Stamp hobby offers a lot of good reading

Apr 26, 1999, 8 AM

By Michael Baadke

Why spend good money reading about stamps when you could spend that money buying stamps instead?

Here's one reason: The money you spend to read about stamps can save you a lot of money when you do your stamp shopping.

Reading about stamps can also profit you in another way: You'll know a lot more about what you're collecting. Your collection will turn out better as a result, and you're bound to get more enjoyment out of your hobby.

Sixty years ago, brothers L. Norman and Maurice Williams wrote in Stamp Reviewthat "more journals are devoted to philately than to any other hobby."

That statement may be accurate yet today, as dozens of stamp societies large and small create a wide range of publications for collectors to enjoy.

In the Stamp Review article, the Williamses reported that the first philatelic periodical was "a small monthly of eight pages, published at one penny. The paper was called The Monthly Advertiser, and it was published by Edward Moore & Co., of Liverpool. The first number appeared on 15th December 1862, and the first Editorial stated that 'Postage Stamp collectors and dealers have long felt the want of a publication which should devote itself entirely to their interests, and serve as a medium for their advertisements.' "

This kind of commercial publication continues today in many forms. One example is Linn's Stamp News, the world's largest weekly stamp hobby newspaper.

More commercial stamp hobby publications are shown in Figure 1. The illustration pictures monthly magazines from Germany, Australia and Great Britain, as well as Scott Stamp Monthly, which like Linn's, is published by Amos Press.

All of these publications provide news and feature articles about the stamp hobby, though each presents the information with a different perspective.

News articles often provide readers with information that can save them money while shopping for stamps. Linn's readers regularly learn of new stamps being issued by U.S. and worldwide postal authorities long before such items are announced in mail-order catalogs and other publications.

Often this gives them an opportunity to pick up hard-to-find items while they are still available.

Collectors also enjoy looking through a great selection of advertisements from stamp dealers. By looking through the ads in Linn's and in other stamp hobby publications, the collector can find the best stamp deals and learn about collectibles that may not be advertised elsewhere.

Journals published by stamp collecting societies provide the collector with details of new research and discoveries in specialized collecting fields.

The Refresher Course column in the March 29 issue of Linn's described how many different collector groups exist within the stamp hobby. Most of these groups publish regular journals, such as those shown in Figure 2. The valuable specialized information found in these journals is often not available in general interest publications.

Stamp catalogs are another valuable source of information for the collector. General worldwide catalogs provide basic listings for stamps issued by countries all over the globe.

Specialized catalogs present in-depth details about stamps issued by a single country or within a single specialty area.

Many stamp catalogs, including those shown in Figure 3, are published commercially. Others are created by postal authorities or specialty stamp societies.

Collectors can find a wealth of information in stamp catalogs, including where and when a stamp was issued, approximate retail values, descriptions of varieties and much more.

Catalogs are generally available from stamp dealers and specialty dealers in philatelic literature.

Some catalogs are available for purchase direct from the publisher.

Many literature dealers also carry reference books and other publications for the stamp collector. Just a few are shown in the photo in Figure 4.

Some of these books include research compiled by a single collector or a group and provide background and details on a specific collecting area. Others may give historical perspectives or simply provide basic stamp collecting information.

There are books for beginner collectors as well as for experts.

A number of books published by Linn's Stamp News are available from dealers or direct from the publisher. 

For additional information about Linn's books visit Linn's Bookstore online at

Auction catalogs are yet another type of philatelic literature. Auction catalogs list stamps and covers that are being sold through auction at a set date.

A collector can learn a lot by reading through various auction catalogs and the listing of the prices realized.

Auction catalogs, such as those pictured in Figure 5, often show which stamp varieties are bringing high prices at auctions and give the collector a broader view of the many stamps and covers that are available.

Some auction houses specialize in stamps of a specific area, such as Great Britain, Asia, early United States, and so on.

Occasionally a special auction catalog will be produced when a highly prized collection is placed on sale. Some of these catalogs are known as the definitive reference work for some of the world's great stamp gems.

While some auction catalogs are provided free of charge to prospective buyers, many are sold for a fee to cover the costs of printing and distribution.

Auction houses regularly advertise throughout the pages of Linn's, as well as in classified advertising sections 2 and 3.

A quickly growing source of stamp hobby information is the World Wide Web on the Internet. Computer users tap into this network of information sites to view details about everything imaginable, including stamps and stamp collecting.

A new Linn's Internet site helps computer users find the stamp collecting information they're looking for. By visiting collectors are able to search for Internet sites that specifically contain stamp collecting information.

With this incredible wealth of information available, the collector has to decide what he wants to read and what he wants to save.

Auction catalogs, newspapers, magazines and journals can pile up quickly, leaving little space for anything else.

Many collectors create clipping files by cutting out or printing out articles and pages that are of interest to them. They keep a number of files with relevant headings, such as "Swedish booklet stamps," "Trans-Mississippi issue of 1898" or "Stamp printing techniques."

This method saves space and keeps information organized and easy to find. Other collectors keep articles or photocopies in loose-leaf notebooks.

Stamp collectors are often inquisitive individuals, and reading about stamps and the stamp hobby gives the collector an opportunity to fulfill that desire for knowledge.