Philatelic and Postal History Primer
Getting Started
Introduction//Stamp Types//Collection Types//Getting Started//Associations

Getting Started with your Stamp Collection

Getting Started//Storage & Care//Accessories

There are many different types of Albums you can choose to house your collection. The album you decide on will depend on what area of philately you decide to pursue and the amount you are willing to spend on it. High-end albums can run well over $100 each, however there are a number of reasonably priced albums that will more than suffice to protect your stamps. The album illustrated on the left is a First Day Cover Album.

Scott, Safe, Mystic, and Harris all produce quality albums at the lower end of the price range.


A Catalog is used to help identify and classify your stamps. A World/Country catalog as illustrated on the left describes all of the  stamps issued by several countries. They consist of several volumes and are arranged alphabetically.  Specialized catalogues can be purchased that focus on specific areas of stamp collecting such as a First Day Cover Catalogue. A Topical Catalogue lists all of the existing issues for one topic or theme.

Magnifiers are used to view a stamp in greater detail. Many of the older stamp issues were produced on different plates and contain small differences in design. They are listed separately in the specialized country catalogues and while two stamps may look alike, it is possible that one is much more valuable than the other. The type of magnifier shown on the left is placed directly over the stamp to be examined.

There are two main types of  stamp mounts. The type of mount illustrated to the left is a Polystyrene Stamp Mount, which are generally purchased in strips and cut to size, although they also can be purchased cut to size. The stamp is inserted inside the plastic tube/strip and the mount itself is attached to the album page. This method is best for mounting mint or unused stamps as it protects the stamp gum from damage. 

Another method of mounting stamps is to use Stamp Hinges. These are small  pieces of gummed glassine paper which attach to both the stamp and the album page. They can damage the gum of the stamp itself when removed and should be utilized only for a collection of used stamps.

A type of variation in many stamp issues is in the number and size of the stamps perforations.  A perforation gauge measures the number of perforations in a two centimeter range along the edge of the stamp and is often the only way to tell the difference between two look-alike stamps.

Handling a stamp by hand can also cause damage to the stamp from the natural oil contained on human skin. Specially made Tongs or Tweezers for safely handling your stamps are sold by most stamp dealers and supply houses.

Many stamp collectors prefer collecting postally used stamps. Used stamps are often sold in large quantity packets still attached to a portion of the envelope paper. A common method for removing the stamp from the paper without damage is to soak the stamp in lukewarm water until it comes free. When the stamps are left to dry naturally, they tend to curl. A Drying Book has pages made of a special substance that won't adhere to the drying stamp, (which usually will still contain some remnant of the gum). The stamps are placed inside the pages of the book to dry and weight placed on the cover of the book. When dried the stamps will be flat and in good condition for mounting in your album.

A watermark is a design consisting of characters, letters, numerals, or words impressed into the stamp paper during it's manufacture. The paper used in stamp production is produced by several different manufacturers and contains different watermarks.

Many of the older issues can only be told apart by the differences in their watermarks. 

The Watermark Tray is used with a commercial  watermark fluid to detect and view the watermark which normally is not visible to the naked eye. Caution should be taken when using this method of watermark detection as the ink in certain stamps may run when immersed in the fluid. 

For example: The ink on the Amateur Radio Stamp issue of 1964 will run when immersed.

Getting Started//Storage & Care//Accessories

Introduction//Stamp Types//Collection Types//Getting Started//Associations

RI Historical Society
The Post Offices
Home Page
RI Tercentenary Issue History
RI Philatelic Society
Recently Added Pages
Philatelic Primer
Rhode Island Around the World
Rhode Island Town Postmarks
Other Websites of Interest

Philatelic Terms & Definitions