FAQs: Topics

APS stamp store uses HipStamp for selling stamps online

Selling your stamps online via APS stamp store

Summer Seminar

Online learning: C3a, Collecting and Connecting Central Academy

Buying / Obtaining Stamps

Selling stamps through the mail

Fundamentals of Collecting

History

United States Stamps

Inventorying/Valuing/Selling/Estate Advice

 


APS stamp store uses HipStamp for selling stamps online

Will I be able to search specifically for APS Stamp Store items via the HipStamp site?

Yes, all APS Stamp Store items will be available at https://www.hipstamp.com/store/aps-stamp-store and can be searched using all available HipStamp filters and tools

I really liked the way the previous StampStore search engine worked in that stamps come up in order by Scott catalog number. Will that sorting method still be in place with the new system?

Yes, HipStamp can sort the results of any search by “country/catalog number”.

Will I be able to search for specific Stamp Store sellers on HipStamp?

Yes, APS seller numbers will be included as a keyword in each item’s title so they can be searched in the keyword search field.

I have bought and sold on StampStore, but have only made purchases (no sales) via HipStamp. Can I create an independent sales account (separate from StampStore) on HipStamp?

Yes, you can sell independent of the APS Stamp Store on HipStamp.

If I am selling on HipStamp independent from the APS Stamp Store, will my APS Badge still be visible to potential customers on my HipStamp-only account?

Yes, badges will be available to APS sellers who are operating independently of the APS Stamp Store. The badging system is being developed and won’t be available right away at the start of the partnership. Stay tuned for more information on badging.

If I see an error in one of my APS Stamp Store listings, do I contact APS or HipStamp?

Please contact APS at [email protected]

If I think I see an error in an APS Stamp Store listing, who do I contact?

Please contact APS at [email protected]

Will I still be able to create “favorite” searches in HipStamp?

HipStamp allows you to “follow” searches which provides a very similar functionality to StampStore’s “favorite” system. Also HipStamp allows buyers to watch and share want lists. When you see items that you want to save for later, you can mark the item “Watch this item”. You can view your watch list at any time and move items to your cart from there. Also, the “Want List” feature lets you enter items of interest, it will then provide a list of all available inventory for that item and will email you updates when new items are listed that match your Want List so you have the first pick to secure the perfect stamps for your collection.

As a seller through the APS Stamp Store, where can I view my sales? And, when purchases are made, does this update automatically from HipStamp?

As an APS Stamp Store seller, you will have access to view sales in the same location as before - visit stamps.org and go to MyAPS and then MyStamps. And Yes, the purchases made will be properly noted on your account almost instantly.

HipStamp sellers are allowed to sell via the auction method rather than a set price. Will that method be available for APS Stamp Store sellers?

No, APS will continue to sell items solely at set prices. HipStamp’s auction listings are something we may explore in the future.

When setting up a new buyer account on HipStamp will I need to use the same email address as provided to APS?

Yes, the email address should be the same as the one on file with APS. Using the same email will recognize you as an APS member when the order is received by us and will ensure you are given member discounts when that becomes available.

What will the checkout process look like?

When checking out, the buyer is presented with two options: 1) Paypal and 2) Credit or Debit card.

As a buyer, will I be able to use available funds on my APS account for HipStamp purchases?

APS buyers will not be able to use funds on account for purchases during the checkout process at HipStamps.

If my HipStamp question isn't listed here, what should I do?

If you still have questions, please reach out to our StampStore at [email protected]


StampStore - Selling your stamps online via APS stamp store

Where can I find information about selling stamps online via the APS stamp store?
Can I list more than one country on a sheet?

Yes, but be sure that is the best way to list your item(s). If you have something of worth or something that would better sell as a single item, list it with the proper country. The system is set up for one country selection per listing which allows for easy search capability. If you wish to include a few topic related stamps from a different country, you would want to list the main country in the country field and be sure to list in the description field that the listing also includes a few items from the other country. Or, if you include several countries on a sheet, you would need to list as Worldwide – but again that is only recommended for a large grouping of mixed country items.

What is important to include in the description field?

Subject and flaws are the key points when describing. Customers want to know what they are getting and assume they are properly identified. So it is very important to do your homework – examine the items thoroughly (front and back) and be upfront with the descriptions. A basic subject of the stamp is a good idea as many beginner or topical collectors may search by a subject – the Scott Catalogue lists a basic issue title before each stamp, consider entering that in your description. Next note hinging, thins, creases, pencil markings, pulled perfs, etc. Do not include Avg., F, F-VF, XF in your description — this will not be included unless a certificate confirming that grade is supplied.

