Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cataloging your stamp Collection....

Normally I would just throw out a little bit form one of our many great threads at Stamp Bears and invite you in to read more. However a recent write up by our member Ross TO simply was too thorough to attempt this with.

Ross TO writes

[quote]Why catalogue your collection in the first place? Well there are a few reasons, first off, if you have a catalogue of what is in your possession you are less likely to mistakenly buy duplicates of a stamp, which is unless you specifically want to. Also your insurance company may want the list for your household insurance. Some collections out there require a rider on the home owner’s policy and to get such your insurer will need an inventory of what is there. Lastly in the event of your demise (hopefully that is a long long time away) you executor is saved the hassle of dealing with that side of your estate. 

So you got all those piles of stamps we talked about in my previous posting into your albums. Great, now you can show off them to fellow collectors and friends. Well, actually you are not near done yet. Remember that catalogue you got out to help sort out those stamps? Well it shows not only the stamp in there, but sometimes it show variants to that stamp as well as grades. Right now you have all one type of stamp in your albums as well as your stock binders (I am sticking with this so please exchange book for binder if you went that route). There are, as we are aware, both mint and used stamps. However there are grades to stamps that you may have noticed in your catalogue. They are as follows

NH – Never Hinged
H – Hinged 
LH – Lightly Hinged
EF – Extremely fine
VF – Very fine
F – Fine
VG – Very good
G – Good

So maybe you should sort them by grade. Oops, how in blazes are you supposed to do that. Well grades are a relative evaluation of the front and back of a stamp. There are whole articles that are written about it and as I am nowhere near an expert, I will leave that discussion to them. Suffice to say you have sorted your collection into those classes. In a nutshell the definitions are as follows

NH – this is for mint stamps only and is the preferred way collecting mint stamps. However most older issues are difficult to find in this condition and a premium of catalogue value will be added.
H – a hinge was attached to this stamp and may have remnants still remaining on the back of this mint copy
LH – this mint stamp was hinged in the past, however the hinge mark is minimal if not almost non-existent
EF – basically a perfect stamp. This stamp is centered and free of any marks or other imperfections.
VF – almost perfectly centered. This stamp should also be free or any marks or other imperfections
F – usually off centre with one or more edges of the image almost touching the edges of the perforations or cut for those old stamps there were not perforated. Will have a minor mark or imperfection.
VG – a stamp that is definitely off centre to the point of having the image cut into by the perfs. There will be noticeable marks or imperfections 
G – definitely only a stamp you will keep for a filler. These stamps are damaged and are only used to fill in a place in your collection till you can find a better copy in better condition.

Next, come the real fun part of the hobby, the part where you get to used those cool (okay I can be a bit sarcastic occasionally), tools you got. First off there is that odonotmeter (okay I just HAD to use that term once, aka perf gauge). The edges of the stamp have perforations and as such they can be counted. The gauge helps here as it is a measurement of the number of perfs over a 2cm length. The reason we check perf on some stamps is that there are sometimes different variants of a stamp released that are perforated differently than others in the same series. When you have large number of stamps to go through this can be somewhat time consuming, fortunately only a few stamps have differing perforations and your catalogue will tell you which ones do. So you don’t have to check every stamp in your collection.

Next comes that UV light you grabbed. You may have already used it and seen some highlighted areas on your stamps. Stamps are coated with phosphorescence to help the sorting/cancellation machines work their way through the millions of letters a day the post office deals with. However, sometimes there are errors with all those phosphor bands (called tags). Tagging errors are one of the reason you have that lovely little black light. Others are differing paper types. Some stamps can come on multiple different papers as well as tags. One series that was released in Canada has 4 differing papers and 4 or 5 tagging types as well as 2 or 3 perf variants. You will be able to see most of this with that UV light and perf gauge. 

Another tool that you may have in your philatelic toolbox is a watermark detector. This tool is used to check for watermarks on the backs of some stamps. Fortunately that catalogue you have will tell you if the stamps you have are watermarked or not. Lastly comes the magnifying glass or loupe that you purchased. I am not going to go into errors on stamps which are one of the main reasons you have this. Suffice to say over time you will need this more and more as you investigate your stamps for errors or printing differences. Printing differences sometimes require you to check out the stamp with your magnifying glass and there are usually notations in your reference materials that will tell you what to look for. 

