What Should I Collect?

Now that you have decided that you want to collect stamps, the first question that comes to mind is what? Many people will tell you to collect what you like, but that is of limited help if you do not know what that is.

So, how do you find out, without spending a lot of money on the wrong stamps, what you like?

A good starting point is to go through some, or all of the collections on this website and make a note of the stamps that draw you in. Make a note of what specifically drew you in:

  1. Was it the design?
  2. Was it the colour?
  3. Was it the freshness?
  4. Was it the historical significance of the stamp?
  5. Was it a paper or tagging variety?
  6. Was it an error or misprint?
  7. Was it a cover?
  8. Was it the age of the item?
  9. Was it the printing technique?

After you have done this for 100 or so stamps, you should start to see some patterns emerge:

  1. If you find yourself drawn mostly to the designs, then there will likely be some commonality to those designs: are they all modern, graphic designs, or are they ornate 19th century designs, with lots of scrollwork and fine ornamentation?
  2. If you find yourself drawn to many different colours, there will usually be a pattern to that as well: are they deep rich colours? cold or warm colours? pastel colours? Do you find yourself drawn to different shade varieties of the same stamp? If the answer is yes to the last question, then you are probably a shade collector and what colours you are drawn to will dictate those sets you would be happiest to collect.
  3. If you are drawn to very fresh, crisp and clean stamps, then you probably will want to collect mint stamps rather than used.
  4. If you are mostly drawn to the historical significance of the stamp, then that suggests that design is a secondary consideration for you.
  5. If you are drawn to mostly modern paper and tagging varieties, this is an indication that you will enjoy collecting modern stamps more than classic stamps.
  6. If you are drawn to mostly errors and misprints, then this is the area you should consider specializing in.
  7. If you find yourself drawn mostly to covers, then you are definitely someone who would be happiest collecting postal history. Then, you need to probe further to determine which postal history to collect.
  8. If you find yourself being drawn to mostly older, classic stamps, then you should choose something within the classic period.
  9. If you are drawn almost exclusively to engraved stamps, then you should try to limit yourself to areas in which the stamps are engraved.

The fact that your tastes may follow clear patterns with respect to the above attributes is the main reason why I think single country collecting is often not the answer for many collectors: because the material from an entire country will contain a lot of stamps that the collector does not actually love.

Once you have determined the patterns that your general tastes follow, it is time to make a list of possible collecting areas that fit the bill. You can do this with a little research by looking in the Scott Catalogues for countries, issues and time periods that match your tastes. You can also consult a dealer. The advantage to consulting a dealer is that they can make suggestions to you based on your tastes that you may not have considered.

If your tastes do not seem to follow any strong pattern, then this is an indication that your tastes are highly eclectic and specific to the stamp issue. Therefore, it probably makes little sense to try to determine ahead of time, what your collecting area will be. Rather, it is probably best to decide on an album and simply collect whatever you like that comes along.

Narrowing Down The List

At the end of this process, you will have a long list of possible areas to collect, and will need to narrow it down to pick one or a few areas to collect. How do you go about doing this? The best way to start is to consider what type of collector you are, and then the constraints you face as a collector. These two considerations will help you narrow your list down into a few ideal areas.

The first consideration is to determine what kind of collector you are:

  1. Do you like following a pre-set script?
  2. Do you prefer a lot of variety, or do you prefer to zero in on one favourite stamp, or group of stamps and learn everything you can?
  3. Is completeness important to you?
  4. Do you need to have a large collection, or are you happy with a more limited range of stamps?
  5. How important is condition to you?

As you run through those questions in your head, many of the possibilities on your list will drop off either because they are too broad, too narrow, too detailed, not detailed enough, impossible to complete or not available in the condition you want to collect.

After you have considered what type of collector you are, the next step is to consider your constraints. Things like:

  1. What is my annual, monthly or weekly budget for stamps?
  2. How much time can I devote to my hobby?
  3. How much space do I have to store my albums and stamp accessories?

The answers to these three questions will narrow your list down even further, so that hopefully at this point you have only a half-dozen or so possibilities. Once you get to this point you will have to decide on one of those possibilities, or all of them, if your constraints will allow you to choose them all. Usually by this point the choice will be obvious to you. But if it isn't, then consulting with a professional dealer will be important. Your dealer can look at your list, and the answers to your questions and can make suggestions to you that you may not have considered, as they have had exposure to a wider range of material and have a better understanding of how collections take shape and develop.

Another way to discover what you like, without being so analytical is to just buy a small kid's collection or carton of remaindered collections of worldwide stamps at auction for $100 or so and just spend several months poking around and see what catches your fancy. Take those areas and begin to acquire more stamps to expand your collection of those stamps and see if you are able to maintain your interest level. The only drawback to this approach is that you may wind up spending money on stamps you ultimately don't want.

Of course, if you find yourself in this position, you can always bring your stamps to us. We will either purchase them, or help you sell them.