By Janet Klug
Let’s be honest: We all like to get something for nothing, and “free” is certainly a most welcome word in the world of stamps.
And we stamp collectors are lucky, because there are many great free things available to enhance our collecting.
You might be shaking your head in disbelief, but bear with me and I’m sure you will enjoy some of the free things mentioned here.
To begin with, most stamp shows have free admission.
Go to a stamp show and you can window shop for free, look at some incredibly interesting stamp exhibits, attend meetings and seminars about stamps and postal history that you collect or might want to start collecting, and also make new friends.
For those of you thinking about attending World Stamp Show-NY 2016, the enormous international exhibition in New York City from May 28 to June 4, rest assured that admission is free, just as it was for the international stamp show that took place in Washington, D.C., in 2006.
Have you ever gone to a first-day-of-issue stamp dedication sponsored by the United States Postal Service?
Occasionally there also are first-day ceremonies by other postal administrations as part of stamp shows.
If you attend such a ceremony, you receive a free program and an envelope with the new stamp affixed and postmarked with the date of the stamp dedication.
An illustration above shows the dedication program and first-day cover for the Paul Newman forever stamp (Scott 5020), both of which were handed out to attendees at the ceremony on Sept. 18, 2015.
These dedications usually include an opportunity to get autographs of the participants — sometimes famous individuals — who were part of the ceremony.
You might even get some free entertainment, such as music, at these events.
If you live near Washington, D.C., or plan to travel there some day, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum is a paradise for stamp collectors. The museum is located on Massachusetts Avenue Northeast, across from Union Station, in what was the main post office building for the capital city from 1914 to 1986.
And admission to the museum is free, for close-up views of some of the world’s most valuable stamps and covers. You can play with interactive exhibits, learn how mail gets moved by the U.S. Postal Service, see historic mail coaches and planes that carried the early airmail, mail trucks of various eras, a railway post office, and so much more. It’s very interesting for all ages, and all free.
If you can’t visit the National Postal Museum in person, visit vicariously and take a virtual tour on the website.
You can also obtain free information from philatelic experts who have participated in National Postal Museum lectures and symposiums.
Starting new collections is always enjoyable, but getting album pages to mount the material can be quite expensive, unless you go after the free ones.
Free? Yes, and these particular pages are really well-done.
Visit the American Philatelic Society’s website to obtain these pages. There are currently 68 different headings that include pages for most of the U.S. states, some countries and topical subjects.
True, you will have to supply the printer and paper, which isn’t exactly free. But the pages are beautifully designed and contain much background information.
The final illustration here shows a page from the “Swiss Sampler” set of album pages.
You do not have to be an APS member to download these freebies, but do look around the website and note the various membership benefits and services that are offered — and consider joining.
Many teachers have to dig deep into their own pockets to provide special classroom materials for their students. Are you a teacher or do you know a teacher who has to buy various teaching materials for the classroom?
The APS also offers free downloadable stamp-related lesson plans for pre-kindergarten all the way through high school.
If teachers want supplies for their third-grade through fifth-grade students through Stamps Teach Plus, they can get stamps, posters, lesson plans, worksheets, activity cards and more at no cost other than the postage.
Free stamps always have been available from the stamped mail you receive. Unfortunately for collectors, e-mail and phone texting have far outpaced personal cards and letters sent through the postal system.
If you want to have mail with stamps come to your home, start sending mail with stamps to your friends and family. Children, especially, love to receive something in the mail that is addressed to them.
If everyone sent a nice card or letter, with a current stamp affixed, just once a week to a friend or loved one, there would be a lot more postally used stamps for collectors. This is not likely to happen, but you still can ask your friends and relatives to save the stamps from the mail they do receive.
Many collectors feel hampered by the cost of books about stamps and stamp catalogs. One answer to this problem is to visit your local library. Many public libraries have current stamp catalogs and some books about stamp collecting, or the staff might be able to borrow some for you from other libraries through the nationwide interlibrary loan system. Borrowing and reading library books is wonderfully free.
One of the best things about stamp collecting is that a nice collection can be acquired on a tight budget. You don’t have to be wealthy to enjoy the stamp hobby, and you can certainly add to your interest and knowledge for free.