Having done all this, what now? Well this is where cataloguing your collection comes into play. You can use software that is designed specifically for cataloguing collections. There are a few out there and I will not recommend one over the other. If you are an ambitious person you can write a database program that will help you store information on your collection or you can use a spreadsheet program. I personally use a software package that includes not only information on my stamp, but when and from who I purchased it from and images of the stamp in question. Warning, stamp inventory software can be pricy. If you get a copy of a software package that includes the images of the stamps you will have a VERY large program. One that I sampled included over 100,000 images and was almost 2gb in size. Took quite a while to download. I find the images useful LOL in another package that I finally bought. 

Back to those stock binders. So you now have them all sorted in a logical order by catalogue number (including variants) and quality. Now you are getting somewhere. One last thing I do is create tags in an excel spreadsheet that includes all the pertinent information about that particular stamp. Information that is printed on the tag is as follows

Catalogue Number (eventually both Scott and Stanley Gibbons)
Die lot or other information

This gives me enough information per section of my stock books to be able to accurately sort out everything so that I have a complete idea of what belongs where. I will include some scans of the pages in question so that you can have an idea of what the final product will look like. Mind you, you will have to give me some time here as I am still going through everything to label my collection correctly.

So, now you have your collection organized and catalogued... go on out and buy some more stamps Wink[/quote]

Now this conversation may develop further and then again it may not. But either way our Beginners Corner is growing with more great information every week, and there is always room for questions!! 

Stop by and talk about your experience with the great members at Stamp Bears. 

As Always Happy Stamping!! 


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Stamp Inspired Learning..

Now most collectors would agree that stamp collecting is a great tool for learning a number of topics. Geography, Politics, General History, and Social Movements all come to mind immediately when this conversation comes up. But what about more specific topics? Instead of taking a set of Stamps or an over all theme let us look at one stamp in particular.

One of our members started a thread What Can You Learn From One Stamp? - Blues Master Robert Johnson that demonstrates the amazing amount of information that can be uncovered once a particular stamp is investigated further.

In another thread our members have been learning about the Pony Express. As most collectors fro the US can tell you if you have anything to do with US postage this topic is the basis for mail delivery here.

Feel free to stop by and read more on these and many other topics at Stamp Bears.

And as always HAPPY STAMPING!!


Friday, May 18, 2012

Stamps, A Kids Tale

A few months ago my son went over to the bookcase, removed his starter stamp kit and went to the table. He began looking through the pages and getting a few stamps from the glassine envelope they were in. As I entered the room my jaw hit the floor and my heart fluttered a bit as he said “Hey Dad let's work on stamps.” I could not get my album and supplies fast enough.

You see, I have collected stamps off and on since I was a teenager. He has watched me ply my hobby numerous times and frequently I have encouraged and asked him to join in. But never with much success. I took him to the stamp shop, bought him stamps, taught him some about postal history and stamp making and ultimately bought him a starter kit that supplied a small album, stamps, hinges and a magnifier. We have dusted it off more than once. Unfortunately he just never really got motivated to collect. In some ways I blame myself because I may have tried to get him going on it a little young. The mint sheet of Yoda stamps with one single cut out (with scissors) is proof. Be that as it may, I always kept trying and hoped he would take a liking to it.

So you can imagine a father's joy when he, of his own free will, got his stamps out and was interested in working on them. So I dusted the starter kit off one last time and spent the first of numerous sessions collecting stamps with my son.

I have asked myself a few times why it seemed to take so long for him to jump in with me. Because my son wants to do just about everything else I do (except chores of course). From gaming to TV watching; movies, books, pretty much whatever. His Grandfather used to say he was like gum on my shoe. So it just baffled me why stamps would be different. Then it kind of dawned on me one day that just understanding the concept of mail and delivery, postage and stamp values can be things that children just don't hook up with at times. If it doesn't affect them or if they don't have a need for it, they have little attention for it. Sure he enjoyed being with me when I stamped. But actually doing it was something else. So what brought him to us was maturity and age. I had to let him decide he liked it. Not me. In his way he had to do it. I am so glad he did.

I am also glad that I tried as hard as I did because when he was ready he had the knowledge and tools at his fingertips to succeed. I didn't give up on him either. That I am thankful for. With this world of instant media, it is important for me and my children to have something that gets us out from behind a screen. If there is some frustration out there with kids who seem disinterested, I want to share some of the things I did to keep him on the outer ring of the hobby until he decided to come in.