How do I price the material?

Material submitted by most sellers falls within 40–60 percent of the Scott Catalogue values. Our more successful sellers price their items below the 50 percent level. Faults, such as pulled perfs, thins, tears, scuff marks, no gum on mint stamps, etc., should reduce the asking price. For example, do not expect to sell a stamp with a rounded corner for more than 20–25 percent of the catalogue value. If you price items higher than other sellers, your sales will suffer in comparison to those who use the above pricing guidelines. Click for additional help for pricing and mounting material

Do my items qualify for "Premium"

We created the Premium Designation as a way to feature the higher valued, flawless items and allow for them to be easily searched. These items will be accompanied with the Crown premium icon - See Full details

How do I mount larger items that do not fit on the front of the submission sheet?

It is recommended to affix the item in the large box on the top half of the form using a clear mount (preferably those sold by APS – they are closed on three sides and provide the best security from loss or damage). Do not use hinges, or cloudy glassine materials. When affixing a set, each stamp must be visible. If the item is too large for the space provided, consider using the clear page protectors placing the submission form front on one side and the large item in the back side so that it is visible for scanning. Or properly mount large items on a separate sheet of paper and attach it to the submission form. If any tape is used for affixing your mounts, we recommend Scotch® Magic™ Tape which allows for easy peel off so the stamps will not get damaged when trying to remove the mount from the submission sheet. Click for additional help for pricing and mounting material

Can I sell a collection through StampStore?

Stamps sold through the APS StampStore are sold on an individual basis or for small sets within the same country – each item is mounted to or attached to a submission sheet. We do not sell full collections or volumes, shipping would be much too high and we could not take responsibility of the contents of a collection/volume since we do not have the resources to photograph the entire collection. We do however have sellers that will describe and sell an individual “album page” of stamps as one item. This allows for a scan of the entire album page as one item therefore the buyer can see what is being sold. Of course you would be required to complete a submission sheet for each album page being sold - described and priced accordingly for all items on the individual page.

Can I sell counterfeits or forgeries as reference material?

StampStore does accept forgeries and counterfeits to be sold for reference material as long as the items are clearly described on the submission as such and the backside of the stamps must be marked that they are a counterfeit or forgery.

Why am I receiving so many returns?

Many returns are the result of misidentification, flaws not being described, and our biggest reason – hinging improperly listed. If you list items as “never hinged” and they are in fact “hinged”, this results in a return, an upset customer and in many cases your Seller ID being flagged by the buyer vowing never to purchase your particular items again. So it is very important to examine the items thoroughly and list all known flaws with the descriptions – you don’t want buyers to feel that they have been deceived. Handwriting can also cause problems. Sellers may feel they included a good description, but if the staff cannot read what was written, it is not included.

When should I consider reducing prices? How do I change my prices?

If your prices are competitively priced when first listed, you may want to wait awhile. Otherwise, consider price reductions quarterly. You can reduce prices individually or in large groupings by a certain percentage or dollar amount (instructions are available). If you really want to move the items, be sure your prices are between 40-60 percent of catalog when first listed and reduce by 5% every 6 months. Pay attention to your listings and when they are within 30-45 days of expiring, you may want to consider one final discount. See instructions to reduce prices.

What is my Seller ID used for and where can I find it?

Each seller is assigned a unique seller ID. All items available for sale on StampStore include the seller ID which allows the buyers to be able to search for other listings from the same seller. Seller identities remain anonymous unless of course you wish to advertise your seller id. The seller ID is located in the MyStamps area right beneath your name. Log in at www.stamps.org, go to MyAPS, and select MyStamps in the upper blue tab area. Many sellers wish to use Stampstore like their own online store and advertise – so the seller ID can be helpful.

How can I advertise my StampStore items?

Advertise Your StampStore material to promote your sales! All sellers have a seller ID which can be found in your MyStamps area. Sellers can advertise through the AP Classifieds. Sample Classified ad: “Selling Italian Colonies & British Colonies visit www.stampstore.org and enter Seller ID 502981”. OR, if you have a website or want to send an email to potential customers or friends, request a special link that will take buyers right to your items!

Do I have a seller account where I can view my items and see if they are selling?

