Stamp Collector’s Guide

Today, a hobby like stamp collecting too has become a specialized affair. It has gone from being a fun hobby to a proper investment and auction business. But for philately lovers the discovery of a stamp, the history attached to it and the chase of actually adding it to your collection is incomparable. Now this hobby has a terminology of its own that even an amateur collector should be familiar with.

Philately is defined as a hobby that denotes stamp collecting and study of stamps and items related to stamps. There is a mark on them called the Authentication Mark that tells you that the stamp has been validated and examined by an expert. The Denomination on the stamp is the face value of the stamp and the collectibles vary by a wide margin. A Freak stamp is one that has mistakes on it like ink problems or wrong printing of the design etc. The Hinge is a small, gummed rectangle of paper that is used to stick stamps into the album by a narrow strip. Then there are stamps that are Never Hinged which means that the stamp was never mounted by its hinge. A Watermark is an embedded design that is used for anti-counterfeiting and it also adds to its esthetic value.

The Essay is the proposed design of a stamp that has not been issued yet. The Frame is the margin outside the design of a stamp. Centering is the position of a design on the stamp’s face in relation to the margin and if there is an error in the manufacturing process it can affect the value of the stamp. Tagging is defined as the use of phosphorescent dyes in making the stamp and the dye is read by machines by using an ultraviolet light and this will detect the face value and other elements of the stamp. The stamp is then Proofed, a process similar to coins where the trail stamp is used to ensure that there is no problem with the design and manufacturing process.

Variety is a term where there is a deviation from the standard issue like there may be a difference in the watermarks or a wrong colored ink may have been used etc. Perfins are stamps with perforated initials used mainly as a counterfeiting element and as part of the design. Then there are Imperforate or imperforated stamps that are valuable collectors stamps but can be duplicated easily.

A Block is a group of unseparated stamps and these have the complete watermark designs along with other features of the design that a torn out single stamp may have only a small part of the complete design and this makes it invaluable. A full sheet of such unseparated stamps is called Pane. Selvage is the plain margin area seen around the Pane and Gutter between the panes.

A stamp in Mint condition has never been used for postage. So there are no hinge marks, no tears, no marks and the original adhesive is intact. Original Gum is the term for the original adhesive on the back of a stamp. Its use and remains can affect the value of the stamp. The Cover is the envelope and the packaging on which the stamp was used and On Paper refers to stamps that have actually been used for postage and are typically still stuck to the cover and Entire refers to an intact cover.

Approvals are the stamps that stamps dealers will show collectors ‘for approval’ and Expertizing is where the stamp is examined by an expert like someone from the American Philatelic Expertizing Service. A First Day Cover is a stamp that refers to an envelope on which the stamp was stuck and it now has a cancellation mark from the first day of issue. Definitive stamps are those on regular issue and are produced at a specific rate of postage.

Invert stamps were printed with multiple colors where one of the colored designs is printed upside down. These are invaluable to a collector and an example of this is the 1918 U.S. 24-cent Jenny. Another invaluable stamp is the One Penny Black which is the world’s first postage stamp, issued by Great Britain in 1840. Earlier the receivers of mail would generally pay the postage rather than the sender of the mail.

And finally we have Airmails which as we all know is the mail sent by air. These stamps saw their demise in the 1970s as issue of these stamps stopped when a vast majority of mail started traveling by air and there was no need to distinguish between
mail sent by air or sea or road. Now they are invaluable to a collector.

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