What? This title doesn’t make sense! How can stamps be not important in a stamp collection??
Well, if you have been collecting stamps for any period of time, you will know that there are many other facets rather than just the stamp itself... pre-stamped envelopes, post marks, maxi cards, first day covers and post packs just to name a few) and ways people can be involved in stamp collecting while not necessarily concentrating on stamps themselves!!
A complete worldwide collection would be enormous, running to thousands of volumes, and incredibly expensive to acquire!! This simple fact means that many collectors limit their scope, such as to particular countries, time periods, depicted subjects (called "topicals") or types of stamps.
Below I will try and detail some more common and popular areas of stamp specialisation, but remember, just because it isn’t listed here, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people collecting them!!
(Listed in no particular order):
Postage stamps - Obviously this is the most common item collected by stamp collectors, but at the same time there are many small variations on this very wide topic, including collecting particular countries, collecting from certain time periods, or even collecting certain styles of stamps, such as:
- Definitive stamps - Definitive stamps are generally the most common type of stamp, and cover many topics.
- Commemorative stamps - Basically these are stamps used to commemorate events, anniversaries etc. and are typical only on sale for a limited time. Commemorative stamps are typically available at post offices, some newsagents and are also often available from a stamp dealer. A good example of a commemorative stamp is the marriage of Charles and Diana, an Olympic or Commonwealth games, and achievement such as the moon landing, or the crowning of a king or queen. Some collectors specialize in certain commemorative stamps, such as just Christmas stamps.
- Pictorials - Pictorials are stamps printed with images of a country's scenery or life style. Australia has released a large range of pictorials over the years, ranging from the pre-decimal state stamps of Tasmania, right through to the recent international post series.
- Topical - This is perhaps one of the most collected categories of stamps, as many collectors choose to organize their collection on the theme of the stamps. Some of the most popular topical themes include trains, butterflies, birds, flowers, Disney, ships, stamps on stamps, and many, many others.
First day covers - First Day Covers (FDCs) are very popular to collect. They are generally envelopes with stamps attached and are normally canceled on the first day that the stamp was issued. FDCs are envelopes that usually bear a commemorative picture of the subject the stamp is created for, and in some cases may even bear a specific postmark.
Revenue stamps - Revenue stamps were issued in many countries, including Australia, to pay tax in small amounts. Some early stamps had Postage and Revenue printed on them, to indicate that they were acceptable for both uses. In some cases, these stamps were used for postage, and can be found on envelopes or post cards. Commonly, the revenue stamps were cancelled using a pen, so cancellation marks are an interesting avenue to explore here too.
Postage dues - Postage due was the term used for mail sent with insufficient postage. While the problem of what to do about letters not paying the full correct fee had existed since the creation of regular postal systems, it was greatly heightened by the advent of postage stamps, since customers were now making their own decisions about the right amount to pay. Since postage due stamps are almost always used only within a single country, they are usually quite simple in design, mostly consisting of a large numeral, and an inscription saying "postage due", often there is no country name. As with definitive stamps, a variety of values are needed to make up specific amounts.
Miniature sheet - Miniature sheets are a sometimes issued in souvenir sheets or miniature sheet containing just one or a small number of stamps. Souvenir sheets typically include additional artwork or information printed on the selvage (border surrounding the stamps). Sometimes the stamps make up part of a greater picture. Also, a set of stamps which may be identical to that on the sheet are sometimes part of the issue, like we have seen in some Australian Christmas issues.
Postmarks or Postal Markings in General – Post marks are very popular for collectors, as there are many different types, some being very common and some extremely rare. For example, there are some Australian stamps that have been postmarked in Japan or similar countries during WWII, and state stamps that bear postmarks that are green, red, square, or even some post marks that obliterate the stamp. Collecting post marks can prove to be quite tricky too, especially considering there are so many different post offices across Australia, and so many that were once open in rural places in Australia that have since closed down.
Cinderellas - Stamps should be distinguished from Cinderellas, stamp-like labels that resemble, but are not, postage stamps. A good example of this is the series of stamps that were released for the Olympic Games in Melbourne. Even though they are perforated with gum on the back, they have no post value.
So, for most of the items described above, you can obtain albums, catalogues and other specialised collecting equipment. Sometimes it may prove easier, or simpler, or just plain more interesting to collect stamp related items!