Refresher Course

Answers to some frequently asked questions

By Michael Baadke

We always try to keep the communication lines open here at Linn's Stamp News, and as a result, we get a lot of questions about stamp collecting basics from regular readers, as well as from visitors to our site on the Internet's World Wide Web.

Figure 1. Maybe your first album shouldn't be an album. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 2. There are plenty of places to get stamp supplies.
 
Figure 3. Celebrate the Century and pay your electric bill. Click on image to enlarge.

Even though some of the Internet visitors have never seen a copy of Linn's, we welcome their questions, because it's a good sign that another person is getting interested in our hobby.

I try to answer each of the questions that are directed to me, but I thought it might also be helpful to print a few of the more frequently asked questions and my answers to help out any collectors who have wondered about the same things.

Q: I'm just starting to collect stamps. What kind of album should I buy?

A: Until you know a little more about how your collection is going to develop, I'll suggest that instead of an album you buy some stock pages (also called stock sheets) or a stock book to hold your stamps.

A manila card stock page holding dozens of stamps is shown at the bottom of Figure 1. This type of stock page is relatively inexpensive. They can usually be found for 25¢ or 30¢ each, less than the cost of a postage stamp.

The sturdy manila page has pocket-like strips that hold stamps in place and protect them from damage. You can arrange stamps on the page in whatever order is most useful or convenient.

Vinyl stock pages with clear strips that allow a full view of the entire stamp cost a little more. There are many styles available, with prices ranging from about 60¢ per page up to a couple of dollars each or more.

Most stock pages have holes punched along one side to fit into a binder.

Stock books hold stamps much in the way that stock pages do, but the pages are bound together with a front and back cover.

An example of a small open stock book is shown at the top of Figure 1.

Stamps can be stored in stock book pages, and the books can easily be transported to stamp club meetings or local stamp shows.

Smaller books like the example shown in the illustration sell for as little as $10. Larger books with more pages cost more.

Depending on the style, 32-page stock books with 9-inch by 12-inch pages sell for around $15-$30.

Q: Where can I get supplies I need, like stock pages, stamp albums, tongs, hinges and stamp mounts?

A: You have a lot of choices when it comes to finding supplies like those shown in Figure 2.

I like to encourage collectors to visit a local retail stamp dealer whenever possible. The stamp dealer will probably carry most or all of the items you need to get started in the stamp hobby.

For a stamp dealer near you, check in the telephone book yellow pages under "Stamps for Collectors" or "Hobbies."

Another possibility is to attend a local stamp show. At the show you're likely to find several dealers who offer the items you need. The show also gives you a chance to do a little comparative price shopping.

A schedule of stamp shows appears each week in Linn's. In this issue, you'll find Linn's Stamp Events Calendar starting on page 60.

You can also purchase hobby supplies by mail from advertisers in Linn's. Several dealers regularly feature display advertisements in the paper, while others list their items in section 160 of Linn's classified ads, under the heading, "Accessories."

You can receive a free copy of the new Scott Publishing Co. Product Guide, which describes many different kinds of supplies, by writing to Scott Publishing Co., Box 828, Sidney, OH 45365-0828; or by calling 800-572-6885.

Scott Publishing Co., like Linn's Stamp News, is a division of Amos Press.

Q: Can I use these new stamps for postage?

A: I was surprised the first time I heard this question, but I'm not anymore.

The answer to this one is, "Absolutely!"

Despite television commercials and print ads from the Postal Service that seem to say otherwise, almost every stamp that the Postal Service makes and sells can be used as postage. (Only Official stamps and special delivery stamps are restricted in their usage.)

Celebrate the Century stamps, shown at the top of Figure 3, provide the perfect example.

When you buy Celebrate the Century stamps at the post office they are sealed in a plastic wrapper that makes them look untouchable.

They are arranged in a cockeyed fashion and bunched together oddly so they don't even look like normal stamps.

I've purchased one pane of each Celebrate the Century issue that has been released so far to add to my collection.

I've also bought plenty more to use for postage.

They cost exactly the same per stamp as the 32¢ Flag Over Porch, Yellow Rose, Statue of Liberty and all the other stamps with tired designs that everyone else is using for postage.

But the Celebrate the Century stamps are a lot more interesting.

It takes me about three-and-a-half minutes to tear open the plastic, remove the cardboard backing (and recycle it) and carefully separate all the stamps.

When I'm done, I've got 15 interesting stamps that actually look like stamps. I can use them to mail my mortgage payment, my electric bill, my order to my stamp dealer and my letter to Mom.

I'm hoping that the out-of-the-ordinary stamp will catch the eye of nearly everybody who gets my mail — even the clerk at the mortgage company.

It's certainly possible that they'll throw the stamp away, but maybe they'll save it. I hope they do save it and start their own stamp collection.

Either way, it doesn't really matter to me because I'm just having a lot more fun licking and sticking a stamp that shows Orville Wright in flight over Kitty Hawk, N.C. (Figure 3, bottom, as shown on my utility payment envelope), than I would peeling off the umpteenth Flag Over Porch stamp.

Yes, yes, yes! You can use them for postage. Please do. Maybe you'll give someone somewhere the idea to start collecting stamps.