How to Collect Stamps

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How to Collect Stamps

Great Britain issued the first postage stamps on 6 May, 1840. Within a few decades, stamp-collecting had become a popular pastime, and the phenomenon spread around the world. Today, collecting stamps, or "philately", is ranked among favourite hobbies worldwide. The buying and selling of stamps is a large industry, and collectors can choose to take their collections in a plethora of directions. It is never too late for anyone to begin a collection.

The enormous range of the stamp-collecting industry in Great Britain, as in the rest of the world, makes the prospect of beginning a collection somewhat daunting. Many individuals who are new to stamp collecting are unsure where to begin. There are different ways to collects stamps, but some of the more common ways are by first choosing a subject and understanding the different types of stamps available in Great Britain. Those new to collecting stamps may also acquire accessories to manage their growing collections. By following a few helpful suggestions and utilising a source such as eBay, stamp collectors can quickly build vast and fascinating collections.

Choosing a Subject to Collect Stamps

Many stamp collectors start their collections by choosing a subject for the stamps they wish to acquire. Some collectors prefer to style their collections geographically, while others choose from a range of different stamp themes, and still others select favorite eras. It is also possible to mix different subjects in order to build niche collections.

Collecting Stamps by Geography

Many British stamp collectors like to express regional pride or their fondness for a particular locality in the United Kingdom by collecting stamps issued by post offices in those areas. Collectors who also enjoy golfing or hiking in Scotland may choose this part of the country as a geographic theme. Those from the Isle of Man can show pride in their roots with a collection of Isle of Man stamps.

Collecting Stamps by Theme

Many collectors choose stamps by theme. National post offices often lend a theme to the stamps they issue, such as nature, art, music, sports, or famous people. These themes often appeal to collectors' other hobbies. If a collector has an interest in British history, then the individual may try to acquire stamps bearing the likeness of Winston Churchill. A fan of British rock may want to add Rolling Stones stamps to a collection. Cricket enthusiasts can keep themselves busy trying to collect the various issues of cricket stamps that circulate. The range of themes is virtually limitless since many themes also have numerous sub-themes.

Collecting Stamps from Eras

Philately has a historic appeal for many collectors. In addition to artwork, stamps are historical artifacts. They might depict a past generation's heroes that contemporary British society views differently today. Some moments in British history may have gained even greater weight than they held at the time the British postal system issued stamps commemorating those moments. History can be fluid, and collecting stamps is a good way to trace its ebbs and flows.

Understanding Stamp Types

One important aspect of stamp collecting is understanding the different types of stamps that post offices have issued. This is a more nuanced feature of stamp collecting and one that stamp collectors often become interested in as they become more involved in the hobby. Post offices have issued stamps for different delivery methods and bureaucratic functions ever since the UK created the stamp system. Becoming familiar with these stamp types may influence collectors to build their collections around a certain type of stamp.

Postage Stamps

Postage stamps are the ones that customers use to pay for sending mail. The table below describes the groups of postage stamps.




Regular stamps for general use; issuing price reflects the current price for sending mail as determined by the national post office


Stamps issued to commemorate a significant event or draw attention to something historical; released as limited editions

Although some individuals may not have specific preferences, commemorative stamps are particularly popular among collectors of thematic stamps.

Postage Due Stamps

British post offices issue postage due stamps and place them on mail with insignificant postage for delivery. A postage due stamp usually indicates how much money is due for delivering the letter, and it is generally the responsibility of the receiver to pay that amount. While this type of stamp rarely features a theme, it is often colourful and stylish. Postage due stamps appeal to many collectors because of the designs and the role the stamp plays in the postal system.

Airmail Stamps

The British postal service began to deliver mail via aeroplanes in the 1920s. Delivering mail by aeroplane used to be more expensive than delivering it over land. As a result, post offices issued airmail stamps and stickers that cost more than regular stamps. Many collectors enjoy collecting special airmail stamps, as well as postcards and envelopes with "Par Avion" stickers affixed to them.

