous person, or used in a hostoric situation should be kept intact. Unusual cancellations are those made on trains or ships, those made in a color different from the usual practise, those in which the killer has an unusual design, and those which show evidence of unusual postal service.
How to Remove Stamps
One good way to remove a stamp from an envelope is to tear off the corner with the stamp and soak it in clean warm water for about 15 minutes. But some stamps fade in water, and ink used in other dissolves. Some of these can be told by rubbing a silver coin over the face. If a black mark is left, do not soak it. A stamp catalog will also tell which stamps not to soak. If the stamp cannot stand soaking, float the paper on the water with the stamp up. When the paper under the stamp has been thoroughly soaked, the stamp can be peeled off.
Another method requires a metal box and two pieces of clean blotter. Soak one blotter and put it in the bottom of the box; and place the piece of envelope on the wet blotter with the stamp up, and cover it with the dry blotter. When the paper has become soaked, the stamp can be removed. Whatever method is used, the detached stamp should be placed face down on a clean blotter to dry.
How to Buy Stamps
Advertisements in stamp magazines use such terms as packet, set, and approval sheets. Packets are envelopes containing a specified number of stamps. The stamps may be a mixture with some duplicates; they may be all different. They may be all from one country, or with pictures relating to one subject, such as animals or exploration. Buying a packet of all different stamps is a good way to start a collection.
A set of stamps may be determined by a number of things. All the stamps bearing the same design, but in different denominations constitute a set. So do a number of stamps with different designs but all having a common subject. Approval sheets are sheets with stamps on them. Dealers send them on request. The collector picks out what he wants and returns the unwanted stamp with payment for those he keeps.
Sooner or later, the collector decides to have either a general or a specialized collection. Form a general collection, the beginner learns many strange and new things. But after a while, the strange becomes familiar. Then is the time to specialize. You can specialize to suit your own interests. There are no rules. You can collect stamps of one country, of a continent, of one denomination, or of certain subjects such as animals or ships.