  1. I invited him and always let him know he was welcome to join me – Just knowing that is important to kids. Keep the door open so they can walk through.
  2. Take them to the stamp store – The first couple of times I made it a “Hey let's go to the stamp store” event. But when he started turning a nose up to that I made it a “Hey since we are out, I need to go to the stamp store” event. That way I was not really forcing him to go and after some time he actually stops and looks at the merchandise. I know the day will come when he asks me to go and I can't wait.
  3. I have quite a few book marks to stamp resources on my computer. Off handed I have made sure he knows where they are and where the best ones go. As he has aged his computer usage has grown as well. Now he uses them regularly.
  4. Give them something to hold onto – In the beginning I gave my son a few stamps that I could careless what happens to them. Those floated around his room for a very long time. Sometimes on the floor, bed or toy box. But I knew he was messing and playing with them. When he got a little older a starter kit that you can get for under twenty bucks was in order. The rest of the story you know.

I love this hobby and I am sure the passion in many runs deeper than mine. It almost broke my heart that my son wasn't interested in it. But with a hefty amount of patience and understanding I have help him grow a real interest in stamps. There no guarantee that he will stay with it. But I think he will. I know all kids will not take up philately. But if there is a chance, this story shows that it can and will happen.

-submitted by Stamp Bears member (and upcoming author here),

thank you for reading and as always HAPPY STAMPING!!! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Story's through stamps...

Many collectors love to look up the story behind the stamps they so carefully collect. I am no exception to this general practice as, like most, I find the history behind the stamp intriguing. As with most collectors i also find myself exploring well beyond my starting point and traveling through the mist to another era. Wandering the halls of grand buildings and perhaps living in the midst of some of the worlds key moments. 

Ahhh, but what if i could be the creator of the time and place? Sure I have played with the idea of Cinderella stamp making (even tried a few), but i mean really tell a story with the stamps. What if there was no such limitations on the story as time, space, or even reality for that matter? 

OK before I continue i must state clearly here, I WILL NEVER GROW UP!!! I have a time and place to be the responsible adult and parent etc. but when it comes to stories weather I am reading them, playing them, watching them, or participating in writing them I WILL NEVER GROW UP! 

With this statement firmly in my mind I brought to the boards the suggestion that we attempt a Stamp Story. 

Bear wrote: 
"This idea is a bit odd but i think we may find some enjoyment and perhaps even learn a little more as we go along... 
simply put post an image of a stamp and start a bit of a story that appears to be related to this stamp. the next person to post will post another stamp and continue the story. and the next will post another and continue and so on until either we are unable to continue or folks lose interest LOL.. there is no real point to the story and each person who contributes can take the story to any where, any time, or any other turn they feel inspired to take. "

And so the adventure has begun. This story has only started but already a few members are adding there unique twists to the story. I am very interested to see how such a story will go since we have such a wide international community. Obviously each writer will bring with them their own preferences, experiences, and culture. so when we blend them what happens?

To read along as we develop Visit A Stamp Story if you want to participate in this or any of our great threads on Stamp Bears register and please join in the conversation.

As always,
Happy Stamping!!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Stamp Collecting by Topics

Often referred to as Topical collecting is just that select a subject and collect stamps on that topic. 

Bear writes - "When I started into the world of stamps I was actually a little against topical collecting to be 100% honest about it.. Now, however, after attempting to do the Ships on stamps collection (for fun mind you) I am a believer .. I had no idea how easy it was to gather materials and since you dont have to have a strict format its super flexible.... 

I now have enough of them that the temporary storage simply will not do for much longer, and I will need either stock pages or a stock book to accommodate them before long...

I can not stress enough how much I love this hobby and all of the directions it can take you .."

(read more HERE)

As is typical of a good conversation that particular thread has taken on a life all its own and will hopefully continue to do so. I would like to expand on the idea that a collector can (and in my opinion, should) have multiple collections going at once. 

As any one collection grows and you look for ways to display the collection you are almost guaranteed to look up the stamps. This is not for the faint of heart!!! This will sprout curiosity, and investigation.. Dare I suggest a greater understanding of our world?!?!?

Hmmm "an understanding of our world"... This seemingly simple statement brings to mind another thread that expands on the idea of Stamp Collecting & Social understanding and tolerance . Now I know that this thread is fairly new but the author instigates us to look at how we process the information gathered in our collections. 

Follow along on these two seemingly unrelated journeys and see where we go. Better still join in the conversations and see if you can spark our curiosity and imaginations with your experience. 

As always -

Happy Stamping!!