Sellers can view their stamps and current status any time by logging in at www.stamps.org and going to MyAPS - MyStamps. From the main MyStamps screen a recap will display showing the number of items available for sale, returned, Sold w/ payment pending, sold/paid, items in expertizing, etc. From this screen the seller can click to view/edit their material which provides a drill down search function to check on particular items, statuses, etc.

When and how do I receive payment for items that sold?

All items available for sale on our online store have a 30 day return period which must expire before proceeds are issued to the seller account -- so items will display as "sold/payment pending" for 37 days. Once the 37 days has passed, we push sales proceeds to seller accounts and issue checks/statements once a month around the 15th for all accounts that have reached the $25 check threshold.

Can I relist items that didn't sell?

Once returned to you, you may decide you want to try relisting a few of the items. This is acceptable BUT you need to take into consideration there may be a reason the items didn’t sell the first time. Are they competitively priced? Are they properly described? Does the StampStore already have a large supply of this particular item? If you do decide you want to try posting the items again, you may submit them with a new batch cover sheet paying .20 per item since they will be a new listing for 2-3 years – ***be sure to leave the StampID label in the upper right corner, this will make the relist process go much faster as scanning and basic entry has already been done (they will be assigned a new number). If you change anything on the listing – description, price, etc. – be sure to write in red or a different color ink so it stands out. The items will be listed for two years with the one year extension option.


Summer Seminar

Where can I find information about Summer Seminar?

Online learning: C3a, Collecting and Connecting Central Academy

What is C3a?

C3a stands for “Collecting and Connecting Central Academy.” It is an on-demand, online learning tool containing videos, learning modules and resources that cover a wide variety of philatelic topics. APS members have special access to courses and videos as part of their membership; some free and others at deeply discounted prices.

How do I create an account?
  • First, you must have an account on the APS website (stamps.org). When you are logged into the APS website, you will automatically be logged into C3a as well.
  • To create a stamps.org account, click on the “login” link found in the top right-hand corner on each page of this site. If you do not already have a stamps.org account, click “register” in the pop-up box that appears and fill out the registration form.
  • If you already have a stamps.org account, please do not create a new one. This is especially problematic for members as only their original account will be linked to their membership, which is required to access some content and receive member discounts.
Are there different types of C3a accounts?

Yes, there are three different types of C3a accounts; each account type has different levels of access to videos, courses, and resources. APS members have access to many learning elements and receive 50% off of items purchased on the C3a ECommerce site. Non-members have access to a limited amount of free content and pay full price for ECommerce purchases. Young Stamp Collectors of America (YSCA) members have access to content that is specific to young philatelists, much of which is specially designed for them.

I created an account but don’t remember how to find the C3a website.

The easiest way to find C3a is by going to Learn > Online Learning on the menu bar at the top of the page. You will only see the "ENTER C3a" button when you are logged into the APS website; otherwise you will see a login button instead.

Why do I have items on the “My Courses” landing page?

As part of your APS member benefits, a variety of learning elements have been preloaded into your C3a account. There is no charge for these items. Just open them and enjoy! If you have enrolled in a live, virtual course or purchased an on-demand course, all course recordings/videos and handouts will be placed in the “Purchased Courses” folder on the “My Courses” landing page. If you have purchased on-demand videos in the ECommerce section, they will be found in the “Purchased Videos” folder on the “My Courses” landing page.

How do I register for a live, virtual course?
  1. Log into the APS website
  2. Using the menu bar across the top of the page, go to Learn > Online Learning and click on the "ENTER C3a" button
  3. Click on “eCommerce” link located in the left hand column
  4. Look for items of interest to you. (Try clicking on the different categories to see more items.)
  5. Click on the “Add to Cart” link to add an item to your virtual shopping cart.
  6. Notice the “Cart Summary” at the bottom left of the screen. When finished shopping, click on “Checkout.”
  7. Complete the required billing information and then click on “Review order” link at the bottom right.
  8. If the order is correct, enter your credit card information. Click “Place order now” link at bottom right.
  9. You are finished!
I am an APS member but I am not seeing member pricing for courses and videos.

The learning management system does not always grant APS member status immediately. Contact [email protected] for assistance.

