By Michael Baadke
There is no other hobby in the world that matches stamp collecting for the incredible range of interests that are represented. Stamp collectors approach their hobby from so many different angles and in so many different ways that to my knowledge no one has ever attempted to list them all.
For example, there are topical stamp collectors, single-country collectors, postal history buffs, airmail collectors, meter stamp collectors, collectors of transit markings, revenue stamp collectors, souvenir card collectors, students of stamp design and collectors of precanceled stamps.
And for all of these collectors and many, many others, there are specialty societies that help them learn more about their favorite corner of the stamp hobby.
Stamp collectors are probably the most inquisitive hobbyists, constantly researching and learning more about the hobby they enjoy.
The fact that you are reading the Linn's Stamp News in your hands is evidence of that. Linn's is the best source of stamp hobby news and features that help collectors of all sorts better enjoy their collections.
Where Linn's serves the entire stamp hobby with its wide range of articles in a weekly publication, the American Philatelic Society provides stamp collectors with a number of important resources and services that compliment the information that comes from Linn's.
The American Philatelic Society was founded in 1886 and currently has more than 50,000 members worldwide. Like Linn's, the APS works to promote stamp collecting for people of all ages. Its member programs provide opportunities for collectors to learn more about their stamps, to buy and sell stamps and covers, and to protect their collectibles with affordable insurance.
If you have a question about whether an item you own (or would like to own) is authentic, the APS expertizing service renders authoritative opinions on the genuineness of stamps and covers, with discounted fees for members.
APS members also have access to the American Philatelic Research Library, the largest philatelic library in the United States, with more than 100,000 books, catalogs and magazines available.
Two other APS membership benefits are shown together in Figure 1. The monthly APS magazine, American Philatelist, publishes features on many areas of stamp collecting and provides society news, including stamp show updates.
Through the use of mailed circuit books, the APS sales division provides a way for members to sell or purchase stamps and covers in their specific area of interest. Subscribers to the circuit program can leisurely examine hundreds of stamps in their own homes as they work on filling the empty spaces in their stamp albums.
For additional details and a membership application, write to American Philatelic Society, Box 8000, State College, PA 16803-8000. Information about the APS is also available at its site www.stamps.org on the Internet's World Wide Web.
The APS Internet site also includes a large contact directory for specialty societies that are affiliated with the APS. That means if you are looking for a group that serves your particular area of interest, you can visit the APS site and find out who to contact for more information.
Collectors who do not have Internet access can ask for specialty society contact information from the APS by sending a stamped, addressed envelope with a note requesting information on a society associated with the collector's area of interest.
One well-known specialty group is the United States Stamp Society (formerly known as the Bureau Issues Association). The group describes itself as "An association of collectors to promote the study of all postage and revenue stamps and stamped paper of the United States and U.S. administered areas produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and other contract printers."
The USSS focuses much of its attention on older and classic U.S. issues, although articles in the society journal, the United States Specialist, range from the studies of the earliest U.S. stamps to plate number reports on recent issues.
Along with the journal (shown at left in Figure 2), the society publishes research papers on many different topics, as well as a number of important books.
Most recently, the USSS released the Durland 2000 Standard Plate Number Catalog,shown at right in Figure 2.
The Durland catalog provides plate number information on all United States postage and revenue stamps, as well as other issues such as postage dues and test stamps.
Like most stamp societies, the USSS holds annual meetings, although it is not expected that all members can attend. The meetings are usually associated with large national stamp shows, and they take place in various locations.
The USSS also sponsors awards for exhibitors at stamp shows, and it often sponsors seminars and talks as well.
Membership information about the USSS is available online at www.usstamps.org, or by writing to United States Stamp Society, Box 722, Westfield, NJ 07091.
There are also many societies that cater to collectors of stamps and postal history from individual countries other than the United States. The APS contact directory lists societies for collectors of Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Mexico, Russia, Switzerland, United Nations and many other areas.
These societies are created and run by stamp collectors, and they each provide a different range of benefits for their members. Some provide society auctions where members can buy and sell stamps and covers. Others have philatelic libraries or offer specialty publications.
Nearly every group publishes a society journal: some are created monthly, while others appear six times per year or quarterly. The journals inform members of activities in the society and provide news and features on topics that are of special interest to society members.
For example, members of the Scandinavian Collectors Club have an interest in the stamps and postal history of the nations of Scandinavia: the countries of Aland, the Danish West Indies, Denmark, the Faeroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Karelia, North Ingermanland, Norway, Schleswig and Sweden.
The quarterly journal of the SCC is the Posthorn. A recent issue included an article by Danish postal historian Toke Norby on the 1941 Vitus Bering stamps of Denmark and first-day covers of that issue. Figure 3 shows a commercial first-day cover of that issue illustrated with Norby's article.
The same issue of the Posthorn includes an article on Norwegian local post, information about the stamps and postmarks of Greenland, an interesting variety of Sweden's third issue Ring-type stamps of 1886-91, news of an Iceland-Vatican City joint issue, and reviews of publications likely to be of interest to SCC members.
General club information is on the SCC Internet site at www.scc-online.org, but membership information about the group is also available from SCC executive secretary Donald B. Brent, Box 13196, El Cajon, CA 92020.
Joining a stamp society provides you with a great opportunity to learn more about the hobby you enjoy. Society or club membership dues are well spent when you consider that the information you receive will help you to get even more pleasure from the hours you spend with your stamp collection.