By Michael Baadke
Many stamp collectors like to build collections of new issues from one or more specific countries.
Let's take a look at how collectors obtain mint new-issue stamps for their collections.When it comes to obtaining those new stamps, several options are available for the collector. Some methods offer tremendous convenience, while others may offer a wide selection of specialized options.
The term "mint" refers to unused stamps that are also undamaged in any way. Recent mint stamps from Canada and the United States are shown in Figure 1.
So, where does the collector go to buy mint new-issue postage stamps?
1. The post office.
Most people think of the post office when they want to buy new stamps, and that certainly can be an important source. There are times, however, when a post office cannot supply the specific stamps that a collector needs.
In the United States, collectors visiting the post office can buy stamps at a standard service counter, at a philatelic window, from a postal store or from a vending machine.
Similar options exist for collectors in many other countries as well.
Many U.S. post offices serving smaller communities have a limited selection of stamps for sale, and they don't offer specialized philatelic services.
The term "philatelic" (pronounced "fill-a-TELL-ik") means specifically related to stamp collecting.
Some post offices may carry new-issue commemorative stamps when they are first released, but they may not have them on hand for very long.
The stamps that the post office clerk has on hand also may not be the best stamps to add to a collection.
Because those stamps are being offered primarily as postage to customers who have items to mail, they may not be in true mint condition.
Postal clerks often paper-clip or rubber-band bundles of stamps together, creating creases and folds that may not bother a postage customer but that a stamp collector would look at as damage.
If the clerk has several customers waiting, he may not have time to display his stamp stock to cater to the needs of a stamp collector looking for different varieties.
Some larger post offices have a philatelic window where the clerk carries a broader stock of stamps to fulfill requests from stamp collectors. Philatelic clerks usually have on hand most of the stamps that are currently available from the United States Postal Service.
Some clerks make an extra effort to locate plate number varieties on any coil, booklet and sheet stamps that are issued so they can offer these to their customers as well.
In general, philatelic clerks also handle their stamp stocks more carefully, so that the stamps are not creased or damaged in any way.
Postal stores are retail units located within selected post offices or at special locations, such as an airport. Postal stores offer prepackaged stamps and postal stationery items in various formats. These products are usually displayed in a plastic-wrapped package, resting on shelves or hanging from pegs.
For example, a collector may be able to find numerous blocks of 10 33¢ commemorative stamps, with attached selvage (margin paper) that includes plate number markings. He can select the specific block he prefers to buy from the items on display.
Another benefit of the postal store is that the customer can leisurely examine the available stamp stock to find the items he wants to purchase. The collector is not likely to find coil stamps at the postal store, though, and the selection of booklet stamps and other varieties is sometimes limited.
Post office vending machines sometimes offer collectibles that may be otherwise hard to find. Collectors report from time-to-time that they find scarce plate numbers on coil stamps or new booklet discoveries through vending machine purchases.
2. Postal administrations and agents.
New-issue stamps of the United States and many other countries can be purchased directly from the issuing postal authority.
Most postal services sell only the stamps of their own country. A few, such as Canada, offer limited numbers of stamps from selected other countries as well, but usually only by mail order.
Some countries offer collectors the opportunity to buy new-issue stamps by computer though Internet sites on the World Wide Web. Many postal authorities, however, have web sites that describe the available stamps, but they require collectors to make their stamp purchases by mail.
The United States Postal Service has an Internet site at www.stampsonline.com where collectors can buy stamps directly from the Postal Service on the Internet.
A small part of the USPS Stamps Online Internet site is shown in Figure 2.
Although many different stamps are listed at the site, the format selection is limited to full panes and coil rolls of stamps only, which usually means 20 stamps of each issue, or 100 for coil stamps.
Many postal authorities offer their stamps for sale through mail-order catalogs or newsletters that describe the products available.
The catalogs Details from Canada Post and USA Philatelic from the United States Postal Service are shown in Figure 3.
Collectors can receive a copy of Details by calling toll-free from the United States or Canada, 800-565-4362, or by writing to Canada Post, 75 St. Ninian St., Antigonish, Nova Scotia, B2G 2R8, Canada.
USA Philatelic is available by calling 800-782-6724, or by writing to United States Postal Service, Stamp Fulfillment Services, Box 419424, Kansas City, MO 64141-6424.
Both of these postal authorities offer most of their current stamps through these catalogs in a variety of different formats.
For many countries other than Canada and the United States, collectors can write directly to the postal administration or, in some cases, to its representative agent in the United States.
Mailing addresses for many postal administrations worldwide can be found on the Linn's Stamp News Internet site at: www.linns.com/reference/admins.asp
Collectors who do not have Internet access may obtain a copy of the postal administrations list by sending an addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope to Linn's Postal Administrations, Box 29, Sidney, OH 45365.
A collector interested in the stamps of New Zealand, for instance, can find on this list both the address for New Zealand's philatelic bureau, as well as the country's representative or sales agent in the United States.
The various postal administrations around the world operate in many different ways.
Some offer standing-order deposit accounts, meaning the collector can obtain all the new issues of the country by providing advance payment. The stamps are then sent to the collector as they are released or at regular intervals.
Many countries allow the collector to purchase just the stamps they are interested in through catalogs such as those shown in Figure 3.
A collector interested in new issues from another country should write to the postal administration or its U.S. agent to learn what options are available.
Some postal authorities have very limited philatelic services and may not provide direct mail-order service.
3. Stamp dealers.
Stamp dealers specializing in new-issue service provide customers with another way to purchase new stamps.
Most new-issue service dealers offer stamps from many countries around the world. Figure 4 shows how in some cases collectors can select from a large list of countries or stamp topics advertised by the dealer.
Many new-issue stamp dealers advertise regularly in the pages of Linn's Stamp News, either with display advertising throughout the publication, or in classified advertising in the back pages.
Classified ad section No. 71 specifically offers new-issue services under the heading "New Issues For Sale."
Dealers who specialize in specific countries or topics can be found in classified ad section Nos. 95 through 140.
Specialized dealers in United States stamps also advertise regularly. Listings for U.S. coil and booklet stamps (section Nos. 13 and 15) include many dealers offering new issues in formats and varieties not specifically available from the United States Postal Service.
Stamp dealers must charge an additional fee for their expanded services, but many collectors prefer the convenience of working with a knowledgeable dealer who can alert them to important new varieties.
Local retail stamp dealers and dealers who participate in stamp shows can also be important partners in your new-issue collecting strategy.
For local dealers, look in the telephone yellow pages under the headings "Hobbies" or "Stamps for Collectors."
Stamp shows take place every week in cities all around the country.
Check Linn's Stamp Events Calendar regularly for shows in your area.