Skip to main content

Stamp Collector

Insider Info

Stamp collectors -- also called philatelists -- are people who find and save postage stamps.

"A stamp collector sees stamps as more than postage that you lick and stick on an envelope. They're full of art, history, geography, and much more," says Paul Phelan, a stamp collector from Dublin, Ireland.

The stamps philatelists collect may be from letters they have received, inexpensive stamps from a stamp store "grab bag," or expensive, rare stamps bought from a stamp dealer.

Stamp collector Lisa McNeil says philatelists collect stamps for a variety of reasons.

"Maybe you collect certain stamps because they are pretty, or old, or for an investment, or you only keep stamps from Belgium because your grandma came from there. It really doesn't matter why, as long as it's important to you," says McNeil.

Collecting can mean anything from storing stamps in envelopes in an old shoebox to arranging them neatly and with a specific order in an album designed just for holding postage stamps.

Some stamp collectors may simply collect as many stamps as they can get their hands on, while others try to build a related collection of stamps. According to Phelan, people who build related stamp collections usually focus on one or more of the following categories:

Stamps which depict scenes on a particular theme, such as Christmas, or Second World War history.
Stamps from one particular country or continent, for example.
Varieties of a Particular Stamp:
This means buying a number of stamps which have the same design but have slight differences in shade or color, or perforated edges. Some variation collectors may even collect stamps printed from different printing plates, identified by plate numbers in the margins of the stamp sheets.
Some stamps are printed with mistakes on them and then discontinued when the mistake is realized. These tend to be valuable, since there aren't many stamps with errors, so many collectors look for these stamps.
Souvenir Sheets:
Stamps issued to commemorate a special occasion, such as the first mail carried through the channel tunnel from England to France, or to mark an international stamp exhibition, for instance.
Stamps with postmarks from certain countries or towns around the world, cut out from envelopes for collection.
Postal History:
Collecting stamps from important letters and postal documents; also unusual letters, like letters from shipwrecks, hijacked airplanes, or other disasters.

Philatelists say one of the nicest things about this recreation is that you can choose to be a fanatical, involved or just occasional stamp collector. It's completely up to you.

"Philately can be the cheapest and, at the same time, the most expensive hobby in the world. The amount of time, skill and money involved in stamp collecting is really up to the collector," says Abraham Lupso, a stamp collector from the Philippines.

For beginning stamp collectors, the cost of getting started in this recreation may be as cheap as $4 or $5, the average price of a grab bag of stamps at a stamp collector's store. Dedicated collectors may want to invest in some more advanced equipment.

Right now, there are approximately 55,000 members in the Canadian and American branches of the Philatelic Society. People involved in this hobby say these high numbers come as no surprise.

"Philatelics is a hobby without any barriers. It is on an international scale, one that is common to all countries. It is even more common than the UN," says Lupso.

Many people involved in stamp collecting also make a living from it. Stamp dealers, who buy and sell stamps for profit, philatelic business owners, who own stores which sell stamps and related items, and philatelic curators, people who care for stamp collections at museums, are all people who have turned this hobby into a career.

Getting Started

Getting involved in stamp collecting may be as easy as sticking a stamp to a mount. People involved in this hobby say stamp collecting can be as involved or as easy as you want to make it.

"Twenty years after starting, I'm still learning a lot!" says Lisa McNeil, a stamp collector from the United States. "On the other hand, it didn't take me long to be able to identify major countries and to be able to handle and mount stamps with ease."

People who are interested in buying stamps from stamp dealers may want to do a little research, however.

"As with any other commodity, it doesn't hurt to know a little about the stamps you want to buy; you can often use your knowledge to bargain with dealers. Use common sense. You should never spend a large amount of money on something you don't know much about," advises McNeil.

There are a number of different ways for philatelists to go about doing their research. Catalogues of different stamps and their values are available from libraries, bookstores and dealers.

Talking with other stamp collectors is a good way to find out about reputable philatelic dealers and reasonable prices. It's also a fun way to compare notes with other people involved in this hobby!

You may also want to join a stamp collectors club such as the American Philatelic Society, which is open to stamp collectors all across the globe. For about $65 per year, the APS will send you lists of local clubs and monthly journals, and keep you up to date on all the philatelic resources and activities.

If you're ready to jump right in and start buying stamps, longtime collectors say stamp shopping in cyberspace is definitely the way to go.

"There is a great list of people who want to exchange stamps on the Net," says McNeil. "There are thousands of people from all over the world on the list, and they all have different interests. It's fun to go through and see who fits your criteria!"

Experienced philatelists will tell you pricing is one of the most difficult aspects of stamp collecting. This is because there are actually several values for each stamp. Figuring out the cost of stamps can be a complicated process, but longtime stamp collector Paul Phelan says prices basically break down like this:

"The first is the catalog value. This value is what a stamp in perfect condition is worth. Second is the dealer price. Dealers usually sell stamps for 30 to 50 percent less than catalog price, especially if they have multiple copies of the stamp in question.

"This cost usually reflects the value of the stamp plus how much the dealer's time was worth to locate that particular stamp for you. Finally, there is a selling price -- about 70 percent of catalog price -- which is what you get if you try to sell stamps to a dealer."

You don't have to be a wheeler and dealer to collect stamps, however. People involved in philately say the most important thing is to have fun with this hobby.


The American Philatelic Society (APS)
P.O. Box 8000
State College , PA   16803


Linn's Stamp News
P.O. Box 29
Sidney , OH   45365
E-mail :


The Stamp Traders List
An online community of collectors around the world

Joseph Luft's Philatelic Resources on the Web
A huge list of online stamp resources, philatelic shows and societies

Stamp Universe
Dedicated to bringing together a complete set of resources for collectors

Back to Career Cluster


  • Email Support

  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900


Powered by XAP

OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.