I have registered for a live, virtual course. What happens next?
  1. You will receive an email from [email protected] entitled, “C3a User Account Update” informing you that your account has added a new security role. The course title should be listed as that role.
  2. You will receive a confirmation email from GoToWebinar.
  3. A few days prior to the event, you will receive an informational email from the APS Education Department with detailed information and troubleshooting tips.
  4. Twenty-four hours prior to the event, you will receive an email from GoToWebinar with the meeting link and a follow-up reminder one-hour prior.
  5. Following the course, the session recording and any handouts will be placed in your C3a learning account for future reference.

Buying/Obtaining Stamps

I would like to start collecting stamps but I don't have much money. Do you have any ideas for obtaining stamps inexpensively?

Yes, take a look at our pamphlet 10 Low Cost Ways to Start Collecting Stamps

I would like to purchase a complete year set of stamps for my grandchild. How can I do this? My post office does not stock all new U.S. issues? How can I get them?

The U.S. and most other countries make available annual sets for purchase at the end of each year after all the country's stamps for the year have been issued. In the U.S. these are available at many larger post offices or can be ordered by calling 1-800-STAMP-24 or on the net at www.stampsonline.com. However if you are looking for a set from more than two or three years ago you will probably have to go through a stamp dealer. While purchasing such a collection may be a great way for your grandchild to learn about history, we do not recommend purchasing current stamps as an investment. Most U.S. stamps issued since 1940 sell today at or around their original face value.

How do I obtain a first day of issue cancel?

Purchase the stamp from your local post office. Place it on an envelope and mail the envelope inside another envelope to Postmaster, City (of the First Day), Zip Code-9999. Your cover must be received within 30 days of the date of issue of the stamp. You may wish to include card stock or something similar inside the cover to be serviced to reduce the chance of damage in the mail. If you use a peelable address label, this may be removed when you get the cover back so that you have an "unaddressed" first day cover.

I am interested in collecting stamps of a specific topic. How do I find out what stamps exist?

For many of the most popular topics books have actually been written that provide lists of the stamps on the subject. Search the American Philatelic Research Library's catalog for books and articles. The American Topical Association also has checklists for a couple hundred other topics such as outhouses and rainbows with more limited issues. Their contact information can be found on our list of affiliates. The affiliates list can also be checked for specialized societies that focus on the stamps of a specific topic.


Selling stamps through the mail

1. What supplies do I need, and how can I get them?

Purchase Supplies:

Special sales books and clear mounts are used. Here is information for ordering.

CIRCUIT BOOKS - The APS sales books measure 5 x 8-inches and are available from us in five different styles depending on the type material you are submitting (singles, blocks, or cover). Items larger than the book size of 5 x 8 inches cannot be accepted.
MOUNTS - Mounts will be used to secure your items to the book pages. Note that the APS no longer sells mounts. Mounts are available from ClearBags.com.

Suggested sizes listed:
• For reg. singles/standard commemorative - 1 5/8” x 1 1/2” + Flap, Crystal Clear Bags® [SKU: B1X1] (View)
• For larger singles and regular blocks of 4 - 2 1/2” x 2 1/2” + Flap, Crystal Clear Bags® [SKU: B2X2] (View)
• For normal commemorative plate blocks - 4 1/2” x 2 13/16” + Flap, Crystal Clear Bags® [SKU: B4X2] (View)
• For No. 6 ¾ envelopes - 6 11/16” x 4 3/4” + Flap, Crystal Clear Bags® [SKU: B56M] (View)
• For No. 10 envelopes - 9 7/8” x 4 7/16” + Flap, Crystal Clear Bags® [SKU: B49XL] (View)
**APS members can SAVE 5% on EVERY order with ClearBags.com by using Promo Code: APS5

If other types of mounts are used, please note they should be closed on at least two sides, preferably three sides, so the items are secure thus no loss or damage can occur.
 
2. How can I prepare and submit my items?
The seller mounts, describes, and prices items within each sales book, and sends the completed book(s) to Circuit Sales via insured or registered mail, depending on the seller’s preference for mail security. 

 


 
3. After I submitted my sales book(s)and the book(s) are received by Circuit Sales, then what?

Items are received and prepared for circulation: Circuit Sales checks each sales book for pricing, clarity of description, and proper mounting. Each book is then assigned to a category; given a unique APS book number; photographed (each page is photographed for the protection of our members); and an acknowledgement is sent to the seller.

4. What is the circulation time and other time details?

Circulation Time 18 months:

Sales books are circulated for approximately 18 months, after which, they are automatically processed for retirement and returned to the owner with payment for items sold. A book will be retired before eighteen months if there is less than $10 in unsold material remaining.

