Getting started as a stamp collector can be overwelming. Starting out you'll need to know what stamps to look for, how to preserve them, how to display them, and what makes a stamp rare or collectible.
You've heard the phrase, "the mail must go through." And even through rain, sleet and snow, the mail gets delivered. But not without postage. The little square or rectangular sticky piece of paper affixed to the right corner of an envelope makes all the difference. Whether it's sporting a flag, a flower or a piece of fruit, stamps must adorn our packages to get them from one place to another. But these stamps are not just practical--they're collectible.
Perhaps the easiest breakdown of stamp collecting is what's on the face value of the item - the picture. Some of the most popular types have included sports figures, cartoons, national landmarks, nature images and celebrities. The 1993 Elvis stamp was quite a success, especially since philatelics got the chance to vote for the Elvis image that fashioned the stamp. Other celebrity stamp successes include the Marilyn Monroe stamp of 1995 and the James Dean stamp of the same year. Even cartoon characters find popularity in the corner of an envelope. Bugs Bunny was a stamp collector success in 1997 and the Peanuts stamp issued in 2001 looks to have the same fate as a coveted collectible. Sports also have played a significant part in philatelic collections. The Summer Olympics stamps issued in 1992 as well as the Centennial Olympic Games stamps of 1996 were well received by collectors.
Another set of stamps that flourished in sales and collections is the Black Heritage series, which debuted, in the late 1970s. This stamp series has featured legendary figures in the African American community, such as Harriet Tubman, Duke Ellington and Otis Redding. These stamps are in an expanding collection, since the United States Post Office (USPS) issues new stamps in this series annually.
The Post Office also issues stamps to raise awareness of issues that face the American people. Stamps featuring topics such as breast cancer, adoption and diabetes has risen in popularity in recent years. The social awareness series of stamps debuted in the 1950s.
Aside from these commemorative stamps, there are many other stamps that are quite valuable, not because of their depictions of people or places, but because they are unique and often imperfect. For example, one of the most famous incidences of postage stamp errors occurred in 1901, when the Post Office issued commemorative stamps to coincide with the Pan-American Exposition, which was held in New York. Six bicolored stamps, highlighting transportation, were issued. But a printing error occurred and a limited amount of stamps, including the one cent, two cent and four cent stamps had inverted centers printed on them. These stamps became collectibles not because they honored the exposition, but because they were imperfect. A similar incidence occurred in 2000 when the Post Office issued a stamp honoring the Grand Canyon. The first prints got the site of the Grand Canyon wrong. They said it was Grand Canyon, Colorado instead of the accurate Grand Canyon, Arizona. Those stamps were destroyed, but were they to have been released, they surely would have been collectibles because of the error in their design. Anytime stamps are printed with errors or blemishes, their value increases, especially since the Post Office prides itself on making few errors.
So if you're an aspiring collector of stamps, here are some things to keep in mind. Most commemorative stamps are available through the USPS for about a year after their initial release. The value of commemorative stamps is generally more than what an average stamp of the same face value, since the commemorative stamps are for a limited time. Do not be discouraged from collecting the standard issue stamps, like those that display the American flag. Even cancelled stamps that have been used for mailings can still be valuable and worth collecting.
In general, a stamp collection with pristine unused stamps is the ideal. The reality is that some stamps have been used in mailings, have creases, stains and maybe are torn. But a collection for the pure enjoyment of collecting will not be severely affected by these imperfections. However, if you're striving to have a stamp collection worthy of resale, then your collection should be as neat and unblemished as possible. If you're fortunate enough to buy first day issue stamps, you can preserve these stamps in plastic sleeves or even in the wax paper bag that the Post Office supplies. A full sheet of first day issues are wrapped in plastic. If you buy these stamps purely for collecting, then it is best to not open that sealed plastic. But if you have loose stamps, you'll want to keep them in their best condition by placing them in plastic sleeves or mounting them to an album.
