These are the most frequently asked questions about collecting stamps.
How do I start collecting?
The best thing to do is just start picking up different things: stamps on old and new envelopes, postcards, collector items, anything that attracts your attention. As you find an area that interests you pick up a reference catalogue. It will prove invaluable in the future. Eventually you will need a plan to organize your collection. Let this follow your interests and other hobbies. Most collectors decide to specialize in issues of a particular country or time period, or even a theme, such as trains. What you chose is up to you, there are no rules.
What should I buy?
There are three basic rules to follow: buy what you like, buy what you can afford, and buy what you consider reasonably priced. In other words, enjoy your stamps, and don’t pay too much for them. Your collection should be fun to own and affordable. As a rule, it is better to own one high-quality item than it is to own several mediocre ones. Low value common items will probably always be low value common items. Buy them if you want them in your collection, but don’t expect to make money when you sell them.
Are stamps a good investment?
Yes and no. Some people have made a lot of money buying and selling these items, and others have lost fortunes. If you are serious about investing first spend a bit of time learning. Most successful investors were knowledgeable collectors first. A well-chosen collection will appreciate, but probably no better or worse than any other investment. By well-chosen we mean good quality stamps purchased at reasonable prices.
How approachable are dealers to new collectors?
Most dealers are willing to help out a new collector with advice and information but not all the time. However this is a business and their time means money. If a dealer is busy with customers then wait, or come back later. If a customer shows up, offer to wait until after they have been served. It also helps if you repay their time with a little patronage. It doesn’t have to be an expensive item, but it proves that you are sincere about collecting. If you do want to invest in stamps, tell the dealer that’s your goal, they make money on stamps all the time and can make good recommendations.
How do I sell my collection?
It depends on the collection. Most people believe that auctions will get the fairest price, but not always. Dealers are also looking to buy. The best thing to do is take an inventory and then contact a couple of dealers or auctioneers to see if they are interested. It is possible that they aren’t. If they express an interest you’ll have to make arrangements to show them the stamps. If they make an offer urge them to take all or nothing. A dealer will generally prefer to take only the desirable items, leaving you with the common ones that are difficult to sell. If there’s a show in your area you may want to take your collections there. With a room full of dealers you won’t have to wait long for an answer. Once you’ve got some offers the decision is up to you, they are your stamps. After checking out the catalogue value of your collection be prepared for a shock when you get some offers, there is a significant difference between dealer’s selling prices and buying prices, that’s how they earn a living.
What are my old stamps worth?
Although there are exceptions, most old stamps are not particularly valuable unless they are very well preserved or have interesting postmarks or a similar tie to postal history. The best place to start is by making a trip to the reference section of your local library. There are a number of catalogues, some for specific countries.
I have stamps that looks like somebody made a mistake, are they worth a lot of money?
Mistakes do happen, and some get past quality control. Most error stamps are sought-after by collectors, but you may need to have them examined by a recognized expert first.