NOTE: BOOKS MAY TAKE LONGER THAN 18 MONTHS TO BE PAID OUT AS THE CIRCUIT MEMBERS MAY NOT HAVE THEM RETURNED TO US IN ORDER TO RETIRE AT EXACTLY 18 MONTHS. Some may pay out in 20+ months. *** We no longer accept books for 24 months - 18 months is the standard option.
 

Fundamentals

Do self-adhesive stamps soak off?

Until 2007 almost all United States self-adhesives could be removed from the envelope by soaking in water for extended periods of time - about 20 minutes. However, the USPS has changed the printing specifications and most current U.S. self-adhesives will not simply soak off paper since their backing is oil based rather than water based. Therefore, an oil solvent is required to help remove the oil based backing. Here's a great video on a few suggested oil solvents and tips for removing the self adhesive stamps - How to Separate Self-Adhesive Stamps by Graham Beck.

What album would you recommend I purchase?

No single album is best for every collector. Many options exist ranging in price from under $20 to more than $1,000. And an album that may be best for you now might be inappropriate for you in ten years. Specific tips are provided in our brochure Three Tips for Stamp Collectors: Soaking Stamps.

I have a postage stamp without any country's name. How can I determine where it is from?

Only one country is permitted to issue postage stamps without including their name. This is Great Britain because it was the first country to issue postage stamps in 1840. In place of the country's name, Great Britain is allowed to simply include an image of the ruling monarch (frequently in the upper right hand corner of the stamp). Remember that many countries do not use English and thus you may not recognize the name. An on line country stamp identifier is available at http://www.iswsc.org/iswsc_ident.html.

What's the difference between a new unused stamp and a new unused stamp with some type of cancellation marks on the front? Are they both considered new unused for collection purposes?

A stamp with cancellation marks generally would not be considered unused even if it still has its gum. Cancelled to order (CTO) stamps have been postmarked even if they have not been used. Sometimes the cancels are applied as part of the printing process and in other cases simply by a philatelic bureau so they can be certain that a collector can not subsequently use them for postage. While this almost always results in a nice clear cancel that does not obstruct the design, catalogs consider them used and most of our members consider cancelled to order stamps less desirable than postally used stamps.

What does F-VF mean?

Fine to Very Fine. The term is one of several grades generally used to refer to the centering of a stamp although it may also be used to refer to the stamp's overall condition. Typical terminology follows although some collectors and dealers will use additional categories such as extra superb or good (between average and fine):
Average (Avg) - The design is cut into by the perforations
Fine - Design is clear of all perforations but not well centered
Fine to Very Fine (F-VF)
Very Fine (VF) – Scott Catalogue values are based on this centering.
Superb - Perfect centering

What is the difference between carmine and red? Are there any color guides available to help me distinguish colors?

There are several color guides available from dealers who sell supplies, but some catalogs use different names to refer to the same colors. Exposure to light may also cause stamps to fade. The best solution may be to try to make a reference collection of stamps with known colors. (Damaged stamps are fine.) However, in the end if the color makes a significant difference in value you will probably need to get the stamp expertized. More information on having stamps expertized is available at the authentication area of our site.

How can I tell the difference between stamps issued both with regular gum and as self-adhesives?

Assuming the stamps have been used and soaked off the paper, take a look at the perforations. When water-activated stamps are separated the perforations do not break perfectly evenly. Most self-adhesive stamps are die cut so all the perforations will be exactly the same shape.

I have a stamp without any perforations. Is this a valuable error?

Possibly, but not necessarily. Imperforate errors are known on a number of U.S. stamps and typically range in value from about $10 to $1,000. However, some stamps have been issued imperforate as part of a souvenir sheet and a stamp's perforations may be trimmed off to make it appear that it is imperforate. Most stamp catalogs indicate whether a stamp should have perforations. Authentication may be needed to be certain you have an error stamp.

What does it mean for a stamp to be tagged? How do I determine this?

Tagging is coating applied on or in the paper or ink of postage stamps to help machines detect and cancel the stamp. Most U.S. stamps issued since the 1970’s are tagged with zinc orthosilicate and will glow yellow green under shortwave ultraviolet light. (Since the 1980s many stamps with denominations of less than 10¢ are not tagged.) Many other countries use tagging which will be visible under long wave ultraviolet light.

