Friday, February 10, 2006

Collecting Stamps For Cheap (and Free!)

While you may find stamps interesting, you may not know how in the world you would begin creating a viable stamp collection. As it turns out, this hobby can be less expensive and more fun than you might have imagined. It will be important that you decide on the stamps you want to collect before you get started.

While you certainly can expand (or shrink) your collection efforts later, it is best to decide now what you think you may want to do. For example, decide on the country whose stamps you want to collect. (Do some research to be sure that any country that interests you has a working postal system.) Also think about the time period. One collector may be interested in contemporary stamps while another may search out stamps from centuries past.

If you are working on a small budget, remember that the easiest stamps to collect with be those that are sent currently in your home country. If you want to start a stamp collection for little money, consider using used stamps. They will have the postal meter marking on them, but they are a great way to begin your collection. In fact, some big-time collectors are interested only in stamps that have been used.

Now you can start today. When you check your mail, take a pair of scissors and cut out the stamps on any pieces of mail you get. You may find that only a couple of pieces have real stamps. The others will have bulk stamps imprinted onto the envelope, but you may be able to get a couple of stamps to begin your collection.

After you start your collection, begin asking everyone who writes to you to send your letters with commemorative stamps. When you go to the post office, you should make it a point to buy various types of stamps. While some post offices have these stamps on display, others do not, so you will need to ask for them. You can go online to look for a full listing of the stamps available in your country, and you can even keep a little checklist to be sure that you get different stamps every time.

Also ask your friends, family members, and neighbors if they will keep their envelopes for you. They can cut out the stamps if they would like, but you can do it yourself, too. If you have enough people collecting, you will begin to gather a fair number of stamps for your collection. You will be gathering these stamps without really spending any money since you will be collecting from stamps that had to be used anyway. Just keep one for every book you buy and gather the others from ones already used.

If you are trying to expand your collection, you can still do it for little money. If you work in an office and handle the mail (or have a friend who does), you can check out the postage stamps on the office mail. Many offices just toss their envelopes without a look, but if you are searching, you likely can find some unique stamps on these envelopes.

Ask around to see if your parents or others have older letters. They may be saving the letters but feel okay about giving you the stamp from the envelope. If you find people who are willing to give you their letters, be sure that you take special care to return the letters in excellent condition. If you are really expanding the collection, consider taking out a small classified ad in your paper. The ad will not cost much. You can ask people to donate the stamps from old letters, or you can offer a small fee. Few people will know how much the stamps are worth (and you may not either), so you can buy them for $1 or so, and many people will be happy to sell them to you.

These tips will get you started on your stamp collection. You probably will find that these methods can keep you busy for a year or more before you begin to run out of places to find stamps. Just keep these methods going because you will be able to gather more stamps as time goes by.

By Julia Mercer

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