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How to collect stamps - guide to stamp collecting basics

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Stamp Smarter: Buying stamps online internationally

Stamp Smarter: Buying stamps online internationallyI still remember how nervous I was when I signed up with eBay in the early 2000s. Despite I had been buying (and selling) actively at domestic stamp auctions for about a decade, doing things globally was like any first time. I was largely going with the flow and following my instincts. Needless to say a lot of trial and error has occurred in these 15 years, but I could not imagine a world otherwise , and these days about 75% of my stamp budget goes to various online dealers and auction houses around the globe. I think many worldwide stamp collectors have experienced a somewhat similar globalization of sources in recent decades, but I also know that some are still 'stuck' with the old way of buying locally only. Hopefully this post will provide some food for the thought as well as encouragement to step outside the local pool of suppliers. And if nothing more, this will hopefully provide non-European collectors a different kind of perspective what the life of collector is alike inside EU. ...(2276 words,5 images, 3 comments)

Storage for worldwide stamp collection - the grand cost comparison, 2017 edition

Storage for worldwide stamp collection - the grand cost comparison, 2017 editionWay back in year 2009 I wrote a seven part article series where I went through all the major storage alternatives for worldwide stamp collections, and estimated the approximate cost of each system when collecting the world from 1840 to date. Back then the lowest cost storage system was established with stock books, whereas using stock cards was four times more costly. Do these results still hold true or has the situation changed? ...(1757 words,8 images, 24 comments)

Poll: Stamps or knowledge. Which should come first?

I know there are two schools about this question, but how do you feel about it? Should you obtain stamps first, and then go in hunt of knowledge. Or do you first prefer to learn everything there is to know, and then head out in search of specimens? I confess I've been a 'stamps first' kind of collector pretty much throughout my life, but maybe not out of my own free will. ...(300 words, images, 38 comments)

Stamp identification tricks and tips

Stamp identification tricks and tipsWay back in May I was asked/suggested to write an article about how to identify stamps ID.  Though the task may sound somewhat trivial for seasoned world collectors, it is definitely one area where everybody struggles at times. Instead of the usual 'open the catalog and start browsing' advice I'll try to give a bit more concrete and more advanced tips on stamp identification.  Many of these will definitely require a bit more effort than typing 'can you please id this for me' - but if you want to master stamp identification on the long run, then all this is IMHO crucial knowledge. ...(2271 words,10 images, 4 comments)

Fifteen-thousand different worldwide stamps for 40€ - a deal too good to be true?

Fifteen-thousand different worldwide stamps for 40€ - a deal too good to be true?If you are not familiar with major auction house listings, the usual sales talk of worldwide collections/lots goes something like this: '{Spectacular BIG adjective} A to Z worldwide collection covering from {startyear} to {endyear}. {Some inaccurate way to describe that there can be anything from few hundred to tens of thousands of stamps} from all parts of the world housed in {some storage method}. Mostly of modest value, but a quick browse reveals there are {insert a list of baits here}. Fine to very fine condition {like always}. Estimate: some three to five-digit sum plus auction fee'. Stamp auction listings like these make worldwide collectors crazy because they rarely give away anything truly specific (which really does not make any sense in this era of online listings), but the vague description and high estimate lets you anticipate it will be worth the money. I confess that I too drool for lots like these, but because of the high cost never bid or buy. ...(964 words,3 images, 6 comments)

Three practical tips every stamp collector can use to supercharge the way they collect

Three practical tips every stamp collector can use to supercharge the way they collectIt seems my last week’s post hit a nerve of some sorts as it generated far more responses than usual. I think the post also pointed out one of the reason why blogs and online communities have become somewhat popular among collectors: they are not just ‘dry’ technical knowledge but also bring up real world problems, solutions and best practices that others can possibly learn, adopt and adapt for their collections. Below I'll share three practical and low-cost stamp tips every collector can (and IMHO should) use to supercharge the way they collect. ...(783 words,3 images, 19 comments)

Review of Edwin Delsing's 'Qualität von Briefmarken'

