The hardest part of stamp collecting is getting started. That requires deciding that you want to collect stamps, and determining what you want to collect. After that, it’s easy, right? All you have to do is acquire the stamps to fill your collection. That “all”, however, has many aspects.
The way you add stamps to your collection depends on many things: the availability of what you want, its cost (and how much you can afford to spend), and how much effort you want to put into the process. Let’s look at various ways stamps can be added to a collection.
The simplest way to add stamps to your collection is to buy them. The days are gone when every dime store in the country carried a small assortment of stamps and stamp supplies. In fact, the dime stores themselves no longer exist. There are other options available to today’s collectors, however. There’s a huge, complex system in place to supply whatever a collector wants, and most of the time, at a reasonable price. The biggest problem here is the very complexity of the system.
There are more than 20,000 full-time and part-time stamp dealers in the United States alone, and tens of thousands overseas. Unfortunately, most of these dealers are in the larger cities, where the most collectors are concentrated. New collectors in rural areas must rely on mail-order for their collecting needs. The Internet is adding new dimensions to mail-order, so this is not a big problem.
What you buy, and how you buy, depends on what you collect, and will be the subject of another article.
Gifts and Donations
Many beginning collectors, especially young ones, can build a very nice collection of the current stamps from their country by asking relatives and friends to save the stamps from the mail they receive. The growth of metered mail has not quite reached the point where this is impossible, but it does slow it down a bit. If there are any relatives or close friends that own a business that gets lots of mail, this is even better! Friends and relatives that live far away can provide stamps that may not be available locally.
Another good source for collectors of foreign stamps is a penpal in a foreign country. It’s even better if that penpal is also a stamp collector, and you can exchange stamps from YOUR country for stamps from THEIRS.