Semi-Postal Stamps

Semi-postal stamps, also called charity stamps, are a type of commemorative stamp. When issued, they cost more than the official postage rate. The post office distributes the extra money to a certain charity, thereby enabling customers to support that charity by using those stamps to send their mail.

Revenue Stamps

Various government agencies, such as HM Revenue & Customs, may issue stamps to raise funds for their departments. Local post offices may issue their own stamps to raise money for the local government. The British post offices sometimes issue stamps that are used for paying postage as well as to collect taxes. These types of stamps fall into the category of revenue stamps.

Cinderella Stamps

A cinderella stamp resembles a stamp, but a government did not issue it for postal use. A government agency may issue a stamp to pay for another type of service, but it is a cinderella stamp if it does not apply to mail delivery. Such stamps are sometimes called "official cinderella" stamps.

Acquiring Accessories to Collect Stamps

Building a stamp collection requires a few important accessories, such as albums, tools, and catalogues. These accessories are essential because they help stamp collectors organise and maintain their collections.


Many stamp collectors keep their collections in albums. The albums help collectors organise and protect their collections, and they may be designed around certain themes. Collectors may mount their stamps to the pages of albums using hinges or plastic mounts. The former are small pieces of gummed paper that go on the back of stamps and stick to the album pages. The latter are protective cases that stick to album pages but not to stamps. Plastic mounts keep stamps in the same condition as they were purchased, which is advantageous for those who may want to later sell their stamps.


Stamp collectors need certain tools to place their stamps in albums and to evaluate them closely. Two of the more important tools for these functions are tweezers and magnifiers.


It is easy to degrade the quality of a stamp by handling it with fingers. Many stamp collectors instead use tweezers. Also known as tongs, these look like the type of tweezers used to remove splinters embedded in skin. The main difference is that the edges of the arms are rounded instead of sharp so as not to damage stamps.


Magnifying glasses are not designed specifically for examining stamps, but they serve this purpose well. The amount of magnification that a collector needs depends on how closely the collector wishes to examine stamps. The closer the look a collector wants, the more magnification is needed. Some collectors prefer an even closer look, and they purchase microscopes for this purpose.


Nearly every stamp collector, no matter how new he or she is to the hobby, can benefit from having stamp catalogues. These are nearly comprehensive compendiums of stamp issuances. They help collectors organise and appraise their collections. Many catalogues can also help newer collectors evaluate the condition of a stamp. Catalogues compiled for various kinds of thematic stamps are also available.

How to Use eBay to Collect Stamps

Stamp collectors in Great Britain use different sources for acquiring stamps. Finding past issues of stamps can be a bit challenging, and collectors may go through dealers at stamp fairs. eBay is considered a great resource for stamp collecting. Many stamps from all around the country of Great Britain, dating back into the 19th century can often be found for sale on the website. eBay also makes it easy to search for and find the type of stamps you are interested in collecting.

To conduct a search, visit an eBay page, and enter the basic term "stamps" into the search bar to obtain a listing of stamps that are available on the website. You can then narrow your search by selecting the Stamps category and choosing the Great Britain subcategory. You can then continue to filter your search by era, stamp type, and region, among the other options that eBay provides.

As with any purchase on eBay, be sure to verify the seller's background based on the quality of the feedback that previous customers have provided about the seller. This can ensure peace of mind as you make a purchase on the website.


Stamp collecting is one of the more popular hobbies in Great Britain as it is in the rest of the world, with millions of collectors possessing millions of stamps. The number of stamps issued, the types of stamps, and the number of themes around which the country designs stamps provide different niches within which to collect. The hobby of stamp collecting is thus a bottomless well that yields something novel and interesting every time a collector dips his or her bucket in.

The depth and breadth of stamp collecting can also make it difficult to decide how to begin a collection. Collectors should first decide on a subject, such as geographic region or a theme, around which they want to build collections. They can then move on to collecting different types of stamps. Collectors are also well advised to acquire certain accessories, such as albums, tweezers, magnifying glasses, and catalogues to help them manage their collections.

eBay is a good source from which to buy stamps from Great Britain, due to the large selection available through the website. By acquiring knowledge about stamp collecting, hobbyists can successfully utilise the website to build their collections.

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