Refresher Course

Holiday gift suggestions for stamp collectors

By Janet Klug

The holiday season is nearly here and soon most collectors will be thinking about finding gifts for stamp-collecting family and friends. If you've been very good, perhaps you might even receive a philatelic gift yourself.

Figure 1. Hinges, mounts, tongs and perforation gauges are excellent stocking stuffers for stamp collectors of all levels. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 2. Stockbooks come in a wide variety of styles and price ranges. Select them for durability, especially when buying them for young collectors. These are welcome gifts. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 3. Specialty country or regional albums are great for housing single country collections. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 4. The author's two favorite magnifiers: the Crystal View dome magnifier is for ordinary use, while the 30X Panasonic microscope is essential for detailed study of stamps. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 5. Catalogs and special or general reference works are essential for collectors. They make welcome gifts. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 6. Christmas shoppers with unlimited budgets would delight any stamp collector with these stamps. Click on image to enlarge.

Knowing what to buy or what to hint for can be pretty tricky.

The needs of beginner collectors can be quite different from the needs of those who are more advanced. However, some gift ideas are appropriate for all collectors.

Among many low cost ideas shown in Figure 1 are packages of stamp hinges, stamp mounts or corner mounts for covers. Is there anything more frustrating than sitting down on a cold winter's night to work on the stamp collection and then finding out that you have run out of hinges or mounts in the correct size?

Who has not misplaced a favorite pair of tongs or a perforation gauge? Either item could be a great stocking stuffer for any collector. It doesn't matter if a collector already owns tongs or a perforation gauge. Odds are good that one or both will be misplaced when needed most.

Stockbooks, such as those shown in Figure 2, also make good gifts for any collectors. These standard tools come in many styles and price ranges.

If you are buying for young collectors, select a stockbook for durability. Stockbooks with glassine strips are prone to tearing with rough handling. A better choice for a youth would be a stockbook made with Mylar or acetate strips.

More advanced collectors might feel the need for buying stockbooks with many pages. Stockbooks containing 32 pages or even 64 pages are available, but I have found the 16-page stockbooks to be preferable because they last longer. They hold fewer stamps, consequently the spine is not so stressed from the bulky contents.

Also, if you have ever dropped a full stockbook and had to reorganize it, you will quickly see the advantage of fewer pages per book.

A really fun gift for yourself and a stamp collecting buddy would be to give each other a specialty album, such as those shown in Figure 3, for a country neither currently collects. Then issue a challenge to see who can fill his album the fastest.

Be careful, though. Try to pick a country where the stamps won't break your budget or your friend's.

Most stamp collectors have at least one magnifying glass. The quality varies widely, and generally speaking, you get what you pay for.

An inexpensive hand-held magnifier purchased at the local discount store might be fine for reading numbers in the phone directory, but you will need something better if you want to enjoy the beautiful details of stamps or search for printing varieties.

Philatelic supply houses offer a modest range of magnifying glasses, but an even larger variety of glasses and scopes are available through optical and scientific suppliers. The two that I use most often are shown in Figure 4.

One is the Crystal View Magnifier. This is a dome of clear Lucite that pulls in light through its sides so that the stamp is nicely illuminated.

The magnification is very good, and there is little distortion. This magnifier is more than adequate for everything but flyspecking.

For that I use a 30X pocket-size microscope that I purchased at my local Radio Shack. It uses two AA batteries to power the illumination and is excellent for seeing fine detail and tiny printing varieties.

A magnifier that I saw in the Edmund Scientific catalog looks as though it would be a good addition to a collector's arsenal of tools. It has calibrated crosshairs to measure in millimeters. This would be handy for anyone doing plating studies or comparisons of postal markings.

Write to Edmund Scientific, 60 Pearce Ave., Tonawanda, NY 14150-6711) or visit the web site located at www.scientificsonline.com.

Most beginning collectors will expect to place their stamps in an album. Although albums help collectors put some structure and organization into a collection, beginners can quickly become discouraged when they realize an album contains spaces for stamps they will never own, but no spaces for stamps they do have.

I generally recommend stockbooks for beginners, but if someone's heart is set on an album, here are a few to explore.

Scott produces two U.S. albums geared to beginners, the Minuteman album and the Pony Express album.

A good worldwide album is published by H.E. Harris. It is called the Statesman Worldwide Stamp Album and it has spaces for 25,000 stamps. You can order this from many stamp dealers or directly from H.E. Harris at 1-800-528-3392 or at its web site at www.heharris.com.

Scott also produces the E-Worldwide Album kit that uses a home computer to print album pages on demand.

Stanley Gibbons of Great Britain has an extensive range of beginner products, with three albums for beginners in its line and many others for more advanced collectors. Ordering is easy on the Gibbons web site at www.stanleygibbons.com.

Use your credit card to make the purchase, and the credit card company will work out the exchange rate.

Too many collectors make the mistake of not acquiring good catalogs and reference works, such as those shown in Figure 5.

These resources add to the pleasure of collecting and can help a collector identify a scarce stamp or cover masquerading as a more common variety.

Check the list of books and catalogs offered by Amos Press. There is probably an advertisement in this issue of Linn's or you can check the web site at www.amosadvantage.com.

If you are a subscriber to Linn's or Scott Stamp Monthly, you are offered deep discounts on a wide range of collector supplies mentioned in this article.

For the few gift givers for whom money is absolutely no object, the stamps shown in Figure 6 would surely spread Christmas cheer and rejoicing for most any collector.

If you are thinking about holiday gifts, think about giving a gift to your local stamp club or a specialist society.

A few extra dollars with your dues renewal is helpful in these days of rising costs and diminishing return on society accounts.

Money isn't all that is needed to keep your club going, though.

Volunteer to do something in the coming year, whether it be running for office, writing an article for the society journal or serving on a committee.

These gifts of time and effort are the surest way to show your appreciation for the work done on your behalf by a host of hardworking volunteers.

Happy holidays! I hope you get the gift you want most.