Stamp Collecting - Why collect stamps?

Many people in top jobs are, or were, philatelists.

Some will even admit that this is because stamp collecting sparked an interest in not only geography and history, but also economics and sociology. Franklin D. Roosevelt was one example.

Philately can also provide an escape from a world in which you may not be the boss - in building up a stamp collection you set the rules, and you are the one who has to be satisfied with the results.

Apart from this, a stamp collection can also be considered an investment. Some postage stamps are extremely valuable - and there's always the excitement of the chase with the thought that maybe - just maybe - a valuable stamp lurks just around the corner. Granted, as an investment it's not like buying gold, but more along the lines of owning a painting which could just turn out to be a Picasso.

Most philatelists start off as general collectors. In other words, if it's a stamp, they'll keep it. The problem with this sort of collecting is that it very rapidly becomes unmanageable. There are just too many countries issuing too many stamps.

General collecting can however serve a useful purpose in building up a stock of stamps which can later be exchanged with other collectors. However, in order to keep the collection manageable, some degree of specialization is required. This can take the form of either thematic collecting (e.g. only keeping stamps depicting birds), focussing on one or more countries, or even postal history. There are some collectors who are most interested in postmarks; the underlying stamp itself is of little interest! Others only collect Cinderella stamps, or those NOT listed in the main Stanley Gibbons catalogues.

Some philatelists are ultra-specialized, making detailed studies of a single issue of stamps from a single country. There can be hundreds of differences - paper, watermarks, methods of printing, which printing company was involved, types of ink, shades, perforation, type of gum, type of use ... the list goes on!

Strictly speaking, a philatelist is just someone with an interest in stamps or related material, not necessarily someone who collects stamps!

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