Review of Edwin Delsing's 'Qualität von Briefmarken'There are a lot of stamp books worth reading out there, and one of those is Edwin J.F. Delsing's 'Qualität von Briefmarken - Zur einstufung der erhaltung von Briefmarken' (roughly translated, 'Stamps and quality - advice on grading of stamps', published 2015). I acknowledge most non-German collectors will never read this 150-page book simply because the title is in German only. But I'm still going to educate you about it, because this is most likely the only (proper) scholarly study about different types of faults and damages on stamps, a topic that every collector should have proper working knowledge. ...(455 words,2 images, 6 comments)

Is the cost of becoming a stamp collector too high for the kids of today?

Is the cost of becoming a stamp collector too high for the kids of today?A while back SCF discussions had a statement that stopped me. "The thing is, it took weeks of researching how to collect to even discover Steiner's pages. And I still had to invest $100 into a Scott catalogue, $100 into mounts (I refuse to use hinges), and then the cost of the stamps. The barrier of entry to the hobby was just so high that I can't imagine kids these days being willing to go down the route of building albums.". I acknowledge the author had written the statement from 'adult american perspective', but is it genuinely so? ...(855 words,2 images, 26 comments)

Good buy vs. bad buy

Good buy vs. bad buyOver the past month I've been corresponding with fellow stamp collector from Poland, and one of the topics we've discussed in more detail has been the quality of stamps lots available (on the Internet). As I lately acquired yet another 'small bulk lot' of stamps to work on, I thought I'd share some statistics about it, and what in my humble opinion separates a good buy from a bad one. ...(476 words,2 images, 14 comments)

Keeping track of long and complex stamp series pt.2 - case of South African definitives of 1926/1954

Keeping track of long and complex stamp series pt.2 - case of South African definitives of 1926/1954It's been roughly two years since I shared some of my practices about keeping long and complex stamp series in order. As my techniques have matured a bit further, I think an update to the topic is well deserved. As a case example, I'm using the South African definitives of 1926/1954 that gave me hours of fun during the rainy summer days of June. ...(503 words,9 images, 3 comments)

A new, more detailed look into number of different worldwide stamps issued

A new, more detailed look into number of different worldwide stamps issuedWay back in June 2009 I wrote a piece called Is a complete all-era worldwide stamp collection possible?. AFAIK it was (and still is) one of the few pieces that try to go into detail what's listed inside (Michel) worldwide stamp catalogues and the challenges worldwide collector faces if trying to build a complete collection. ...(908 words,3 images, 62 comments)

Case of bad teeth

Case of bad teethIn few hours time I'm heading to local dentist to show him a tooth that I chipped badly last Thursday. I fear it's a goner, so I dedicate this post to (importance of) all sorts of teeth issues. As this a stamp blog, I'll focus largely around the various "stamp teeth" (perforation) issues that make stamps not so collectible. ...(336 words,4 images, 4 comments)

Long definitive stamp series - how to keep track of what You have / need?

Long definitive stamp series - how to keep track of what You have / need? In my opinion one of the hardest (but also the most interesting) challenges of stamp collecting are long definitive sets that span into all possible directions. The most notorious ones, like UK Machin stamps and Norwegian posthorns feature hundreds of major types scattered all across the stamp catalog timeline, and the varieties easily double or triple the number of items to collect. These are a huge challenge to keep track for anyone. ...(841 words,4 images, 13 comments)

Stamps, quality and grading: Quality of cancel / postmark

Stamps, quality and grading: Quality of cancel / postmarkMost stamp catalogs do a somewhat decent job in displaying the various quality levels of cancelled stamps. However, IMO there are surprisingly large international variations to what is desirable / non-desirable. ...(479 words,8 images, 39 comments)

Stamps, quality and grading: Quality of print

Stamps, quality and grading: Quality of printNot all stamps are born equal. There can be lots of minor quality flux that fits into printers guidelines of acceptable variation and printing conditions. In addition there are all sorts of errors, freaks and oddities (like printers waste) that ends up one way or to another to stamp collectors albums. ...(380 words,5 images, 4 comments)

Stamps, quality and grading: The basics

Stamps, quality and grading: The basics Keeping eye for the quality is something I think many collectors do. I admit that I am in constant process of enhancing the quality of items in my collection. For the next couple of posts I'll be writing up some notes about quality in general as well as diving more in-depth into world of measuring quality (grading). Though stamps and collectors have been around for 160 years, this topic continues to be still under heavy debate (to my amazement). ...(332 words,1 images, 4 comments)

How to remove cigarette smell from stamps?

