Sunday, August 1, 2010

Stamp Collecting and the Internet

day many stamp collectors use the Internet as a focal point for their hobby.  The Internet serves as a vast market and information resource for many stamp collectors.  There are stamp collecting groups, online markets, auction places, stores, discussion forums, and even individual pages about stamps.  

The Internet has allowed small and large dealers to sell stamps and stamp collecting supplies online.  Before the Internet, hobbyists often had to either order stamps through the mail or trek to the nearest stamp collecting store.   Now everyone can order stamps online and even sell them through marketplaces like Ebay.  In fact, today the dominant means of acquiring and selling stamps is conducted online. 
 For anyone wishing to learn more about stamp collecting then the myriad of website guides on the hobby can be especially helpful.  One can find very good beginner guides that are easy to read and understand.  Then there are more advanced guides that help the hobbyist grow in his or her taste or desires.  Stamp collecting has many different areas that one can specialize in or collect.  Some collect a wide range of stamps from many areas while others hone in one or two specific types of stamps.  Many collect stamps from a single country, usually their country of origin.   Others may collect stamps from a time period or in certain condition.  Then there are people that collect first day covers or even postal history pieces.
 A stamp album with loose stamps
A starter resource for learning about the hobby is StampCollection.net.  This is a nice, easy to digest guide to stamp collecting topics.  While not as extensive as AskPhil.com or other sites, this guide can be a nice introduction that leads to other resources.  The pages are short and one will not be overwhelmed with too many mundane details. 
Once one has read about the basics of stamp collecting, AskPhil.com can help the beginner learn more advanced topics about the hobby.   This website has a large question and answer section with very good instructions addressing many aspects of stamp collecting.  Many topics such as buying stamps online,  visiting stamp shows, caring for stamps, saving used stamps,  collecting covers, and other subjects are covered.  There are many links to different stamp collecting organizations and other websites as well.   One can even find information on selling and inheriting stamp collections.   There are several pages with stamp identifying information available for those with unknown stamps.
One of the first US stamps
A third great reference can be found at Lynns.com.   There is an extensive collection of articles, guides, links, and references on the hobby.  One can find both beginner guides and advanced hobbyist resources.   The website is part of Scott Publishing which also publishes Lynn’s Stamp News along with the Scott Stamp Monthly magazine.  One can find an extensive marketplace listing of stamp dealers along with information about the renowned Stamp Catalogue series. 
The American Philatelic Society is another great resource for learning about stamp collecting as well as for research information about stamp dealers. 
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A used block of 4 stamps
Finding stamps can be relatively easy online.  One can order stamps from stamp dealers or from auction dealers on sites such as Ebay.  However, one should try to read up on buying stamps safely.  There always fly by night stamp counterfeiters that try to make a fast buck.  Always double check a seller’s background and reputation, especially on auction sites like Ebay.  Trustworthy dealers generally have a long sales history and have been around for several years.  Sticking with such dealers can help avoid headaches in the long run.  For individual stamp dealers, one can double check with their local Better Business Bureau and even the American Philatelic Society which can verify a dealer’s standing.  

