How do I Start Stamp Collecting: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Postage Stamps

It’s easy to begin stamp collecting – simply start saving postage stamps. And check out this easy-to-follow beginner’s guide!

Why do people collect postage stamps?

Stamp collecting has often been called “the world’s greatest hobby.” Buy why? Our stamp collecting president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said it best: “Stamp collecting dispels boredom, enlarges our vision, broadens our knowledge, makes us better citizens, and in innumerable ways, enriches our lives.”

Stamp collecting is a great way to relax after a long day. It also helps keep our minds sharp – postage stamps are constantly teaching us new things about history, culture, and more. Collecting is also a way to explore the far-reaches of the globe from the comfort of home.

Young Sundman brothers learning the ways of collectible stamps from their father, Maynard.

There are plenty of other reasons people choose to collect stamps. Here’s how Mystic’s president Don Sundman got started.

Who collects postage stamps?

In short – everyone! Stamp collecting is the hobby of everyday folk like you and me, but it’s also the hobby of kings and queens, heads of state, rock stars, celebrities, and more. Some of the most famous stamp collectors have included: Queen Elizabeth II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, Amelia Earhart, John Lennon, Dr. Sally Ride, Warren Buffett, Freddy Mercury, Ronnie Wood, George Bernard Shaw, James Earl Jones, Patrick Dempsey, Maria Sharapova, William Gross, Simon Wiesenthal, and many more. Check out this article from the Smithsonian National Postal Museum to discover some of their stories.

US #C68 (Airmail)
1963 Amelia Earhart
US #5312
2018 John Lennon, Red
US #5283
2018 Sally Ride
Great Britain Mint Sheet
2020 Queen Stamps
Great Britain Mint Fan Sheet
2022 Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge Stamps

What postage stamps should I collect?

One of the best parts of stamp collecting is that you make the rules. Collect any stamps you want, any way you want – there’s no wrong way to collect. Choose a topic you like, country you’re interested in, time in history, etc. There’s so many choices, you’ll never get bored!

Here’s a list of a few popular collectible stamp topics (there are plenty of other ways to collect!):
– Airplanes
– Animals
– Anniversaries
– Christmas
– Elvis Presley
– Famous Leaders
– Flags
– Military
– Olympics
– Paintings
– Royal Family (Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, etc.)
– Ships
– Space
– Sports
– Trains/Railroads

Mystic’s website is one great place to get inspiration. For example, here’s a great Mystic kit to help you get started collecting US postage stamps. It has everything you need in one easy order.

Where do I get postage stamps?

You can remove used stamps from mail you receive, buy unused stamps from the post office, order from companies like Mystic, and more. When you choose Mystic, you can sign up for one of our fun clubs with stamps delivered to your door once a month – there are many clubs to choose from! Or, you can request an individual stamp advisor who will get to know you and send collectible stamps “on approval.” That means you decide which to keep and which to send back. You can call us at 1-866-660-7147 to request your individual postage stamp advisor.

How do I save money on collectible stamps?

The nice thing about stamp collecting is you can spend as much or as little as you’d like. Here are 5 tips to help you make the most of your dollars when shopping with Mystic.

How can I make sure the postage stamps I buy are genuine?

Counterfeit postage stamps have been around for almost as long as stamps have existed. It can be tough to tell them apart from the real deal, that’s why we always recommend buying from a reliable source like Mystic (we guarantee the authenticity of everything we sell), your local post office, the USPS website, and others. If you decide to shop elsewhere, be sure you know what to look for in the genuine collectible stamps you’re after. Here’s a short guide on modern counterfeits.

How do I identify postage stamps?/Where do I go to learn more about collectible stamps?

Identifying stamps is a skill honed over a lifetime of collecting. You never stop learning, but Mystic has plenty of tips and tricks to help you along the way. Take a look at our website or YouTube page to see for yourself. You can also utilize resources like the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, American Philatelic Society, or The Philatelic Foundation.

Or, if you have a particularly challenging postage stamp you want to identify, Mystic’s experts will happily take a look at it for you. Learn more about our affordable Stamp ID Service here.

How do I store and protect my collectible stamps?

At Mystic, we think the best way to organize and protect your collection is by mounting your postage stamps in an album. Our albums are three-ring binders, though other companies have two-post designs. Mounts are attached to the album pages and the stamps are slid inside. They keep your collectible stamps safe from dust, fingerprints, and other debris for many years to come. Shop albums here or mounts here.

Mystic’s popular American Heirloom Album, Volume I
Mystic’s Giant American Heirloom Album Collection
Black Archival-Quality Split-Back Mounts
Hinges – small gummed pieces of glassine used to attach lower-value stamps to album pages

Of course, there are other ways to store and protect your stamps, too. For example, stock books are a great option for protecting your stamps until they’re ready to be put in your album. Browse more supply options here.

How long have postage stamps been around?

The world’s first adhesive postage stamp (known as the Penny Black) was issued by Great Britain in 1840, however the idea of adding something (inked hand stamps) to a piece of mail to indicate payment has been around since 1680!

Great Britain #1 – 1840 Penny Black

When did the U.S. first issue postage stamps?

Some individual postmasters in the United States issued their own stamps as early as 1845, but the first official United States stamps were not issued until 1847 – the 5¢ Benjamin Franklin & 10¢ George Washington.

US #1
US #2

What is a Scott Catalogue number?

Scott Publishing Company developed the first complete identification system for collectible stamps. They list estimated values for postage stamps issued by dozens of countries around the world. Each stamp is assigned a number in Scott’s annual catalogs, with the majority of people using these reference numbers to identify stamps. Mystic has been given special permission to use Scott Catalogue numbers in our own US stamp catalog. It’s a great resource for new postage stamp collectors if you’re not ready to invest in a Scott Catalogue yet. Get your FREE Mystic U.S. Stamp Catalog here.

This is the 2024 Volume I Scott Catalogue Set (Pictures stamps from US, United Nations, Australia, and Austria-B Countries)

Why are some collectible stamps valuable and others aren’t?

The value of a given collectible stamp is often based on the law of supply and demand (and condition). If demand is high and supply is low, the price is usually higher. If supply is low and demand is, too, the price is generally lower. Older postage stamps of higher quality usually sell for more. Rare stamps with few in existence are usually the most valuable.

For collectors, the real value of a stamp has little to do with money (we don’t collect stamps to turn a profit). The enjoyment comes with learning something new about a country, owning important pieces of history, building a miniature art gallery, and growing a collection from the ground up.

What are some of the most famous collectible postage stamps?

British Guiana 1¢ Magenta
(Only 1 exists – Last sold for $8.307 million to Stanley Gibbons PLC)

Inverted Jenny
(Only 100 exist – Position 49 recently sold for $2 million)

1¢ Benjamin Franklin Z Grill
(Only 1 in private hands – Last sold for $4.366 million to anonymous buyer)

CIA Invert
(Only 115 known to exist – Current Scott value of $17,000)

Click here to discover how Mystic’s president, Don Sundman, cracked the case of this famous stamp in the 1980s.

Where can I improve my stamp collecting vocabulary?

Check out Mystic’s Glossary of Stamp Terms – it’s a great reference tool for getting started in the world of stamps.

How can I join the stamp collecting community?

Join the American Philatelic Society (APS) – Mystic president Don Sundman has sponsored thousands of members, you could be one of them!

Become a member of your local stamp club – here’s a handy list of them organized by state.

Check out an online stamp forum like this one.

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