Philately - Postage Stamp Collectibles
Philately is basically the study of stamps, though mostly it is collectors of postage stamp collectibles who are interested in it. But practicing philately does not imply that a person is collecting postage stamp collectibles. But the hobby of collecting postage stamps is extremely popular, and novice collectors will find the road to knowledge quite easy, with the wide number of resources available on postage stamp collectibles, as well as, philately.
Hisotry of Philately
Postage stamps have been in use since 1840, and Penny black was the first postage stamp to be put in use, depicting Queen Victoria. Postage stamp collectibles are available in a wide range of colours, shapes and sizes, which make them unique and interesting collectible items. It was only in the 1920s that postage stamp collectibles became an object of interest amongst collectors. After this sudden increase in interest, many serious collectors began collecting numerous varieties of stamps, hoping that in a few years they would become invaluable, but in this rush, numerous stamps ended up losing value instead. Thus, as a collector you need to be able to decipher which stamps are most suited for your collection.
Every country issues postage stamps and understanding which of these are of value, is the most important task of a collector. Deciding on a category of postage stamp collectibles, which you will pursue, is the best way to approach this hobby. Broadly, you can either collect general postage stamp collectibles, country postage stamp collectibles, or thematic collectibles. Thematic collection is based on design rather than origin or country, whereas country-wise collection depends on the country that the postage stamp collectible was issued in. General collections have no rules or boundaries, and collectors will take in any postage stamp collectible, provided it is of value.
There are many websites and collector groups, such as the American Philatelic Society, Cinderella Stamp Club, Rotary International and many others, which provide a lot of information for beginners. Getting your hands on books such as 'The Stamp Collector's Encyclopedia', by Richard John Sutton or 'Simplified Catalogue of Stamps of the World', by Stanley Gibbons, or more specific books for different countries, are also great ways to learn more about stamps.
Once you can easily identify postage stamp collectibles belonging to your chosen category, you will need to look at different ways to obtain them. Many hobby stores sell stamp packets, which might not contain invaluable and rare stamps, but will still provide you with a starting point for your collection. Apart from this make friends in different countries through the internet, and ask them to send you letters, with lots of stamps attached from their respective countries, not only will you increase your collection, you also get to make new friends this way. Contact local dealers for rare postage stamp collectibles and even if you don't get them the first time, let them know of your interest so that they contact you when your stamp arrives. The Internet is another great source for stamps, sites like eBay in particular, allow collectors to sell or buy postage stamp collectibles.
An important aspect of collecting postage stamps is storage and maintenance. As a serious collector equip yourself with a glass soaking dish, paper towels, weights, scissors and a stamp drying book, apart from which stamp tongs and a magnifying glass can also be helpful. A common occurrence while dealing with postage stamp collectibles is peeling them off paper, which requires you to soak the stamp in the soaking dish in about half inch of warm water. Make sure you don't leave it in too long, and do not use hot water, as this will damage the stamps. While lifting the stamps off the paper, avoid the use of tongs, as this can tear the stamp. For drying purposes, you could purchase stamp drying books, which are quite inexpensive and dry your postage stamp collectibles safely. Store your postage stamp collectibles in albums; just make sure the plastic does not destroy the face of the stamps. With so much to get you started, soon you will find yourself an expert in Philately, as well as, postage stamp collectibles.