The very first piece of equipment you will need as a stamp collector is a good pair of stamp tongs, like the one shown above. A good pair of stamp tongs will slide easily under a stamp that is on a flat surface, without damaging the stamp and allow you to easily pick it up and hold it firmly. Thus the tips need to be made from smooth metal, that has no raised areas, which might otherwise damage stamps. The tips need to be thin enough to get under a stamp that is laying on a flat surface. This is why I do not recommend regular tweezers. For one, the tips are not thin enough to get underneath a stamp without risk of damage. Secondly, they do not press together very easily compared to stamp tongs and thirdly, the feet on tweezers usually contain minute raised grooves, which can place an imprint in a stamp that is held with them.
There are generally three types of stamp tongs on the market:
- The best and most expensive kind are about 1/3rd to 1/2 longer than the ones shown above, and have very pointed tips that are about half the width of those shown here. Because of their length, it is very easy to press them closed. Because the tips are so thin and small, they can slide underneath stamps on the thinnest possible paper, even when they are on a flat surface.
- The mid-range priced tongs, which I use, are shown above. They have moderate, rounded tips that are thin enough to get underneath almost any stamp easily. They are relatively easy to press closed, but not so easy that they can damage the stamp by being pressed out of shape.
- The cheapest tongs have a broad spade shaped tips that are a little thicker than that shown above. They are usually fairly good at getting under most stamps, but are not generally suitable for the more delicate stamps.
One of the dangers with the expensive tongs is that you can accidentally pierce the stamp if you press them closed too hard, causing the tips to slide past one another. This doesn't happen often, but can be devastating when it does. However, they are simply the best when you have to pick up and examine stamps on very thin and fragile paper, such as Canada #1. I like the mid-range tongs, and have used them for most of my life. The spade tip tongs are perfectly fine if you are not working with fragile stamps and are just getting used to using tongs. The cheapest tongs will generally cost around $3-5 a pair. Mid-range will be $8-10, and the most expensive tongs will be more than $20. However, it is well worth the investment, as you will generally find that you do not ever need to replace your tongs, unless you lose them!
The other accessories shown here are not essential for the beginner, though having them will enable you to more closely study your stamps and learn about them, thus opening up new avenues of collecting, that you may not have previously considered.
1. Colour Key