What is a watermark? How do I determine if a stamp has a watermark? Is it safe to use lighter fluid to detect a watermark?

Some paper is manufactured so that certain parts are intentionally slightly thinner than others. These thin parts form a pattern such as a country's coat of arms or initials. Watermarked paper is one method to discourage counterfeiting of stamps. Sometimes the pattern can be seen by simply holding a stamp up to light as is normally the case for quality bond paper. Watermarks on stamps from Italy are among those most easily seen. For stamps with tougher to see watermarks the most common method of detection is to use a fluid. The watermark should be easiest to see when the fluid first wets the stamp and when the stamp dries as the thinner portion of the stamp absorbs liquid quicker and dries quicker. Most commercial watermark fluids are toxic, flammable or contain hazardous materials that are only marginally safer than the traditional solvents such as lighter fluid and benzene. Recently, Clarity watermarking fluid was developed at the request of the American Philatelic Society to address these concerns and is available from many philatelic supply dealers. Further information is also available from www.ptlp.com.

What are semipostals and what are they used for?

Semipostals are postage stamps which are used to raise funds for a charity. The first United States semipostal was issued to support Breast Cancer research. When issued this stamp cost 40¢ even though it was only valid for the 32¢ standard first class rate at that time. As postage rates have increased the cost of the Breast Cancer stamp has increased to 55¢ by 2009. The difference between the price and cost of first class postage helps fund research for the treatment and prevention of the cancer. Semipostals have been quite successful in some European countries and New Zealand but have been less well received in England and Canada. In the Scott Catalogue semipostals are listed after a country's regular issues and before its airpost issues and given the prefix B.

What is a "cut square?"

This term is normally used to refer to a corner cut from postal stationery (envelopes or cards with postal imprints). Many collectors find it easier to keep a 2" x 4" corner of the envelope with the imprint rather than the entire envelope. Some postmark collectors also save "cut squares" rather than the entire envelope.

What is an International Reply Coupon?

International Reply Coupons (IRCs) are a method to provide return postage to someone in another country. You can purchase a coupon from your post office and mail it to a person in another country who can then redeem it at their post office for postage to cover the basic international rate.

I found a dark blue stamp with the American Lung Association symbol in red on the left side. There is an angel in the bottom half of the stamp. Is this valuable?

This is a Christmas Seal and not a postage stamp. A postage stamp would generally have a country name and denomination. Christmas Seals are sent to individuals asking for a donation. Although not postage stamps, U.S. Christmas Seals are listed in the Scott U.S. Specialized Catalogue. Most have minimal value.

I found some old documents with stamps in our attic. Are they valuable?

What you have are probably revenue and not postage stamps. We recommend leaving these stamps on their original documents until you find out more about them. The Scott U.S. Specialized Catalog, available from many libraries, does list and value United States revenues. (In some countries the same stamps may be used for revenue or postage purposes. Typically such stamps used as revenues are less valuable than the same stamps used to pay postage.)

What is a cachet?

A cachet (pronounced ka-shay') is a design on an envelope, usually on the left side. Cachets are most commonly found on first day covers and typically are illustrations and or text relating to the subject of the stamp or event being commemorated.

What is a frank?

A frank is a marking on the face of an envelope indicating that postage has been paid or that the letter is to be carried free. Early presidents and postmasters often had the right to free franking. More recently, individuals in the military have sometimes received free franking for mail during armed conflicts.

What is a grill?

A security measure applied to some U.S. stamps between 1867 and 1874, grills are a pattern of small, square pyramids in parallel rows impressed or embossed on the stamp to break paper fibers. Grills were intended to allow the cancellation ink to soak in to the stamp easier to make it harder for people to remove cancels.

What is selvage?

The margin around the sheet of stamps. The selvage may include the plate number, copyright, and other markings.

I was told my cover would be worth more if the stamp were tied. What does this mean?

A stamp is tied if a cancel or postmark lands partly on the stamp and partly on the envelope on which it was used. This provides a greater degree of confidence that the cover was not faked by adding one or more stamps to it.

How do I get my kids/grandkids interested in stamp collecting?

Share the fun of the hobby with them. Let them collect what they want and don't impose a lot of rules. There is nothing wrong if they want to collect Cancelled to Order stamps because they are pretty (unless a significant amount of money is being paid for them). Topicals related to other interests attract many youth. The value of stamps usually has little relation to enjoyment. Don't panic if a few stamps are ruined, most of us have made mistakes at one time or another and it is one of the best ways of learning. A number of youth related sites are listed on our Just for Kids page.


