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.