Refresher Course

New Year is a great time for stamp collecting resolutions

By Janet Klug


Happy New Year! Many countries issue New Year stamps to commemorate the holiday. A 2008 Russian 7.50-ruble New Year stamp (Scott 7120) is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. A Russian 7.50-ruble New Year stamp (Scott 7120).
Figure 2. A Marshall Islands 42¢ Geronimo stamp (Scott 927c).
Figure 3. The Manchoukuo 1½-fen Emperor's Palace stamp (Scott 32).

It is resolution time again, and I have always found it more productive to resolve to do something I want to do, rather than something that will be an unpleasant chore. So this year, please join me in resolving to have more fun with stamp collecting activities.

Here are some ideas to help you get started.

Plan now to go to at least one stamp show this year. Linn's lists upcoming stamp shows each week in the Stamp Events Calendar, and you can also find a comprehensive list online at: http://stamps.org/directories/dir_showcalendar.htm

Going to a stamp show is a social activity. You can meet stamp dealers and look through their stocks of stamps, covers and stamp collecting supplies. Larger shows have exhibits that can help you learn more about what you collect, and maybe find something new that interests you.

Some shows have meetings and seminars you can attend. The seminars are informative and help you know more about your hobby. The meetings are a great opportunity to meet other collectors and make new friends.

Start a new collection. Most of us have been collecting the same thing for a long time. Our collections begin to fill up nicely, and there are fewer items we can add to it that fit into the budget.

It is easy to become discouraged, or worse, disinterested, when there is nothing new to find. After all, it is the thrill of the hunt that makes stamp collecting so exciting.

So why not begin a new collection? It is an easy thing to do. If you collect only United States stamps, then perhaps you might find collecting a topic related to the United States to be an interesting sideline.

The choice is endless: American Indians, U.S. citizens honored on foreign stamps, patriotic covers, and U.S. achievements in space exploration, to name but a few. Your personal interests will dictate how you can expand your collection. A Marshall Islands 42¢ Geronimo stamp (Scott 927c) is shown in Figure 2.

An even bigger challenge is to begin a collection of something completely different from what you have been collecting. If you collect only U.S. stamps and want to try something new, pick another country.

You might try a heritage collection with stamps from countries that your ancestors came from.

Or select a stamp issuing entity that no longer issues stamps. In the world of stamp collecting, these are known as dead countries. One attractive feature about collecting a dead country is that there is a definite ending point, such as when that stamp issuing entity was assumed by another or changed its name.

Manchoukuo is a good example of a dead country. It issued its first stamp in 1932 and its last in 1945, for a total of about 170 stamps. A Manchoukuo 1½-fen Emperor's Palace stamp (Scott 32) is shown in Figure 3.

Find new sources for stamps. It is easy to get into a rut. Most of us have favorite sources of stamps, whether it is a particular dealer or auction house. We trust these people, like them a lot, and they find super material for us. But, the downside of limiting our purchases to just a few stamp dealers is that we don't get to see a lot of great material that might fit nicely into our collections.

The Internet has made it much simpler and easier to find and purchase elusive stamps needed for your collection.

For example, check out the Zillions of Stamps web site at www.zillionsofstamps.com, operated by Linn's parent company, Amos Press.

When you get to the web site, you are asked to select the country, catalog numbers, condition, type of material you seek (stamps, covers, stationery, lots, and so on), the price range, and a few other features.

Click the button, and you will find all the offerings of what you are looking for from participating dealers. Select the items you wish to purchase and check out. In a few days you'll have great new items for your collection.

Online sources for stamps include the ubiquitous eBay.com, as well as Stampwants.com, Delcampe.com, and others. Check Linn's many advertisers for other online stamp shopping options.

The American Philatelic Society's member service called "Stamp Store" (www.stampstore.org) has more than 300,000 stamps, covers and literature items for sale.

The robust search feature will help you find the items you seek. You can put them all in a shopping cart and check out in one fast and simple step.

The APS also has its traditional sales circuits, where member-created books of stamps are sent to your home. You pick the items you want, send payment to the APS and forward the circuit to the next person on the list. For more information about participating in the circuits, write to the APS at 100 Match Factory Place, Bellefonte, PA 16823 or visit the web site at www.stamps.org.

You can view many auction firms' offerings at a single web site: www.stampauctionnetwork.com. You can view lots from auction firms all over the world. To bid, you must create an account and log in. Once that has been done, you can place bids in the current auctions.

With so many more opportunities to see and acquire stamps, you should never be at a loss for something to do.

Read a book. The hobby of stamp collecting has a wealth of literature associated with it. Nearly everything you collect has had a book, catalog, articles or monograph written about it by collectors who want to share their knowledge and research. Many books can be purchased from Amos Press (online at www.amosadvantage.com), specialty societies or philatelic literature dealers.

Catalogs are great to have, but they don't contain the depth of knowledge found in a book about a country's stamps, or particular stamps or sets. For that kind of detailed information, you need to dig deeper and find the comprehensive works that are available for your subject.

If you are a member of the American Philatelic Society, you have borrowing privileges for the American Philatelic Research Library (www.stamplibrary.org). Nonmembers can browse the card catalog available on that web site.

Other philatelic libraries are scattered all across the United States: in Denver, Colo.; Dallas, Texas; San Jose, Calif.; and Washington, D.C., to name a few. A list of philatelic libraries is available online at www.libraryhistorybuff.org/philatelic-libraries.htm.

Chill. Stamp collecting is supposed to be a fun, relaxing hobby. Far too often we get stressed or overexcited about things that really shouldn't bother us, such as not getting an item we wanted in an auction, not liking a stamp that has been issued or not receiving the exhibiting award expected.

Make 2011 the year that we all banish stress from our hobby and return to making it an escape from real stress.

Stamp collecting is fun. Have fun with stamps in 2011.