The importance of stamps is often underrated and underappreciated. Other than the wonder of being a small piece of paper which allows your package to be insured, handled and transported from one place to another, they are an illustration of a place’s history and culture as well. Having colorful depictions of different events in history, culture, and society, it’s no wonder that these small pieces of mail currency have become collectibles as well. Postal departments around the world, including the USPS, recognize this market of private collectors and release commemorative stamps each year.
Being such a large market, you’ll often find that newly issued stamps run out fairly quickly, and buying an unused stamp from an earlier era can be a hassle and also expensive (they get cheaper if they have a cancellation mark). While going to the local post office may not be difficult or unpleasant for most, there’s always the risk of them running out of the stamp you want.
Buying stamps online doesn’t only bring convenience to this process, but it also allows you to get to the product faster than it would take to go to your local post office. One could argue that the staff at a local post office would be able to give information on the full range of stamps available and any new ones that may be issued in the future. The same information is also available online, and in some cases, even more, detailed descriptions are available for those who take their collecting very seriously.
In fact, with the internet being what it is today, even government postal departments have their own websites with pages dedicated solely to the sale of stamps. Also numerous websites dedicated to stamp collecting, and private collectors can go about carrying exchanges in order to add to their collection. Some websites even offer discounts and promos on a range of different stamps. Some even go the extra mile and have the full range of services, and offer detailed information on what you’re about to buy. For example, the team at OnlineStamp offers online stamp printing, and custom stamp printing as well.
If you’re new to buying stamps online, I’ll give you a few tips on navigating the field, and equip you with the right knowledge to get you started. Your first decision would be whether you want to buy stamps that are unused, crisp and squeaky clean, or if you’re good with a big splotchy cancellation mark across the artwork on the stamp. It’s easier to buy newly issued stamps in unused condition, but the more historical ones are difficult to come by. Most websites won’t stock historical stamps and you’ll have to look at private forums and find a private collector who is willing to part ways with his prized possession. It won’t be cheap either!
However, you should try to avoid private internet forums as much as you can and look to auction type websites instead. Such websites require you to register and verify your account, which will give you an added sense of security. If it’s a quality website, then the rules may even require members to post actual pictures of the product instead of using stock images to fool you. Registering and verifying an account doesn’t take too long, and considering that it gives you some added security, the extra time spent is well worth it.
But you need to be careful with the bidding system on these auction sites. Better men have fallen to their impulses and overpaid for a stamp by massive margins. Sometimes, the stamp itself might be really cheap but the cost of shipping it may end up costing more than the stamp itself. This is why it’s important to take calculated risks and evaluate exactly how much you’re willing to spend on the stamp. A good way to go about this is to refer to Scott’s Catalog. Considered to be the stamp collector’s bible, this convenient little almanac is updated annually, and gives information on stamps from around the world and also provides their updated values. In fact, the numbering system of the catalog is predominantly used by stamp collectors to maintain their collection. However, this should in no way be considered as the “final price” of the stamp, but rather an indication. When it comes to private exchanges and sales, a custom value should always be expected.
Be sure to double check the reputation of the website before using it. A simple Google search will give you a list of reliable websites along with ratings. Also, make sure you read the terms and conditions of the website before you make any purchases. While making an account may be the only necessary requirement, you should nonetheless read the full terms and conditions to tell you how your information is used and what rules apply to transactions.
Also, make sure to check what kind of framework the website uses. It’s possible the website itself may not be selling stamps but only provides a platform for members to carry out private exchanges. The rules and protection offered are VERY different from such platforms. You need to take a cautious approach to avoid being scammed, and stay up to date with the stamps you’re looking to collect (this is where Scott’s catalog will help).
I hope I haven’t overloaded you with all this information. In conclusion, you need to be as meticulous to your approach on buying stamps online as you are with maintaining your stamp collection. The more prudent you are with your transactions, the smaller chances there are of you not getting true value for your money. The best part is that stamp collecting is such a global hobby, that you’re bound to find help with the entire process if you look in the right places. While forums may not be the best place to carry out actual exchanges, forums (dedicated to discussions only) do have members that know the hobby inside and out and will be able to guide you without any trouble.