If you're collecting stamps that have been mailed and thus have cancellation marks across the stamp, you'll want to keep those stamps looking as good as possible. Since these stamps have been used, their value can vary from slightly diminished to severely diminished. To preserve a cancelled stamp, you can try to restore its original look by cleaning the stamp. You'll have to soak the stamp in warm water for a period of time ranging from a few minutes to an hour, depending on the amount of adhesive on the back of the stamp. Allow the stamp to soak in the water until the adhesive loosens and the stamp separates from the paper, presumably an envelope. Take that wet stamp and handle it carefully, preferably with philatelic tongs, and place the stamp on a flat, even surface that will allow the stamp to dry without sticking to the surface. The stamp will dry thoroughly within a few hours. If the stamp does not dry flat, you can place it between the pages of a book---the pressure of the book's pages should help the stamp smooth itself out.
Once you've got your stamps, you'll need a place to store them. Always store them in a cool, dry environment. Heat, dampness and too much light can ruin your collection by wearing down the fibers and colors of your stamps. Get an album that is acid-free so that the pages of the album also will not harm the fabric of the stamps. Those aforementioned clear plastic sleeves work well because they securely hold the stamps and make them visible for display.
In case you're not just collecting stamps as a hobby, you'll need the following tips when trying to sell them:
-Keep the stamps in their best condition, free from wear and tear, stains, dampness and light.
-Research other stamp collections of similar or the same stamps to figure what value to place on your collection.
-Join a philatelic club that allows your o trade, sell and mingle with other stamp collectors.
-Advertise your interest in buying and selling stamps through internet ads, newspaper ads and word-of-mouth.
-Keep up-to-date on the trends in stamp collecting. Your knowledge of the stamp collecting world will help you always get the best stamps and make the savviest sales.
What can CD recorders do? Are they worth the price? What should I look for in a CD recorder?
CD recorders have finally come down far enough in price to make them affordable to the average computer user. The next question that begs to be asked is, "Do I need one?" Now, most computer users would answer "Absolutely, it's the new toy I've been waiting for!" but if you are questioning the necessity of a CD recorder, I can tell you what they do.
Most CD recorders (also called CD burners) fit into your computer in one of the CDROM bays. I recommend installing it in an open bay and keeping your current CDROM. While the CD recorder can act as your primary CDROM, two CD drives can make some other recording features possible.
CD recorders are able to make and copy both data and audio CDs. This means that it is possible to backup your files or make a mix CD of your favorite songs. And because most CD recorders come with Adaptec Easy CD Creator, which comes with wizards to make CD creating easy, people with very little computer experience should have no problem getting started.
CD recorders are also able to copy both audio and data CDs. This is where the second CDROM drive can come in handy. This means that you can make backup copies of both your Windows CD and your favorite audio CD in case they were to get lost or scratched. Please note that copying a CD that you do not legally own or giving away a copy of your CD to someone can be against copyright laws.
The media that CD recorders use is usually referred to as CDRs or CDRWs. CDR stands for CD-Recordable and CDRW stands for CD-ReWritable. CD-R media should work in all types of CD-Recorders, but it takes a CD-ReWritable drive in order to use CDRW media. The great thing about CDRW media is that you can use it over and over again. You can just erase the disk and start fresh. The downside is that CDRW media does not work well for audio CDs. That doesn't mean that you can't make audio CDs with a CD-ReWritable drive, you just have to use a CDR disc.
So now the question is: "What type of CD recorder do I get?" There are a few basic choices that you must make to guide your purchase. First, if you want to have the ability to rewrite to CDs, then choose a CDRW drive, which are a little more expensive, but worth it. Second, the speed of the CD recorder will make a big difference in your satisfaction. Speed is given in the following format: 8X/4X/32X. The first number corresponds to the speed at which it will record. The second number refers to how fast it will rewrite, assuming it has the capability. The third number is how fast it will read off of the CD. The higher the numbers, especially the first one and second one, the faster you'll be able to make CDs.
As far as the brand of your CD recorder, my only suggestion is to buy a brand you've heard of. As is true with all computer products, there are a lot of companies out there making products. You can assume the big name companies will make a quality product, but you don't have that luxury with the smaller companies. Also, the smaller companies will generally not have customer support that is as good as the larger companies.
Buying a CD recorder can be a very fun process. Search around, find a good deal, and make sure to get a lot of media, because you would be surprised how fast they get used up.
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