Philately and Stamp Collecting: Tools of the Trade

Lighthouse stockbook, stamp tongs and a magnifying glass is all you need.

Basic toolkit includes:

  • Stamps tongs – This is stamp collecting 101.  You cannot touch the stamps with your hands. (See also :  Proper stamp handling),  Rough handling and oils from your skin (even cleanly washed hands have oils on them) discolor and damage stamps.  So… all philatelists and stamp collectors use stamp tongs to gently handle the stamps.  Stamps tongs look like big metal tweezers with smooth tips.  There are several different varieties, but they basically boil down to Angle Tip (which is my preference, I use the # 1 from the list below), Spade tip – which is the straight version of the angle tip.  Point Tip have thin, pointy tips, and are good for handling very small stamps.  Round Tip stamp tongs have big round tips, duh.  So everybody has their own preference, but I use the 6″ Angle Tip by Showgard.  Inexpensive, but very high quality.  Check out the different variations.
    1.   Showgard 907 Stamp Tongs, 6″ Angle Tip
    2.   Showgard 903 Stamp Tongs, 4 5/8″ Spade Tip
    3.   6″ Point Tip – Buy on Amazon.
    4.   6″ Round Tip – Link.
  • Stockbook with clear plastic pockets is one of the safest way to store stamps.  It is also very convenient to display and view your stamp collection.  Some collectors prefer a traditional stamp album, but I collect mint, never hinged (MNH) stamps, and hinging and mounting damages the original gum.  I prefer the Lighthouse stockbooks, they are made in Germany, and are some of the finest in the world.  These stockbooks have a glassine paper separating all the pages, it helps to protect the stamps from rubbing against each other when the stockbook is closed.  Lighthouse stockbooks come in the same standard size, but vary by the number of pages.  One big 64 page Lighthouse stockbook is almost 2 inches thick, and will probably cover all the needs of a novice stamp collector.  If you want to have different stockbooks for different topics or countries, you can get the 32 page or the 16 page (or a couple of those).
  • Glassine envelopes are useful when you are organizing and trading/buying/selling stamps.  They are perfect for storing stamps for long periods of time, because they keep the moisture out, and keep the stamp paper from getting exposed to the elements, and aging quickly.  (Click Here to find them on Amazon)
  • Magnifying glass is essential to philatelists, because most of the stamps are very small.  Magnifying glass is used to examine the stamp and its condition in detail.  There are numerous philatelists who study the tiniest differences and misprints, and they would be absolutely “unarmed” without a proper magnifying glass.  And don’t go fancy with it.  You don’t need LED lights or any bells and whistles.  You just want the plain old magnifying glass.  With a big handle, for easy manipulation, like Sherlock Holmes only smaller.
  • Catalogues are the primary tool used by serious collectors to organize their collections.  Catalogues are used for identification and valuation of stamps.  There are several respectable philatelic catalogues on the market, I myself use Scott, but there is also Michel, Stanley Gibbons and Yvert et Tellier.

Difference between Philately and Stamp Collecting

Philately is the study of stamps and postal history, as well as other postage related items.  It also refers to the collection, appreciation and research activities on stamps and other philatelic products.  Philately involves more then just stamp collecting, which does not necessarily involve the study of stamps (but rather accumulation).  It is possible to be a philatelist without owning any stamps.  For instance, the stamps being studied may be very rare, or reside only in museums. Here is a great book on the subject.

Also, if you are serious about philately and stamp collecting as a hobby, you will need the Scott 2018 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.  This is Volume 1, for United States.  The catalog is essential for pricing stamps.  I know its a bit expensive, but you do not have to buy the same year for all the volumes.  I have a Volume 5, for Russia and area, and it’s from 2000.  And my Volume 1 is from 2015.  I know I do not have the last 17 years of the Russian stamps in the catalog, but its only 17 years.  In philatelic times, its nothing but a finger snap.

Almost all of the philatelists are stamp collectors.

Not all the stamp collectors are philatelists.

See also: Tools of the Trade

Collectible Stamps on eBay

I haven’t looked at stamps on eBay in a while.  It just happened like that, I have been very busy lately with all the family things that have been going on, and really didn’t get my stamp tongs out in forever.  But recently I looked at something at eBay, and drifted into the Collectibles section.

I dusted off a few stockbooks and looked through my stamp collection.

I also put up some extra MNH stuff I had laying around up for auction.

I might have to join the eBay Partner Network associate and advertise for eBay.  (why not? if i’m using it myself anyway.)