How to remove cigarette smell from stamps? I am a non-smoker, so one of my greatest annoyances is ending up with otherwise good stuff that has cigarette smell all over. So how do I get rid of the smell? ...(161 words,1 images, 14 comments)

Demystifying CTO (Cancelled To Order) stamps

Demystifying CTO (Cancelled To Order) stampsOne of the requested topics for the blog entries has been CTO (Cancelled-to-order) stamps. As the recent post about East German definitive stamps showed several CTO-examples, I think this is an excellent time to demystify CTO. ...(821 words,5 images, 40 comments)

Keeping a worldwide stamp collection in order

Keeping a worldwide stamp collection in orderWhat makes one way to keep a stamp collection in order better than other? IMHO absolutely nothing… I’ve seen collections ordered by shape of stamp, size of stamp, by colors etc. And against all the “official recommendation” odds, they do work and make their owner happy. That said, this post is about how I keep my worldwide collection in order. I know I’ve covered this topic briefly several times, but let’s digg a bit further this time. ...(555 words,3 images, 63 comments)

Keeping a stamp collection safe from dangers of natural surroundings

Keeping a stamp collection safe from dangers of natural surroundingsOne of the topics wished for last month’s survey was the question how I keep my collection. Let’s begin this journey with a topic that is IMO essential, but far too few discussed question – how to keep a stamp collection safe from dangers of natural surroundings. ...(587 words,2 images, 19 comments)

Collecting stamps on a budget

Collecting stamps on a budgetAs a worldwide stamp collector, I have few practical guidelines that keep me on my (somewhat limited and small) annual budget. ...(498 words,1 images, 19 comments)

Setting a value for worldwide stamp collection

Setting a value for worldwide stamp collectionI know I've written in the past a long post about the value of stamp collection. But since the topic is amongst most read (and also amongst most requested in private comments) it is IMHO worth a revisit. This piece tries to provide a very simple, fast and somewhat accurate way for non-philatelist to get a rough value estimate for average quality collection containing used worlwide stamps. ...(620 words,1 images, 21 comments)

Damn unsoakable stamps (or if you can't soak them... )

Damn unsoakable stamps (or if you can't soak them... )I felt somewhat sad after reading the latest "Editors Forum" column at Scotts Stamp Monthly. The topic of post was non-soakable stamps, or more precisely what do to with them. I acknowledge the column was written mainly US stamp collectors in mind, but the suggested solution (collect non-soakable issues on covers) is IMHO the "wrong" one. ...(350 words,1 images, 83 comments)

The numbers game

The numbers gameOne of the favorite rants among stamp collectors is the number of new issues. The current flow of new postage stamps is simply too much for many; especially if compared to actual postal needs... Below is a chart describing the number of annual postage stamp sets issued between 1840 and 2008 worldwide. ...(113 words,1 images, 6 comments)

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt7) - Summary

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt7) - SummaryReason I wrote this series was personal need to find out detailed real world information about the cost structure (and other benefits/downsides) of each storage alternative for my personal stamp collection. As I personally collect on a somewhat limited budget (few hundred Euro’s per year), I prefer to spend my money wisely when it comes to accessories and stamps. I admit, the results of this comparison did bring up some interesting surprises. ...(334 words,1 images, 31 comments)

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt6) - Stock cards

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt6) - Stock cards One of the most intuitive ways to arrange and store a worldwide stamp collection is to use stock cards (also known as “dealer approval cards”). As I’ve seen a collection with over 20k different stamps organized this way, I can say this method works. ...(209 words,1 images, 0 comments)