Another stamp album with hinged stamps
Stamp supplies such as glassine envelopes, stamp tongs, and albums can generally be ordered from stamp dealers or auction sellers.  One needs a good pair of stamp tongs to handle stamps and glassine envelopes can be the cheapest way to safely store stamps away from moisture or mold.  Albums can vary in complexity and cost.  Beginners should probably stick with the more inexpensive albums to begin their hobby. 
 To order stamp collecting supplies, there are several great dealers online.  One is Subway.com.  Subway has a wide selection of supplies, books, and even stamps.  If one signs up for a free account then there is a discount. Their closeout section has some great deals.  The staff is very helpful and one can either order online or over the phone.    Shipping is fast and relatively inexpensive.  A new catalog is currently being created for the New Year.  One can view several sections currently available online. 
A second dealer for stamp collecting supplies is Amos Advantage which is offered by Amos Publishing.  One can order items at their retail cost from the website or, with a paid subscription to one of Amos Publishing magazines, receive a discounted price (usually noted as the “aa” price).   Many products are offered by the company including many Scott stamp collecting supplies.  Scott makes the most extensive selections of stamp albums available on the market.   Their clearance section also holds many surprise deals that can save a great deal of money.  
Buying stamps online is easy.   After one has read a guide or articles on buying stamps, one can wander through Ebay’s many listings of stamp auctions or browse through many stamp dealer websites.   However, for those starting out, sometimes just viewing several trusted dealer sites can be more advisable at first. 
 Here are some basic sites that have been around for some time and are generally considered trustworthy.    Perhaps the first stamp site is one’s post office online.  In the US that would be the USPS Postal Store website.   In other countries like Canada’s Post, there are also online postal stores that one can order from.   For new stamp releases, the original postage service is usually the best and least expensive place to buy stamps.   Generally purchases take about a week or two from the USPS store.   One can order stamp sheets, covers, and books about stamps from the USPS store.   One can also order from post offices from other countries including China and India. Some countries may not have an online store, requiring hobbyist to order stamps by mail or phone.
 
A parcel post stamp
Another safe and easy place to shop is with the American Philatelic Society. One has to join in order to order stamps from their marketplace but one will be assured that their dealers are trustworthy.   They have large marketplace with dealers offering quality stamps. 
Another web store is Brookman Stamp Company which has been around for many years and sells US and World stamps.   They specialty is in US Duck issue stamps.
A first day cover
For worldwide stamps, one site offers a large selection of mint or new stamps.  The County Stamp Center  offers a nice selection of stamps from a large range of different countries including the US.  Most of the stamps are current stamps but there are also many classic editions available as well.   Souvenir sheets and stamp lots are available for purchase.   Most of their stamp images are clear and one can really appreciate the beauty of many stamps found on the site. 
A sheet of stamps from Thailand
Some stamp collectors enjoy collecting plate blocks of stamps.  One resource is the Plate Block Company.   This is a great site for viewing US plate blocks going back to the 19th century.  All are in new or mint condition with accurate descriptions listed for each item.   There are also plate block albums for sale.   Many plate blocks from the mid 20th century are fairly inexpensive and can be an inexpensive way to start a plate block collection.  Shipping is inexpensive as well.
Plate blocks are popular
For those wishing to collect stamps still adhered to their covers, then the BuckaCover website can be a great place to shop.  One can find covers and first day covers from most countries for under $1.50.  The cheapest covers go for .60 cents.   The minimum order amount is $10. 
Another nice cover site is Knottywood Treasures. They offer an extensive cover selection of first day covers and stamps.  One can find some hard to find treasures there including postal history.  For those that wish to explore more stamp dealers, than one very elaborate web listing of online dealers can be found on the Stamp Collecting Links website. One can find thousands of dealers there and dealers can be searched by their names.   Most entries have brief descriptions describing their products or stamp types along with links.

A piece of postal history

One can find images of many stamp images online.  Some of the best can be found from museums and individual collectors.   The National Postal Museum is a great place to view collections online.   A great resource for any stamp collector is to join an online stamp collecting club.  One well known club is the Virtual Stamp Club.  One can join for free, post messages, and even sell items.  The members are very helpful and can help aid beginning stamp collectors with questions. 
 The Internet has really become an inseparable tool that has helped the hobby of stamp collecting survive into this century.  While many may not think of a computer as a stamp collecting tool, the fact is that today’s stamp collector requires one to be fully engaged in the hobby.  Purchasing stamps and learning about the hobby can be easily done online.   There are many sites out there that can open one’s eyes about the different variations and types of stamp collecting.   For beginner stamp collectors, the Internet is a free and extensive resource of information about the hobby.   For advanced collectors, there are rare collections available for sale from online dealers that would otherwise be difficult to procure.  The Internet offers a bounty of information and resources that can help make stamp collecting a far more engaging and collaborative hobby for everyone.

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