When I was a child, most of my stamps were taken off the mail my parents received. If I were lucky, and I was, I could coerce other family members to save stamps they received on their business mail.
How you add new stamps to your collection is determined by what you actually collect. If you are most interested in classic United States stamps, the likelihood is that you will spend time checking out the auction houses that specialize in classic United States. The same holds true for any other specialized collection.These days, letters with stamps are few and far between, but they still arrive on occasion. Also, these days, I tend to save the entire envelope with the stamp(s) attached.
Watching the auctions also is a good way to learn what sells and the prices that specialized material will bring. Having this kind of knowledge is fundamental when buying higher priced material. Learn what is happening in the marketplace for the items you desire most. In the world of stamps, you can never have too much information.
Read the ads in Linn's and other philatelic publications to find auction firms that carry stamps and covers you are most likely to want for your own collection. Order a few catalogs and read them carefully. Do not forget to read the terms of sale in the catalog.
Every auction is a little bit different from others, and knowing how to bid and pay for purchases is important. Many auctions charge a buyer's premium, which is a percentage of the final (successful) bid. If you place a bid, you are signing a legal commitment to making the purchase if you are the highest bidder. A 15 percent buyers premium on a $250 purchase adds $37.50 to the cost, so you would be billed $287.50 plus applicable taxes, postage and handling.
A good place to peruse many catalogs from a diverse selection of auction firms is a website called Stamp Auction Network at http://stampauctionnetwork.com/auctions.cfm.
Many of the top auction firms are represented on this website, and the site's search features help you find precisely what you are seeking.
Not everyone is a specialized collector, and many collectors don't want to become involved in auctions.
Most of us lament the fact that there are very few stamp shops in our communities these days.
The good news is that there are still a number of stamp shows and dealer bourses. Getting out among other collectors and stamp dealers is a great way to make new friends and find some fabulous stamps. Finding what you want most is easier because you can ask dealers questions and give them want lists.
Strike up a working relationship with a dealer you like, and you will find a friend who will always be on a search for the material you desire. At any given stamp show you have a chance to find that special something you had nearly given up hope of ever owning. Good things happen at stamp shows.
Stamp societies may have periodic auctions for members. Join, and you will get the benefit of the auction as well as knowledge and new friends.
The American Philatelic Society has two services that make stamps available. Members only may purchase (and sell) stamps through the APS Sales Division. Both members and non-members may purchase stamps sold on the APS Stamp Store.
For more information about how these services work, check out the APS website at www.stamps.org.
Many stamp dealers have websites now that make shopping for stamps and covers something you can do in your own home on your own time. Check out the websites in this issue of Linn's.
There also are collectibles auctions on well-known websites like eBay and bidStart. It costs nothing to look, and you may find stamps that you want to own at a price you are willing to pay.
Worldwide collectors filling spaces in albums are always looking for “stuff.” Buying mixtures or pages from a former collection is so much fun, and you can fill a lot of spaces this way.
All of the previously named stamp sources frequently carry mixtures, collections, pages from a collection, and stock books full of miscellaneous stamps. Sometimes these bulk purchases can be full of gorgeous material and an occasional scarce stamp.
One of my purchases, shown nearby, turned out to be such a lot, a dandy collection of Egypt on album pages purchased sight unseen from an auction. But be careful. Other times, the bulk lot may consist of damaged stamps, duplicates and a great deal of undesirable flotsam. If you are going to buy a bulk lot, it is a good idea to examine the contents and make an informed decision.
The Internet can be a big help if you want to acquire the latest stamps. Many nations' postal services have websites that illustrate their new issues. Often you can order directly from the website. For example, Swiss Post has an easy-to-use website for ordering stamps, and you can pay for the order using most credit cards.
One stamp that Switzerland issued this year shows the fossil ammonite. The link to take you directly to Swiss Post's stamps is: https://www.post.ch/en/post-startseite/post-privatkunden/post-philatelie.htm. Don't forget to click the EN box at the top right corner of the page. That will assure the web pages will be written in English.
You can order stamps online from the U.S. Postal Service at https://store.usps.com/store/browse/category.jsp?categoryId=buy-stamps.
All of these methods of acquiring stamps are good, but they require making purchases. There are also ways to collect stamps that are free. Good, old-fashioned swapping can result in acquiring good friends and good stamps.
Stamp clubs often have swap meetings. Bring your duplicates and trade with others. Some trades are one for one, others are by catalog value.
Linn's Trading Posthorn, found at the beginning of the classified ads, provides some ways to find trading partners at little cost or no cost. You might be able to swing a swap with a stamp dealer, too. It never hurts to ask.
Our stamp albums are always hungry for new stamps. Try out all of the ways you can add new stamps in your collection and keep those albums well fed.