How Do You Start a Stamp Collection?
Author: Michael Russell
Regardless of how you start or which direction you go, Gather up all your incoming parcels and envelopes and ask all your friends and relatives to save theirs for you, too.
Even if you only plan to collect mint-condition stamps, all the used varieties you obtain can help you see what is available and give you some material you can use for trade. And, if you're lucky, you may find something especially interesting in the mail that you can show to your friends. After that happens for the first time - whether it's a particularly nice, pictorial postmark or a badly printed stamp - and you show it off, you may see interest among your friends and family increase considerably.
Almost all new U.S. stamp issues are available at your local post office. I hesitate to say ALL of them are available, because the post office that has ALL of them on hand is rare. Nevertheless, you won't find a more convenient place to shop for stamps. Leave it to the U.S. Postal Service to have a store in every town!
When you begin purchasing stamps for your new collection, be sure to tell the postal clerk. In fact, tell every postal clerk as you utilize his or her services. You will eventually find that one clerk tends to take better care of the stamp collectors, while others may show no interest at all. Catering to the wants and needs of stamp collectors is usually far down on the clerk's list of priorities, but the basic good nature of that one clerk can help you. Today, each clerk has his own consignment of postage stamps and one clerk's stock may include more commemoratives or other items of interest, while the next clerk may opt for the more basic designs. If you are looking for a particular stamp or set of stamps and one clerk does not have them but the next clerk does, the two clerks can swap stamps of the same denomination. The U.S. Postal Service considers postage stamps "accountable paper", so each clerk must account for all the stamps consigned to him or her.
By all means, don't press the clerk for special service. You, as a stamp collector in a normal queue of postal patrons, rate nothing extra. Perhaps commenting, however, on how nicely the USPS-issued uniform he or she is wearing compliments their eyes may rate some extra help. It's worked for me.
After doing all this schmoozing at the local post office, you should have enough mint stamp sources to decide if you want to continue collecting them. If so, the U.S. Postal Service offers traditional-mail and Internet-based ordering from its Kansas City Missouri depository. The mailing address is USPS, Stamp Fulfillment Services, P.O. Box 219424, Kansas City, MO 64121-9424 and the Web address is http://shop.usps.com. Request to be put on the mailing list for the free quarterly publication, USA Philatelic, which depicts all U.S. stamps currently available from the USPS mail-order division.
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