History

Who invented the postage stamp? What country issued the first postage stamp and when?

Sir Rowland Hill is generally credited with the idea of requiring prepayment of postage and the use of postage stamps to show this payment. Previously the recipient of a letter had to pay for delivery and a large portion of the mail was refused. (Some people devised codes to convey messages on the outside of the letter so when the postman showed the letter to the intended recipient, the letter could be refused but the message was still received.) Hill advocated lowering the rates but requiring payment in advance. Great Britain issued the first postage stamps in 1840. Nicknamed the Penny Black, the stamps cost 1 pence and showed Queen Victoria. Although first to be issued, these stamps are not tremendously valuable as millions were used. Today a nice used copy can be obtained for around $100.

In what year and in what city was the first U.S. postage stamp made? Also, what image was on the first U.S. postage stamp?

The first two U.S. stamps were printed by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson and were issued July 1, 1847. The five cent red brown pictured Benjamin Franklin, the first U.S. postmaster general, and the ten cent black depicts George Washington. At that time stamps were not issued in a specific city on the first day of release.


United States Stamps

How do I collect a single of a self-adhesive?

Some U.S. self-adhesives have backing which allows for the separation of a single, however, many do not. For those that do not, the suggested method is to use the stamps surrounding the one you want to save and then cut the backing paper along the edges of the stamp to get your single. Leave your stamp on its original backing paper.

What are the most popular U.S. stamps?

According to the United States Postal Service, the most popular U.S. stamps based upon total sales are:

Stamp Subject Number of Stamps Saved
Elvis Presley 1993 124.0 million stamps
Wonders of America 87.5 million stamps
Wildflowers 1992 76.2 million stamps
Rock & Roll/Rhythm & Blues 1993 75.8 million stamps
DC Comics Super Heroes 2006 73.0 million stamps
Greetings from America 2002 71.4 million stamps
Insects and Spiders 1999 61.0 million stamps
Art of Disney – Romance 2006 57.2 million stamps
Legends of Baseball 2000 53.9 million stamps
Art of Disney Celebration 2005 52.8 million stamps
Linn's Stamp News offers an annual popularity poll for U.S. commemorative stamps where you can vote in several categories (best design, worst design, most important, and least necessary).
I have U.S. stamps with letters but no denominations? Are they still valid for postage?

Yes, they are. Below is a list of non-denominated postage stamps and their values:
A = 15 cents
B = 18 cents
C = 20 cents
D = 22 cents
E = 25 cents
F = 29 cents F rate make-up stamp 4 cents
G = 32 cents G rate make-up stamps 3 cents
G Postcard = 20cents
H = 33 cents H rate make-up 1 cent

May I photocopy U.S. stamps?

The images of many stamps are copyrighted and thus their use may be limited or require a license or payment of a fee. With this limitation, black and white illustrations of uncanceled United States and foreign postage stamps are permissible in any size. Color illustrations of uncanceled United States and foreign postage stamps must be less than 3/4 or more than 1½ times the size of the genuine stamps. Canceled United States and foreign postage stamps may be of any size whether the illustrations are in color or in black and white.

Note: Canceled U.S. and foreign postage stamps must bear an official cancellation mark, i.e., the stamps must have been used for postage. Also, the plates and negatives, including glossy prints, of any United States or foreign obligations must be destroyed after their final use for the purpose for which they were made. Printed illustrations of United States and foreign revenue stamps are permissible in black and white only. There are no size restrictions for revenue stamps. ("Know Your Money," U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991, #299-590, page 23)

How many stamps do I need to save to have a plate block?

For most U.S. stamps prior to the 1970's a plate block consists of four stamps in the corner of a sheet (two rows and two columns) with the selvage attached showing the plate number. However, beginning in the 1970's many U.S. stamps were issued with several different numbers appearing in the selvage and or the numbers appearing in locations other than the corner of the pane. In these cases it is best to consult a catalog to see how they list the plate blocks as in some cases as many as 20 stamps will need to be saved to have the plate block.

Who decides what stamps the U.S. issues? How can I request a stamp be issued for an event?