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt5) – Stock pages

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt5) – Stock pagesSo far, I have focused on "old school" methods for stamp collection storage on this series. Let us take a look of some of the new ("only" 50 years old) and intuitive ways. ...(350 words,1 images, 32 comments)

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt4) -Blank stamp album pages

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt4) -Blank stamp album pagesBlank album pages are...well, blank. Something a collector can fill anyway desired. The most common blank stamp album pages are not fully blank, but they have grid of grey dots as well as black page border. These are commonly known as quadrille album pages. ...(288 words,1 images, 3 comments)

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt3) - DIY stamp album pages

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt3) - DIY stamp album pagesMany stamp collectors will try and use DIY stamp album pages because they want to either save money, take part in exhibitions, or they are not happy with commercial offerings. Anyone wishing to enter the path of DIY album pages needs to make some long-term decision and be prepared to pay them accordingly. ...(691 words,2 images, 62 comments)

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt2) -pre-printed (commercial) stamp album pages

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt2) -pre-printed (commercial) stamp album pagesAs stamp album pages are a lengthy topic, I have decided to split this post to 3 parts. This first part covers pre-printed (commercial) album pages, the second will cover DIY (printable) album pages and third one will focus with blank pages. Let's begin with pre-printed (commercial) stamp album pages. ...(660 words,2 images, 12 comments)

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt1) - Stockbooks

Storage for worldwide stamp collection (pt1) - StockbooksAs said in previous post about my collection, stockbooks are my choice. In these, I place stamps side-by-side (loosely) in every other row (meaning I use 40-50% of maximum storage capacity); each page accommodates approx. 30 stamps. ...(306 words,1 images, 20 comments)

In search of perfect stamp exchange recipe

In search of perfect stamp exchange recipeAs some know, I’ve been more or less active in stamp trading / exchanging for nearly two decades. Below are some of my personal experiences and opinions about the fine art of stamp trading. ...(464 words,2 images, 10 comments)

Keeping track of stamp collection

Keeping track of stamp collection In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes. The idea of stamp inventory program (and other stamp collecting software) is to be of assistance when either one hits the collector.  On simplified level, a stamp inventory solution keeps track of what's inside the collectors collection, and what it might be worth.  In my previous post about stamp collecting software I pretty much axed dedicated software solutions and hailed Microsoft Excel.   With this blog entry I'll show you in more detail how I keep track of my collection. ...(856 words,2 images, 299 comments)

Is a complete all-era worldwide stamp collection possible?

Is a complete all-era worldwide stamp collection possible?A friend of mine recently asked why I collect worldwide stamps from all eras as I have non-existing possibilities of building even somewhat complete collection.  I told him that I collect for personal fun with no serious goals (like exhibition philately or profit seeking) attached; for me it's just a hobby like reading a good novel....  But I dared to challenge him by saying that a complete, all-era worldwide collection is by no means as impossible as generally considered. And I've got the proofs... ...(533 words,4 images, 57 comments)

How to soak kiloware - kitchensink philately basics

How to soak kiloware - kitchensink philately basicsSoaking stamps is something almost every stamp collector has to do every once and awhile.   Sometimes it's simply to remove a pile of old (and tatty) hinges on the back of stamp, most often it's to remove backing paper.   There is of course a right way and there is a wrong way of going about this... ...(1003 words,5 images, 59 comments)

A matter of color - identifying stamp colors accurately

A matter of color - identifying stamp colors accuratelyIn specialized stamp collecting, color changes are one of the most common and most collected types of varieties on stamps. There is however one BUT (and it is a big one...). Every human has a somewhat different ability to identify and perceive range of colors. . In addition, the lighting used effects on how color is observed. ...(399 words,2 images, 26 comments)

How to start stamp collecting

How to start stamp collectingThis is a story on how I did start with stamp collecting. I think a story like this is one of the best ways to tell how people (like me, possibly You too) begin and get started with stamp collecting. ...(924 words,3 images, 5 comments)

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