A Guide to Stamp Collecting

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A Guide to Stamp Collecting

Stamp collecting also known as philately, to give it the correct name is a hobby indulged in by millions of people worldwide. Ever since the introduction of a postal service in England in 1840, people have been fascinated by the wide variety of postage stamps issued by countries all over the world.Perhaps the first stamp collector was the British zoologist John Edward Gray who, realising the importance of the first ever postage stamp, the British Penny Black, bought several of the stamps on the first day of issue. Since then, stamp collecting has grown astronomically, with stamp catalogues, stamp albums and other equipment rapidly coming on the market.
So what do you need to join the ranks of stamp collectors? Stamps are fragile, subject to damage from careless hands. So an essential item is a pair of stamp tongs with rounded tips to prevent damage. A magnifying glass to see the fine details and a stamp album, with clear protective pockets in which to store your stamps, completes your basic equipment.

Most people start off their stamp collections by asking friends and relatives to save stamps from letters received. But after a while, most serious collectors will start to search for alternative sources of stamps and many turn to other collectors or stamp dealers. The Internet can also be a great way to communicate with other collectors.

 As you become more serious about your hobby, you will almost certainly need to invest in a stamp catalogue. Although originally designed by stamp dealers to list stocks and prices, the stamp catalogue, while still fulfilling those needs, is today a major source of information for stamp collectors. Most stamp catalogues, such as the Scott or Stanley Gibbons catalogue, list all stamps with descriptions and prices where available.

There are many stamps that, while listed in catalogues, are extremely rare. These are usually old stamps or those with some minor printing defects that make them unique and as such can command very high prices. Stamps such as the British Penny Black, the Inverted Jenny from the United States and the Bull¿s Eye from Brazil regularly fetch large sums when they appear in stamp auctions. A copy of the Inverted Jenny, for example, sold at auction for $977,500 in 2007.

If you decide to take up stamp collecting, you will be among famous company. King George V of England reportedly owned one of the largest stamp collections in the world. President Franklin Roosevelt of the United States was also an avid collector and in fact designed several stamps during his term of office. Other notable stamp collectors include John Lennon, who collected stamps as a child, as did Freddie Mercury, of the band Queen.

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