By Janet Klug
In the July 11 Refresher Course, I discussed the three essential tools a stamp collector must have to protect, learn about and fully enjoy collecting stamps.
These three tools are stamp tongs, a watermark tray and a perforation gauge.
Nonessential tools can be added at will, but the acquisition of equipment can take on a life of its own.
I recently helped with the sale and disbursement of a deceased friend's philatelic estate, which included not only stamps and covers, but also a substantial philatelic library, and a couple of cabinets filled with philatelic paraphernalia, the like of which I had never before seen.
Seemingly simple things like a magnifying glass became increasingly complex to the point of being a device that resembled a Rube Goldberg contraption.
An electronic device to measure the gauge of perforations shredded the first two stamps I attempted to use it on. I finally got the hang of using it, but I decided that for me, an old-fashioned perforation gauge works better. Perhaps if I'd had the instructions, the device would have worked just fine.
It was fun playing with this stuff, but I came away with the feeling that, for me, in the realm of stamp collecting equipment, keeping it simple is best.
Adding more equipment to the three essentials can be done over time, and most of these things will cost you more than the initial acquisition of stamp tongs, a watermark tray and a perforation gauge.
If you don't already have one, a good magnifier is a handy tool.
There are endless uses for a magnifier. The joy of viewing a highly detailed engraved stamp magnified so you can really appreciate the detail is indescribable. You cannot truly appreciate the beauty of the engraving until you see each fine line and experience the engraver's attention to detail.
A variety of magnifiers is shown in Figure 1. They range from a simple and cheap plastic giveaway worth precisely what was paid for it, to the Rube Goldberg gizmo I referred to earlier that certainly works when you finally figure out which lens to use for the task at hand.
The one I use most often is a polished acrylic dome. It magnifies well without distortion and is designed to let in light through the open sides of the dome. Another good choice is the flashlight-style magnifier that uses batteries to provide a light that flows over the object being magnified.
Either or both of these will fulfill the needs for most stamp collectors. For those who are engaged in plating studies, flyspecking or other highly detailed technical stamp work, a magnifier that is more like a microscope is a useful tool. A few of these are shown in Figure 2.
Through the Amos Advantage program, Linn's subscribers can select from a variety of magnifiers and other supplies, and receive a substantial price discount.
Learn more online at www.amosadvantage.com, or write to Amos Hobby Publishing, Box 828, Sidney, OH 45365-0828.
Many of the world's stamps are coated with a luminescent material that glows when exposed to ultraviolet light, but is invisible to the unaided eye.
The coating is called taggant, and the application of taggant to a stamp is called tagging.
In the 1960s, postal equipment was developed that would search for the glowing stamp and turn the cover, in a process called facing, so that the postmark would strike in the correct place to cancel the stamp. This high-speed automated operation significantly shortened the time it takes to process mail.
Viewing the glow of tagging on a stamp requires an ultraviolet lamp. These come in a variety of styles, sizes, and configurations. They can be battery operated or electric. A few different ultraviolet lamps are shown in Figure 3.
There are two wavelengths used in detecting tagging – long wave and short wave. Some ultraviolet lamps will produce only long-wave or shortwave light, and both are useful to stamp collectors. When selecting an ultraviolet lamp, try to find one that has dual functionality.
Tagged United States stamps are best viewed in a darkened room with a lamp producing shortwave ultraviolet light, but longwave ultraviolet light is useful for many foreign stamps. Select an ultraviolet lamp that best serves your needs.
Read the warnings on the lamp. Looking directly into the light could cause painful eye damage similar to that experienced if you would look directly into the sun.
Work in short spurts to reduce your exposure to ultraviolet light. Wear gloves to keep your hands from getting sunburned if you will be working with an ultraviolet lamp for more than a few minutes.
Never let children use an ultraviolet lamp without adult supervision, but by all means, show them the magic that happens to a stamp when ultraviolet light is shined upon it.
One of the most appealing aspects of stamp collecting is that each collector gets to decide what and how to collect. If you want to keep it simple, you can do so with just a few inexpensive tools such as stamp tongs, a watermark tray and a perforation gauge. If you want to start looking for obscure varieties or tagging, then you might want to add magnifiers, scopes and ultraviolet lamps.
Just remember that you will enjoy your hobby more with the proper tools.
August 01, 2015 07:37 PMIt didn’t take long for the doom-and-gloomers to weigh in with their prognostications following the July 24 announcement from the American Philatelic Society that it hired former political aide Scott English to be the next executive director of the nation’s largest stamp club. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 08:04 PMIn the Editor’s Insights columns in the July 20 Linn’s Stamp News monthly and the Aug. 10 weekly Linn’s, I mentioned Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board without giving too much detail. Linn’s goal is to engage its audience both in print and online and to grow this audience. The role of the newly formed Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board is to assist us achieving these goals by keeping us focused on the needs of our audience and helping us adapt to today’s market. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 09:01 AMAs in previous years, Rarities Week, the series of sales conducted June 22-26 by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, included several name sales as well as an assortment of notable items from around the world. The week kicked off with something of a do-over: a sizable assortment of better United States stamps and covers that had appeared in four previous sales, but whose winning bidder then failed to pay for them. Read More ›
July 23, 2015 04:35 PMThe Tieton, Wash., post office is a simple 1935 cement block building with a slat wood facade. Townsfolk in the agricultural community of 1,200 in central Washington believe the post office could become a landmark, if only the United States Postal Service would allow them to cover the front with a stamp-like mosaic. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s senior editor Denise McCarty discusses the hiring of a new executive director of the American Philatelic Society, the new Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board and the upcoming APS Stampshow.
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz discusses the largest souvenir card produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The card is one of three issued to honor the centenary of San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke discusses Canada’s recently recalled $1.20 Dinosaur Provincial Park stamps featuring inaccurately described Hoodoo rock formations.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman discusses the discovery of another pane of the intentionally created upright variety of the $2 Jenny Invert stamp.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.