Collecting Stamps - Coney's Stamps

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Stamp and Site: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)...

We've provided answers to some of the more common questions that our visitor have asked. These range from very basic collecting questions to questions specific to this site. Please review these FAQ's and if you don't find an answer to your question please contact us. Additional FAQ's and important information about the Web site can be found on the "Site FAQ's page.

This page will be updated periodically, so check it from time to time.


You can start your collection on a shoestring budget right at your own mailbox! Just save any envelopes with stamps on them, We'll discuss removing the stamps from the paper later. Let your family and friends know about your new hobby, and ask them to save their stamps for you.

As your collection expands, so should your means of acquiring new stamps. Even if you live hundreds of miles away from the nearest stamp dealer, don't despair! There are huge inventories of stamps which can be purchased conveniently through the mail and on the Internet, no matter where you live.

Stamps Approval services have been around for a long time now. These services let you receive selections of stamps vie regular mail. You decide which ones you want to keep, and return the others with payment for the stamps you keep!

The best way to start is to collect whatever catches your eye at the post office or on envelopes, which collectors call covers. Also pick up a couple of standard reference catalogues such as Scott or Stanley Gibbons. When you are planning your collection, let your interests guide you. Many specialize in a time period, subjects/themes (like trains, flowers, etc.), or of a particular country and others gar "generalists" which collect from a much wider base of materials. Many start out as generalists; then as their experience grows, their budget and interest weigh in make some decisions how to proceed.

What you choose is up to you, it s hobby and it's supposed to be fun. As long as you're not doing damage to anything, collect what you want and how you want.

This site will help you with many aspects of collecting stamps. You've already found the "Collecting" section of this web site. This is a great place to start.

Values are a funny thing. The value of a stamp is based on a number of things such as law of "supply and demand", rarity and condition. If demand is high, and supply is low, prices are high. If the demand is also low, the price will stay the same but rarely declines.

Obviously a stamp in perfect condition will bring a higher price that the same issue which is torn, tattered and used.

Identification of a variant can also cause a particular stamp to increase in value, again if demand is high for that variant.

Unused stamps which have the gum (sticky stuff) intact and undisturbed "usually" bring higher values than the same stamp that is used or "hinged".

Errors like the famous Inverted Jenny generally bring very high prices, in part because there are few few of that particular stamp with the center inverted (upside down). There are some stamps with errors that don't archive the same demand because there are so many on the market an example would be the Dag Hammarskjold issue


Yes. They can be, good quality stamp collection purchased at reasonable prices will generally appreciate in value. This is usually a very slow but solid investment. Like any investment you really have to put an effort into learning about investing in stamps and like materials. The old saying buy low and sell high applies to this as well.

While some people have made a lot of money buying and selling stamps others have lost fortunes.

If you are serious about investing in philately, first spend some time learning. Most successful investors were knowledgeable collectors first.

There are three basic rules to follow when buying stamps:

  • buy what you like;
  • buy what you can afford;
  • and buy what you consider reasonably priced.

In other words, enjoy your stamps and do not pay too much for them. Your collection should be fun and affordable.

To some extent this depends on what you intend to collect. In general there are some basic tools and supplies that you will need. To start out you'll probably need the following tools: a good set of tongs, perforation gauge, magnifying glass, and at least access to a catalog. For supplies: you might want to start out with a good bound stock book. This Web site will help you select these and other tools and supplies used by collectors of all types and levels.

In most cases, the value of a stamp is determined not only by how old, rare of in-demand it is, but also its condition and grade of a stamp.

There are several factors in condition and grade.

Condition refers to the general condition of the stamp.

  • MNH - Mint Never Hinged. This means that the stamp is new, never used and the stamp has never been "hinged".
  • MH - Means that the stamp is new/unused but has a mark on the back where a hinge is or was attached.
  • Used - is a stamp that has been postally used and usually has a cancellation mark on it.

These have to do with the centering of the design of the stamp with respect to the stamp edges or perforations and the how "clean" the stamp is..

  • VF - Very Fine.
  • F - Fine.
  • VG - Very Good.
  • S - Superb, perfectly centered to the naked eye, crisp and sharp in appearance. Used versions are lightly cancelled.

Much more information is available in the "Identification and Grading" section of this web site.

Each year, Scott Publishing Company produces updated catalogs of U.S. stamps and World wide. Scott Catalogs have been a de facto industry standard since John Walter Scott published the first catalog in 1868.

The Scott Catalog does not offer stamps for sale, but lists estimated values for each issue, and identifies each with a "Scott Number." As new stamps are issued by the U.S. Postal Service, Scott assigns catalog numbers to them. Because the Scott catalog is a highly respected authority, and because Scott Numbers were the first comprehensive identification system for stamps, nearly all stamp dealers, collectors, and even the U.S. Postal Service use Scott Numbers to identify U.S. stamps.

You'll notice that this web site has also obtained permission to use Scott's Stamp numbering throughout the site.