The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee makes recommendations to the Postmaster General for the final decision. Suggestions may be sent to Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee, c/o Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service, 1753 North Lynn St., Suite 5013, Arlington, VA 22209-6432. More information including specific criteria used for the selection of subjects is available from http://about.usps.com/who-we-are/leadership/stamp-advisory-committee.htm.

Is it legal to use old unused stamps?

Many countries demonetize their stamps after a certain period of time such as ten years. However, in the United States all stamps issued since the Civil War are still valid for use. It is still often possible to buy U.S. stamps from the 1940's through the 1980's at face value or even below face value from dealers. It is not legal to use stamps that were previously used even if the stamps did not receive a cancel.

How can I use precancelled stamps?

Individuals who want to use USPS precanceled stamps and stamped envelopes must complete form 3615 and file it at the post office where their mailings are to be deposited. There is no fee for this permit. Your office may require that you personally deliver any mail bearing precancelled stamps directly to the post office for mailing over the counter rather than dropping the mail in the slot. Section 604.3.2, of the Domestic Mail Manual provides the specifications for use of precancelled stamps.


Inventorying/Valuing/Selling Stamps

What software exists to inventory stamp collections?

EzStamp is a leading program.

I found several stamps in a chest of drawers that I bought. How can I find out if they are worth anything?

Most public libraries have a set of Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogues which lists and values postage stamps. Alternately a local dealer or club could probably give you an estimate of the stamps value.

Help! I just inherited a stamp collection. I'm not really interested in collecting or becoming a member, but I would still like to find out if it has any value and perhaps sell the collection. Can the APS offer me any assistance?

The APS (a non-profit, member-supported organization) offers a selling/appraising pack containing guidelines, suggestions, and the names and addresses of APS-recognized professional dealers for people seeking an equitable offer for their material. This information is available for $30 ($40 outside the US), postage and tax included, from the APS, 100 Match Factory Place, Bellefonte, PA 16823. Make checks payable to APS and ask for the selling/appraising pack. Most of this information may also be found at various locations on this website.

I have some old stamps that I may be interested in selling. How do I go about this?

Consult with a dealer. Feel free to use our online APS Dealers database which you can search by geographical area or by specialty. You might also wish to visit your local library and consult the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue which lists and values postage stamps. You may find that just because stamps are old does not mean they are extremely valuable. A number of stamps issued by the U.S. in the 1800's list for the minimum Scott Catalog value of 20 cents. You should also not expect to be able to sell your stamps for the listed values. Many dealers sell stamps for less than the catalog values and to make a profit (and stay in business) they obviously have to purchase the stamps for even less. The vast majority of dealers are trustworthy but it is not a bad idea to verify that a dealer is a member of the American Philatelic Society (all dealers listed on the above mentioned dealer database are APS members), the American Stamp Dealers Association or the National Stamp Dealers Association as these organizations have established codes of ethics. If you are still concerned about receiving a fair price for your stamps you might consider visiting a local stamp show (see our Show Calendar). This would provide you with the opportunity to offer the material to several dealers and compare how much they will pay. You also may wish to contact a local stamp club where you might find help and advice.

Are used stamps of any value?

Yes, although in the vast majority of cases unused stamps sell for more, many collectors save used stamps and many of the most valuable stamps are used.

Tell me about the Face of Mars stamps. Are they really worth several thousand dollars?

No. About twenty years ago a promoter and non-APS member Alan Shawn Feinstein touted this set of postage stamps from Sierra Leone. His target market was non-stamp collectors. The philatelic community stayed away and there was much press in the stamp media warning collectors. But his ads were in non-philatelic newspapers and magazines so our warnings never reached those outside the hobby. The asking price was as much as several thousand dollars. The current Scott catalog lists the Face on Mars stamp (1171) with a value of $6.

How can I find out the value of my collection of 22 karat gold stamps?

What you have are not actual postage stamps but stamp replicas. Because few stamp collectors are interested in these and there is not much of a resale market, dealers are unlikely to pay much for such collections.

I have some German stamps that say 1 Billion Marks. Are these valuable?

Generally higher denomination stamps are more valuable than stamps of a denomination used for an ordinary letter. For example a used (or unused) U.S. $17.50 stamp is much more valuable than most 44¢ stamps. However, during periods of great inflation, such as in Germany in 1923, postage rates in those countries required the use of stamps with very high denominations to mail ordinary letters. Thus, these stamps have no great value (and actually are worth more properly used on a cover than mint).


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