Question:  What to collect?

If you're like most collectors, you try to get one each of all the stamps issued by a particular country. Well, that's the "traditional" method. However, a great many collectors have discovered the pleasure of collecting in non-traditional areas. Here are a few areas which appeal to me. What do you think?

Lightly cancelled Blocks are obviously more interesting to look at than singles. The older issues are not so easy to find which makes the hunt all the more challenging. When you do find also find a bonus...they are inexpensive, compared to mint singles!

Admittedly, plate blocks are a traditional area of the hobby. But consider collecting just a handful of issues you find attractive or interesting, and then try to get all four positions of each and every plate number used to print that issue! Now, that can be a challenge!

  This 5¢ Humane Treatment for Animals issue (#1307) of 1966 was printed using nine different plate numbers. All four positions of each number can be found, however, one of the numbers is a little more difficult to find than the other eight. It helps to use a "Durland" catalog in this area of collecting.

This is my favorite area to collect. I love the challenge of finding all the plate numbers used on a particular issue. I've spent quite a few years trying to get all numbers and positions of the C20-22 "China Clipper" issues. That was a lot of fun! (and yes, I found them all)

Plate number blocks can get expensive! Plate singles is the alternative. Collect matched sets of plate numbers assigned to each stamp at about 1/4 the cost of blocks. There are quite a few plate number singles collectors out there who collect them in both mint and used condition.
Scott #C20  
Current issues now use plate numbers coded to identify the private printer commissioned to print the stamps.
P = Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd.
B = Banknote Corporation of America
S = Sennet Security Products
S = Stamp Venturers
V = Avery Dennison

Scott #3105m

Coils just look better displayed as multiples. A pair of attached coil stamps shows off the straight edge better than a single stamp. Many collectors save the Joint Line Pair on older coils. This is where the flat printing plate was curved around a cylinder and the two ends of the plate came together. The small space between the ends of the printing plate captured and then printed a line of ink between the stamps. The attached stamps on each side of this line is called a Line Pair.
On more recent coil issues, the ink line has been eliminated because of different printing techniques. On these newer issues you will find the plate number printed directly on the stamp below the stamp image. (Earlier stamps had plate numbers which were trimmed off.) Collectors eagerly hunt for Plate Number Coils and save them in symmetrical strips of 3 (PNC3) or 5 (PNC5) with the stamp bearing the plate number centered in the strip. I collect the "Transportation Series" coils as mint, PNC3 strips as well as any used plate number singles I run across.

(Scott catalog #2609)

Can you find the plate number on the coil strip above? You have to look very close to see the tiny plate numbers on modern coil stamps

Other areas of stamp collecting for you to consider are:

collections based on stamps from either a single country or world-wide which portray a single theme or subject. This is the most popular of all the specialized collecting areas. You can collect only those stamps relating to a single topic which you feel is especially significant.

Many topical collectors enhance their collection by adding non-philatelic material to make a more meaningful connection between the stamps and the subjects they show.

ZIP BLOCKS or SINGLES are popular here in the US.  Other marginal graphics include the Bicentennial Era emblem and Copyright markings.

PERFINs are stamps which have been punched with small pins to form a design or a company's initials. This helped companies make the stamps easier to trace which cut down on employee pilfering of the company's postage stamps for personal use.


includes missing perforations, missing colors, mis-cut, folded or a host of other printing errors. These stamps are supposed to be culled and destroyed before distribution. But sometimes printers miss some of their goofs and some lucky stamp collector finds a unique philatelic item to add to his/her collection.

POSTAL STATIONERY embossed envelopes or postal cards.

FIRST DAY COVERS stamps on cover cancelled on their "First Day" of sale usually with a special cancel.

Over the years, the U.S. Post Office (now USPS) has allowed dozens of stamp mistakes to hit the streets. Here's one example of the many goof-ups that most postal patrons generally miss.

 The 50 state flags issue of 1976 was quite popular. But the 13¢ Iowa state flag (on the right) is incorrect. The white stripe in the center should be 50% of the width, not 33-1/3%. The Post Office got it right on the 1946 centennial anniversary issue, but blew it 30 years later.

(More ideas and scans to come. Please check back again. I plan to add many more scanned items to help give beginners and maybe even some of you more experienced collectors some new collecting ideas. Feel free to donate some of your ideas!)

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