Hobbies and fads may come and go, but collecting postage stamps has remained one of the world’s most popular past-times over many generations. True collectors often collect both these and other related items, including envelopes, packages or pre-fixed mailers.
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Casual collectors may simply gather together groups without considering the details of their possessions. True collectors, or aficionados, involve themselves in a comprehensive study of stamp origins and attributes. These collectors often collect large quantities of rare or even unique examples from around the world. In smaller countries, limited runs are often produced in order to obtain the interest of collectors. They can even be a major source of income in some small nations, so it is not unusual in these cases for countries to produce unusual ones that are outside the normal needs of their citizens.
Rare examples are an exiting finds for most collectors, and beyond that, they can provide a financial windfall. While there are certain collectors that see their role as protector of these historical items, others see themselves as investors, speculating on the rise in value that is common as rare stamps age.
In truth, most are a bit of both (archivist and investor). Strictly as an investment, they are usually a stable commodity. Rare ones are good investments, portable and can command huge sums at auctions around the world. More and more, investors are beginning to see rare collections as an attractive alternative to other commodities.
To keep stamps safely, it is necessary to use an album or what is know as a “stock sheet.” Temperature in the storage area is critical, and no self-respecting stamp collector would dare place theirs in a room that wasn’t climate and humidity controlled. Serious collectors even go to the trouble and expense of building special climate controlled, low humidity rooms in their homes to house theirs. Others use vaults or safe-deposit boxes for this purpose, and when you consider the high value of some rare stamps, this seems a reasonable thing to do.
The most commonly collected are the commemorative editions that are produced in limited quantities ever so often. These are sometimes used to commemorate events, holidays, national victories, royal weddings, or times of national mourning. These are produced for a limited time only and are most commonly to be found at a dealers shop.
Pictorial ones are popular as well. These can be imprinted with symbols of national culture, sport or lifestyle, as well as unique nature scenery or national landmarks. Revenue stamps are another popular choice for collectors. These are ones that are designed for use on official government documents. In the US for example, they were used for telegrams and other public services in the late 1800’s. Those of this type are a rare find today and highly prized.
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Postage stamp collecting is sometimes called “the international hobby” because it crosses all borders, and collectors often specialize in stamps for a particular part of the world. As a result of this, many have a keen sense of world geography and understand quite a bit about different regions of the world. But at the end of the day, it’s also a lot of fun. It is a wonderful hobby that both entertains and enlightens.