Collecting Stamps - Coney's Stamps

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Understanding Stamps!

There are a number of things that a collector needs to take into consideration when properly identifying and cataloging the items in their collection. In addition to the denomination and subject on the stamp, many of the books and catalogs list different attributes of an issue.

Understanding stamps is important to collectors of any level or experience. It can mean a difference of thousands of dollars in value and turn a ordinary stamp into the centerpiece of your collection. For those to you that are new, don't be intimidated by this, there will be no test and you don't have to memorize anything as long as you have good references to use when you need to look them up. That's were Web sites like this, catalogs and books come in.

These are each covered to a greater depth in the Stamp Identification section but this will give you a primer on what you need to know or consider.

Other stamp collecting primers of interest may be:


Basic Parts of the Stamp:
1 - Border line: The line between the margin and the frame
2 - Denomination: The number that shows how much the stamp costs
3 - Frame: The area that surrounds the vignette (many stamps do not have frames)
4 - Margin: The unprinted area that surrounds the stamp
5 - Perforations: The holes around the edge of the stamp
6 - Vignette: The picture part of the stamp

The Type:

There are basically two different types of stamps which are used for common postage; Definitive and Commemorative.

Definitive: Is the “normal” postage which is issued for long periods. In the US: Flag stamps are an example of definitive stamps.  They are usually, but not always, smaller stamps.

Commemorative: are those that commemorate a person, specific thing or event. These are usually a little larger and rectangular in shape and are only issued for a short period of time, a few months to the year at the most.

More information of these and other types is available in Stamp Types.

The Format:

There are several stamp formats in which you’ll find US stamps issued: Sheets/Panes, Mini-sheets, Booklets, Coils and Souvenir sheets.

Sheets or more correctly panes: are usually 9” wide by 10.25” high and hold between 50 and 100 stamps separated by perforations.

Mini Sheets: are smaller and although they vary in size they are usually about 6-to-7” wide by 7-to-8” high and generally hold 8 to 16 stamps.

Booklet stamps: are small panes of 4 to 8 stamps sandwiched in-between two pieces or card-stock.

Coil stamps: are a long strip of stamps, one stamp wide. Coils for personal use are usually in rolls of 100 stamps but rolls intended for use in vending machines can be quite a bit longer.

Souvenir Sheets: are small sheets usually 4-to-6” wide by 3-to-5” tall and contain one or more stamps as to commemorate a special release or event.

The Specifications:

Stamp Specifications can include a number of physical attributes and the stamp.  These can include the Printing method, Size of the design, Perforation type and size, Ink type, Paper type and thickness, Color, Slight differences in the stamp or design and Watermark.

Printing Method: is the type of printing equipment and process used to create the stamp.
Size: is the actual size of the design or picture on the stamp.
Perforation: the size and interval of the holes, serpentine cut (wiggly lines) or lack of perforation.
Color: The actual or exact shade of color which is used for the design.
Paper Type: There are different types of paper which can be identified, most without any special equipment but a little experience may be necessary in some cases.

Grade & Condition This will have a great effect on the stamps worth or value and is of some concern for every stamp in your collection.

Grade: The grade has to do with the centering of the design (picture) in the center of the stamp.
Condition: This is the overall condition.  Is it used or mint, are there hinge marks on the back, is there any gum on the back, are there disturbances in the gum, faults, thin spots and tares or is it dirty?  How do the perforations look are they tattered and rough or crisp and straight?