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A hobby that’s fun, educational and is budget-friendly




Millions of people around the world enjoy stamp collecting. Why? Because it’s one hobby that is fun and educational, and fits any budget.

U.S. postage stamps celebrate American history, nature, art, culture and science. The beauty of our country is reflected in stamps, from the 40 natural and man-made Wonders of America to the Holiday Snowflakes. They remind us of important historical events, inventions, trends and people who have touched our lives, from superstar entertainer Judy Garland to author Katherine Anne Porter and boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson. They celebrate American culture and pastimes, from the Art of Disney and DC Comics Super Heroes to American motorcycles.

Getting started

Starting your stamp collection is simple. Many youngsters begin by saving used stamps from the letters, packages and postcards their families receive at home. You can ask friends and relatives to save stamps from their mail, too. Local banks, stores, insurance agents, travel agents and other businesses that get a lot of mail might be willing to save envelopes for young collectors.

Some people save entire envelopes. Others focus on the stamp itself. To remove the stamp, first tear or cut off the upper right-hand corner of the envelope or card. Place it imageside down in a small pan of warm water. The stamp should sink to the bottom after a few minutes, but wait a few minutes more for any remaining glue to dissolve from the stamp. Then take the stamp out of the water using tweezers or stamp tongs so the oil from your skin doesn’t damage your stamps.

If your stamp is self-adhesive, don’t attempt to remove the gum. Place it face down and don’t let anything touch its adhesive back. Once it is dry, you can flatten it gently with a book or other heavy flat object. For an older stamp – the “lick-and-stick” kind – put it between two paper towels and put something on top. Let the old stamp dry there overnight, so it doesn’t curl.

Protecting your collection

To safeguard your stamps, you can attach them to loose-leaf paper and put them in a three-ring binder, or arrange them more formally in a stamp album. Some albums have plastic or paper pockets on them to hold the stamps. Others include pictures of the stamps to help you look for and match up the ones you find. Otherwise you can affix little glassine mounts called “hinges” to the back of your stamps to hold them in your album, or you can buy mounts that completely cover and protect the stamp. Consider getting an album that lets you add pages so it can grow as your collection grows.

You may want to get some glassine envelopes, made of thin, see-through paper, to hold and protect stamps until you have time to put them in your album. A stamp catalog, a reference book with illustrations and information about your stamps, will come in handy as you research your stamps, and a magnifying glass will help you study the tiny details and look for special markings on your stamps.

Investigating your stamps

Part of the fun of having a stamp collection is doing the detective work – investigating your stamps. What’s special about the subject? Where was the stamp issued? Why? It’s easy to investigate your stamps – just look in your stamp catalog, go to your local library, or search out the subjects on the Internet.

Don’t forget to tell your friends about your new hobby. Let them know you collect stamps, and ask them to help you build your collection. And remember to put stamps, albums and hinges on your birthday and holiday wish lists.

To purchase stamps or get more information about collecting stamps, go to your local post office, stamp store or local stamp show, or visit shop.usps.com.


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