Scott's produces a variety of different catalogs which are available in print and CD editions:

  1. US Specialized (1A) for more detailed catalog of U.S. stamps of all types.
  2. Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue: Stamps and Covers of the World covers World Wide issues from 1840-1940 and British Commonwealth to 1952
  3. World Wide Catalogs:
    • Volume 1: United States and Countries A-B
    • Volume 2: Countries C-F
    • Volume 3: Countries G-I
    • Volume 4: Countries J-O
    • Volume 5: Countries P-Si
    • Volume 6: Countries So-Z

Various countries around the world have their own catalogs. (different numbering systems)

    • Great Britain uses Gibbons,
    • Germany uses Michel
    • and Italy's uses Bolaffi.

There are many things that can go into identifying a stamp. The best place to start is usually Scott's Catalog however there are some basic tools that you will need. In many cases there's more to it than finding a stamp that "looks" like it. The difference can mean a few cents or several thousands for some issues. A good stamp perforation gauge, color gauge and magnifying glass are enough to get you started. You'll want to read the articles on the Stamp Tools and Identification sections of this site for more information.

There are a number of catalogs that will help. The best place to find out is at the reference section of your local library. When in doubt, the Scott or Stanley Gibbons catalogs offer a fairly complete list of almost everything from everywhere.

The two stamps pictured look exactly the same. Yet one is Scott #552 and the other is Scott #578. #552 was printed in 1923 and was perforated 11. Shortly after this, the printing method was changed and the same design was printed again, perforated 11 x 10 and numbered #578. There are many issues such as this. Some are different numbers only because of a watermark or secret mark. Some might have different paper or a color variation. But regardless of the differences, each new issue gets its own number.

#522 vs. Scott # 578 #578

Catalog numbers are usually assigned when the stamp is issued. At times they may be changed years later or amended as variants are found. Catalogs are generally printed once a year to to find the numbers for the newest issues, you'd need to subscribe or pick up a copy of "Scott Monthly," published monthly same folks that publish the catalogs.

The first rule of philately is "first, do no harm." If in doubt ID the stamp first. If it's rare or a high value issue you might want to ask someone with more experience. Even take it to the large stamp show and ask an expert. If it's not a high value issue then there are several way to get a stamp off paper. Using a sweat-box or soaking them off are the most common ways. I general, both are easy methods, however there are precautions that must be taken to ensure that no damage occurs during the process.

What ever method you chose, it's always wise to practice on a junk stamp or at least one of very low value first.

More information about removing stamps from paper can be found in the how-to articles on this site.

You can find philatelic (stamp collecting) glossaries of terms and acronyms on many Web sites. We have a glossary on this site and try very hard to maintain it. Chances are that the term your looking for will be in there but if it's not we invite you to contact us and we'll find it.

There are many way to sell a collection.

In many cases auctions will get you the fairest price. There a quite a few auction outlets available both in online and live formats.

Dealers are also looking to buy stamps or collection

The best thing to do is take an inventory and then contact a few dealers and auctioneers to see if they are interested. If they express an interest, you will have to make arrangements to show them the stamps. If they make an offer, urge them to take all or nothing. A dealer will generally

ns. prefer to take only the desirable stamps, leaving you with the common ones that are difficult to sell.

If there is a stamp show in your area, you may want to take your collections there. With a room full of dealers, you won't have to wait long for an answer. Be prepared for a shock when you get some offers. There is a significant difference between dealers' selling prices and buying prices. That's how they earn a living. Once you've got some offers, the decision is up to you.

From 1847 to 1922 most of America's stamps were produced on flat bed presses. Printing stamps this way was a slow process, because the presses could print only one sheet of stamps at a time.

In 1923, the Post Office Department began to use rotary presses to print regular issue stamps, this process was faster and could keep up with the increasing demand for stamps. Rotary presses improved printing efficiency, because they could print sheets of stamps on a continuous roll of paper. Stamps produced on a rotary press are longer or wider than the same stamps printed on a flat bed press.

Today, many stamps are printed by offset. This is a printing process in which an inked impression from a plate is first made on a rubber covered cylinder, and then transferred to the paper being printed. Offset printing is less expensive and more flexible for the production of multicolored stamps.

There are several good sources for stamp show calendars on the web. and APS maintains a good list. Simply searching the web for "Stamp Shows" will bring up quite a few lists. When searching the web state specific and work your way out. First try Stamp Shows and include you city/town and state (stamp shows hagerstown maryland). If that doesn't work then try "stamp shows" and your state. 

Stamp Clubs are very popular with collectors because they offer an affordable, easy way to get the stamps they want and information they need. Although collectors of any age or level can benefit from club membership this is particularly good for those starting out because it's a great place to get the basics, talk to people who have been collecting and get some exposure to a variety of collecting view points.

In addition to swapping stamps, materials, and information it's a chance to meat and socialize with people in your area that share a common interest.

Every show is different, but most of the time you will see a room full of dealers and collectors, and possibly some displays of public information or exhibits of collections. It is an excellent place to compare prices, buy or sell stamps or just look at a lot of cool stuff. Go there with your eyes and ears open and do not be afraid to ask questions

There are several things you can do. First you might want to check the Catalogs and Web sites like this one. Check our Identification section for some limited assistance. The next step would be local dealers and your local stamp club. If you're still stumped then you can give APS a try. They have identification service available online for a fee.